You can read my prep notes for free on Patreon.
- A quick warning that this session contains vulgar and adult language.
- The calendar has become important at this stage. On Tarsahk 20th is when the Cassalanter’s children are set to lose their souls. This will be one of the big climaxes. It acts as both the end of the main storyline and an event that has a large impact on the remaining adventure.
- I have included the handouts in a new section
The Morning After
Taman and Viigo awoke to a guard unlocking their cell. As the door creaked open the man motioned for them to fall in line behind his partner. The four of them made their way down one of the unidentifiable cell blocks beneath Castle Waterdeep. Turning a corner, one cell caught Taman’s eye. The flickering torchlight outlined the drow from the previous evening. He sat comfortably on a blank bench in the darkness.
Upon recognizing Taman, the corners of his mouth curled into a smile and he lifted his hand in the shape of a gun. ‘Bang’ he mouthed as the guards forced them onward.
They climbed a series of stairs and entered a windowless room. Inside were a rectangular table and four chairs, two to a side. And then they were alone.
They heard him long before Captain Stagget blew open the door with a guard on his heels.
Captain Stagget: Here I am, ready to carpe fuckin’ diem and suddenly I have to come down to this shit hole to figure out why you two pieces of shit decided it was a good idea to drop my god-given name while being arrested for… wait for it… fuckin MURDER!
He took a seat and after a moment turned to his escort
Captain Stagget: Well? What the fuck are you doin? Get the fuck outta here!
And the guard almost jumped out of the room, tossing the door close behind him. Satisfied, the captain turned back to the pair.
Captain Stagget: Go on, out with it.
Taman and Viigo recounted everything as it had happened. As their explanation continued the captain interrupted.
Captain Stagget: Of course you weren’t the ones runnin around killing elves. Everyone but those piss heads who arrested you knows that. What I mean is, why were you even hunting’ this drow?
This posed an interesting situation for Taman and Viigo. The mission was from Davil, who they assumed was part of one of Waterdeep’s organized crime syndicates. Admitting that didn’t seem to be in their best interest. Luckily, the cadence of heavy steps coming down the hallway interrupted the interrogation.
A deep hearty voice accompanied by a deep belly laugh made quick jokes with the guards. As the door opened, in stepped one of the largest men they had ever seen. Both in height and width. The well-dressed man acknowledged the captain by his first name and then took a seat.
Mirt: Gentlemen, do you know who I am?
They go on to learn that they are in the presence of Mirt and are in a precarious position. Mirt had been keeping tabs on them since their escapades at the warehouse. They impressed him. They had demonstrated the ability to handle themselves in the dark corners of the city. They had also been able to make ‘friends’ with nobility and secure a lunch reservation with the Luskans.
Mirt: You see gentlemen, we find ourselves in an exciting time here in Waterdeep. There is a Great Game which has come about!
He then let them know that going forward, they would be working for the Open Lord. From here on in, Jalester Silvermane would be their point of contact. And if they are ever to come across information pertaining to Neverember’s Enigma that they were to contact him directly.
He then slid a pair of both Paper Birds and Badges of the Watch across the table. It turned out that the badges were the Open Lord’s way of keeping an eye on them. As long as the badges remained on their person, the Open Lord would know their exact whereabouts. If they ever parted with them, the badges would disappear and reappear at her side.
This made it clear that they didn’t have a choice in the matter. Satisfied, Mirt stood to leave but not before exclaiming,
Mirt: Welcome to the Great Game my lads! Do try not to get yourselves killed.
Lunch At The Docks
Once released, they met up with Finzu and Akta and immediately headed down to the docks. After asking around, a carnie led them to a rowboat tied to the end of the pier. The boat ferried them out to an impressive ship anchored in the middle of the bay.
Tarwind Arryhook, the captain of the ship greeted him in his Captain’s Quarters. He sat at the head of a large, heavy table in the middle of a luxuriously decorated room. As the party took their seats along one side of the table they were introduced to three individuals sitting opposite them.
Two equally beautiful but completely opposite women, Margo Verida and Khafeyta Murzan, flanked a man by the name of Zardoz Zord.
As food and drink came out, Tarwind peppered them with small talk. He asked about their lives in Waterdeep, what they were looking forward to during the festival season, and, most importantly, any rumors they cared to share.
After a little of this, Zardoz breached the topic of Nimblewrights. He inquired why they had been asking about them. The party explained that they were acting as a proxy for a buyer and that they had been directed to the Luskans. This made Zardoz think for a moment, but then he motioned for them to place the box they had brought on the table. This created a stressful situation for the party. All they knew about the contents of the box they carried was that it was heavy.
