W:DH Week 6 – Of course, of course.

Shava, Tobby, and Jumanji just returned safely from the Zhent warehouse.  They brought back a wealth of silver bars! Tymora is with us.

I decided to have a chat with the spirit inhabiting our manor.  I borrowed some ball-bearings from Tobby and set up in the library.  I explained to the ghost that our intention is to restore the manor to its previous glory.  I guessed that the cellar door constantly slamming shut was a sign of anger or frustration from the ghost, so I vowed not to enter the cellar unless absolutely necessary until it lets me know I am welcome there.  I shared some wine, and began looking for a journal or history book in the library to help our restoration efforts.  A book soon dropped to the floor, but it turned out to be elven book detailing wineries.  I began to read it, and the ball bearings moved to spell out three letters, “LIF.”  Perhaps this is a reference to the ghost’s name, or it may be a clue as to what I am to find in this book.  I shall have to study it to find out.

Jumanji called out that another paper bird had just hit him in the head.  A message from Mirt, no doubt.  It gave us the name of a stable – Estadio.  It was just the lead we needed to get started in our investigation.  We all made our way to the stable and began our work.  Tobby snuck in to try and find any sign of Maxine, while the rest of us asked questions of the stable hands.  Boaz was particularly quick on his feet here.  When the employee helping us left momentarily, Shava disguised herself as a stable hand and entered the offices looking for information.  A short time later, an alarm bell sounded and virtually all of the workers poured out of the stable in pursuit of someone.  Jumanji figured that it must be Shava they we chasing.  I agreed, and we joined the pursuit.  Boaz stayed behind to calm the horses and watch for clues.  After fleeing for a time, Shava found an opportune moment to drop her disguise and feign ignorance.  The stable hands bought her story and continued their efforts to capture the fleeing criminal.  While chaos was taking over in the front of the stables, Tobby found Maxine in the back.  They slipped out and made their way to our tower.

After the events at the stable, I decided to make my way back to the tower.  I wanted to read more of the book I had started earlier.  Jumanji went to the Yawning Portal to have his meeting with Yagra.  Boaz and Shava accompanied him.  Once there, Yagra introduced them to a sun elf named Davil Starsaw.  He was impressed with Jumanji, and offered him a task to perform for possible entry into their organization.  They want him to investigate murders of elf and half-elf sailors at the docks.  They also revealed that they are members of the Zhentarum.  I must admit, my feelings about the Zhents are fairly strong, but I know that Yagra is a good person.  Her membership in their ranks does give me doubts as to those feelings.

At our manor, Tobby had a chance to ask Maxine some questions.  She indicated that she didn’t know what ultimately happened to Anxer.  He went into a bar and never came out.  The last day she was with him, Anxer picked up a sun elf and his half-orc bodyguard on their way to the Yawning Portal.  It seems likely that they are the same individuals Jumanji had just met with.  During their cab ride, they discussed hiring spies to root out Xanathar operatives.

A Waterdavian guild representative came to our manor to establish a relationship with us.  His name is Hammond Kraddoc, and he is a member of the guild of Vintners, Distillers, and Brewers.  It seems as if we will need to use the services of this guild when we are ready to open the manor for business again.  We will have to ask Ranaer for advice when dealing with these guilds.

Tobby left to secure forged papers indicating ownership of Maxine so we can return her to service.

Jumanji and Shava went to talk to Mirt at the Bloody Fist.  He was very pleased with the results of our efforts.  He was especially happy that we had already started moving to get Maxine back into position to resume her work.  He offered us another task.  A bookseller named Uza Solizeph claims to have a monster trapped in her shop.  We can find her at Felzoun’s Folly for more information.

Work with the Harpers or the Zhentarum –  It’s an easy choice for me, but we each must make these decisions for ourselves. Tymora watch over us.

W:DH Week 5 – The not-so-friendly ghost

With Shava out to complete some business on her own, the rest of our group settled in to spend the first night in our new manor.  It had been abandoned for years, so I expected the night to pass without incident. How wrong I was!

