Early To Rise
The party awoke to a brilliant spring day. It was early enough that the birds still sang but the streets bustled as merchants and shopkeepers prepared for the day. Making their way to the common room of the tavern they found a young half-elf standing at the counter.
Upon seeing them, he perked up.
Half-elf: Oh! Hello! Please forgive my intrusion. My name is Raphael. My father and I own the bakery just around the corner. We wanted to welcome you to the area!
He motioned to a box sitting on the counter. Next to it was a steaming jug. The smells of fresh baked goods and coffee filled the room.
The party thanked him and he excused himself. As he darted out the door they dug in. A comfortable silence settled over them as they are and drank. Chewing through a second pastry, Finzu moved to the door. Through the window, he could see people milling about, content with what the day had to offer.
And then he felt it. In what seemed like slow motion, there was a flash of flames at the center of a group of people standing in the alley. A window-shaking boom followed shortly, accompanied by a rapidly rising heat. An unseen force slammed into the face of the building. It pushed through the door, crashing into the halfling and throwing him backward.
And then there was a void where only confusion existed. Sounds were muffled save for a high-pitched whir. The party moved about him as he staggered to his feet. When they spoke to him the words sounded as if behind a thick wall.
And then the world caught up. Horrendous sounds pulled him back to reality. There was screaming. The type of wail which latched on to your heart and pulled you with it toward oblivion.
The party rushed out into the alley to find a morbid scene. Bodies were strewn in every direction, many of them not moving. They radiated outward from a large blast zone that blemished the cobblestone. Almost immediately, the party noticed Jenks. He had been near the edge of the blast yet close enough that the force of the explosion had thrown him into a nearby building.
A quick inspection (Game Note: This was via a Medicine check), showed that he had hit his head hard enough to knock him unconscious. Akta cast lay on hands and watched as he blinked back to consciousness. After calming him down, they asked what he had seen. Jenks began to babble, the words falling from his mouth so fast that all they heard were five words.
A mechanical angel of death
A few people were wandering around, a distant glaze set in their eyes. More began to step from their cover. Seeing the damage, the party opened their inn to anyone who needed aid.
The barroom filled fast. Finzu, Viigo, and Taman served water, bandages, and any food they could grab from the pantry. Akta, on the other hand, returned to the scene of the explosion.
Investigation - Outside
She counted eleven casualties and headed to three bodies lying closest to the eye of the explosion. Their apparel was what had caught her attention. Everyone else, living and dead, was in their version of casual wear. These three, however, were clad in dark leather jerkings. There were two men and what looked like a lone gnome.
She quickly surveyed the two men. It didn’t take her long to find the black snake tattoos crawling across their forearms. The gnome was different. He had been closest to the blast. The heat had melted his cloak and skin together and the smell of sewage coming from his boot soles mixed with the charred hair and made her gag.
Holding her breath, she patted his pockets and found a small pouch. She slipped the bag into her pockets and stood in time to see Renear turn the corner of the alley.
Investigation - Inside
Taman, Finzu, and Viigo took the opportunity to interview the refugees as they handed out supplies.
Fala: There was a man. He was huge, as big as a horse. And ugly as well. Had a face full of scars. He was near the blast when it happened but he survived. I saw him get to his feet and then search the gnome’s body before running off.
Jerzen (the noble lady who had been leaving the Tiger’s Eye): It looked like a puppet. It was thin as if made of sticks but it caught the sun like metal. It was standing on the rooftops, there, and I saw it throw something.
Rishall: Absolutely unbelievable! That thing… a man? No, couldn’t have been. It was made of copper and what looked like pale wood. But it was wearing a red robe and a feathered hat. It even had a goatee!
Martin (young boy): I didn’t see much of anything. As soon as the explosion went off I hid behind one of the watering barrels. And then I heard a plop!. After that thing ran off I fished it out.
Upon hearing Martin’s story, Viigo asked if he could see the item. He cast Identify as Martin hesitantly handed it over. To Viigo’s eye, bursting red ether emanated from the beads set into the gold chain. Realizing it was a necklace of fireballs, he began to convince Martin to let him take it to the Watch.
