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Dragon Heist: Chapter 1

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is an urban mystery campaign for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. In the previous session, my players met each other and ran through a fun one-shot. This time, my players started on Chapter 1, which introduces the Yawning Portal tavern and Volo’s little Dock Ward mystery.

Yawning Portal tavern

Because I ran the Rats of Waterdeep as an introductory one-shot first, things came up that I wasn’t expecting. The player characters are from Waterdeep, therefore they all have homes. Two of the player characters are noble Rosznars (spoilers), who have a villa in the book. I gave them parents, Lorastina and Zolrail. Lorastina stormed into their bedrooms at a bright and early 4pm in the afternoon while the PCs were sleeping off the previous night’s adventure. She proceeded to give them an earful for being useless, lazy layabouts. This got them on their way to Yawning Portal, as well as structuring their motivations for Chapter 2 of Dragon Heist.

The other PC is renting a basement somewhere in the Trades Ward. The geography of the city becomes important for using Waterdeep Random Encounters. This time I used a simple if you walk you get a random encounter, if you take a coach you get no random encounter approach. In the future, I intend to run a skill challenge for players who want to get across town.

Map of Waterdeep from Random Encounters

A skill challenge is a fourth edition concept. Resurrection on the popular Critical Role podcast works like a skill challenge. There are several homebrew adaptations of it to fifth edition: Almost Heroic Skill Challenges, Next-Level Skill Checks. The gist is that each player picks a different skill they are good at to contribute to overcoming a shared obstacle in a plausible, narrative way. For example, one might use stealth to avoid trouble in the city, another might use acrobatics to dodge it, a third might use history to apply some street smarts in defense. My thinking is that when getting across the busy, bustling metropolis of Waterdeep, every skill challenge failure could lead to a random encounter.


At the Yawning Portal, the player characters settled in for a lively night. One of them has an unrequited crush on Bonnie thanks to Waterdeep Background Hooks, which proved fun for improv. I’m not quite ready to go in the Unseen of Waterdeep (spoilers) direction, but that’s a possibility.

The Yagra fight went by the book. The players administered first aid and got a hint of the Xanathar/Zhentarim gang war.

I’m running the Alexandrian remix, which adopts the Dipping Gone Wrong scene authored by Busboy80 on Reddit. The scene creates a suspenseful transition to the troll fight.

Beyond that, my players got as far as the Xoblob Shop and the Skewered Dragon on their investigation. In hindsight, I wonder if I should have used a bit of Durnan’s Guide to Tavernskeeping to punch up the Skewered Dragon.

If you are running vanilla Dragon Heist instead of the Alexandrian remix, the Dragon Heist Complete DM’s Bundle does a good job of improving Chapter 1. I didn’t end up using their take because the Alexandrian Remix takes Chapter 1 in a different direction.

Additional Resources for DMs

Waterdeep Dragon Heist subreddit including the excellent Megathread: Resources by Chapter.

For unclear reasons, there are two duelling Facebook groups:

There is also a Facebook group for budding Waterdhavian journalists.

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