Keeping an eye on them, he flipped the latches and slowly lifted the cover. He then smiled and spun the box so that they could see what was inside. Rows of golden dragons sat nestled in silk equating to over 30,000 worth of pieces. Zardoz then let them know that, should they know of anyone else interested in purchasing a Nimblewright, that he would give them a 5% commission.
The meal wound down and as they were about to leave, Zardoz made one more request. He had a friend who needed a favor. All they needed to do was procure a handkerchief belonging to a patron of his friend. They would then need to deliver it to a tiefling girl in the Dock Ward. Quick and simple. And in exchange, he would grant them an extra 2% commission on any sale they make.
The Handler and the Shadow
They made a quick stop at Trollskull to meet with Jalester, their new handler. He was dispassionate and made the encounter brief. The Blackstaff wanted them to climb Mt. Waterdeep and seek the counsel of a reclusive monk named Hlam. She put a lot of value on his premonitions and needed his guidance.
Before leaving, Jalester handed them a stack of mail that had arrived for them earlier that day.
With all the travel, the day was getting late. They made their way back to the Yawning Portal.
A chant of, “Dip! Dip Dip!” started up as they entered the bar and quickly spread through the whole crowd. A young man stood up, made his way to the bar, and slapped down a gold piece. Nodding, Durnan slid the coin off the bar and then gave him a wooden cup and a silver bell. The man then stripped down to his underwear and, as he made his way over to the portal’s edge, the dipping song began:
Deep and dark down below,
where only fools and braggarts go,
where monster roam and dangers mortal,
few survive the Yawning Portal,
stand your ground or ring the bell,
and hope you make it up the well!
He then downed the beer, threw the cup down the hole, and grabbed the rope. His friends lowered him out of sight and the betting began. Despite the roaring crowd, Taman and Viigo are able to get wagers in.
One minute went by. Then two. Patrons began complaining that they had lost their wagers. Then, after about three minutes, the sound of a bell resonated from the mouth of the portal. The man’s friends began to pull him up and soon, the daring individual emerged. He’s downtrodden, having failed to recover the mug, and the winners received their payments.
They then joined Davil at his regular table. Pleased to see that they were free, the elf praised them for their work. He let them know, should they still require funds, where they could find Istrid Horne. The party then asked if there was anything else they could do for him.
After a pause, Davil sighed.
Davil Starsong: I like you. You’ve done well by myself and my kin. And for that… I must ensure you understand what you are truly asking.
Davil then proceeded to explain to them the history of the Zhentarim and the Black Network. He let them know that rumors of Manshoon’s return had caused a rift in the organization. Unfortunately, many of his brethren preferred the old ways to his new direction. He felt it was important for the party to know this and would let them know if anything came up.
A Simple Favor
The next morning, as promised, the Nimblewright was waiting for them at Trollskull Manor. A large crate encased the construct, keeping it hidden. Realizing how large and heavy the construct was, Finzu and Akta headed to the Cassalanters to arrange a pick-up. Taman and Viigo stayed behind to watch the product.
As they arrived at the Villa, Willifort Crowelle met them at the door. He thanked them and handed each two pouches with 10 gold dragons a piece. A thank you for keeping his master’s anonymity. They were then offered a carriage for the return trip to the Manor.
I had Akta and Taman roll checks for performance and sleight of hand respectively
Afterward, the party made their way to the Trade Ward to scout the area around J.B. Nevercott’s. The day dragged on and as the sun began to set did a man matching Zardoz’ description emerge from the shop. Acting as a distraction, Akta stumbled into the man while Taman lifted the handkerchief from his pocket.
They found the tiefling girl down in the Dock Ward exactly where Zardoz had said they would. As they handed her the handkerchief, she snatched it from them and began to inspect the item. After verifying the initials she began to cackle wildly. Her skin cracked and fire began to roll from her mouth and eyes as she transformed into a flame-wreathed demon. She then erupted into a ball of flame and disappeared.
This left the party shocked. They stood in the street for a while, trying to figure out what had happened. Eventually, they decided there was enough time to head up and meet with the monk.
The Monk’s Premonition
Trying to beat the sunset, they took the most direct route they could up the mountain. This resulted in both Taman and Akata becoming exhausted as they arrived at the top.
They found a small cave lit by torches. Inside, Hlam the monk sat meditating. Afraid of what would happen if they disturbed him, they waited. And then waited some more. Hours went by and finally, Finzu stepped forward and carefully roused him.
The monk spoke in a low, calm voice. He told them a little about himself and his practice. Only once they explained why they had come did he frown. After a few moments of thought, he gave his premonition.
Evil grows more paranoid and less patient daily.
Nobody is who they seem, yet they will reveal themselves.
