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

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Where? I've certainly never read one with that text written anywhere.
Here's the first paragraph of the overview for Storm King's Thunder:

This 256-page adventure for characters of 1st level to 11th level or higher provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable play experience for the Storm King’s Thunder story, including rune magic items, a new treasure option for characters.

The first bullet point for Curse of Strahd:

A fantasy-horror adventure for characters levels 1-10, Curse of Strahd provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable play experience

Of those I checked many of the others imply it, but these have the "provides everything" verbiage that isn't debatable.

This is absolutely how they are marketed - as ready-to-play adventures.

I put the same burden of proof back on you - I've never read anything along the lines of "this adventure is not ready to run and must be adapted by the DM first".

The only place I can find anything like that is Tales of the Yawning Portal, which talks about "seven of the most compelling dungeons" and then says "The seeds of these stories now rest in your hands", which does imply that you need to take hem from seeds to full blown adventures. This isn't any stronger then the implication from most of them that they are ready to run.

Because if I can show proof that adventures are sold as ready to run to your criteria and you can not show proof that the are sold as explicitly not ready to run to your own criteria, I would expect that we have a clear and factual call in this case.
 

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Retreater

Legend
This 256-page adventure for characters of 1st level to 11th level or higher provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable play experience for the Storm King’s Thunder story, including rune magic items, a new treasure option for characters.
Oh, that one will be a spicy Post-Mortem when I get around to it.
 

Retreater

Legend
I think it's worth noting that Dragon Heist isn't billed as a resource to help DMs run heist adventures in Waterdeep. It is promoted as an adventure itself, not a toolbox for creating adventures.
Of course it's assumed that a DM will need to do some of their own work in any RPG adventure. And I think that Dragon Heist is a serviceable adventure - I just think it needs more effort from a DM to make it really good than many other adventures I've used.
This is all just my opinion, though. If you love this adventure and your players had a great time, that's awesome.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Oh, that one will be a spicy Post-Mortem when I get around to it.
When I ran through it our DM went so off-book it was basically homebrew with a bit of giant-framework. But that's what it took in his estimation to make it reasonable.

As a side note, I really enjoy your post-mortems. The "this didn't work so well" are informative not just for that module, but thinking about things I may do in any adventure I run. I would also love to hear about one that hit on all cylinders for your group for contrast.
 

Retreater

Legend
When I ran through it our DM went so off-book it was basically homebrew with a bit of giant-framework. But that's what it took in his estimation to make it reasonable.
That's basically what happened with my experience with SKT. It ended up being a satisfying adventure for the players, but it wasn't really recognizable at the end. Still, I think what I changed could make it a better adventure for certain DMs, so it would be a helpful post-mortem.

As a side note, I really enjoy your post-mortems. The "this didn't work so well" are informative not just for that module, but thinking about things I may do in any adventure I run.
I'm happy to hear that. I hope these are entertaining and helpful. Pooling all our collected experience on these boards helps make us all better DMs.

I would also love to hear about one that hit on all cylinders for your group for contrast.
The Tomb of Annihilation post-mortem I posted yesterday was a good contrast to this one. When I get around to Curse of Strahd, that one will be very positive.
However, the one campaign I learned the most from has been my homebrew Against the Black City campaign, which of course is still unpublished (for reasons that could be discussed then). I just don't know if that would be helpful reading for people. But it's certainly a chance for me to eat some humble pie after criticizing other people's work.
 

Hussar

Legend
I think it's worth noting that Dragon Heist isn't billed as a resource to help DMs run heist adventures in Waterdeep. It is promoted as an adventure itself, not a toolbox for creating adventures.
Of course it's assumed that a DM will need to do some of their own work in any RPG adventure. And I think that Dragon Heist is a serviceable adventure - I just think it needs more effort from a DM to make it really good than many other adventures I've used.
This is all just my opinion, though. If you love this adventure and your players had a great time, that's awesome.
I think that is a VERY fair take. Dragon Heist, unlike a lot of modules, really, REALLY needs the DM to deep dive into it and adapt it to the group.

