DM’s Notes: Episode 8 – Here be Dragons

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 starts off with a fight with several Sahuagin that we set up last episode. This encounter is not anywhere in the module, but it just makes sense to me to spice up the Zelifarn encounter with a little bit of fighting. To be honest, I think that Adam Koebel had almost exactly the same encounter in his run through of Dragon Heist. Since the encounter wasn’t one provided I had to make it up entirely on my own. For that, I used the very helpful tool: Kobold Fight Club. In that tool I input 5 level 3 PCs to the left and then chose the monsters for them to fight. I started with 2 Sahuagin and a Sahuagin Priestess and since the Sahuagin can summon sharks I added 3 reef sharks that they would be summoning. This setup give me a lot of flexibility. If things start off really poorly for the party I can always have the Sahuagin summon fewer sharks. If the party kicks ass, I can bring in a few more sharks attracted by the blood in the water. If you regularly bring monsters in waves during your fights, you have a lot more flexibility to push your party to the edge without killing them unfairly.

Since I had free reign to make up this encounter I decided to add an environmental factor to make things a bit more interesting. By placing a giant octopus in the center of the battlefield between the party and the Sahuagin there was a big zone that they had to be wary of and fight around. The octopus was not aggressive. It didn’t chase anyone down. It just sat in the center and grabbed anyone that came within its 15 foot reach. I should have predicted that the Sahuagin would charge forward faster than the party and get caught up by the octopus, maybe adding another Sahuagin would have been a good idea.

On Kobold Fight club, the encounter was very deadly (Adjusted XP: 2,875 with the deadly threshold being 2,000 for the party). But without the octopus the encounter was just hard ( Adjusted XP: 1,900) So since the octopus wasn’t actually aligned against the characters this seemed reasonable. Indeed, the fight worked out just fine.

I was a little bit worried about using Sahuagin because they have a feature called Blood Frenzy. This gives them advantage on attacks against opponents that have less than full hit points. This sets up a mini self reinforcing cycle where the more PCs that are injured the worse it is for them. Self reinforcing cycles are dangerous because once they reach a tipping point, things can go from fine to disastrous very quickly. In games like Monopoly the self reinforcing cycle is good because it keeps the game from dragging on forever. Once somebody gets more than their share of the properties, they make more money and are able to gain more properties. The game ends rather quickly after that. But in D&D we aren’t necessarily looking for a TPK on a silly side quest, so you want to be careful with that.

Dalia made her decision not to join the Braegan D’Aerthe. I hope it was because she doesn’t like Jarlaxle and not because the quest for the handkerchief was too hard. If they had continued surveilling Vilas Amcathra they would have found a variety of angles to get his handkerchief. At various points one or the other of his guards don’t usually accompany him to certain activities, so they could have chosen a time when his very observant guard wasn’t with him or his very tough guard wasn’t with him for a pickpocket attempt or frontal attack. He also regularly visits a Festhall so they had opportunities to catch him in a compromising position if they wanted.

But in the end, the point was to put a hard decision to Dalia and let her deal with it and I’m happy with the way it worked out. And by the way, Jarlaxle is gonna be back!

The Lucky Jernigan Puzzle came directly from the Waterdeep: City Encounters supplement which is a great resource for fun little vignettes like this. There are many random encounters as well as encounters specific to certain sites like the various temples and government buildings in the city.

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