A Splendid Beginning: Waterdeep, Dragon Heist Review

A Splendid Beginning: Waterdeep, Dragon Heist Review

September 18, 2018 0 By Gary

“As you crest the hill, at last, your destination rises into view, like a screaming phoenix bursting into life. Days of arduous travel, countless frozen nights, and torrid encounters with ravenous monsters have led you here: the City of Splendors; Waterdeep; the very beating heart of the world.

Her tall towers glisten in the sun beckoning you closer, her high walls, and its warm rays, offering a supple embrace after a long journey; but betwixt her entrancing summons’ dart shadows, menacing and dark, dancing in and out of your view, like a dervish at the height of frenzy…

Here, in Waterdeep, many stories begin…however, her living shadows remind you…that so too do many end.”

Welcome to Waterdeep

Waterdeep has been a fixture in D&D adventures since the Forgotten Realms were first introduced to Dungeons & Dragons, with many authored by legendary designer (and Canadian!) Ed Greenwood, himself.

Its presence has not been significant in the fifth edition ruleset…but all that changes with the release of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist (available everywhere now.)

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is an adventure set in Waterdeep for characters levels 1-5.

And guess what? It’s about a heist. Set in Waterdeep.

Perhaps you could tell from the title? The characters get caught up in a race to find a cache of treasure, but it isn’t that easy, because every Lord and ne’er do well in the city knows about this treasure too…and they are all want a piece.

The adventure is fun, with just enough clever twists and turns to keep the party engaged throughout…but what’s unique about Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is that it’s highly adaptive to the play style of the characters, with multiple branching options to progress. A Dungeon Master could run the adventure four times and the game would progress differently each time, depending on the choices he or she made at the outset; and, if play suggests the choice made at the outset isn’t the best one, it can be changed on the fly.

The flexibility is lovely, and while it adds some complexity for the Dungeon Master, it’s not enough to detract from what is an excellent introduction to the city of Waterdeep.

Not only does the book include the adventure, it also includes a wealth of information about the city itself, including a detailed description written in the style of a tourist’s guide, written by noted explorer (and bloviator) Volothamp Geddarm (of Volo’s Guide to Monsters), a copy of the city’s laws, and a beautiful full colour map of the city and its wards. It contains everything one would need to build an urban campaign set in Waterdeep, if one was so inclined.

A City of Adventure

The adventure itself is of moderate length that serves as an introduction to Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage, set for release in November, which promises to take characters from level 5 to level 20. Certainly not for the faint of heart, Dungeon of the Mad Mage takes place in Undermountain, beneath the City of Splendors, and in Skullport, the city’s seedy underbelly.

But enough about Halastar Blackcloak, there is treasure to find!

Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is a very accessible adventure for those coming to Dungeons & Dragons for the first time. It has a clever hook and the action picks up quickly. There are opportunities for combat, investigation, and exploration…as well as a few other surprises that won’t be ruined here.

The big question that remains from Waterdeep: Dragon Heist is this: will the heroes be able navigate the city and secure the loot? Or will the villains get there first?

The best part of Dungeons & Dragons is that you don’t know until you play!

Let the dragon hunt begin!

As a noted devotee of friendly local game stores, Wizards of the Coast deserves great credit for their launch strategy for this book: they released Waterdeep: Dragon Heist in FLGS’ before they released it widely. It was available in game shops on September 7th, but not available anywhere else until September 18th, giving game shops an exclusive selling window. Sometimes it’s a little bit more expensive to purchase at a local game shop, but in my opinion, that cost is paying for the community that game shops offer, and Wizards deserves credit for recognizing their importance.

Images copyright Wizards of the Coast and used with permission.

A copy of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist was provided prior to release to allow the writing of this review.