It all started when I heard glass breaking on a floor above me.  I roused the others and we investigated our way to the attic where we found a broken window.  I then heard bottles breaking downstairs.  We rushed down while Tobby deftly used the fireplace to descend in order to eliminate that as a possible route for the intruders. When we arrived at the first floor, we encountered a grisly sight.  There was a headless corpse attached to a large fishing hook.  The eerie glow it was emanating was later discovered to be a type of glowing paint.  I can only assume the intruders placed it there to frighten us, but why?  We needed answers.  Tobby and Jumanji checked the cellar and found a message scrawled in the dirt that read, “Get out.” That door has a nasty habit of slamming shut randomly, so i propped it open with a chair. We then heard noises coming from upstairs.  The intruders had slipped past us again!  We split up.  I took up position outside to watch the exterior while Boaz and Jumanji rushed back upstairs.  They discovered that someone had set a bed on fire in one of the upper rooms.  Springing to action, they quickly pushed the bed into a fireplace and extinguished it.  They likely saved the entire manor with their quick thinking.  I continued my survey of the outside of the house, when I spotted a shadowy figure seemingly get pushed from an upper balcony and fall to its death.  Shortly afterward, Tobby saw the chair being used to prop open the cellar door move out of the way.  The cellar door slammed shut once more.  Tobby forced the door open and found a new message written in the dirt. “They’re in the house.”  Tobby and I made our way upstairs to inform Boaz and Jumanji of what we each witnessed.  Tobby had some ball bearings scattered across the floor of his room and they suddenly moved to form the word attic.  We all rushed to the attic only to once again find no intruders.  Tobby yanked the cover off of one the the large padded chairs and a rat scurried out from underneath.  I had let a rat scurry past me earlier in the night without a thought, but Tobby quickly lashed out and hit the rodent.  After the hit, I expected to see a dead rat, but was shocked when it suddenly grew into a were-rat!  In a flash of steel, Jumanji separated the creature’s head from it’s body.  Markings on its body showed it to be a member of the Shard Shunners.  They were likely the ones who put the headless corpse in our house, but we still didn’t know why.  We also seem to have a spirit in our house.  He seemed to be helping us, and perhaps he may have even been the one to push the intruder from the balcony outside.  Perhaps this ghost is friendly.  Boaz gathered the ball bearings and asked the ghost some questions.  The bearings spelled nothing but insults.  So the ghost isn’t exactly friendly.

With numerous corpses in our manor – two missing their heads, we decided to call the watch and come clean with all that had happened.  Stagat, who we met in the Zhent warehouse arrived and reluctantly cleared us of charges, but not before he reminded us of the laws and punishments of Waterdeep.

The next morning, Boaz and I went to see Volo.  We recounted the night’s events, and he informed us that the ghost likely had been in the manor for over 500 years.  He also indicated that it was previously helpful the those that lived there.  On our way out, Yagra approached us.  She had survived our trip to the sewers!  She asked to set a up a meeting with Jumanji, and I agreed to pass on the message when I see him next.  While Boaz and I were talking with Volo, Jumanji and the others had returned to the Zhent warehouse to inspect the secret room that Jumanji had discovered there. Tymora bless their bold actions!

W:DH Week 4 – When opportunity flies in and hits you.

Before we inspected our new manor, we agreed to meet for lunch at the Gentle Mermaid.  It was a nice place, and I could see myself visiting again.  Before we finished our drinks, a bird made of paper flew in and hit Jumanji.  On impact, it unfolded into a note and some opera tickets.  When we read the note, we discovered that the well-known moneylender by the name of Mirt had sent the magic paper-bird. The note also mentioned Ranaer, so we decided to follow up on the invitation.  We would need formal attire to gain entry to the opera and the barkeep suggested Meiroths Fine Silks as a good place to procure what we needed.  Upon arrival, a gnome by the name Randolph helped us to rent outfits suitable for an evening with Waterdeep’s elite.

