Waterdeep: Dragon Heist
Details Emerge About the Next Storyline for Dungeons & Dragons
This past weekend the Dungeons & Dragons Twitch Channel was taken over by the Stream of Many Eyes. Like last year’s Stream of Annihilation, this was an opportunity to gather many of the more notable “real play” streaming groups together for a series of related games to announce the storyline that the next year’s worth of products will hang off of. The next storyline announced will be Waterdeep: Dragon Heist and many details about the products connected to it came out during the stream.
Set in Waterdeep, the famous City of Splendors from the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, the Dragon Heist storyline was described as an “urban romp” and “heist story” combining inspirations from movies like Ocean’s Eleven, Gangs of New York, and the DaVinci Code. The title Dragon Heist refers to a large hoard of gold coins (in Waterdeep they’re called Dragons) that your adventuring group is trying to not only get ahold of for yourselves, but also keep out of the hands of a variety of villains. That, however, does not do justice to the amount of content hinted at by various segments throughout the weekend.
In an announcement roundtable with the senior creative team of Chris Perkins (@ChrisPerkinsDnD), Mike Mearls (@mikemearls), Kate Welch, and Jeremy Crawford (@JeremyECrawford), we learned that Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is not just an adventure book but a city guide to Waterdeep. There is a huge emphasis on Waterdeep itself being the most important character after the players’ characters. There will be descriptions of the various districts of the city, laws and punishments, entries for notable locations, famous NPCs (ex. The Blackstaff), and legendary magic items (ex. The Blackstaff. That’s not a typo.) The idea here being that you are given a “toolbox” with enough content to run a campaign in Waterdeep but with enough left out to make it your own. This city guide will be given in character by the legendary explorer himself, Volo, and is accompanied by a poster-sized map of the city.
Volo also gives characters the first introductory quest that pulls them into the world of Waterdeep. While no spoilers have been given about the quest, we do know that the introductory quest will serve as a primer on Waterdeep, introducing them to the various wards and factions that they might encounter. If they are successful, Volo rewards them with the deed to a (possibly famous) property. This property will not only serve as their base of operations but will actually be a means of earning income through an entrepreneurial “downtime” mechanic. After that, the DM can choose how long it is before the rest of story begins. This is where it gets interesting.
Depending on the time of year that the adventure starts, a different villain will be attempting to acquire the fabled hoard of treasure. Along with that villain are different set of NPCs, encounters, storylines, and locations that allow for a different storyline. This means that you can replay this adventure module at least four different times and have a different story each time! On top of that, there are rules for factions and guilds which your players can do quests. This will earn them renown and favors. Because the setting is a cosmopolitan city, some of these quests will have to be accomplished through role-playing and creativity and not necessarily through sheer strength.
While they have not specifically said who the four villains are we can make some guesses from things seen in the stream. First off is the cover art, featuring several figures of note. This includes Jarlaxle, the legendary drow rogue, and Xanathar, the paranoid-narcissistic Beholder leader of a criminal organization. In several short “in-betweener” segments, the D&D Beyond team spotlights several other notable NPCs like Manshoon, the leader of the Zhentarim Black Network. Those who follow “real play” streams will be interested to know that the villains and their motives were written in consultation with Matt Mercer of Critical Role fame. Additionally, Charlie Sanders, comedy writer (Key & Peele) helped flesh out Xanathar (who coincidentally has parallels to a real-world paranoid-narcissist leader) and his criminal syndicate.
Dragon Heist is designed for character levels 1-5. For those who want to go beyond that in the City of Splendors, a second book is coming out later in the year. Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage is designed for character levels 6-20 and is set in Undermountain, the expansive dungeon complex under the city of Waterdeep. For those who are new to Undermountain, it is a possibly never-ending labyrinth created by the insane wizard, Halaster Blackcloak. Every level you go deeper is different. Some levels resemble traditional dungeons, some appear as forests or aquatic realms. It is populated by all manner of dangerous denizens brought their by Halaster and his apprentices and defended by all means of puzzles and traps. Much like Dragon Heist, you will be given enough content to run this campaign but it allows for further exploration “off the map.”
Like its predecessor, Tomb of Annihilation, the Waterdeep storyline will be accompanied by a dice set. This set will include the standard set of seven RPG dice plus an extra larger d20 for advantage/disadvantage and a dial-based life counter.
Waterdeep: Dragon Heist will be available in your Friendly Local Gaming Shop on September 6th and available everywhere else on September 18th. The Waterdeep: Dragon Heist Dice set will be available the same days. Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage (along with an accompanying map pack) will be available on November 13th.