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5E Oh no! They want to play a "bad" adventure

Retreater

Legend
I try to DM a pretty democractic table, with all of us getting a say in what we play. And because of real world issues including families and careers, I'm the defacto DM all the time.
I also research a lot and get pretty strong opinions of what I'd want to run for my various groups, ones that I think they'd enjoy and what would fit my skills as DM.
We just completed The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, and the group picked Dragon Heist to start with new characters. Honestly, it would be the absolute last of the adventures in consideration for me.
But the group is excited, even purchasing a copy of the adventure for me.
They're expecting a fun romp through a city. They are also notoriously not great at taking notes, interacting with NPCs, etc, and our play schedule hampers "thinking" adventures. (We play a couple hours every week, late at night after work, kids are in bed, and everyone just wants to blow off steam.)
So here are my questions....
Generally speaking, how do I raise my enthusiasm for an adventure I'm not especially excited to DM (after reading numerous reviews that it's one of the worst WotC adventures)? [Maybe you've run it, and it's not as awful as the reviews suggest? Even that encouragement would help.]
Anything that would help running a city-based mystery? (This is out of my wheel house these days. I haven't run an urban adventure in D&D in over 20 years.)
More specifically, is there a way to improve this adventure without changing too much? (I have it on Roll20, where we play exclusively, so adding a lot of encounters, DMs Guild supplements - which is recommended in the "Enhancing" thread here on ENWorld - will be difficult to do.)
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I don’t think Dragon Heist is as bad as it’s made out to be, and many of the issues with it seem like they won’t really be issues for your group. One of the big critiques of the adventure is that it isn’t really a heist. That shouldn’t be a big problem for your group because what they seem to be excited about is that it’s a city adventure rather than a heist, and they aren’t looking for something super complex or involving a lot of problem solving.

Normally I would recommend The Alexandrian’s Dragon Heist Remix, but since you need something that involves fairly little changes to the adventure that probably won’t work. Besides, that remix makes the adventure require more investigative work which it sounds like is undesirable for your group. However, I would recommend the article A Night In Trollskull Manor because getting the players invested in the manor is pretty important to the adventure, and as written the book doesn’t give the players a whole lot of reason to care about the place.
 

commandercrud

Adventurer
I haven't read it or played it, but since you have a copy you might as well at least give it a chance. Maybe you'll change your mind. But you're totally entitled to tell your players, sorry, you're not interested in running it. That's what I did with Tomb of Annihilation.
 

Orcslayer78

Explorer
I would want to help buuut....you're right, not the best adventure out there, it's made for newbes with zero experience so it's heavily railroaded and quite boring.
 

Remember Raymond Chandler's immortal advice; “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”
If the story gets bogged down, have something happen that forces the players to get moving and gives them a direction to follow. If your players are as disorganized as you say then they probably won't notice or care if the stuff that happens makes sense or not, as long as it isn't completely absurd.
 

Bolares

Adventurer
They're expecting a fun romp through a city. They are also notoriously not great at taking notes, interacting with NPCs, etc, and our play schedule hampers "thinking" adventures. (We play a couple hours every week, late at night after work, kids are in bed, and everyone just wants to blow off steam.)
I love the adventure, but it is full of NPC interactions, and is not so much a romp through a city... Does your group know that? I'd talk to them and explaing it's kind of different from their normal play style, and see if they are still interested.


Generally speaking, how do I raise my enthusiasm for an adventure I'm not especially excited to DM (after reading numerous reviews that it's one of the worst WotC adventures)? [Maybe you've run it, and it's not as awful as the reviews suggest? Even that encouragement would help.]
First of all, if you can't get pumped by the adventure you don't have to do it, the game has to be fun for you too, but I'd say dragon heist is a fun change of pace from normal D&D adventures, and has a lot of fun roleplaying oportunities, as well as describing really well waterdeep., I've run it and my group (who normally are almost murder hobos) loved the change from "enter dungeon, murder everyone, bring loot back" to a vibrant city full of interesting people to interact. The players owning a tavern and having the possibility to make it their own got them REALLY excited for an example.

Anything that would help running a city-based mystery? (This is out of my wheel house these days. I haven't run an urban adventure in D&D in over 20 years.)
The adventure already gives you a lot of good tips on how to run it, and there is a handout about crime and punishment you can give the players to explain what can be the consequences of their actions. I'd say you should give a read to the 4 villains and choose the one the interests you the most, so you can be clar from the start what season you are on and stuff like that.
More specifically, is there a way to improve this adventure without changing too much? (I have it on Roll20, where we play exclusively, so adding a lot of encounters, DMs Guild supplements - which is recommended in the "Enhancing" thread here on ENWorld - will be difficult to do.)
The DM's Guild has some fun suplements, if you search the site by storyline and select waterdeep: dragon heist it will show you a lot of good stuff. There are more encounters, ways to enhance the storyline and A LOT of stuff about owning a tavern.