That bit of business finished, we finally made our way to Trollskull Manor.  It is quite impressive, but in need of repair.  We proceeded to scout the entire location.  We found that the bottom floor is a tavern with attached kitchen and pantry.  There is also a cellar accessible by a trap door located behind the bar.  The stairs to the upper floors are in the back of the building and lead to the living areas.  We found what one would expect from a vacant building such as this.  There are old pieces of furniture, and old bottles of liquor.  Upon closer inspection, we did find some things of value.  I found a few bottles of wine that seem like they might be worth something.  Boaz found a harpsichord, and Shava noticed that the frames around the paintings are quite nice.  The only thing out of the ordinary is that the trap door to the cellar slammed shut with two of our party on the other side.  It is quite difficult to open once shut, so we should keep that in mind in the future.

That night at the opera, we were treated to quite an experience.  We mingled with Waterdeep’s rich and powerful.  The show was quite entertaining despite being portrayed in Giant speak.  At intermission, we made our way to Mirt’s private seats.  He had heard of our recent deeds, and was impressed.  He indicated that he was part of a large organization, but declined to name it for now.  He asked if we would be interested in helping him with another job.  The details were quite unusual to be sure.  Apparently, there is an intelligent draft horse named Maxine that acts as an informant for Mirt’s organization.  This horse had recently gone missing.  He asked us to find it.  He gave us a few details to start our work.  Maxine normally works with a taxi driver named Anxer who owns a green two-person cab.  They worked primarily in the South and Dock Wards.  When necessary, we can make contact with Mirt at the Blood Fist.

It seems as if we’re going to take this work.  We accomplished our last task, and our group worked together quite well, so I am confident.  As an aside, nobody almost died tonight.  That is a turn in the right direction!

W:DH Week 3 — Out of the Sewers

The alarm had been raised.  We scrambled to find the correct path.  Enemy reinforcements must surely be mere moments away.  Suddenly, Jumanji called out that he had discovered a hidden door in the wall of the sewers.  His ability to uncover these doors is truly uncanny!  He and Yagra took the lead as we followed the passage behind the door.  We did little investigation of the rooms as we passed.  Speed seemed to be the wisest option. 

As we turned a corner, we came face to face with a human and a grey skinned dwarf.  They were waiting for us and immediately attacked.  Yagra angrily engaged the human, and it was at that point that I recognized him.  This was Krentz, who had attacked Yagra in the Yawning Portal.  We all focused our efforts on him until he was slain.  I thought that surely the lone remaining dwarf would be no trouble for our group.  We looked on in horror as he suddenly grew to double his size!  We acted swiftly to bring the monster down before it could inflict much damage with his massive axe.

The next room contained a grey ooze.  I’ve heard of these things, but I always doubted that a creature constructed of ooze could actually pose a threat.  How wrong I was.  The thing could damage our weapons and armor.  It could form pseudo-pod fists that inflicted massive damage.  We bested it, but not before Shava had a brush with death.

As we regrouped, Shava scouted ahead.  When she didn’t return, we followed.  In the next section of rooms, we saw an orc standing over a human that looked to have been tortured.  We saw a floating creature with tentacles on its face set down what looked like a dog-sized monster that consisted of a brain with four clawed legs.  The floating creature retreated while the brain creature and the orc attacked.  Yagra rushed to engage the orc.  The brain creature let out a pulse that rendered Boaz seemingly catatonic.  We rushed to kill the thing before more of us fell prey to its horrifying attack.  When we finally killed it, the orc decided to run.  Yagra was not willing to let it live, and gave chase. 

We discovered that the tortured human on the ground was Floon.  He was severely injured, but alive.  Shava told us that the floating creature that had initially retreated was likely a mind flayer.  Before it departed, it had berated the orc saying, “You fool, we’ve wasted all this time, and we’ve learned nothing.  Finish these intruders and prove your mettle to the Xanathar.”  As we departed the area, Shava also noticed a three foot high pillar with a circle and ten spokes carved in its top.  We later learned this to be the symbol of the Xanathar.

