14 min read

Nightmares, Neighbors, and Newspapers

Nightmares, Neighbors, and Newspapers

You can find my prep notes for free on Patreon.


Change of Plans

The party immediately sought out Davil. They wanted to check in after completing the potion drop and let him know about what they had learned from the Black Network captain.

Tucked away in their normal space and dressed to the nines, the Doom Raiders looked ready for a night out. They wore black suits with accents of green and purple with black buttoned vests. Some wore hats while others had fresh-cut hair.

Peaky Blinder Vibes

Peaky Blinder Vibes

Pleased to hear that the drop had been successful, Davil grew more serious as they told him about the encounter in the alleyway. He told them that other members of the Doom Raiders had been having issues that day. A couple of his men had been jumped by what he presumed to be Xanatharians. He then questioned whether the party knew the affiliation of the men who had attacked them. From Davila’s perspective, he wasn’t convinced that Urstel Floxin had grown bold enough to stage attacks across the city so openly. His conclusion was that Xanatharian thugs had been posing as Zhentarim in an attempt to further divide the group.

In response, Davil planned to retaliate based on information Skeemo had acquired. That night the Xanatharians were supposedly receiving a shipment of Black Lilly at one of their warehouses in the Dock Ward. He planned to attack the drop and destroy all the paraphernalia as a message to the rival gang. Feeling that their arrival was serendipitous, he invited the party along.

Declining, they decided to share the news about the escaped drow. They informed him that the City Watch had found a series of tattoos on the escapee which indicated he was a member of Bregan D’aerthe. This news distressed Davil. He was familiar with the mercenary group but it surprised him that they would be in Waterdeep. He had thought they would still be in Luskan, increasing their hold on the trade there. If Jarlaxle and his band were in Waterdeep, things were direr than he had anticipated.

He then motioned to one of his crew members. He instructed the messenger to find Ziraj and get his opinion on continuing to run the raid that evening. If his old friend thought it was too risky given the new information, Davil intended to call it off.

He thanked the party and went to work on a stack of papers, recalibrating his plans.


Leaving Davil, the party decided to stop at the bar and give their condolences to Durnan. They were aware that he and Mirt had been close friends. Durnan was obviously upset, though not in a weepy way. His focus was fragmented as if he were somewhere else completely. As they shared what they knew, he continued to pour drinks of strong liquor for the group. Before they could even toast he had thrown back two servings.

Durnan and his demons

Durnan and his demons

Taman tested the waters by asking if Durnan was aware of any dealing that Mirt might have with the Xanatharians. Durnan was unsure but couldn’t rule out a covert mission. Taman continued to prod and asked if it were possible that Mirt could be directly involved with the street gang. Durnan scoffed and warned Taman about insinuating such bold accusations.

As Taman apologized they asked if there was anything they could do for their friend. Durnan shook his head, downed another shot, and told them he planned to speak with another good friend of his. He felt that Laeral could provide insight.

Like Strangers

DM Note:

Perception check with advantage because Taman and Bonnie were acquaintances before the start of the campaign

Taman flagged down Bonnie as she maneuvered around the room. He was hoping that she would be able to tell him anything else that she may have overheard in the tavern. But when she arrived he noticed that she was acting strange.  Sensing something was off, Taman asked for his usual. This caused Bonnie to pause before saying

“I’m sorry, tonight has been so crazy and I can’t seem to remember what that was.”

Taman told her not to worry about it. It was late and he should be getting to bed. As Bonnie went back to work the party headed to their rooms.

Violet Nightmares

That night each member of the group had near-identical dreams. They found themselves standing at the base of an alabaster staircase looking upon a magnificent room. Plush lavender carpets sat beneath intricate furniture. A fire roared in a marble hearth. Ornate shelves lined with leather books and small sculptures stretched the left wall. In one far corner of the room sat a desk with neatly stacked papers.

In both Finzu and Taman’s dreams, they immediately began investigating the desk. They found intricate elven etchings in the wood. A latch with a small lock secured the drawer. Viigo investigated the craftsmanship of the low table sitting in front of the fireplace. The work was impossibly perfect. Akta spent her time perusing the bookshelves, scanning over histories, annuals, and lost lore.