I wonder if it's because so much of it is very sandboxy. The first three (?) chapters pretty much leave a lot of openess for the players to wander around the city and get into trouble. The thing is, if you don't have a proactive group, then this won't work. Particularly if the players simply don't bite on anything you wave in front of them. For my group, they were pretty much completely disinterested in the mansion or running a business, had zero interest in the factions in the city, and were pretty much singularly focused on the main plot - which, frankly, isn't really much of a plot at all. Follow the trail of breadcrumbs from A to B to C and you get to the end of the adventure.

If you take something like, Storm King's Thunder, it works without a lot of player buy in, since, well, you're expected to basically just go from combat to combat until you kill your way to the end of the adventure. There's not a whole lot of freedom in it. But, I'd argue that Dragon Heist, because about half of the adventure is very open, you need very pro-active players who want to actually play in Waterdeep.
 

TheSword

Legend
Here's the first paragraph of the overview for Storm King's Thunder:

This 256-page adventure for characters of 1st level to 11th level or higher provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable play experience for the Storm King’s Thunder story, including rune magic items, a new treasure option for characters.
“Provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable Mag experience…”

Not that it creates it for you. Or it is already created.

It’s a collaboration. You need to season it your groups taste.
 

“Provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable Mag experience…”

Not that it creates it for you. Or it is already created.

It’s a collaboration. You need to season it your groups taste.
It's still an outrageously impossible claim. I don't have Storm King's Thunder though, maybe it's some kind of miracle module.
 

TheSword

Legend
It's still an outrageously impossible claim. I don't have Storm King's Thunder though, maybe it's some kind of miracle module.
I do think it’s worth remembering that people standards for a game vary wildly. I’ve taken a new group through a module and have found every element of game fascinating and original, and the very novelty of playing another character that can do anything is awesome to them. Not every group is comprised of seasoned (jaded) twenty year veterans. Maybe these products are sufficiently set contained enjoyable products to a lot of people.
 

Lyxen

Great Old One
“Provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable Mag experience…”

Not that it creates it for you. Or it is already created.

It’s a collaboration. You need to season it your groups taste.

It can be read in a completely different way, since it says that it provides everything, for one, and second, of course there will be co-creation when the game is run, but if everything si provided, it should just leave it for the DM to run it, no seek something else elsewhere...
 

TheSword

Legend
It can be read in a completely different way, since it says that it provides everything, for one, and second, of course there will be co-creation when the game is run, but if everything si provided, it should just leave it for the DM to run it, no seek something else elsewhere...
Needs are not the same as wants.
 

Retreater

Legend
A question I often wonder, if I wasn't on forums and such, watching YouTube videos, etc., would my perspective of these adventures be different? Would I be able to tell Dragon Heist was a "bad" adventure? Do I really need tips and tutorials to run the adventures?
So I look at some of the adventures I've DMed:
1) Curse of Strahd - no real advice taken from the Internet (with the exception of some interpersonal issues, but nothing about the adventure itself) - ran great.
2) Princes of the Apocalypse - no advice taken from the Internet - ran fine
3) Storm King's Thunder - no advice taken from the Internet - ran poorly
4) Dragon Heist - lots of advice taken from the Internet - ran poorly
5) Dungeon of the Mad Mage - no advice taken from the Internet - ran poorly
6) Rime of the Frost Maiden - lots of advice - ran poorly
7) Tomb of Annihilation - no advice - ran great
8) Out of the Abyss - no advice - ran ... average?

What is the revelation from this? I don't know. Maybe that a great adventure is going to run great (for me) without any external sources, but no external sources is going to make something "bad" run well.
 

