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 Waterdeep: Dragon Heist Reworking
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JohnLynch
Learned Scribe

Australia
217 Posts

Posted - 04 Dec 2018 :  11:38:01  Show Profile Send JohnLynch a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
So the Dragon Heist adventure is very convoluted, quite a bit hamfisted and generally a mess. But it has the basic premise of a good adventure. So this is going to be a collection of notes and thoughts on changes to make to the adventure to make it better fit what I want and how I envision Waterdeep and the Forgotten Realms.

Manshoon's Relationship with the Half-Elf Lif
Manshoon (the name I'm using for the current clone of Manshoon that has taken over the Waterdeep arm of the Zhentarim) many years ago had a romantic relationship with the owner of Troskull Manor, a half-elf named Lif. His work would take him away from Lif for extended periods of time, but whenever he could spare the time he would return to the tavern and be with the half-elf. The two of them had genuine feelings for each other, although both were dedicated to their separate pursuits as well.

For the past few years Manshoon has been quite busy and Lif found herself beset by a local thug named Lamm. He has caused no small amount of trouble for the local businesses in Torskull Alley and Lif finally had enough and confronted him, only to be killed for her troubles.

When Manshoon called in on the Manor a few months following her death he found it boarded up. When he pried his way inside he found the ghost of Lif haunting the tavern. Quite upset with the turn of events, Manshoon would visit the ghost as he worked furiously to secure the hoard of dragons. When things flared up with Xanathar he had more than a bit of trouble and he needed some mooks he could manipulate into doing work without any connection to him. Seeing a way to help the poor Lif in the process Manshoon organised for a number of adventurers or travellers new to the city (or perhaps life long inhabitants of the city) to come to Troskull Manor.

Dealing with Lamm
When the PCs are each shepherded to Troskull Manor they find a quiet tavern that is clearly open for business and when they go inside they see it's quite well maintained and a half-elf bartender is behind the bar. Once all of the PC's arrive the bartender (who introduces herself as Lif) says she has a proposition for the PCs. There's a local thug by the name of Lamm whose been causing no small amount of trouble for the local businesses. He recently stole a brooch from her and she would like the PCs to retrieve it. If the PCs end up killing Lamm then Lif certainly thinks it would only be to the benefit of the local businesses, but she isn't hiring them as assassins. She's hiring them to retrieve her brooch for her. Once they have it if they return to the tavern she will be sure to reward them handsomely (50 gp per PC if they want to know an exact figure).

The PC's are given directions on where the local hideout for Lamm is and away they go. I'll repurpose the map on page 26 (because I'm lazy) and once the PCs recover the brooch (and likely kill Lamm) they return to the tavern.

Returning to Troskull Mansion
Upon their return they find the tavern isn't in the same condition as it was when they first entered. The windows are all boarded up and when they enter they find much of the furniture is missing, dust and cobwebs are everywhere. However on the bar they find a letter and a pouch full of gold. The letter tells thanks them for their efforts and asks that they deliver the brooch just a little bit further with directions to a grave. The letter goes on to bequeath to them the Trollskull Manor as the true reward for their brave actions today. If they didn't kill Lamm it warns them to be careful of him and that he will likely cause problems for them, just as he had for Lif in the months preceding her death.

The PCs now have a reason to stay together and work together (the successful operation of their tavern) and Manshoon can now manipulate them to getting involved in the growing conflict between the different factions who all want access to the hoard of gold coins.
------------------
This achieves a few things. It removes the silly and frankly highly confusing introduction with Volo, Floon and Ranaer. Manshoon can now involve the PCs by sending people their way, dropping plothooks into their laps and eventually explore the rest of the module. It also lets me insert other non-Dragon Heist adventures so that the PCs can slowly hear rumors about the hoard of dragons and decide when (or if) to inject themselves before Manshoon makes things a bit more direct.

Finally it also helps flesh out my vision of Manshoon. Ed Greenwood said that the earliest clones of Manshoon have the most passion and fire and care most about power. The older Manshoon clones eventually stop caring as much about such things and start caring about other things like love and relationships. So this Manshoon is an "older" Manshoon clone (as in his memories were more recent when the Manshoon Clone Wars erupted then some of the earliest clones that were involved in the war). This Manshoon does want to become a Lord of Waterdeep. But it's because he thinks he can make things better if he's in charge. The Black Network are largely a means to an end. He doesn't actually care if he has control over them.