It took a while, but the boy eventually agreed. Viigo then dropped the item into his bag of holding as Renear and Akta entered.
Degault’s Eyes and Ears
Renear was shaken. He had recognized the gnome as Dalakar, a loyal agent of his father. Akta escorted him through the busy taproom and, keeping his head down, moved through the pantry and into the kitchen. The rest of the party was not far behind.
They learned that Dalakar had been responsible for keeping an eye on Renear. Despite posing as a servant, Renear was well aware that the gnome had been reporting back to his father. But then, over a ten-day ago, Dalakar stopped following Renear and disappeared.
It was only the previous night that he had re-established contact. Renear had received a letter stating that Dalakhar had come across something important to Renear’s father. He was hoping he could trust Renear to meet him at Trollskull Manor, a location he felt would be safe.
Renear finished sharing what information he could. Thanking him, Viigo and Akta began moving back into the taproom but pulled up short. A large griffin had landed outside the manor. Its rider dismounted and joined an ever-growing number of City Watch officials in the alley.
Upon hearing this, Renear asked if the party could sneak him out the back door. If his father was involved then he worried that things could turn bad for him. Agreeing, Taman threw a cloak over his friend. Finzu made his way into the taproom and, standing so that the crowd had to turn to see him, made an announcement about care and food.
Renear slipped out the back.
The Greatest Detective
Barnibus Blastwind is a member of the Watchful Order of Mages and Magistrates and is the lead detective on all crimes involving magic. As Taman approached, he overheard the detective making some rather accurate deductions based on the positions of the bodies and blast radius.
Taman waited and made his introduction. He shared that they had opened up Trollskull to the refugees and that the detective was welcome any time. Barnibus thanked him and followed him into the bar room.
There, he took his time in interviewing each potential witness. By the time he had arrived at the party, he had gathered enough details to pursue the investigation. He surveyed the group and then asked if there was anything else they thought would be important.
Realizing that the necklace of fireballs was a rather important piece of evidence, the party paused. They didn’t want to give it up.
After Barnibus repeated himself Taman declined. This gave Barnibus a short pause as he evaluated the party in front of him. Then, with a hesitant shrug, he turned and left the Manor.
The Other Investigator
Hours passed but the Watch eventually left the alley. Taman and the others ventured out to the street to take in the damage. The large scorched blast zone stood prominently in the middle of the intersection. Viigo, not wanting the site to reduce the number of patrons, cast Mend. The charred stones faded back to grey and those that had been damaged found their pieces again. The only evidence remaining was the tales that were already being told in the taverns.
As they looked up they saw Vincent Trench standing in his doorway. He made a waving motion with his gloved hand. Taking the opportunity, Taman ran over.
Trench had a number of updates for them. First, he had identified the members of the Watch who had taken Davil. They were indeed officers but looking into their personal lives showed wavering allegiances. And second, while he had been investigating Zardoz at their request, he had compiled a list of his clients.
Pulling a piece of paper from his breast pocket, he handed it over. Then he excused himself and disappeared into the Tiger’s Eye.
Willifort Crowelle betrayed Bonnie’s trust as she and the others made to escape the city. He laid an ambush for them not far from the gates and captured the party. They are being brought back to the Cassalanters where Victoro plans to use spells like Dominate to take advantage of their unique abilities.
The Fireball incident is one of the defining events of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. It marks the transition from the open-world Chapter 2 to the race to the end of the campaign (if playing as it is written). As such, I wanted to make it feel impactful.
Unfortunately, I think I spent time preparing the wrong things. Once I was actually in the session, I realized that there was much I hadn’t thought through. I had planned the blast, the music, and the crime scene. I didn’t plan out potential interviews, searching for clues, or how the party would even react to the explosion.
I found myself fumbling more than normal as I raced around trying to pull it all together. What I learned was to spend less time on the auxiliary and more on the event details themselves. I should have walked through the scene a few times in my head to identify what may have been important. Instead, I put my efforts into trying to capture the disorientation that the players felt as they recovered from the boom.