As we departed the sewers, Shava placed a disguise on Floon for his safety.  She then took Boaz to my temple to receive healing.  Perhaps it was better for her to take him than to bring him myself.  He will receive excellent treatment either way.  We took Floon to the Yawning Portal to reunite with Volo.  Even though we smelled like the sewers, we were greeted as heroes.  Yagra had yet to return, but I feel confident that she will return safely – probably with a trophy from a slain orc.  Ranaer was still in Volo’s chambers as we recounted our efforts.  When the subject of payment was raised, Volo suggested an alternative to the promised gold.  He gave us the deed to a property called Trollskull Manor.  I was hesitant to accept, but the rest of the group seemed amenable to the deal, so it was done.  Ranaer mentioned that he would be willing to use his connections to help us with the fees associated with our new manor.

Owning property in Waterdeep can be lucrative, but with a name like Trollskull, I have my doubts.

W:DH Week 2 – I like cake!

As I regained consciousness, I thanked Tymora for all must be well.  Then I realized I was surrounded by the militia.  Not again…

As I was taken to be questioned, I saw that my entire party lived through the encounter!  At least all was not lost.  I gave my answers and was returned to my friends to wait while the investigation continued. I discovered that Ranaer and Floon were being held prisoner in the warehouse, but the Xanathar had attacked and abducted Floon.  Apparently, they thought that Floon was Ranaer, as they bear some resemblance.  I learned that Shava found several dead bodies across the warehouse.  There were five bearing Zhent markings and seven without any markings, save one who had a brand on his hand.  The brand was a circle with ten radiating spokes.  The bird-people were defeated.  Tobby and Boaz were preparing to chase the last remaining bird-man to the upstairs office, when Stagat and the local watch knocked down a door for their grand entrance. 

We were expected to remain in the warehouse, but were free to talk and move about while we waited on the watch.  We had a chance to talk to Ranaer.  He told us that the Xanathar wanted information regarding a large sum of money his father had reportedly embezzled. He caimed to not know anything of its location.  He then told us that an item called the Stone of Golorr is required to find the money.  Apparently, the Zhents had it, but Lord Neverember’s lackey Dalakhar stole it from them.  The watch finally concluded their investigation.  The rescue of Ranaer corroborated our story, and we were released.  Tymora is with us.

We returned to the Yawning portal to talk to both Volo and Yagra. While setting up these meetings, Jumanji confided in us that he had discovered a secret door in the office of the warehouse we had just left.  When he investigated, he found two crates.  One held valuable art, while the other was sealed too tightly to open without alerting the watch.  We met with Volo and found him drunk and somewhat unhelpful, but Yagra was surprisingly eager to help us save Floon (for an equal portion of treasure.)  We decided to meet in the morning at the foot of the Honorable Knight to venture into the sewers.

The next morning as we reconvened at our meeting spot, Yagra showed us to a sewer grate that would allow us entry to passages used by the Xanathar.  As we climbed down the ladder, we head a familiar young voice call out, “I like cake!”  Apparently, Shava had spotted and payed off a young boy acting as a lookout for the Xanathar.  In the sewers, we immediately found yellow marks in chalk and decided to follow them.  We marched for a long time in the foul underside of the city when we suddenly came face-to-face with a small floating head – a gazer.  Shava and Boaz quickly dispatched it.  The bard is quite skilled with that crossbow of his!  We continued our march until we came to an intersection.  Upon closer inspection, we found a murder hole with a goblin on the other side of it.  We tried desperately to kill the vile thing, but before we could dispatch it, it shouted, “Bree-yark!”  I can only assume it to be a alarm or battle cry of some kind.  During the fight, we found that there was a second murder hole, and a second goblin.  “Bree-yark!” it cried.  Any hope of staying unnoticed was quickly vanishing.  I only hope that these are the only two, but I must admit that I am not very confident.  We need to decide which way to proceed quickly as I fear enemies are coming in response to the calls.

W:DH Update – Shall we play a game?

I’m currently unconscious on the dirty floor of a warehouse in the Dock Ward.  Just how did I end up lying in an expanding pool of my own blood?

