DM’s Notes: Episode 3 – Sparring

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 saw the party fulfilling a couple of faction missions from the module. The way these are written up in the book, they could be pretty straightforward. The mission to visit Hlam could just consist of making a Constitution saving throw to see if you get any points of exhaustion, then a quick dialogue with Hlam and a DC 12 Persuasion check to see if they convince him to give them the prophecy and accomplish the mission. But DMs are certainly within their bounds to do a little bit extra. In this case, I stretched the mission out quite a bit more with some silly riddles, nonsense from Hlam and some sparring practice with the old monk to “prove they are worthy”. I have to give credit to Adam Koebel for his portrayal of Hlam from which I borrow heavily, especially the riddle idea.

I have to say, I’ve run this challenge with 2 different groups and neither of them were particularly interested in fighting him. I find this a bit perplexing as I think most people were fans of the Earthbreaker Groon sparring matches from Critical Role. Perhaps I make him out to be a bit too silly, or maybe it is because he is clearly much more powerful than the group (although Groon was also the first time they challenged him). Perhaps toning these aspects of him down would make the party more eager to engage him.

However, one of the things that I love about Hlam is that he clearly demonstrates to the party that there are people in Waterdeep who can easily kick their butts and they can’t always predict who they might be. This puts them on notice that they aren’t expected to win every fight and they should be a little more cautious when dealing with NPCs.

The 1d4 of exhaustion that the players can get if they fail their Con check when hiking up Mount Waterdeep is really harsh! I especially feel bad for Dalia who rolled a 4! But at this point in the game it isn’t going to ruin anything and makes for fun roleplay. I definitely would consider toning it down to 1d2, though.

The mission to break up gang violence in the Field Ward was a fight that was balanced such that they could win. I figured that they would either engage in a 3 way fight with both gangs, or as you can tell, I did my best to at least get the group of Xanathar thugs to engage with them. But they role played well and made their skill checks. It’s a good thing they did, because that big guy was a Half Ogre and he would have wrecked the bar they were in if they didn’t find a way to lure the fight out into the street.

It’s not too surprising that nobody wanted to join the Zhentarim considering that Kyva is kind of a lone wolf and everybody else in the party are pretty good in nature (at least on the surface). But I think it was interesting to offer.

In addition to the advertisement for the Sea Maiden’s Faire, this new articel appeared in the Broadsheet that makes up the Home Page:

Mysterious Murders Menace Dock Ward

The Dock Ward has been beset by a series of mysterious murders in recent
weeks. The headless bodies of elven sailors have turned up with disturbing
regularity, at least 3 in the last 2 weeks!

But all of that is soon to come to an end as Captain Hyustus Staget is rumored to be forming a task force to track down this nefarious killer and bring them to justice.

In the meantime, tavern keepers in the Dock Ward are cautioning their pointy eared patrons not to go out alone. We should all do our part to help out our elven friends!