TheSword

Legend
A question I often wonder, if I wasn't on forums and such, watching YouTube videos, etc., would my perspective of these adventures be different? Would I be able to tell Dragon Heist was a "bad" adventure? Do I really need tips and tutorials to run the adventures?
So I look at some of the adventures I've DMed:
1) Curse of Strahd - no real advice taken from the Internet (with the exception of some interpersonal issues, but nothing about the adventure itself) - ran great.
2) Princes of the Apocalypse - no advice taken from the Internet - ran fine
3) Storm King's Thunder - no advice taken from the Internet - ran poorly
4) Dragon Heist - lots of advice taken from the Internet - ran poorly
5) Dungeon of the Mad Mage - no advice taken from the Internet - ran poorly
6) Rime of the Frost Maiden - lots of advice - ran poorly
7) Tomb of Annihilation - no advice - ran great
8) Out of the Abyss - no advice - ran ... average?

What is the revelation from this? I don't know. Maybe that a great adventure is going to run great (for me) without any external sources, but no external sources is going to make something "bad" run well.
It might just have been that some of these aren’t to you or your groups taste?

I think I agree with you that Tomb of Ann and Curse of Strahd are the two best modules. But plenty of people can’t abide Tomb. I had one player who thought it was really quite mediocre but three that really enjoyed it.
 

Retreater

Legend
It might just have been that some of these aren’t to you or your groups taste?
That's true. Some people hate Strahd and love Dragon Heist, but if you look at popular opinion, it's usually the other way around.
So we should realize that there is something quantifiable that worked with Strahd and did not work with Dragon Heist - for "most" people, of course.
I do realize that I'm something of an outlier when it comes to liking "Princes of the Apocalypse" and disliking "Storm King's Thunder" (and maybe to a lesser extent "Rime of the Frostmaiden").
But when I look about what I didn't like about Storm King's Thunder (the weak intro, the flying giant tower, etc.), most people don't like that. Even if they can look past that and enjoy the rest of the adventure, they dislike the same stuff I disliked. I just couldn't look past it.
The same is true for Rime of the Frostmaiden.
Even though I liked Tomb of Annihilation a lot, I'm guessing that I disliked the same stuff about it that your one player did - but the rest of it appealed to me enough to overlook what I didn't like.
And when it comes to rankings, it looks a lot like most groups like Strahd and most don't like Heist. Figuring out why will help us all become better designers and DMs.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
“Provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable Mag experience…”

Not that it creates it for you. Or it is already created.

It’s a collaboration. You need to season it your groups taste.

Any reasonable person will interpret the sentence to mean "you can run this adventure using just the stuff that is in this book." Anyone who is not desperately and pedantically trying to twist the meaning of the sentence will reasonably conclude that this is marketing copy that would very much lead one to assume that the adventure can be enjoyably run using just the adventure and not other material you add to the adventure.

I mean obviously they're not gonna write, "Provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable experience provided the Dungeon Master devote hours of work into pains-takingly re-working, editing, proof-reading, and correcting it, plus creating or buying additional supplementary material."
 
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I don't know what to make of your results either. Only I can say that for example Dragon Heist I ran with a lot of advice and a deep dive into the Alexandrian with a ton of changes on my part and the party loved it. It went very well for us. And I know if I was a better DM it could have been epic.

So many variables, so little time!
 

TheSword

Legend
That's true. Some people hate Strahd and love Dragon Heist, but if you look at popular opinion, it's usually the other way around.
So we should realize that there is something quantifiable that worked with Strahd and did not work with Dragon Heist - for "most" people, of course.
I do realize that I'm something of an outlier when it comes to liking "Princes of the Apocalypse" and disliking "Storm King's Thunder" (and maybe to a lesser extent "Rime of the Frostmaiden").
But when I look about what I didn't like about Storm King's Thunder (the weak intro, the flying giant tower, etc.), most people don't like that. Even if they can look past that and enjoy the rest of the adventure, they dislike the same stuff I disliked. I just couldn't look past it.
The same is true for Rime of the Frostmaiden.
Even though I liked Tomb of Annihilation a lot, I'm guessing that I disliked the same stuff about it that your one player did - but the rest of it appealed to me enough to overlook what I didn't like.
And when it comes to rankings, it looks a lot like most groups like Strahd and most don't like Heist. Figuring out why will help us all become better designers and DMs.
I think I look at Witchlight or Candlekeep and wonder why on earth people like it. I don’t claim it’s s#!t or a failure though. At this point I am of the opinion that we can afford to have a little variety and maybe there will be a book or two that isn’t to my taste.