I guess it all started last night at the card game I run in the Yawning Portal.  I really like the people who have been showing up to play.  I guess I would consider them friends, especially Tobby, who has been coming to the table the longest.  As we were finding our seats that night, a fight broke out.  It’s a fairly common occurrence, but this fight seemed decidedly unfair to Yagra – the half-orc who was being attacked by multiple foes.  To my delight, much of our group stepped in to help immediately.  We also quickly found that the fight wasn’t quite as unfair as we first thought.  Yagra would probably have fared just fine even if we hadn’t stepped in to help. I noticed the leader of the attackers had several eyes tattooed on his head. I don’t recall seeing anything like it before.  Yagra explained that she had done some work for the group, but they wanted more from her before paying her their agreed fee.  I could understand her displeasure. She mentioned that the leader was named Krince, and was obviously someone who should not be trusted.

That bit of ugly business finished, we settled in to play our game.  Then a troll climbed out of the portal at the center of the tavern.  We were actually a bit excited to get the opportunity of taking some free pot-shots at the troll from the safety of the balcony where we sat.  As most of the other patrons ran for the exit, our new acquaintance Yagra ran down the stairs to face the troll.  To my surprise, Jumanji followed!  Moments later, we discovered what had driven the troll into our midst.  Stirges, who were attacking the troll, now swarmed into the tavern looking for new victims. One attached itself to Tobby, who dropped from the blood loss.  In the confusion, Boaz dropped as well.  As I rushed to give aid, I noticed another stirge had attached itself to Shava.  She killed it, and it dropped to the floor.  Durnan, the proprietor of the Yawning Portal, had joined the fight against the troll and called for fire to be brought to bear against the creature.  It was destroyed shortly after in a cloud of horrid smelling smoke.

After the smoke cleared, we reentered the tavern with hopes of playing our game.  Durnan approached our table and mentioned to Shava and I that the sage Volo was looking for help with a bit of work, and he had recommended our group.  We decided to listen to the offer as he was apparently right upstairs at that very moment.  We found that Volo was looking for a friend who had recently gone missing.  The friend’s name is Floon Blagmaar .  He was described as a striking, tall man with wavy red hair.  He and Volo had been doing a bit of bar-hopping – ending at the Skewered Dragon.  Volo had retired for the night, but apparently Floon never made it home.  Volo promised money up front for accepting the job, with more to come when we found Floon.  Our game would once again be postponed as we accepted the task.

We went to the Skewered Dragon and got some information from a patron named Whisker who suggested we be a bit more discreet if we returned for more information in the future.  His information led us to Zoblob’s shop.  We entered the shop and Shava talked a bit with Zoblob himslef – who had some eye tattoos on his head.  That makes two people with these odd tattoos. Zoblob indicated that Floon was not alone.  He was accompanied by Rainier Neverember, and they were both accosted by a group of men with winged snake tattoos.

We retired for the evening, but met back up at the Skewered Dragon the next morning to gather more information.  Shava noticed a man acting drunk while trying to listen to our conversation.  As she approached, he vomited at her.  She deftly dodged the “attack” and the man started to leave the tavern.  Shava bolted out the door in front of the man, and shortly after Jumanji followed.  We asked about the man and the barkeep told us his name is Argus. From what I gather, Shava disguised herself in an attempt to follow Argus.  Jumanji followed at a distance as well.  They followed for a while, but ultimately lost their quarry as Jumanji watched him leap from one rooftop to another!  Boaz stayed in the tavern to perform on stage while hoping to gather more information.  Tobby suggested that he and I meet a friend of his for lunch (and information)  We made our way to Monte’s Heartland Hot Sausages.  Monte appears to do decent business from his cart as there was quite a line. Upon seeing us, Monte closed his cart and we went to the Bloody Fist to talk.  He told Tobby of a warehouse with a winged snake symbol discretely placed on it.  Tobby explained to me that the winged snake is actually the symbol of the Zhentarum, and the eye tattoos indicate a group called the Xanathar.  Theses two groups were on friendly terms previously, but now are attacking each other.