Evil’s twin hides its face for now. Expect that to change.
No matter good deeds or evil, innocent blood shall spill on Founder’s Day.
This was a fun session to write. Even though the party was forced to work for Mirt and the Open Lord, it came across as a natural situation. They looked at it as a wrinkle that they had to consider instead of a railroaded situation.
Now aware of the Great Game, they are starting to view each NPC through a different lens. Who could they trust? Who were the players? What role were they expected to play? And how did that contrast to the role they wanted to play?
It has opened many interesting possibilities.
Behind the scenes, the following is taking place:
A Simple Favor
The Cassalanters had previously approached Zardoz. That meeting had not gone well. A couple of things happened during this meeting.
- The Cassalanters were trying to establish themselves as an ‘ally’ of the Luskans. However, their methods were much too heavy-handed. Because of the tension between the Luskans and the Waterdavians, they demanded that Zardoz prove his trustworthiness by stealing the handkerchief.
- This rubbed Zardoz the wrong way. He had no intention of carrying out the task. But when the party arrived, he saw the opportunity to both distance himself from the outcome and yet still benefit.
- During that conversation, Zardoz had also dropped that he was selling Nimblewrights for 35,000 dragons. This was more than his normal 25,000 price because he didn’t like Victoro.
- This little seed is why the Cassalanters later decided that they wanted a Nimblewright and how they knew the price.
- They wanted anonymity because they did not want to make Zardoz think he did not need to complete the task
The task itself was essentially a hit. The Lord whom they stole the handkerchief from had stumbled upon information about the Cult of Asmodeus. Not understanding the dire situation he was in, he had shared it with Victoro. After the party completed the task, the lord is never seen again.
So what is Zardoz/Jarlaxle doing with the Nimblewrights? At 25,000 dragons he is selling them at a loss. Which is fine by him.
His ultimate goal is to broker a deal with the Open Lord to bring Luskan into the Lord’s Alliance. In order to better understand the politics of the city, he had the technomancers of Luskan outfit each Nimblewright with a mechanism that transmits information back to a specialized crystal ball.
Essentially, he is data harvesting from the social network of the city. The more Nimblewrights he can get in places of influence, the more data he has and the more leverage he can create.
The motive and means are from the Alexandrian Remix
This session was a lot of fun from the perspective of the larger narrative. It gave the players the feeling that they were now part of something greater.
There were two great moments during this session. One was when the party handed over the funds to Zardoz. The other was the Dip at the Yawning Portal.
The first was when they were on the Eyecatcher and Zardoz was about to open the box. The party was incredibly nervous. Here they were, sitting across from an obviously powerful individual, delivering a box of which they didn’t know the contents. It was far too late when they realized this as Zardoz already had it in his possession.
Drawing inspiration from the opening scene of Inglorious Basterds, I tried to stretch the tension of the moment.
Zardoz then continued to talk about Nimbelwrights. He spoke about how they fascinated him, that he didn’t quite understand them, and other related thoughts. He also touched on the tension between the two nations.
As this was going on, the player playing Finzu brought up that, for all they knew, there was a bomb in the briefcase. That this was an effort to eliminate the Luskans. He also brought up the fact that they were trapped in a small cabin with it.
It was fantastic to watch that tension grow. When Zardoz finally flipped the clasps, slowly lifted the lid, and looked inside, there was visible stress on the player’s faces. When he finally turned the case to reveal the gold, that stress faded away, only to be replaced by questions. That was a lot of gold! Are the Cassalanter’s capable of this? What had they actually done here?
The second great moment from the session was The Dipping Song. I took this from the Alexandrian Remix and I am happy that I did.
It served as a great way to lower the tension levels and provide relief for the players. This is important to do, not only in D&D but in film and literature as well. If you keep the pressure constantly applied, it can wear out your party.
During this session, I provided the party with a stack of mail that had been delivered to the Manor. This was inspired by this reddit post. I took the ads pretty much verbatim and then added in a few custom letters to fit my campaign.
There were two purposes to this handout.
- Introduce them to the guilds and let them know that, if they wanted to do renovations, they needed to work with them. This was accomplished with the various letters from the guilds themselves as well as the letter from Renear.
- Provide them with their first clue to tie the Cassalanters to something nefarious. They weren’t meant to actually seize upon this, it is just a detail that is woven in. If you look at the letter that they found in Finding Floon, you will notice that the ‘handwriting’ matches the letter that was just delivered from Ammalia Cassalanter.
- Load them up with other superfluous information via the ads so that they had a bit of information overload.
Fonts used were
- Ammalia Cassalanter - Celine Dion Handwriting
- Renear Neverember - Coffee Notes
- Scrivener’s Guild - Apple Chancery