My group of players and I sat down for a virtual D&D game session zero for the new campaign I will be running: Waterdeep: Dragon Heist! This is a chronicle of their tale. (This post contains spoilers for “Waterdeep: Dragon Heist”)
And now, because I’m crazy and because two different groups wanted to start a new game at the same exact time, I will – while also running “Ghosts of Saltmarsh” – also be the Dungeon Master for another group of friends for the incredibly popular and well-received “Waterdeep: Dragon Heist!”
I held a digital sit-down session with my players – two of whom are practically brand-new to D&D – and we had our Session 0 to discuss the campaign. I have since worked with each player on their backstories, hoping to create deep and meaningful roots to the City of Splendors and its various factions and locales so that when things start to hit the proverbial fan, they’ll all feel it!
Let’s meet them!
- Tasha plays Halfast, a male half-elven bard.
The youngest member of our party, at only 17 years old, Halfast has left his noble family’s estate and his relentlessly overbearing parents in favor of becoming an entertainer due to his love of music and of the stories of legendary heroes.
Armed with a beautifully designed lute that his loving sister had made for him by a family of firbolg instrument-crafters, Halfast now spends his time learning music from and playing songs with the bard Threestrings at the Yawning Portal tavern, hopeful to get his inspiration from the adventurers brave enough to venture into its famous depths.
- Justin plays Jett, a male earth genasi fighter.
Jett comes from a family dedicated to the Waterdavian City Watch, the police force of the city. Jett admired his father’s service within it from a young age, and would eventually join the Watch when he became old enough. However, its complex bureaucracy made it so that when he tried to report some corrupt individuals within the Watch, he came face-to-face with the larger corruption therein, and was dismissed from service.
Still wanting to do good in the city, and help people, Jett set up a bounty hunting and private investigation business in the Dock Ward, and met Yagra Stonefist, a Zhentarim operative who helped Jett out from time to time, and even offered him admission into the Black Network (which he declined). The two remained friends, however, which would be Jett’s downfall. The recent war between the Zhentarim and the Xanathar Guild meant that his business was targeted, mistaken for a Zhentarim front, and burned to the ground. Jett now spends his time looking for work within the Yawning Portal tavern, and waiting for his moment of revenge against the Xanathar Guild.
- Ashley plays Alma Swift, a female firbolg cleric of Tymora.
Alma comes from a close-knit family that has a long history in Waterdeep, which runs a business master-crafting musical instruments in Sea Ward. She would regularly go with her parents and siblings out into the Dessarin Valley, to a cabin they own in the Westwood. Trouble came when the Zhentarim wanted to use the business as a means to smuggle goods up and down the Sword Coast. Her father relented, but her mother was furious and confronted the Zhents, who killed her to keep her silent.
Alma joined the City Watch, hoping to take down the Zhentarim in Waterdeep, but was unhappy with how lax they were in confronting the Black Network, and ultimately unsatisfied with how they ran the city. She left the Watch, and Waterdeep entirely. She spent time out in the wilds, in the Westwood, and eventually found a small sect of worshipers of Asmodeus defiling ancient firbolg ruins. She confronted them, aided by the unexpected hand of Tymora. Afterward, Alma swore herself to Tymora and returned to Waterdeep to become a cleric at the Tower of Luck.
- Joey plays Roland Ironkeg, a male dwarf druid.
He was raised in Citadel Felbarr in a clan of proud brewers, but the actual crops that were used in the brewing of fine ales was what interested him most. But he was laughed at in his clan, and eventually disowned for his love of “halfling work”. In his travels, he came upon such a halfling community of humble farmers, and worked his way into their good graces. All was well…until a group of marauding duergar raided the village, slaughtering many and stealing crops and livestock.
Enraged and desperate for vengeance, he followed the duergar into the Underdark, but was quickly overwhelmed by its countless dangers. He was saved, however, by a group of hunters conducting a raid of their own. He kept along with them, eventually returning to their home in Goldenfields. He learned that they were part of the Emerald Enclave, and began studying the druidic ways, hoping for admittance into their ranks someday. While on his own travels after that, he met a young elf wizard on her own personal journey, and is accompanying her back to Waterdeep.
- Katie plays Maggella “Maggie” Magpie, a female elven wizard.
Maggie was abandoned at a young age, and spent her early years roaming the streets of Waterdeep, stealing what she needed to survive. But, she was eventually taken in and nurtured by Rishaal the Page-Turner in Trollskull Alley, where she found an interest in the books of his shop. Rishaal would go on to sponsor her attendance into Blackstaff Academy, where Maggie matriculated, becoming a wizard.
Looking to repay Rishaal for his kindness, Maggie wanted to travel to the Great Library of Candlekeep and bring him back a rare book. Knowing their admittance policy, Maggie wrote to the wealthy nobles of Waterdeep, requesting such an entrance fee. She received one from well-known philanthropist and friend-to-the-students Victoro Cassalanter, and delivered the book to Candlekeep with a newly-found traveling companion: a dwarf druid on his own personal quest. Maggie returns, now, to Waterdeep in the hopes of meeting up with old friends.
And that’s everyone!
For this campaign, I decided to connect as many of the characters to each other as possible through their backstories. I wanted this kind of web that binds the party together through past connections, and it worked out pretty well, despite everyone being different races that all live for varying lengths of time!
Here’s what I was able to string together for everyone:
The young Halfast is close friends with Maggie. The two enjoy drinks together at the Yawning Portal. Maggie would go there on nights where she probably should have been studying, and Halfast identified with that.
Halfast’s masterfully crafted lute did indeed come from Alma’s family’s business, though he doesn’t know that explicitly at this point, since his sister got it for him.
Jett’s father was in the City Watch, a lifer, as it were. While policing the city, a young elven street urchin would spy for Jett’s father to earn coin. This was Maggie long before she was found by Rishaal.
Alma knows Jett from the City Watch, as they both served together, and shared sentiments on Waterdeep’s police force. Alma also is friends with cleric of Waukeen Obaya Uday, who frequents the Yawning Portal.
Joey’s yet-unnamed character meets Maggie while on his own personal quest to prove himself to the Emerald Enclave, and joins her on the road to Candlekeep for mutual protection. His dwarf, with a love for nature and brewing, also befriends Durnan of the Yawning Portal from his many visits to the city while working in Greenfields.
So I’ve given them all ties to the Yawning Portal – which is where the campaign will begin – and also to various factions in and around Waterdeep. It’ll be interesting to see how all of these threads intertwine once the story gets going. I’m very excited!
Keep your eyes open for the campaign diaries that are coming soon!
Until then, Well Met!