Dragon Heist session twenty-six: The Chicken Conga Party
As they arrived back at Trollskull Manor, the party was surprised to see it teeming with people. A flashing neon blue TM sign stood above the door. Inside, the Luskan refugees, all wearing blue t-shirts with a TM insignia embroidered on the sleeve, had transformed the party’s empty tavern into a bustling business. A large man sat at the bar, loudly ordering another bottle of whisky. He turned around as Alan, Joe, Arvene, and Dugg entered. “Well, blow me down! Look what you guys have achieved!” he said. “I knew my money was well spent. Durnan be damned!” It was Mirt, and he was happy.
Last night was the 26th session in our online Waterdeep Dragon Heist D&D campaign and it began with a jovial meeting in a bar, but ended in disaster.
We have been playing Dragon Heist via Discord and using Trello and D&D Beyond to keep track of characters and share campaign information, and streaming our sessions on Twitch. Last night, however, for the first time this campaign, we were all in the same place as we played. We had arranged a “live game” at our sorcerer’s flat—any excuse to order pizza and eat snacks all evening.
Thankfully D&D Beyond has a mobile app so the party were able to play using their online characters.
Additional Dragon Heist supplements I’m using for this campaign:
Residents of Trollskull Alley
Waterdeep: Expanded Faction Missions
Scrying into his handkerchief
The Press of Waterdeep
Dragon Heist: Expanded Faction Missions
Shard Shunners: a Zhentarim Faction Mission and DM’s ResourceShard Shunners: a Zhentarim Faction Mission and DM’s Resource
Dugg, Earth Genasi Fighter – dungsweeper and estranged son from House Roznar.
Alan Crabpopper, Human Ranger – a private investigator and member of the Harpers.
Arvene Galanodel, Half-Elf Cleric – priestess of Tymora, fake harper. Ressurected.
Little Joe, Drow Sorcerer – channeling the spirit of John Wayne, secret member of Bregan D’earth.
Previously in Dragon Heist
After a failed faction mission, the party had to find a way to resurrect their fallen cleric Arvene. Turning to the sisters of the temple of Tymora, they managed to revivify their friend, but she now has to face the turmoil and physical repercussions of dying in service.
Meanwhile, the party received a tipoff that the wererat gang they have been searching for, the Shard Shunners, could be found lurking around a tavern in the Dock Ward. Following this lead, Alan arranged to meet a Halfling called Alton at midnight for more information. But first they had a meeting with Mirt the Moneylender and the small matter of a birthday party for their friend Embric to attend to.
Conversations in the dark
Feeling both delicate from her recent revival and giddy from the alcohol, Arvene began to sway. Joe gave her a gentle push and she collapsed onto the floor. Joe chuckled. Within seconds, one of the tavern workers rushed to her aid and, with Dugg’s assistance, they hoisted in to her room. There, as she lay dozing, Alan, Joe, and Dugg spoke with Mirt. The moneylender expressed his delight at the success of the bar and then, over the sound of Arvene’s heavy snoring, they discussed the situation with the Wererats.
Worse for were
So the session began with each of the players rolling constitution checks. They had ended the previous session drunk, so we needed to establish their current state. Alan and Joe were fine, and not at all affected by the booze. Dugg was feeling slightly hazy (disadvantage on ability checks) and Arvene was unconscious. She had rolled a critical fail on her check, and it combined with the -4 penalty imposed by the raise dead spell. She was not doing well.
They discussed their plans with Mirt and discovered that he too was invited to Embric’s party. Then, after giving some advice regarding the wererats—“don’t get bit”—he left them to prepare. This mostly consisted of each of them trying to wake Arvene. Dugg eventually managed this by dousing her in cold water and saying mean things about a bard she liked.
5 hours to midnight
Throughout the session I made a point of reminding the players how much time was passing. They had a rendezvous with Alton at midnight, and if they missed it, I wanted to ensure I’d given them enough of a chance not to.
At five hours to go, they headed to Daisy’s potion shop which was around the corner. Here Joe was astonished at the cost of a healing potion. “50 gold pieces? Are you sure that’s right?” I checked. It was. Even with his 20% discount from a previous session he decided this was too expensive and so bought some Sprite instead.
Refreshed, but not revitalized, they headed to the party.
Chips and dip
They arrived at the party fairly early. It was held in the forge in Trollskull Alley which was owned and run by a couple of genasi: Avi and Embric. It was Embric’s birthday and he didn’t want a party. Avi greeted them animatedly; he was clearly drunk, and offered them mojitos. Embric was quietly sitting in the corner, listening to a bard tune his dulcimer.
There were 20 or so people at the forge, some of whom the group recognized, some they didn’t. This was a great opportunity for me to re-introduce some NPCs whom they might have forgotten, and as they went around the room they took every opportunity to drink more booze and insult as many people as they could.
At one point, even though no one else was visibly drunk and they both were, Dugg and Arvene started dancing around a chocolate fountain and dueling with baguettes. Avi thought this was brilliant and joined them. Embric did not.
4 hours to midnight
With only four hours to midnight, and the rendezvous at least three hours away, Alan announced that he was leaving to go to the Dock Ward. I was surprised when nobody volunteered to go with him. I had deliberately made the party quite boring so they wouldn’t want to stay, but Arvene was very, very drunk now so wasn’t leaving. Dugg always forgets a plan—his character flaw is “if there’s a plan I will forget it”—so he didn’t remember about the rendezvous. And Joe was keen to try to con as many of the guests as he could, but needed them all to be a little drunker first.
So Alan went alone. In hindsight, this was a mistake.