I can juxtapose this Manshoon clone with a younger clone who is more ruthless and reckless and does care about the fate of the Black Network.

Playable Races in Waterdeep
Shield Dwarves
Moon Elves, Wood Elves, Drow (home is the Ardeep Forest and while they're distrusted they are permitted in Waterdeep, if watched VERY closely)
Half-Elves
Rock Gnomes, Forest Gnomes
Half-Orcs
Dragonborn (with most of their people returned to Abeir, those few Dragonborn who remained behind are now a homeless people and wander Faerun searching for work and a new home)
Tethyrian Humans, Netherese Human, Ffolk Human, Illuskan Human
Gondsman
lightfoot halflings, stout Halflings
Kenku
Minotaur
Aasimar Planetouched
Celadrin (4e Eladrin)
Infernal Tieflings

(not sure how much of the homebrew races above I'd end up allowing. But they all have a reasonable chance of being a PC race for the Waterdeep region).

Edited by - JohnLynch on 04 Dec 2018 11:39:49

JohnLynch
Learned Scribe

Australia
217 Posts

Posted - 06 Dec 2018 :  10:17:53  Show Profile Send JohnLynch a Private Message  Reply with Quote
So I've gone through the initial plothook of finding Floon. I think it's flawed, but I think a very slight tweak would fix it.

Maid of Ranaer Neverember
After a few weeks the players have opened up the tavern. Locals have started coming into the tavern and word has spread that the PCs helped deal with the local thug Lamm.

An elderly woman comes in and asks to talk with the owners. Once she's gathered them she says she heard they dealt with Lamm and stopped him from attacking the local businesses. The woman is a local of Dock Ward and is quite grateful for what the PCs have done for the neighbourhood. However she's a bit worried about the nobleman she serves. He isn't particularly rich, but he does have enough to keep her on. She's been with him since he was born and he hasn't returned home for three days. He said he was heading to The Skewered Dragon to meet someone there.

The rest of this part of the adventure goes as planned. However when they meet up with Ranaer Neverember he explains that Floon (which is not his real name by the way) is a body double. Floon had been attacked 3 times in the past tenday and had only managed to narrowly escape. As a member of the Hidden, Floon is one of those rare individuals who offer his natural talent for hire and so he has been in the employ of Ranaer for the past 15 years (Floon is a doppelganger). They of course never look the same when they're meeting at the same spot, and so Floon was taken when Ranaer was finally captured. However when the Zhentarim Hideout was attacked Floon changed his appearance to look like Ranaer and Ranaer himself went hid.

Ranaer can give the players a modest reward for saving him. However he asks them to please rescue Floon.

The rest of the adventure continues as written. When they rescue Floon he gives them his honest thanks and a token. If they ever need a favour all they have to do is hand that token over to the shopkeeper of a certain store and someone will contact them to repay the debt that is owed to them.
-------
I think this helps clear things up. It stops the whole confusing "mistaken identity" sheninigans. Equally importantly it also introduces the autharkhies (i.e. doppelganger kingdoms) that exist alongside the other races unbeknownst to most members of those races.
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pukunui
Seeker

63 Posts

Posted - 06 Dec 2018 :  19:41:29  Show Profile Send pukunui a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Great stuff! A bit too late for me — we’re already up to chapter 4 — but if I were to ever run this again, I would definitely make use of some of your ideas. Thanks for sharing!

Edited by - pukunui on 06 Dec 2018 19:42:17
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JohnLynch
Learned Scribe

Australia
217 Posts

Posted - 07 Dec 2018 :  02:34:33  Show Profile Send JohnLynch a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by pukunui

Great stuff! A bit too late for me — we’re already up to chapter 4 — but if I were to ever run this again, I would definitely make use of some of your ideas. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks. I've cribbed the Lam/Ghost angle with the PCs getting property afterwards directly from Curse of the Crimson Throne which is a Pathfinder AP. I'll be posting my later thoughts as I re-read the adventure (No real changes to the Xanathar Guild sewer dungeon. Although I do have thoughts on what could have caused the fireball explosion. I just want to make sure my spin on it doesn't contradict any canon).
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JohnLynch
Learned Scribe

Australia
217 Posts

Posted - 07 Dec 2018 :  08:25:56  Show Profile Send JohnLynch a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Alright, I've reread a bit further and I don't think there's any problem with my tweaking of the fireball event so here's the details.