Suddenly, each realized they were not alone. A tall man in deep purple robes and a mask was standing behind them. He made small talk with each of them. He commented that Taman and Finzu were curious individuals, though he recommended not fiddling with the lock. One can never be certain what protections are in place. He spent time speaking with Viigo about the origins of the furniture. It came from a different plane of existence that had access to techniques and tools they could never dream of.

He asked Akta what she found to be the most interesting topic. Akta turned the question around on him and asked what his favorite was. After a moment the man reached for a book.

“While a nation’s history is always quite interesting, I find learning about the past of its denizens to be the most intriguing.”

He continued to page through the book and Akta asked which families he was currently learning about.

“Ah, well, the Nobels of Waterdeep all have deep histories tied to these wards. It is difficult to choose just a few. However, I currently find the families Thann, Urmbrusk and Cassalanter to be the most interesting.”

Akta asked why he found the Cassalanters so interesting. He responded by sharing pieces of their history with her. That their family had been Nobels nearly 500 years and Victoro’s father had been a Masked Lord. Though he hinted at more he would not share any more beyond that.

In each of their dreams, the party asked who he was. They all received the same answer.

“I am the future Open Lord of Waterdeep.”

As the man continued to speak it became clear that he wanted something from them. He asked each of the members to swear an oath of fealty to him.

  • To Viigo he promised that the dwarf would be able to run his shop in peace. He would no longer be subjected to blackmail, racketeering, or embezzlement. He would always have access to the materials he required and could live out his life building and creating as he saw fit.
  • Taman was promised a place he could, for once, call home. A place where he would be respected as if he were nobility.
  • Finzu would find appreciation, and admiration of all. He would be the force that would put down the oppressors.
  • To Akta, he lamented that he could not bring back her love. He could, however, ensure that she felt those feelings forever. That she would never again feel fear, loss, or outcast.

After hearing his proposition, each, in turn, turned him down. This angered the man and the more resistance he met, the more smoke and flame began to pour from the openings of his mask. By the end, the fire raged from his mouth and eyes as he declared them insignificant.

“You understand that what I offer is out of my benevolence. You are nothing but a pawn on the board. A insignificant rodent in the corner. And like all pests… can be exterminated.”

A rat floated from the corner of the room and hovered between them. As the man curled his finger the rat began to bend backward until they heard a sickening snap. The body fell lifeless to the floor.

Due to the nightmare, they did not benefit from a long rest and had to make a WIS saving throw or take 2d6 psychic damage

This caused each to wake up in a fevered sweat. Even though it was morning, they were exhausted. Making their way to the main floor of the Portal they share their experiences with each other. Bonnie seemed back to her normal self and took their breakfast orders.

As she returned, Akta made a few comments.

Akta: Notice anything strange about last night?

Bonnie: No, none that I would consider out of the ordinary.

Akta: Oh, but what about that man.

Bonnie: Yes, well, sometimes people just don’t understand boundaries.

Akta: No, but he seemed intent of giving you something. What was that?

At this point, Bonnie had grown uncomfortable with the questions and excused herself. A server they didn’t know managed the rest of the meal.

Meeting the Neighbors

A few nights passed, and they had come across four mounted City Watch guards escorting a black carriage through the Dock Ward. Akta had recognized the family crest imprinted on its doors as the Gralhunds. The tight security, drawn shades, and origination from the Dock Ward had indicated to the party that there may be a newly purchased Nimblewright onboard.

After asking around, they learned that Gralhund Villa was not far from Trollskull Manor. They were, in a manner of speaking, neighbors.

Yalah Gralhund

Yalah Gralhund

Arriving at the villa they were met by two guards. The party explained that they had recently acquired Trollskull Manor and we’re currently renovating the establishment. It resided around the corner and they were hoping to meet their neighbors. This was no more than a friendly visit.

Upon hearing about the manor, one of the guards ran up to the compound. He returned with the muscular, well-dressed half-orc bodyguard to Yalah, Hrabbaz. He informed the party that lady Yalah would be willing to grant a short audience. He then led them into the villa and to the library.

