Friday last week was the early release date for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, the latest Dungeons & Dragons hardcover adventure from Wizards of the Coast. (The official release is on September 18.) While previous 5th Edition D&D adventures have focused on the large-scale apocalyptic plots of dragons, giants and demons, Dragon Heist is much more small-scale and down-to-earth. Adventurers explore Waterdeep, the city of splendours, racing against underworld rivals to find a stash of 500 000 gold pieces. (In Waterdeep, gold coins are known as ‘dragons’.)
As well as being a much more localized adventure, Dragon Heist isn’t designed to be used a long campaign. Unlike previous 5th Edition hardcovers, Dragon Heist is only designed to progress player characters from first to fifth level. For this reason, I think Dragon Heist will serve well as a new introductory adventure – an alternative to Lost Mine of Phandelver or In Volo’s Wake. Those who are keen to continue on all the way to level twenty will be able to, with Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage dropping soon after, in November.
Because this adventure only spans levels one to five, WotC have been able to use the extra space to provide four different ways of running the adventure. Each version of the adventure is set in a different season and features different villains, so it has a lot of replay value.
I think this adventure also has a greater emphasis on roleplay and diplomacy than previous 5th Edition hardcovers – in fact, adventurers who try to fight their way through the adventure will probably find themselves in trouble with the law or being hunted down by one of the city’s underworld factions.
Early on in the adventure there is an opportunity for the party to begin running their own Waterdeep tavern, which I expect will be of interest to those players who enjoy the social side of D&D.
The five Sword Coast factions (as well as some local groups like Force Grey) are well integrated into the adventure. There are a lot of ways for adventurers pursue renown within their faction, and there are lots of opportunities for faction members to call in favors from their faction, particularly toward the end of the adventure.
I’m not planning to run this adventure as it is written straight away, but my Thursday night D&D group is currently not far from Waterdeep, and I’m looking forward to using some of the content from this book if they end up in the city of splendors. There’s one chapter where Volo gives an overview of each area of the city, and the adventure proper gives a lot of detail about the lairs of a number of Waterdeep operatives that adventurers could cross paths with. The bestiary provides stats for a lot of powerful non-player characters, presented like the superheroes and criminal masterminds of a renaissance city.
You can preorder a copy of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist via Amazon here.