D&D 5E Waterdeep: Dragon Heist Post-Mortem (Spoilers)

TheSword

Legend
So only praise is interesting ? My point is that, the more you dig into it, the more fault I find in this module, whatever angle you look at. Not that parts of it are not reusable, but honestly, there have been way more interesting elements posted about Waterdeep in the past...



Well, it seems that the OP also did not like the module at all, so what exactly are YOU doing here ?



And this is not about DotMM, since you seem to be a stickler for rules. It's about WD:DH. :p
@Lyxen Dragonheist was designed as a backdrop and introduction before Undermountain. If it’s polite, relevant and constructive (if that’s a more appropriate word then positive) I’ll ask any question I like.

@Retreater has been pretty consistently philosophical about these post mortem threads. I don’t agree with everything said but I find the work around and ideas really interesting and I think they have a ton of value… If the criticism is constructive. I’m not going to speak for anyone else.
 

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TheSword

Legend
Yeah.

In my experience, the only setting that the players care about is the one that they help create themselves. Their backstories, their choices, their explanation for how their party knows each other, who they choose to interact with, where they choose to go.

Giving them someone elses detailed setting is a "whatever". Giving them a gift with a dangerous vulnerability, is a, "you must be joking".

When creating an urban setting, it is so important to get a sense of the desires of the players.
I think this is a good point. There is a lot of mileage of having an alternative home base… a guild house, temple, shop, fighting pit. Instead of just the tavern as an option.

My group included a priest of Tymora so they actually opened Trollskull as a casino which was quite good fun. The Cassalanters attended the opening night party.

Another interesting idea we used was to include Matt Coleville’s Stronghold rules. So the casino/tavern provided a tangible benefit.
 


However, it started to fall apart when the party got possession of the haunted tavern to set up as a base of operations. Wanting to keep a low profile, the party decided to not get involved in this business venture.
Well that's definitely where our experiences diverged. My group was all over running an awesome tavern and having a cool base. It really was the core of the whole experience. Our most memorable sidequests had to do with advancing and protecting our business and our beef with the villains had to do with them threatening it.

Meanwhile I remember that there were these "faction side quests" the module tried to foist on us that we only ever took a passing interest in. I'd love to hear from the group out there that spent their whole time enraptured in those.
 

Retreater

Legend
Back to the topic. @Retreater did you run Dungeon of the Mad Mage with the same group and characters and if so, how did you find the transition?
I ran it with the same players, but not the same characters. The characters for Dragon Heist were built for a different function (intrigue, social situations) than those for DotMM (dungeon crawl), so it didn't seem logical to connect them. Also, IIRC, I ran DotMM before running Dragon Heist.
Without getting into full Post-Mortem mode on DotMM here, I'd just say that I can't imagine any logical way to connect the two adventures other than the circumstantial location of Waterdeep. But that would be like connecting Rime of the Frostmaiden and Storm King's Thunder just because they're in the North. Even worse, actually, because the two Waterdeep campaigns appeal to widely different playstyles.
Meanwhile I remember that there were these "faction side quests" the module tried to foist on us that we only ever took a passing interest in. I'd love to hear from the group out there that spent their whole time enraptured in those.
Oh yeah. I now remember those being a thing. Couldn't get a single player to even give a second's glance to a solitary faction quest.
 

practicalm

Explorer
As written the module is deeply flawed. I combined all 4 villains and my group had a great time.

I did not use the Remix as I had my own ideas which was everyone after the treasure and the party smack in the middle where everyone thinks they know more than they did and they had to play it cool trying to keep that going.

I really tried to make the adventure play like the movie "It's a Mad Mad World" where the villains made themselves as sympathetic as possible to convince the players to help them find the treasure.
All in all a rollicking good chase and much misdirection.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
@Lyxen Dragonheist was designed as a backdrop and introduction before Undermountain.

And as pointed out by someone else, apart from being both set in Waterdeep, there is no connection, and the style of the adventures (at least as advertised, but also as designed) do not cater for the same crowd. We love city and intrigue adventures, and we don't like dungeons, especially mega-dungeons.

So it's not introductory, it's just convenience in a world where adventurers could actually travel, you know, at level 5 it's not unheard of.

If it’s polite, relevant and constructive (if that’s a more appropriate word then positive) I’ll ask any question I like.

I don't believe this is the way thread work on these forums. Whereas I can certainly give my opinion on the module, which is the clear subject of the thread. You don't like it, don't read it, but again, it's just to reinforce what the OP was saying.

@Retreater has been pretty consistently philosophical about these post mortem threads. I don’t agree with everything said but I find the work around and ideas really interesting and I think they have a ton of value… If the criticism is constructive. I’m not going to speak for anyone else.