The game is different and fun, I'd give it a shot!
 

Agree with others who said to search around on DMs Guild. I wove "The Lady of Trollskull Priory" (which I modified) into my own campaign. I've also seen some excellent guides on how to tweak the adventure to straighten out some of the weaker parts, including how to incorporate some/all of the optional locations.

Speaking of which, the thing I disliked the MOST about the adventure is that not only are you only intended to use only a fourth of it (because you pick one of four paths) but each path contains a fully fleshed out "dungeon"...really the only dungeons in the book...that aren't even in the default path. Seriously. If you play out the adventure as described in the book, there's no need to go into the dungeons. The book gives some vague suggestions for how to incorporate them, but they're totally optional.
 


aco175

Hero
I find the larger problem as DM is to be Waterdeep itself. There is soooo much written about it and how large and fantastic is is. It is a bit overwhelming to DM. I would think mostly since there are so many places for the players to want to explore. I ran a side quest into Waterdeep for an adventure. The players followed maybe half of what I thought and planned. Suddenly they were off in the docks planning a side assassination or another off starting an orphanage, while a 3rd wanted to find a dealer for an ancient holy symbol he picked up a few levels back and I completely forgot about. It was chaos trying to 'put the sins back in the box' so to speak.
 


Retreater

Legend
Yeah. All the options and going off the rails is a concern. Especially since we're playing on Roll20 where everything has to be programmed and planned in advance.
 





Mistwell

Legend
I try to DM a pretty democractic table, with all of us getting a say in what we play. And because of real world issues including families and careers, I'm the defacto DM all the time.
I also research a lot and get pretty strong opinions of what I'd want to run for my various groups, ones that I think they'd enjoy and what would fit my skills as DM.
We just completed The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, and the group picked Dragon Heist to start with new characters. Honestly, it would be the absolute last of the adventures in consideration for me.
But the group is excited, even purchasing a copy of the adventure for me.
They're expecting a fun romp through a city. They are also notoriously not great at taking notes, interacting with NPCs, etc, and our play schedule hampers "thinking" adventures. (We play a couple hours every week, late at night after work, kids are in bed, and everyone just wants to blow off steam.)
So here are my questions....
Generally speaking, how do I raise my enthusiasm for an adventure I'm not especially excited to DM (after reading numerous reviews that it's one of the worst WotC adventures)? [Maybe you've run it, and it's not as awful as the reviews suggest? Even that encouragement would help.]
Anything that would help running a city-based mystery? (This is out of my wheel house these days. I haven't run an urban adventure in D&D in over 20 years.)
More specifically, is there a way to improve this adventure without changing too much? (I have it on Roll20, where we play exclusively, so adding a lot of encounters, DMs Guild supplements - which is recommended in the "Enhancing" thread here on ENWorld - will be difficult to do.)
We're playing through it right now, and having a blast.

We don't find it to be a railroad at all.

Mind you, it's because our DM is just keeping an open mind. It's an entire city to play with. Some of it has adventures written in the book, and some of it you will have to make up on the fly as you go along.

Right now, the party is considering the possibility of plotting a heist against a neighboring house to the tavern we took over. We're pretty darn sure that is not something covered in the book, but the DM will roll with it if we decide to go for it. We already cased the joint a bit, but then got pulled into a side quest for the Emerald Enclave or one of those groups.
 


jayoungr

Hero
Supporter
We just completed The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, and the group picked Dragon Heist to start with new characters. Honestly, it would be the absolute last of the adventures in consideration for me.
But the group is excited, even purchasing a copy of the adventure for me.
So, this is pretty much how I ended up running Tyranny of Dragons, back when it was the only full-length hardback adventure available and was also roundly panned on this board. And my group had a wonderful time with it if I do say so myself, and they still talk about that campaign more than two years after it finally ended at level 20.

My first piece of advice is to try to stay positive. Don't think of it as "a bad adventure." Try to get into your players' enthusiasm.

My second piece of advice is to read up on all the suggestions you can find for running it, especially if anyone has tips on how to make the NPCs more vivid. Which brings me to the next point...

More specifically, is there a way to improve this adventure without changing too much? (I have it on Roll20, where we play exclusively, so adding a lot of encounters, DMs Guild supplements - which is recommended in the "Enhancing" thread here on ENWorld - will be difficult to do.)
It's really not that difficult. I'm running Curse of Strahd on Roll20, and I've added several supplements from the DM's Guild. Most of them come with their own maps that you can upload, and some are even starting to include tokens. There are lots of good YouTube channels with tips on how to easily set up custom monsters, etc., in Roll20 (I can recommend some that helped me, if you want).
 

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