It wasn’t long before Lady Yalah graced them with her presence. Dressed as if she were about to head out for the night, she welcomed them to the neighborhood. Taman took the lead and introduced the party.

The conversation quickly became a sparring match. Each party working to extract information from the other. Taman asked her about the festival season. She responded that the tournament was not to be missed.

Taman: Ah, we have heard of this. Will you be sponsoring a team?

Yalah: Regretfully, no. Other families were able to secure the sponsorships before we were.

It was then that a nimblewright walked into the room and handed her a stack of papers. As if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, she took them and began to glance over the stack. The nimblewright evaluated the party for a second and then exited.

This prompted the conversation to pivot to the construct. Taman inquired about the uses of such a machine. Yalah explained that it served many functions. That it was quite useful for everyday tasks but she had not yet begun to explore the possibilities. After a few more specific questions she stopped Taman and asked why he was so interested.

He let slip that they had been working for another noble family and had acted as a proxy in procuring a similar construct. This interested Yalah and she began to prod. Realizing his mistake, Taman did his best to dodge the questions. Instead, he redirected her and asked her where he may learn more about them.

She directed the party to the House of Inspired Hands, the temple of Gond. If anyone knew the inner workings of such a machine, it would be them. Yalah then informed them that, regretfully, she had to get back to her affairs. Hrabbaz saw them out.

Front Page

Deception check with advantage due to proficiency in disguises

After a quick stop at the Manor to make a disguise, Taman headed off alone to the Waterdeep Sentinel office. He arrived at a scene of utter chaos. Reporters trying to rush in tips for stories, witnesses giving quotes, and delivery people sprinting in every direction made it easy for Taman to persuade the guard that he was a reporter.

He had to ask a few hurried people, but he managed to pin down an intern. If he wanted to find Gaxly Rudderbust’s office, he only needed to follow the yelling. In the corner office, with the doors wide open, were four people. Three stood opposite a man sitting at a desk. He wore suspenders, and a striped shirt, and mashed a cigar as he shouted commands at his audience.

Taman knocked on the door to announce his presence. It was virtually inaudible over the shouting. He knocked much harder the second time and this caused Gaxly to stop mid-sentence. His attention snapped to Taman as he yelled out -

Gaxly: And who in the name of the nine hells are you? Do you work for me?”

Taman stepped forward and told Gaxly that he was a new reporter and that he had a major story.

Gaxly: I have better things to do with my time than look over some newbie’s hot tip. Can’t you see I’m busy?

Taman: I think you’ll want to see this.

Gaxly threw out his hand. Surprised Taman stood for a moment before handing it over. Lifting a set of spectacles the editor-in-chief read over the letter.

Gaxly: You have any evidence to back this up? Is someone willing to come forward? Anything?

Taman: Well, no, you see…

Gaxly: You know what? It doesn’t matter.

He then turned to one of the individuals in the room.

Gaxly: Move the Vinter’s guild to page seven and give them a 10% discount. No, make that page eight. Wait. Make it 5%. We have a new front-page story.
Inspiration for Gaxly


The Doom Raiders

Davil is convinced that the recent aggressions against his Doom Raiders are from the Xanatharians. He hasn’t yet bought into the idea that the Black Network would turn against him so openly so soon. What he doesn’t know is that Skeemo, his once adventuring partner, has turned against him and is working for Manshoon.

Skeemo is the one that provided the tip to Davil about the warehouse. However, Skeemo had told him that it would be a skeleton crew and that it would be easy pickings. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The warehouse would be packed with bandits, kenku, and some gazers and Skeemo was hoping that they would remove Davil from play.

The party sharing the information about the drow with Davil caused him to call upon Ziraj the Hunter. Ziraj is now scouring the city for the drow but Jarlaxle is keeping a tight reign on his underling. Because of the trouble Soluun had caused, Jarlaxle has forbidden him from leaving the ships without his express permission. This will make Ziraj’s task near impossible due to the illusions the drow maintain while on their ships.