Chapter 3: Fireball!
Dalakhar has been foiled in trying to leave Waterdeep with the Stone of Golorr. He'd just recently been offered a way out by an organisation who had a base of operations in Trollskull Alley. He was headed there when Gralhund's assassin threw a bead from his necklace of fireballs at Dalakhar and the Zhentarim spies following him.

Unbeknownst to Gralhund's assassin (or anyone else), Dalakhar was about to reach a base of operations for the Order of the Blue Flame. The order is a terrorist organisation who seek to exploit weak points in the fabric of reality that separates Abeir and Toril by using wild magic to punch through these rifts to either create portals between the two worlds or displace and merge portions of these two worlds. The Order beleives that by reshaping Toril in their image and merging it with portions of Abeir, the Order will be able to become a superpower that reigns over the new world they seek to create. The spellplague represents their greatest efforts in this goal, but with the Weave restored and the two worlds separated back out the Order has suffered a massive setback. Today they operate portals to allow their forces to move between worlds free of attack and to help let merchants and other entities use these portals for the Order's benefit or profit.

When the bead exploded into the form of a fireball it interacted with the wild magic that was operating the portal to Abeir and made the portal go wild. If the PCs investigate they'll find spellscarred individuals along with a young Abeiran beast that was transported to the site from Abeir during the explosion. If the PCs do not go and investigate the Abeiran beast will burst out of the building and start rampaging down the street.
-------------------
The above is an expansion of the Order of Blue Fire from the 4th ed Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Unlike the 4e FRCG version, the Order of the Blue Flame dates back to before the Time of Troubles. Rumors and whispers of their works had been circulating for years when the Spellplague hit and so the Accord Masters tapped into those rumors in creating the Order of Blue Fire. Following the Sundering and the end of the Spellplague's effects that version of the Order has died considerably and the Order of the Blue Flame has subsumed those individuals into their own ranks.

It didn't make sense that Dalakhar would seek out the PCs just because they were nice to the nobleman's estranged son. So I had Dalakhar go to someone else instead. The Order of the Blue Flame was going to actually help Dalakhar in return for payment. They would have let him travel to Abeir through the portal, accompanied him a 2 days ride away from the portal through Abeir to a second portal that would have let him travel back to Toril and be outside of Waterdeep. The assassin's fireball of course completely ruined that.

The detonation site will now remain a wild magic zone (using either 5e rules from the DMG or AD&D 2e rules). The Church of Mystra will send priests to study the zone and try to repair the Weave. They may, however, need to call for a Chosen (who are of course in short supply and busy with other matters) if the damage to the Weave is bad enough. As such this will remain a source of danger for the people of Trollskull Alley and more than a few will ask the PCs what the hell happened and how do we know if it won't happen again?

The PC's tavern will suffer a penalty to it's business unless they find a way to reassure the locals that this won't happen again (i.e. they investigate what caused the explosion in the first place).

I've skipped Chapter 2 because it's just a collection of side quests. There is minimal detail to them and they've got nothing to do with the rest of the story. I'll want to completely rework and expand these side quests, but I want to get the main story of the book sorted out before I start expanding the sidequests. So I'm skipping them for now.
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JohnLynch
Learned Scribe

Australia
217 Posts

Posted - 07 Dec 2018 :  11:49:54  Show Profile Send JohnLynch a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by JohnLynch

many years ago had a romantic relationship with the owner of Troskull Manor, a half-elf named Lif.
This began after he escaped from Halaster in Undermountain. There is a portal between Kolat Towers and the basement in Trollskull Manor. However the portal only functions twice a month: Once on a full moon and then 2 days later.

Manshoon also has a problem: He's lost access to his stasis clone spell. He lost his spellbook and when he went to the nearby backup spellbooks he had secreted around the Sword Coast he'd found every single one was missing. A Manshoon cleverly changed the hiding spot early on in the Manshoon Wars to stop the other clones from being able to locate and use them.