And again, I mentioned possibly salvaging something out of the module, but necessitating heavy rework. What exactly is your problem with that ?
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
In terms of what I can say constructively about this adventure (which full disclosure I'm currently running for a group of 8 players who are about to enter the Vault of Dragons):

- If you're not doing the Alexandrian remix and decide to go with one villain, I suggest Manshoon (winter). The main reason is that his chapter 4 encounter chain avoids the courtroom stuff, which is the most unhelpful/railroady thing that can happen in those encounter chains.

- One fun but rather throwaway part of the Manshoon backstory is that he previously tried to invade Undermountain but was beaten by Halaster, who destroyed Mansoon's hand. So in my campaign, Manshoon wants the gold primarily because he is interested in financing a powerful, all-out assault to conquer Undermountain. He views the city of Waterdeep as a hood ornament - what he really wants is Undermountain and Halaster's head on a platter (he is also suffering from the Weave Addiction, like Durnan and Halaster, which causes an obsession with Undermountain in people who have visited it).

- I knew my players would only slightly care about Trollskull and care not at all about the factions (which the adventure for whatever reason seems convinced that players will be deeply invested in). I replaced almost all of the underwritten capsule side-quests in Chapter 2 with a couple of city-based adventures that were either 3rd party from DMsGuild or stuff I made up.

- When running Chapter 4, don't use the chase rules from DMG as the adventure suggests. They are very bad. Just omit those chases or have them play as cinematics, depending on your style.

- If you have a warlock in the party, see if it would make sense for Golorr to be their patron.

- The "find the nimblewright" stuff in Chapter 3 is very poorly handled and can easily dead-end. Make this as easy as possible. Consider having the Sea Maiden's Faire parade happen prior to fireball, so that the players can see that the Sea Maiden's Faire owns nimblewrights which should send them to Zardoz Zord. He sold one to the Gralhunds.
 

Mistwell

Crusty Old Meatwad (he/him)
YOU KILLED THE GOLDFISH 😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😱

Oh lord. I hope your character hasn’t got any kids, or loved ones of any kind.
My PC did not understand the ramifications. We were under attack by invisible foes and the goldfish was visible in a bowl unprotected in the middle of the room. So, lacking a target my PC went to the goldfish and shouted to the invisible foes, "Cease your attacks and we'll talk, or else continue your attacks and the goldfish gets it." Xanathar then immediately fired a ray at that PC in response, which triggered the readied action to kill the fish...which it did.
 

moriantumr

Explorer
I ran this adventure for an adventurer’s league table. Did they struggle with with investigation and chase sequences? Yes. Did they figure it out? Yes. Did they feel owning a pub that they couldn’t keep as their characters continued because it was adventurer’s league was silly/dumb? Yes. Did they invite a talking horse to do stand up for opening night? Did they commission a hibachi grill and hire a ghost to man it? Yes and yes.
Even though we had even weirder and more stringent rules layered on top of the adventure that made it more difficult to bring it together, the players had fun and made it their own.
Is dragon heist perfect? No. I have yet to find a perfect adventure module, but it is fun and focuses on elements of d&d that many 5e adventures do not.
 


It’s worth knowing that Roll20 has a transmogrify function where you can move maps, handouts and characters between campaigns. You can then move the Lairs and any other stuff you need across just by clicking box. There was a readme I think when I bought the module. I think the reason they did it this was was there wasn’t 40 similar maps clogging up the directory.
Doesn't that transmogrify require the top level subscription? And why would you need similar maps? Just use the same map for lots of different encounters. Or is that one more shortcoming of Roll20 in that it can't re-use maps for different encounters?
 

Retreater

Legend
Doesn't that transmogrify require the top level subscription? And why would you need similar maps? Just use the same map for lots of different encounters. Or is that one more shortcoming of Roll20 in that it can't re-use maps for different encounters?
I did have the top level subscription at that time. Unfortunately, I guess I just didn't know all the bells and whistles.
Roll20 can re-use maps. You can copy maps so you can even pre-load the tokens for different situations (like "this is what happens during the day at this place, but if you go there at night..."). The issue I had (again, not knowing about the transmogrify feature), was that the information was incomplete. It wouldn't list the NPCs, monsters, narrative text, or maps that were specific to each season.
To make it harder to run, I didn't purchase the hard copy of the adventure - just running it off of Roll20. (I tried to keep this issue from happening again when I got the hard copy for Rime of the Frostmaiden.)
 

TheSword

Legend
Well that's definitely where our experiences diverged. My group was all over running an awesome tavern and having a cool base. It really was the core of the whole experience. Our most memorable sidequests had to do with advancing and protecting our business and our beef with the villains had to do with them threatening it.

Meanwhile I remember that there were these "faction side quests" the module tried to foist on us that we only ever took a passing interest in. I'd love to hear from the group out there that spent their whole time enraptured in those.
The faction quests were a mixed bag but I enjoyed three.