Bonnie and the Dopplegangers

Bonnie runs a crew of Dopplegangers. One of her members has realized how profitable their ability could be in the City of Splendors and has become ambitious. While Bonnie was out, he took up her appearance and spent the night tending to the bar. Dopplegangers can read surface-level thoughts, and what better place to do that than at a tavern where ale loosens tongues and lowers mental defenses.

Durnan and the Red Sashes

Speaking with the party seemed to resolve something within Durnan. He feels that he needs to uncover what happened to Mirt and find out exactly what poison had been used on him. The next morning he headed to Castle Waterdeep to speak with Laerel and intends to descend to Undermountain.

Before doing so, he activated his network called the Red Sashes. They have orders to learn as much as they can about the Xanatharians as possible. Durnan is out for blood.


Manshoon used the Dream spell to intrude on the party’s evening. Being as arrogant as they come, he thought that a vision of his study would be enough to tempt the party over to his side. He learned from Urstel, to whom the captain from earlier had reported, how useful the party could be. They would be good assets to have in the city.

However, along with arrogance comes impatience and a temper. Having been rebuffed, after not only demonstrating his wealth but also informing him that he would be the next Open Lord, caused both to flare. This resulted in each party member receiving a Nightmare which prevented the benefits of the long rest.


Yalah is the head of operations in the family and she is upset with the elites of the city. After the events of the Death Masks, she had been convinced that she was next in line to become a Masked Lord. This did not come to pass and she turned to the Black Network as a response.

Many men on her compound are Black Network mercenaries, including Urstel Floxin himself. She is unaware of Manshoon though.

When the party had seen their carriage, she had indeed been coming from the Luskan ships. They had just purchased a Nimblewright and were worried about the crime in the area. As such, they had “requested” (provided by the Black Network) four escorts.

The conversation with Taman proved interesting from her perspective. Not only did she learn that another noble family had purchased a Nimblewright, but she also learned that the party was working for them. This is important because it is her nimblewright that casts the fireball in Chapter 3. Knowing that there is another noble family out there may prove beneficial to her social status if she can learn who it is and can pin the crime on them once that event takes place.

(Note: She does not currently know that the fireball will take place. She is filing away the information which may help her later.)


Planning Encounters

After having a successful session 7 where the encounters felt meaningful and balanced with exposition, I fell back to what was ailing me in sessions 5 and 6. Looking back on those 3 hours, I realized that I, once again, did not provide enough agency to the party.

The party avoided going to the warehouse altogether. I had planned for this to be a rather large encounter, complete with recon and various options for the players. But I had forgotten that they had not rested since the last session. This meant that they were low on health and spells. Not a great combination for a potentially large battle sequence.

Running the Dream Sequence

When approaching the dream sequence with Manshoon I had a couple of options and one major constraint. The constraint is that, due to the pandemic, we are playing over Google Meet. No one wanted to pay for a VTT and Meet is working quite well. Additionally, we all prefer theater of the mind for everything but combat.

But this meant that there wasn’t a great opportunity to pull people away from the group and role-play the scene with them. My options were to hold private chats or run it all out in the open.

I chose the latter and I think it worked out well. Going into the dream sequence I explained to the group that each was in a distinct dream and their characters had no knowledge of what was happening to the others. They bought into it and everything went pretty smoothly.

The one downside of this was that Manshoon was giving them a chance to join him. Doing it out in the open made it far less likely that someone would accept. It would ruin any surprises down the road. All in all, I think it had the effect I was going for. Even better was the fact that they still role-played sharing the information with each other.

As a side note: I modeled this scene after The Wheel of Time dream sequences with Ba’alzamon.

Unexpected Stops

I was not expecting them to stop by the Gralhunds and was completely caught off guard. I had not anticipated the little detail I threw in during a random urban encounter to pique their interest in that way.

What made this a successful encounter for the party was that I kept it constrained. They weren’t allowed to leave the library, forcing the interaction to be pure role-play instead of keeping me on my toes trying to navigate the book.

It also gave me plenty of reason to only inject details that I was confident in at the moment. If they were getting a tour of the villa the level of detail I would have needed to manage goes up exponentially.

By only alluding to those details, I was free to focus on the interaction with the players.