Manshoon has spent the past 30 years trying to recreate the stasis spell from scratch. He's very close to succeeding which will allow him to start creating backup copies of himself.

When this Manshoon first fled to Undermountain (before the Spellplague in fact) he fought Halaster before Halaster defeated him and took his arm and then placed him in a stasis prison. This prison kept his mind active but halted his biological processes (sustaining the body and mind through magic). Halaster fought this Manshoon clone because he had already given sanctuary to another Manshoon clone (who required as part of his payment that Halaster grant sanctuary to no other Manshoonc clone). Halaster kept his end of the bargain by imprisoning the new Manshoon clone, but still keeping the new Manshoon safe from anyone else who might want to attack him. Halaster took Manshoon's arm simply so that he could tell the two Manshoon clones apart (and also because it amused him).

Nimblewright Detector
The nimblewright detector feels like a bit of a lazy solution. It's also completely unnecessary. The PCs can find out about nimblewright detectors simply by performing gathering information checks. One good source of information on nimblewrights are the gargoyles who live among Waterdeep's rooftops. If they roll high enough they'll find someone who suggests the PCs check with the city's gargoyles. Another good check will get them the exact location of the nibmlewright they're looking for.
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JohnLynch
Learned Scribe

Australia
217 Posts

Posted - 08 Dec 2018 :  06:20:16  Show Profile Send JohnLynch a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I won't be using faction missions when I run this. I don't like the mechanic in Pathfinder Society and I don't like it in home games set in the Forgotten Realms. As such I'm repurposing these very vague missions.

Chapter 2 Level 2 Mission: Scarecrows in the Fields
The PCs find that there is a shortage of food. One of their suppliers for the tavern is struggling to deliver the usual crops and the person that the PCs buy the food from talks about the farm being haunted.

If the PCs actually go out to where the farm is they'll discover there's scarecrows causing trouble and the farmhands are very much against the idea of going out into the field. Fixing this can result in the PCs getting free food for a 3 tenday.

Chapter 2 Level 4 Mission: Xanathar Guild Member in the Basement
I'm tweaking this so that it's a Zhentarim mission instead of a Jarlaxal mission. A zhentarim agent dimension door'd into the basement, dropped off the prisoner and then dimension door'd out of the basement. The rest of the mission goes as documented, however 3 nights after the prisoner is frist deposited, it's a full moon. Manshoon appears through the portal that leads into the basement and takes him back through the portal to Kolat Towers. If the PCs moved him to another location then Manshoon scries upon him and sends Zhentarim agents to pick up the prisoner.

The players can question the prisoner as much as they want and potentially learn a fair bit about the workings of the Xanathar Guild. The prisoner also offers rewards for letting him go.

Edited by - JohnLynch on 08 Dec 2018 07:42:23
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JohnLynch
Learned Scribe

Australia
217 Posts

Posted - 09 Dec 2018 :  22:05:13  Show Profile Send JohnLynch a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by JohnLynch

When Manshoon called in on the Manor a few months following her death he found it boarded up. When he pried his way inside he found the ghost of Lif haunting the tavern.

Slight tweak to Manshoon: Manshoon lost it when he found Lif dead. He tore the place about with powerful spells in a blind fury. He demanded to know who had killed Lif, but she refused as she became scared of him. She finally calmed him down and Manshoon decided to arrange for a group of people to come to the tavern and take revenge on Lif's behalf.

Manshoon will revisit the tavern to keep an eye on the adventurers. He travels via the portal. He'll make suggestions to the PCs on how they can restore the tavern. If they don't take his advice he becomes surly and stops visiting them and instead sends a simulacrum in his place as the memories of the tavern become too much to bear.
----
This Manshoon clone is quite a bit younger then originally planned. He's on a teetering edge between descending into full blown megalomania and becoming an agent of positive change within Waterdeep.

I'm planning on using Xanathar as my primary villain. However I still want all of the factions to be chasing the gold (Xanathar is simply the one who will succeed barring external influences like the PCs). Here's a slight tweak on the Cassalanters.

