DM’s Notes: Episode 5 – The Sea Maidens Faire

WARNING: SPOILERS for both Waterdeep: Dragon Heist the module in general and the story arc for this campaign in particular. If you just want to follow along the campaign but don’t want to have the plot spoiled for you, read no further.

Link to this episode’s podcast.

This episode opens with the interrogation of Soluun Xibrindas for the murders of 3 elven or half elven sailors in the Dock Ward of Waterdeep. Soluun (as only we know at this point) is a member of the Bregan D’Aerthe an elite, all male, Drow, mercenary company with Jarlaxle Banrae at its head. You should note, that I downplay Bregan D’Aerthe’s connections to Lolth and Drow society in general compared to cannon. In part, this is an attempt to make Jarlaxle a little bit less black and white evil because moral quandaries are more fun. Soluun, however is pretty much all bad. He has been sneaking around behind his brothers’ backs and committing murder against elves and half elves. He’s a racist and a bad person. Jarlaxle would be opposed to his actions if he knew about them because at the very least, his activities endanger Jarlaxle’s mission in Waterdeep. But also, Jarlaxle might not be so bad as to lightly brush aside a serial killer in his own organization. Hopefully that can be developed later.

To develop interesting conflicts like this I feel that you have to go beyond the cannon Forgotten Realms materials. Soluun in the books openly worships Lolth (there is a shrine located in his quarters on the Scarlet Marpenoth) and Jarlaxle does as well. I guess in Forgotten Realms cannon players are supposed to look at Jarlaxle and say “Well, he may worship the Demon Queen of Spiders but he’s just soooo sexy. Let’s hear what he has to say.” In my experience, players don’t often do this. They see Jarlaxle and they immediately identify this sneaky Drow as the villain. In this play through I have tamed him down a bit to make dealing with him somewhat less black and white.

I debated having Soluun break easier under interrogation and give some stuff away. But I wanted him and the Bregan D’Aerthe to come off as pretty bad ass, because he is and they are. Plus, the rolls didn’t really go that way. I had already come up with the idea of JB Killington as another alter-ego of Jarlaxle. JB Nevercott is a representative of the Bregan D’Aerthe to the party and I wanted to keep Killington and Nevercott separate. So, when the party asked Soluun about his ship and he thought he couldn’t lie, he went to the fallback which was to ask for his lawyer, JB Killington.

I did not expect this to lead to the party breaking into Killington’s offices and going through his papers. I like to reward the players for clever plans and good rolls. That is why, even though I had no plan to introduce the Nimblewright scrying devices from The Alexandrian Remix, when Kyva rolled really well on her investigation check I wanted to give her something more than just the connection to the Sea Maiden’s Faire. So now, they have a list of Nimblewright owners in Waterdeep which will come in handy when they need to investigate the Fireball incident of chapter 3.

The investigation of the crime scene went well and yielded pretty convincing evidence (I’m surprised that Drex seems less than 100% convinced). A remnant from the use of a pretty unusual weapon makes this “case closed” in my opinion. And with the evidence from the office pointing to the Sea Maidens Faire it’s off to the circus!

Note that in the module, the Sea Maidens Faire is not necessarily a circus. It is just a parade. However, when I looked at that several questions come to mind. How does a parade make money? How does a parade justify spending multiple tendays in Waterdeep after the parade is over? I suppose you could make the parade into a Mardi Gras situation and have the various wards each pay Jarlaxle to stage parades on different days across several tendays but in the end, I like circuses so that’s what I went with. BTW, if you are interested in learning more about circuses, their history, how they have worked over the years and what daily life in a circus was like, I highly recommend the Circus Museum at The Ringling Estate in Sarasota, Florida. To some extent, there is also the movie, The Greatest Show on Earth.

Here is a link to an expanded description of the Sea Maidens Faire. In this case, I didn’t blatantly copy this from somebody on Reddit, since I am the original author of the posts. However, as with everything there were many inspirations some of which I’m sure I’m forgetting. Inspirations that come to mind are Critical Role Season 2’s Harvest Close Festival as well as The Rennasiance Pleasure Faire of Southern California (highly recommended by both me and the cast of Critical Role).

The Nimblewright fight at the end is not in the module but we had a long episode of talking and sneaking without any fighting so it seemed appropriate. Plus it gives Zardoz Zord an excuse to invite the Backdoor Bandits to a party on The Eyecatcher. I was very gratified that Drex made the connection to the movie Zardoz which is just another of the crazy, campy things in this module. If you are interested in a picture that captures the whole Zardoz Zord experience, I recommend this one.

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