When our group reunited, we decided to investigate the Zhentarum warehouse.  Later that night, we decided to investigate its interior.  I must admit, breaking in to a warehouse – even one run by the Zhentarum is not something I would normally consider any longer, but I know that I might be able to keep an eye on my new friends if there’s trouble.  Tymora bless my bold action – I just hope it’s not too reckless.  Tobby approached the warehouse first and we followed.  As Tobby entered, we immediately realized we were in for a fight.  There were several bird-people poised to attack. Perhaps our approach was a bit too noisy.  The fight started poorly for our side.  Tobby dropped.  I was too far to give aid quickly – I must stay closer to him.  As I tried to fend off attacks and make my way to Tobby, another of our group dropped.  This couldn’t be happening!  Boaz cast a healing spell to aid our fallen friend – bless him!  As I made it to Tobby, my rushed attempt to help him failed.  As I looked at my fumbling, blood-covered hands in terror, I too, was struck down.  As I lost consciousness, I realized these bird people were seemingly quoting other people. “Tie up pretty-boy in the back room.” My vision blurred. “Follow the yellow signs in the sewers.” My vision darkened.  “No time to loot the place, get him to the boss.”  Everything went black.

Perhaps we should have just played our card game.

Upcoming Game — Waterdeep: Dragon Heist

As we’ve discussed, our next game will be a return to Waterdeep in the latest D&D module “Waterdeep: Dragon Heist.” From D&D Beyond:


“In this story, you are D&D heroes with swords and magic living in fantasy New York City. A lot of normal people live here trying to get by, but the city is really run by monstrous crime lords, secret nobility, and a lot of evil people trying to get very, very rich. But since this is a city with laws and a police force, you have to act like detectives or vigilantes to get results, like Batman or Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes. Words are weapons, and it’s better to bring villains down by revealing their deep dark secrets than by killing them with a sword.”

We’ll be playing in the “current” iteration of Waterdeep. As much as I have tried to avoid keeping up with the official narrative for Waterdeep (and the broader Forgotten Realms), this game will be firmly set in the setting as it is formally. We are 30+ years in the future from the time of the Open Lord Piergeiron Paladinson. But, while some of the faces have changed except for the newest “Ward:” Deepwater Harbor, the city has not changed, except that it is grander and more cosmopolitan than ever. The above reference to New York City should give some indication of how bustling, arbitrarily corrupt and immune to everyday concerns the City of Splendors is.

For Players: Make Thematic Characters
If your DM and fellow players want to play a game of urban intrigue, you would be well served to create a character that fits in that genre. This way you not only respect others’ fun, you set yourself up to have fun by creating a character well-equipped to handle the sort of challenges the campaign will throw your way. A barbarian suited only for fighting will have fun when combat encounters arise, but when a campaign is mostly based around infiltrating manor houses, schmoozing with nobility, and hunting for clues in ancient archives? You aren’t doing yourself any favors by playing that kind of character.

I will ask that you pick your race, class and background together.  In the first 1-3 sessions, I’m going to ask that everyone complete their Traits, Ideals, Bonds and, especially Flaws.  Please try to have your character’s behavior reflect all of your characters components, not just Race, Class or Alignment.

More from the article:

For Players: Get Involved in the City
Waterdeep is as much a character as any of the DM’s NPCs. Its many wards all have different moods and treat the characters differently. High-class characters with the noble background may feel out of place among rough-and-tumble sailors in muddy Dock Ward, and common city folk may feel like the North Ward’s suburban atmosphere is a bit too clean for their taste—to say nothing of the opulent extravagance of the Sea Ward. Waterdeep is teeming with personality of its own, to say nothing of the dozens upon dozens of NPCs that live there.

Your character has the opportunity to become involved in the city and make a life there. You aren’t a wanderer, camping out on the side of a road as you travel from ruin to ruin. You may have a regular room in the Yawning Portal Inn and Tavern, and get to know the locals. You might want to start up a business of your own and get to know your neighbors and customers. This creates opportunities for roleplaying, but this is a good idea even if you don’t like roleplaying very much. Making friends with the common people of Waterdeep will help you create valuable alliances that may lead you to finding new adventures, new treasure, and other rewards.