3 hours to midnight
While Alan was wondering the streets of Waterdeep, Joe, Arvene, and Dugg stayed at the party. The mojitos were flowing freely, and it all started to get a little out of hand. Have you ever heard of those parties where naive kids accidentally advertise on social media and are then surprised when a thousand people turn up and wreck the place? This was one of those parties. And Dugg and Arvene were the naughty kids who draw obscenities on the walls, spike the chocolate fountain, and let a chicken loose in your parents’ bedroom.
They were enjoying this way more than I had anticipated. And once it was clear that they were staying for the duration I felt obliged to let them play it out, however they saw fit. Alan be damned.
2 hours to midnight
Alan was still wandering the streets, an hour from his rendezvous, when Joe, much more sober than the others thanks to his drow constitution, tried to pick the pocket of “the richest man in the room.” That was Victoro Cassalanter. Joe hadn’t met the owner of the bank and head of the Cassalanter family before, so wasn’t surprised to see him without his usual entourage or bodyguards. However, they had only gone out for a smoke. Something Joe realized as he failed his sleight of hand check (10), and was given three seconds to turn around and leave. Joe sensibly did so, retreating to a quiet area for the duration of the party. Probably the kitchen.
A split party was not something I had foreseen when I was planning the next stage of the session. So when Alan arrived at the rendezvous point in the Dock Ward on his own, he was already at a disadvantage. Not to mention the effects of the alcohol consumed earlier and his terrible stealth roll (8). He also rolled poorly on his survival check to find the statue and so it took a little longer than he hoped, meaning he didn’t have time to scope out the area first.
I was using the Shard Shunners Resource mentioned earlier, and even though the encounter was intended for at least a party of four, I felt I had given them all enough chance to go there en masse.
Alton (the guy Alan had arranged to meet) stood at the feet of the statue of The Lady. He saw Alan coming and beckoned him over. “Heh, you look a little worse for wear, mate,” he hissed. “I didn’t think you’d be stupid enough to come here alone. Perhaps I ought to teach you a lesson. What do you reckon, boys?” He called out and Alan heard the unmistakable sound of crossbows being primed.
Alan, spurred on by Dutch courage, tried to interrogate Alton, but the Halfling wasn’t interested in answering any questions. He was angry that Alan had called them out in the tavern earlier and gave Alan the opportunity to provide a reason for them to let him live. Alan was unable to do so.
All the while this encounter was progressing, Alan was rolling very poorly. First his intimidation check was bad (5). Then his persuasion check failed too (7). And finally he attempted a deception check, but that didn’t work either (11). His passive perception, however, did inform him of the three wererats that were circling closer around him.
He panicked, grabbed Alton, and tried to grapple him at the same time Alton went to stab him. There was only one was to resolve this:
Thus ensued a very quick and frantic fight, in which I got use my new Dwarven Forge terrain tiles. The first one of the campaign that didn’t involve the whole party. The square in which the Lady Statue resided was surrounded by alleys and tall buildings. Last night the role of the Lady Statue was played by a Fire Giant as I didn’t have a Lady Statue mini to hand.
Alan rolled highest and managed to grapple Alton. He had him restrained, so Alton wasn’t able to stab him. The grapple meant the three wererats all had disadvantage on their attacks as Alton was effectively Alan’s Halfling shield. However, one still managed a critical hit against him. Alan took 10 piercing damage from the crossbow bolt.
In the second round of combat, Alan kept up the grapple and used his bonus action to blow his horn. He hoped the Watch would hear and come running. Not likely in this part of town, but worth a try. Alton used his action to morph from a Halfling into a giant rat; he was still grappled, but Alan could feel him pulling away. This time, all three crossbows missed. The wererats moved in closer.
Round three was when Alan realized help wasn’t coming. He managed to handcuff the Alton, and decided to try to escape. Backing towards one of the alleys that left the square.
Fade to black
Alan was surrounded. His chips were down. In desperation, he hurled Alton, still manacled, towards his attackers. The wererats became tangled amongst each other. They hissed and snarled, spitting insults and vitriol at the lone ranger. He fled. Running blindly down the first alley he could, he ran straight into a brick wall. Trapped. He tried to scale the wall. Adrenaline pumping, hands and feet scrabbling for purchase, he ascended quickly. Not quick enough. He heard the crossbow triggers release. Then felt the impact of four bolts hitting his back. Then he fell. END
Well, that was at all not how I planned this session of Dragon Heist to go. In my mind, if I made Avi and Embric’s party boring enough, the players would decide not to stay, instead heading as a group to the rendezvous at midnight. The encounter with the wererats would have been entirely winnable with a full party. Alan on his own stood no chance. It didn’t help his cause that the wererats attacking scored three critical hits in four rounds of combat.
What did we learn?
DM Tip: Where do I even begin? First, I learned that no matter how much you think you know what will happen, you don’t. Second, I learned that even if you signpost the dangers and repeatedly ask, “Is anyone going to help Alan on this potentially dangerous mission in a very dangerous part of the city?” You are just as likely to be ignored as not. And third, I learned that no matter how boring you think a situation might be, you should never assume that your players won’t just choose to stay there and make it fun. Apparently, now that we’re all adults and have children and responsibilities, the one thing we really want to do when we play fantasy roleplaying games called things like Curse of Strahd and Dragon Heist isn’t going on adventures, fighting bad guys, and solving mysteries. It’s going to parties, spiking chocolate fountains, and creating a chicken conga line.
Next week the hangover begins. I have to decide what happens to Alan after he falls unconscious, and the rest of the party must decide if they even notice when Alan isn’t there in the morning.