Waterdeep, the City of Splendors, beckons to you through the spray off the jutting prow of your ship. The largest commercial port on the Sword Coast, it serves as a hub of trade for the entire Western edge of the continent of Faerun. It’s docks and warehouses hugging the shelf of the Deepwater Harbour sheltered from the battering waves of the cold Northern Sea by a series of islands and causeways. North of the docks, beyond sheer cliffs looking out over the cold gray ocean stands the proud and majestic Mount Waterdeep. The imposing tower of the heavily fortified Peaktop Aerie juts up from the mountain’s spine while lower down the implacable Castle Waterdeep crouches atop the foothills like a beast ready to pounce. In the shadow of the mountain, the rest of the city sprawls, rolling like a wave that has crashed upon the city walls and splashed over in places. Towers to magic, art, beauty and commerce stick up in odd spots through the thick, smoky fog that blankets the city, lightly obscuring the hodge podge buildings huddling beneath. From the nouveau riche Sea Ward to the stately North Ward to the dilapidated City of the Dead to the prosperous Trades Ward to the majestic Castle Ward to the bustling Dock Ward to the crowded South Ward to the Deepwater Harbour patrolled by exotic merfolk she lays sprawling languidly before you, beckoning you in.
The low slung cargo scow is abuzz with activity, the crew scampering to and fro as the ship passes through the harbour’s outer gate. A grizzled veteran looks back at you with one weather eye. “What’s a matter, young one?” His mouth twisted in a mocking grin. “Ain’t you never been to the Crown of the North?” He turns back and looks lovingly on the splendid city drifting closer. “You’ll see soon enough. There ain’t nothing that you can’t have in that there city for a price. That is if it don’t have you first.” His salty dry voice breaks into a cackling laugh.
Though you try to play it cool, there’s no denying it. The crew’s excitement is rubbing off on you. What wonders await you in the fabled Waterdeep? Will you rub elbows with the powerful lords of the city, rising in the glow of society and riches? Will you make a deal with the fabled cutthroats of the Xanathar gang for secret power and glory? Or will you drink and cavort with the notorious ringmaster, Zardoz Zord aboard his luxurious galleon, part of the infamous floating carnival, the “Sea Maiden’s Faire”? The possibilities are endless.
As the ship is being tied up and the gangplank extended to the waiting docks below, you give the captain a jaunty salute and step off the ship… and right, square into a steaming pile of cow shit. Struggling to keep your balance and your cool, you glance back to see the captain laughing and returning your salute but with only the one finger extended. A heavy wagon, pulled by four powerful draft horses is bearing down on you fast. You duck to the side only to smack face first into a wet, foul smelling basket of fish guts. “Watch where you’re going!” The fish wallah hollers as you carefully pick your way up the dock to the warehouse district beyond.
Finally, you find a quiet corner to catch your breath and gather your wits. Standing there in the shadows of the bustling docks a jaunty voice calls out to you. “Well now, ain’t you a pretty site? Just off the boat as it were. An adventurer by the look of it. I bet you’ve got all sorts of plans for the big city, now don’t you?” A halfling, standing a mere 2 feet 9 inches tall, begins to slowly come out of the shadows. He’s a pleasant little fellow with sandy blond hair, tousled in a mop atop his kind face, tumbling down past his ears and culminating in thick bushy sideburns. Soft green eyes studying you intently, his mouth is cocked in a sidelong grin. His clothes are lovingly sewn if not fancily tailored, with simple cuffs and the plain buttons of an honest man. His pants are cuffed a couple inches above his ankles and his hairy, bare feet are remarkably clean considering the state of the streets surrounding the docks. He holds out a soft, uncalloused hand towards you and smiles reassuringly, a little bit too reassuringly.
“If you’re looking for adventure, then I know just the place…”
This is Waterdeep, the setting for our story, “The Dragon Heist”. This is an urban adventure. Fraught with different kinds of dangers than your typical dungeon crawl. But fraught with dangers nonetheless. Not every monster you encounter will want to kill you and even those that do will be forced to show a little bit of discretion. But by the same token, you will not even be remotely likely to kill every monster you encounter. Choose your battles wisely. Always know where the City Watch is at any moment for they are just as likely to save your life as they are to foil your plans.
Political intrigue, diplomacy, stealth and mystery are the order of the day if you want to survive the Dragon Heist. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer and you just might make it out of this alive.
This is one of the latest offerings from WotC and it is set up to be a rich, urban adventure starting at level 1 through 5. It should be heavy in roleplaying and intrigue, both a novelty and a challenge. I am really looking forward to exploring Waterdeep with the party, one of the oldest and richest environments in D&D!