Waterdeep Dragon Heist is an beginner adventure for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. It is designed for PC levels 1 – 5 and is complete urban adventure with a few dungeon crawls. There is a fair amount of investigation and a lot of roleplay. This is not a Hack and Slash adventure. The main antagonists are all several levels higher than the players. Your players will have to use stealth, guile and their wits to defeat them, not brawn.
A unique feature of the adventure is that you can choose from 4 potential candidates for the main villain. You also get to choose what season of the year the adventure takes place; creating a distinct atmosphere for your playthrough. Technically, each villain is attached to a particular season but you can alter that to best suit your campaign.
I like the seasonal aspect of the module but I didn’t want to limit myself to just one. I want my players to experience a full year of adventure in this amazing metropolis. I altered the adventure to allow my players to go up against all four villians at different times, one for each season. There is even the possibility that a previous villain may become an ally to the party. I will include any alterations in case you would like to play the adventure in a similar fashion.
One last note; in my campaign, this adventure follows the same group that played through The Lost Mine of Phandelver. As such, my players are already at 5th level at the start of the adventure. I had to modify all of the combat encounters upward in order to challenge my players. This also allows for the possibility that they may decide to take on some of the villains directly in combat. We shall see how that plays out.
As always, before any campaign, I gave my players a brief summary of adventuring and combat basics – Rules FOUR PAGE. I also give my players a Setting Overview which informs them of the common knowledge that a person in the realms would know, such as money, religion, and the calendar. I’ve created one specific to Waterdeep in the year 1492DR, the official year of the adventure. Since Waterdeep Dragon Heist has a unique setup where you choose the season of the adventure, I left that section blank so that you can fill in the one that suits your game. WATERDEEP 1492
What follows is a our complete experience playing this adventure. There are four sections:
The Campaign Diaries – The continuing story of the Saviors of Phandalin, as they spend a year in the grandest city of Faerun, The City of Splendors, Waterdeep. Along the way, they earn a few more titles, open a tavern, get charged with kidnapping and murder, incite a war, and invent popcorn. Oh, and they stumble into the biggest heist Waterdeep has ever seen.
How to Run a Fantasy City – Running a huge urban adventure is one of the greatest challenges for any DM. To do it successfully, you need a ton of extra materials and information not included in the base adventure. Hopefully these resources can help you run your own magical metroplois.
The Maps – All the maps I used to run Waterdeep Dragon Heist, including custom maps and battle mats. The Player Maps have all hidden locations, traps, and secret areas removed. They are also great for a virtual tabletop.
The Handouts – The adventure does not present any handouts for the players. I use handouts all the time to seed future adventure hooks, remind players of current quest objective, and to enhance the reality of my world. I usually print them using a variety of construction and specialty papers cut to fit my printer. The Handouts can be printed as is or used as a starting point for your own creative spin.
And if there is anything else that you think I should have here to help you run your own campaign, please leave a comment.
Session 1 – Enroute to Waterdeep, the Savoirs get lost in a toxic swamp, and almost die immdiately when the DM forgets to nerf the badguys.
Session 2 – Still stuck in the mud, the players stumble onto a demon Lizard King doing demonic things. They help him get home to hell.
Session 3 – Our heroes finally make it to Waterdeep. But they have hard time getting in when a gaggle of invisible trolls try to crash the gates.
Session 4 – Now dubbed The Defenders of Trollgate, the group finds the Yawning Portal, the only inn in town, and almost gets eaten by a plant.
Session 5 – That scamp, Volo, sends our heroes on a wide goose chase. They get caught in a gang war, and then rescue the wrong guy.
Session 6 – The Saviors infiltrate a Xanathar hideout, find their quarry, but then seriously underestimate a mind flayer.
Session 7 – Now they own a haunted tavern. They attend a noble party that gets crashed by a man and his miniature giant space hampster.
How to Run a Fantasy City
Waterdeep is an enourmous city and it is easy to be overwhelmed by the logistic of running a sandbox campaign is such a vast setting. I posted an extensive article about tips, tricks, and advice about running Waterdeep or another large urban area. You can read the full article here: How to Run a Fantasy City. And I’ve included several accessories and PDF files that I used to manage all the minutia.
THE WATERDEEP DIRECTORY
A good directory is the first step to organizing the city. Instead of having to read a boring list each time the players want to buy a sword, you can have the players find it themselves. They’ll feel like a native when they know the address of every tavern in town better than you do. Plus, each address is really just the map’s location number.
To take full advantage of Dragon Heist’s rich seasonal atmosphere you need to have a good calendar to work out a timeline and schedule special events while incorporating the unique festivals and holidays celebrated in Waterdeep and the Forgotten Realms. Faerun Calendar
“The press is an invaluable institution, if one knows how to use it.” I use the newspapers to keep the players engaged with the overall story, reminding them of vital elements they may have forgotten, seed potential plot hooks, and present a world greater than just last week’s session. Issue #1 was given to the players after the took ownership of Trollskull Manor.
As always I’ll provide DM and player versions of all the official maps, and all of the battle maps I made during the adventure. But first you need a good map of the city. The first is the one I used in my campaign and all of the location numbers match up to the Waterdeep Directory that I gave my players. The second is a nicer map but all of the location numbers are changed. The locations are all the same though.
Following are all the maps I used during the “Road to Waterdeep” sessions (Sessions 1-3). These are not part of the official adventure presented in Waterdeep Dragon Heist. They follow my party’s adventures in the Mere of Dead Men, a deadly swamp on the only road between Neverwinter and Waterdeep. I present them as part of my campaign’s story and for anyone interested in using them
Okay, now we get into the adventure proper, starting with the Yawning Portal.
This is still a work in progress. We have just completed Chapter 2 and are about to start the Summer adventure. As we continue through the module, I will add more material as it is created. Stay tuned.