Cassalanter Family
This noble family rose to prominence by signing a pact with devils. It gave them quite a bit of gold to further their ends, but they they needed to repay it. There was a clause that repayments could be delayed by sacrificing souls to the devil, however only up to a maximum period of time. They have been doing this and have finally reached their maximum. Now they need to either pay back the loan in full or lose the rights to their souls. They are desperate to avoid this happening.

They will approach the PCs and point out the dangers of actually gaining all that gold (the authorities will want it returned as it was stolen from the city). They mention that they could help deal with these legal ramifications by letting the PCs keep 5% and arranging for the remainder to be handed over to the authorities (they're lying and will keep it to repay their debt). They can also owe the PCs a favour (one per PC) that they can cash in once if they ever get in a sticky situation.

Location of the Vault
I don't like how the vault moves around depending on season. That makes zero sense, unless of course it makes perfect sense.

Each of the seasonal locations to the Vault will be an entrance into Undermountain. The location of the Vault changes as Halaster moves things around in his constant need to reshuffle. This will also give the PC's a non-Yawning Portal entrance into Undermountain (although the Yawning Portal has substantial advantages if they do decide to use it).

Edited by - JohnLynch on 09 Dec 2018 22:10:03
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
31636 Posts

Posted - 10 Dec 2018 :  00:04:39  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by JohnLynch


Location of the Vault
I don't like how the vault moves around depending on season. That makes zero sense, unless of course it makes perfect sense.


It's not that the Vault moves around... It's that the book is really four different (but very similar) adventures. There's only one Vault, and its location depends on which adventure you're running.

It's a bit cumbersome, the way they executed it, though I personally have a bigger issue with each villain being tied to a specific season.

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Edited by - Wooly Rupert on 10 Dec 2018 00:05:12
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Zeromaru X
Master of Realmslore

Colombia
1126 Posts

Posted - 10 Dec 2018 :  00:41:35  Show Profile Send Zeromaru X a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I'm was thinking to do the same with Floon, make him a doppleganger/xhabgeling. Thanks for fleshing out this idea!

Long ago, in the distant past, they fell into decay. The philosopher’s path... The river of glory... Even the saints resting in the darkness rise up without response and block the way...
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JohnLynch
Learned Scribe

Australia
217 Posts

Posted - 10 Dec 2018 :  01:02:41  Show Profile Send JohnLynch a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

It's not that the Vault moves around... It's that the book is really four different (but very similar) adventures. There's only one Vault, and its location depends on which adventure you're running.
I get that. It still annoys me that the location fluctuates depending on the version of the adventure you run.

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert

It's a bit cumbersome, the way they executed it, though I personally have a bigger issue with each villain being tied to a specific season.

That I've just straight up houseruled.

quote:
Originally posted by Zeromaru X

I'm was thinking to do the same with Floon, make him a doppleganger/xhabgeling. Thanks for fleshing out this idea!

No problem. Glad you like it :)

Edited by - JohnLynch on 10 Dec 2018 01:03:35
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JohnLynch
Learned Scribe

Australia
217 Posts

Posted - 12 Dec 2018 :  22:19:58  Show Profile Send JohnLynch a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Here's a reworking on Nim the Nimblewright.

Nim the Nimblewright
Nim the nimblewright has inside it a soul gem. Powerful wizards can use this soul gem to take over Nim's body, and one in Waterdeep has been doing exactly this. The wizard has been creating new nimblewrights when in control of Nim's body to help avoid any of them being traced back to him. He does deposit the soul gem portion of the nimblewright in places near the House of Innovation and then picks them as Nim to insert into the new nimblewright. In this way it has allowed the wizard to place nimblewrights in advantageous positions around Waterdeep.

Horrified at what he suspects is happening when he has a blackout, Nim has created a nimblewright detector to try to locate the nimblewrights and make sure they're not hurting anyone. Unfortunately he has a compulsion placed upon him that doesn't allow him to leave the House of Innovation except when he is being possessed by the wizard.
--------
This gives Nim a genuinely good excuse to have the nimblewright detector. If the PCs work out any of the above (and they likely won't at first) it gives them a further mystery to explore with Nim the Nimblewright.

Is the wizard who is controlling Nim the one who created the nimblewright? If not, why would the original creator have installed a soul gem?
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