I still think Dragon Heist attempts to do something that few (if any) modules have tried. Which is to create a compelling city adventure.

Dungeon crawls are easier, bounded by walls and doors with easy rules and little explanation required.

Wilderness adventures are easier because they’re largely empty and the writer includes pockets of interest and the party have little else to interact with, unless the DM puts it there first.

A city adventure is chock full though of NPCs and locations and far harder to control or direct. I think it’s inevitable that in place of such limitless options DMs would need to tailor plot hooks and engagements to the party in front of them.
 
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TheSword

Legend
Any reasonable person will interpret the sentence to mean "you can run this adventure using just the stuff that is in this book." Anyone who is not desperately and pedantically trying to twist the meaning of the sentence will reasonably conclude that this is marketing copy that would very much lead one to assume that the adventure can be enjoyably run using just the adventure and not other material you add to the adventure.

I mean obviously they're not gonna write, "Provides everything a Dungeon Master needs to create an exciting and memorable experience provided the Dungeon Master devote hours of work into pains-takingly re-working, editing, proof-reading, and correcting it, plus creating or buying additional supplementary material."
Nah. It just means you don’t need other products beyond the big three.

It absolutely doesn’t say. “This adventure will be fun and enjoyable if you run it exactly the way we have written it here”. Which is the meaning you seem to want to put on the words.

Making the adventure your own is referenced at several points in the book. It’s the same for all modules to a greater or lesser extent. Stop pretending WOC are guilty of false advertising.
 

Burnside

Space Jam Confirmed
Supporter
Nah. It just means you don’t need other products beyond the big three.

It absolutely doesn’t say. “This adventure will be fun and enjoyable if you run it exactly the way we have written it here”. Which is the meaning you seem to want to put on the words.

Making the adventure your own is referenced at several points in the book. It’s the same for all modules to a greater or lesser extent. Stop pretending WOC are guilty of false advertising.

Oh, I don't think they're guilty of false advertising in the sense that I assume they actually believe you can run them as written and they'll be good. It's just that for most of them, that isn't actually true. Of the ones I have run or played in, I would say that it is true, in my experience, of Curse of Strahd, Lost Mine of Phandelver, and Tomb of Annihilation - I did change stuff in those, but I didn't feel like I had to. Any other official WotC 5E adventure that I have run, I have felt the need to pretty substantially change.

Obviously this whole thing is subjective. But I'm mainly responding to your claim that you "can't understand" why "anyone" thinks they can run the adventure as written. In fact, assuming that you can run the adventure you paid $50 for pretty much as written is a perfectly natural assumption and one that I guarantee the majority of purchasers - who are casual gamers and not dedicated ENWorld posters, pro DMs, or DMs with 20+ years of experience, definitely make.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Nah. It just means you don’t need other products beyond the big three.

It absolutely doesn’t say. “This adventure will be fun and enjoyable if you run it exactly the way we have written it here”. Which is the meaning you seem to want to put on the words.
Which is the meaning that they are selling it with.

First time DM wants to run, they pick up a module or adventure and run it. That's been true since Basic D&D days. Good DMs could and would customize them, but there has never been a general expectation that running a module straight would be an failure, that it was only intended as a starter kit to customize.

Never.

Making the adventure your own is referenced at several points in the book. It’s the same for all modules to a greater or lesser extent. Stop pretending WOC are guilty of false advertising.
No, they are marketing it like they intend. WotC is guilty of just putting out some bad product at times.
 

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