By Dylan Ramsey
We have a small group this week, only Cicero, Shareef, Carlos, and Surena are here. You can watch this episode on Youtube, or as a podcast.
Aram Vartian - Dungeon Master
(Surena Marie) Ashbourne - Half-Elf Ranger
(Carlos Luna) Nocnoc - Half-Orc Fighter
(Cicero Holmes) Perrin - Halfling Bard
(Tanya DePass) Selise - Human Paladin of Tyr
(Shareef Jackson) Shaka - Tiefling Warlock
(Brandon Stennis) Rinn - High Elf Sorcerer
Selise is worried about Rinn after everything that’s happened and goes off to find him while everyone else heads back to the Jade Rose. Tonight is the Festival of the Moon--a celebration to Selune--and throngs of masked citizens parade through the streets. There are floats and everything. It’s essentially Waterdeep Mardi Gras. They have to reroute under a bridge because of the parade to reach their inn.
Shaka notices eight children playing and scampering behind them, he yells at them. Chips lets out a whine and Ashbourne realizes something is very wrong. As Nocnoc turns around to tell Shaka to chill out, he steps into a puddle, and the steel teeth of a bear trap suddenly clamp down on his leg! The “children” throw off their costumes--they’re kobolds! A bugbear drops from above to flank the party.
Ash hits the bugbear with an arrow, and Shaka leans down to try and pop the bear trap back open. He isn’t strong enough to do it alone, but Nocnoc helps with a NAT 20 and yanks it apart. The half-orc tosses it at the nearest kobold and it bites down on the poor little bastard. Perrin uses his Rod of Rulership on the kobolds, and half of them are charmed for 8 hours!!! The kobolds stab their former comrades, while Nocnoc action surges and uses his Humming Bird and Dragon’s Fang on the bugbear, destroying him! The mayor barely has enough time to scream before it’s all over.
Perrin orders his kobolds to put their costumes back on--they’re going to be his bodyguards at the party tonight. Nocnoc shouts back at Shaka for yelling at the “kids”, “That was an overreaction!”
Shaka looks at everybody, “Don’t. Trust. Kids.”
Ash and Nocnoc investigate the bugbear’s body. Ash finds a tattoo of a beholder on his wrist--they were minions of the Xanathar (NAT 20). Nocnoc cuts himself on a hidden blade and is knocked out by the poison on it (NAT 1). Ash picks him up with her golden claw arm and carries this enormous half-orc with absolutely no problem.
At the Jade Rose, Shaka finds that Nicholas Fernsberry sent a letter detailing information he dug up on Ziraj. Evidently, Ziraj has a personal beef with the Xanathar, and might have gone after the party if he thought they were involved with the crime boss. Given that they just took out some of the Xanathar’s thugs, Shaka hopes that they can prove that they aren’t friends of the beholder. He and Perrin go back to try and get proof from the bodies.
When they arrive however, the bodies are gone. Perrin notices a form on a rooftop however and tells Shaka they should be “Peering Up” instead of looking down. Shaka ‘Misty Steps’ to the roof and sees Ziraj leaping from rooftop to rooftop, already too far for the warlock to catch up. He *does* see that Ziraj dropped a note mentioning an auction and museum showing tonight at 10 o’clock, being held by the Cassalanters at their estate. AT LAST, our final villains from Dragon Heist are mentioned!
Back at the Jade Rose, Nocnoc wakes up and asks what happened. Ash tells him he got hit by a smooth criminal.
“I got hit by?”
“A smooth criminal.”
Mayor Melody walks in with 5 glass jars--each has a mindworm inside it. Perrin and Shaka return as the mayor explains that mindworms are Underdark critters that can allow people to telepathically communicate with one another when placed in the ear. She says that if they keep the worm in there for multiple days, it might eventually take over their bodies, but they shouldn’t have to worry about that.
When Shaka puts his mindworm in, he is sucked into his own mind, and his goldfish patron angrily tells him to stop letting people parse through his thoughts. Shaka tells his patron that he has to know that he won’t let his companions find out about their agreement. The goldfish swims towards him and morphs into a huge beholder, “DO NOT PRESUME WHAT I KNOW!” Shaka jolts back to reality.
The party head to the Grand Showcase, Perrin and Ash taking a carriage sent because of their amazing audition. Nicholas Fernsberry is going up right before them. Nocnoc hears something tinkling in his bag and finds a vial with a note on it inside the magic torch that Fora the Blackstaff gave him. It reads, “The others can’t deal with that monster, Ziraj. When the time comes: drink this.”
While Perrin and Ash get ready, Nocnoc and Shaka go to the auction hall. They’re trying to figure out how to get their hands on the weird kaleidoscope being sold tonight, but see someone run through a door and slam it behind them out of the corner of their eyes.
Perrin gets Ash to find him some feathers, because they are “going to fly high today”. The stage crew happily sets things up for the performance. Perrin is hoisted up by a rope and tells Ash that they’re going to take “the stairway... to heaven.” Ash notices two women in gray robes and mirrored masks staring at them and the hair stands up on the back of her neck.
Dylan’s musings on the adventure:This is something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks now, but I really hope that Aram’s approach to the four villainous groups (Xanathar’s Guild; Zhentarim; Bregan D’aerthe; Cassalanters) is how they are actually presented in the Waterdeep: Dragon Heist adventure. There’s no clear villain, but all of them and their machinations are present--it really feels like everyone is after this treasure.
Meanwhile, it’s pretty obvious on Dice, Camera, Action! that Chris Perkins wants the Waffle Crew to go up against the Xanathar. Despite building up the Zhents as baddies in Season 3 and the start of Season 4, they’ve disappeared. Heck, we haven’t even HEARD about Jarlaxle or the Cassalanters in DCA yet! (though I do have a theory that, since the drow seem to have gunpowder in their arsenal now, Warrington Munt’s conspicuous absence might guide us into a plot involving them).
I think giving players the initiative to choose which villain they want to go after (rather than the DM picking one from the start, as they *seemed* to imply at the Stream of Many Eyes, with each villain being linked to a specific season) makes for a much better adventure. If it's not up to the players, then there is no tough choice to decide which villain you want to stop and which you’re alright allowing to get away with their schemes. Sometimes, handing the reins over to your players is a DM's greatest tool.