We had our session zero for Dragon Heist. It was fairly low-key, everyone came in with a pretty good idea of the character they wanted to play and I don’t think anyone changed their character too much. The main thing we established were what languages our various characters spoke to cover multiple bases.
Again let’s think of the goals for creating this Dragon Heist Character. I’ve already expressed a stated preference to play a Cleric and I think they hit all these points.
First, a character that works at low levels. While I would really like to do a Rogue/Conjurer Journalist, Dragon Heist is a level 1-5 adventure. This is the realm best explored by single classed characters. Fortunately AL Rules allow rebuilding at such low levels. One of our PCs was taking a hard look at Druid with the Circle of Shepherds but the group consensus was that it was smarter to start Moon Druid and then rebuild to Shepherd later because the Conjuring spells are higher level.
Second, a character who does not know Waterdeep. Me the player does not know Waterdeep the way I know Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter. I don’t want to bring a character that makes me constantly think, “Boy this person should really know who The Xanathar is.” This is expressed by their Aasimar race.
Third, we have some new players and frequent DMs getting a chance to play. I want them to have a good time. I should play a more supporting role in the party and give them the chance to put the big damage up on the board and shine the spotlight on them a bit more. I should not be the Charisma character takes the lead in RP situations. I want to be the character handing out Gatorade, managing HP scores, and dispensing buffs. Cleric hits all those marks and the Sage background/Knowledge cleric gives my character the tools to help other people actually solve the problems.
I came away from the session with one idea to ruminate on going forward. This was the question, “what does your character value?” The character I’m running is the 4E Deva with multiple past lives, spent chronicling the universe in the service of the deity, Savras. And there is a sort of problem with this that mirrors the Replicants from Blade Runner which is, the character is formed whole. You come into the world as a complete adult person with basic skills. But that person has no concept of emotional intelligence or personal desires. The character is constantly laboring on chronicling the circumstances around them. I picture this as information communicated through the holy symbol rather than writing down everything, although me the player will be trying to write down everything.
I can’t remember exactly how the person at the table phrased it, but they asked me what my character valued or desired personally, outside of this sort of greater goal of defining Waterdeep. And my response was, “I don’t understand that question.” They’re very much like the Eberron Warforged in a way. This character didn’t have a childhood, they don’t have an idea that one day they will retire and look back on all their career. They know, with certainty, that they will be reincarnated and continue their work. Will it be the same work? Maybe, maybe you fall and become a lower caste aasimar or even a Rakshasa.
I usually write these centered on my character’s perspective, their experience, and the adventure itself. That isn’t just narcissism, the other players and DMs might not be okay with me making long posts about their characters and DM styles and I want to be respectful of that.
Story wise, we talked about the choice of villain. Dragon Heist marketing and cultural osmosis has kind of spoiled that this adventure has four potential villains and you can choose one. It was smart to put this in the marketing because I think some people felt burned by Storm King’s Thunder where you only need to go to one of the five Giant strongholds and the adventure expects you to skip the others. Putting upfront that the adventure is meant to be replayable is a smart move. The villain choices put forward are: Jarlaxle, the famous Drow mercenary. Manshoon, a wizard who founded the Zhentarim, The Xanathar, the beholder who runs the thieves guild named after them, and the Cassalanters, a noble family with infernal connections.
I would love to see what percentage of people go with what villain. I suspect my thoughts on the subject are not unique. I really did not want to do the Xanathar. Coming off Tomb of Annihilation and watching Dice Camera Action I feel Beholdered out. I suspect with Dungeon of the Mad Mage we’re going to get more Beholders. I’m good with them for now. With Jarlaxle I feel like you’re signing up for a whole Drow thing and I just don’t really want to do that. Does everyone need to speak undercommon?
This leaves Manshoon and the Cassalanters. As an aasimar cleric, it sounds like they’d have more fun with the fiendish nobles rather than the wizard. And the twitter buzz has said that the Cassalanter story gets pretty dark and depraved which I’m all for. The one time we don’t have a Tiefling in our party.