One player was a rogue who wanted to join/lead a thieves guild. I had Davil Starsong be a defector to the Shadowtheives wanting to set up a new branch in the city. So they enjoyed those quests.

We also had my pit fighter climb to the top of mount waterdeep to learn from the monk up there which was interesting with the zhentarim guarding the route.

Lastly I pinched the scene from Pathfinder’s Second Darkness that featured a heist on the Golden Goblin gambling house. The PCs stopped the heist and that was where they first met the Cassalanters. I really liked the idea of seeding the main villains early where possible.

I used the WOC approved supplement from DM guild and was really glad I did.
 

TheSword

Legend
Doesn't that transmogrify require the top level subscription? And why would you need similar maps? Just use the same map for lots of different encounters. Or is that one more shortcoming of Roll20 in that it can't re-use maps for different encounters?
It might do. I never thought of that.

It’s worth noting you have to select every single handout and character individually so it does take time to mix the seasons. It can be done that way though.

The maps have the tokens and all the boundries pre loaded so you may want the right map for the right season.
 

TheSword

Legend
I mentioned descending into Undermountain level 1 as an interlude early. My players wanted extra cash to upgrade the tavern so this was a obvious choice. I know the kind of players I have don’t need telling twice if there is a massive treasure filled dungeon beneath their feet.

The depths are a challenge but not an unreasonable one for an experienced group of 3rd level players. It also has the advantage that it means you can cut some of the stuff that’s not so good like the chase.
 

Hussar

Legend
I ran it with the same players, but not the same characters. The characters for Dragon Heist were built for a different function (intrigue, social situations) than those for DotMM (dungeon crawl), so it didn't seem logical to connect them. Also, IIRC, I ran DotMM before running Dragon Heist.
Without getting into full Post-Mortem mode on DotMM here, I'd just say that I can't imagine any logical way to connect the two adventures other than the circumstantial location of Waterdeep. But that would be like connecting Rime of the Frostmaiden and Storm King's Thunder just because they're in the North. Even worse, actually, because the two Waterdeep campaigns appeal to widely different playstyles.

Oh yeah. I now remember those being a thing. Couldn't get a single player to even give a second's glance to a solitary faction quest.
Well, for us, we connected with all that Dwarven Ale we found in DotMM, for one. The goblin town with the very smart goblin became a pretty solid contact between our tavern and the underdark, with us hiring the goblins to bring the ale to our tavern, which in turn connected us to becoming a major supplier for dwarven spirits for a while (until they ran out at least). We continuously tried to tell everyone we met to come to our tavern for free drinks.

There's also lots of little side stuff too. The intellect devourers for one.

Granted, the DotMM adventure fizzled unfortunately, due to the group breaking up. I wasn't DMing DotMM, but, I did DM Dragonheist. Not really seeing the wildly different playstyles thing. DotMM is a lot of talking if you don't approach it as a series of combats.

But, yeah, the faction quests bombed for me too. But, again, that was because the group did not care in the slightest about the setting or the NPC's. I would like to run the adventure again, because I do think it has legs, but, unlike the standard dungeon crawls that you typically see in adventures like Storm Kings Thunder or Saltmarsh, it's one that really, really needs player buy in to work.

On a side note about the maps. I understand why WotC uses the Dyson Logos maps. It makes so much sense for a tabletop DM who isn't going to show these beautiful maps to the players, but, rather is most likely just going to sketch out the outlines on a dry erase mat. Heck, even copying and printing the maps would be pretty easy and not too hard on ink once you blew them up to scale. But, as a VTT player, I really don't like them. WotC has used Dyson Logos for a number of adventures now and I hate every single one of them and have to replace every one. It's a huge pain in the ass.
 


TerraDave

5ever, or until 2024
I did get some advice about problem areas and ideas about how to smooth over situations. My primary issue with remixing or blending together all four seasons was how it was organized on Roll20. You had to choose the season and run that season as a separate module. Running winter and summer, for example, would require two different games. Had I been doing it in person without the constraints of technology, I think I would've felt more free to homebrew it and take other suggestions.

Um, so, you can load multiple modules into a single game on Roll20.

I am doing Saltmarsh right now, and have loaded the base module--with three minimodules--and then 3 of the other ones in the book.

Also, you can load a module from another source. Doesn't have to be the same source.
 

You've never looked at a module? Because every single one is supposed to be able to be everything you need to run. It's their primary selling point - it's an adventure, as opposed to having to prep and make your own.
Where? I've certainly never read one with that text written anywhere.

Take the running a tavern issue. Some groups love that kind of thing, and some hate it. There is no possible way to make one size fits all. That's why we have a human DM and not a computer running the game.
 
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