Dragon Heist is a game that any Dungeon Master (DM) will look at and want to play. There are many different routes that your players can choose, and the adventure is different every time. After running this adventure three times as a DM, I am ready to give you my full review of Dragon Heist.
Dragon Heist is a very well-done adventure that takes place in the city of Waterdeep. The city is laid out well and described in a fashion that brings Waterdeep to life. Additionally, Dragon Heist has many different endings, several villains, and makes your players become invested. This is, without a doubt, one of the best starting adventures to play. There are, however, a few issues that you need to be aware of.
Dragon Heist is a great adventure for you and your group. Here is a full review of Dragon Heist to help you decide if you are willing to plunge into the wondrous city of Waterdeep. Be warned – spoilers for the campaign are ahead.
Dragon Heist: A Versatile Adventure
The season that you choose to start your game in will dictate the setting for the campaign. This doesn’t just create weather and festivals, but it also lets you know who the villain will be.
This makes every game different from the outset, but there is more variability than just seasons and villains. Each group chooses their allies so that they have some background connections. Not every group will have connections to the same NPCs, and this can change the course of the game. For example, if the group has connections to an NPC that is part of the Harpers, they may join the Harpers. A different group might have connections to someone from a criminal organization. This could push this group to go down a much different and darker path, changing the game each time it is played, even within the same season.
I ran two Dragon Heist games this summer. Both went down completely different paths, and had almost a totally different adventure based on who they associated with. Taking this even further, your players are able to pledge themselves to different organizations.
These different organizations are able to give completely new mini-quests that provide different rewards, opportunities, and bonuses. You could even spin a mini-campaign from these extra quests! The only complaint is that these quests are very bare bones. It is up to the DM to come up with the specifics for each mission. The maps, character personalities, and more are not provided. You are required to put in a lot of work to make this work, but it can really enhance your campaign.
Due to all of these reasons and more, Dragon Heist is a very versatile adventure. You can go almost anywhere with this adventure and still provide a great campaign. Speaking of the campaign, let’s dive into it level by level!
Level 1: Trolls and Sightseeing
When the party is just a conglomerate of lowly level 1’s, they can’t do much. They are squishy and prone to dying, which is why this time of the campaign is the most stressful for many DMs. Dragon Heist, however, handles this level perfectly.
The party starts out in a tavern where they help assist against a troll by fighting weaker foes, and gain recognition for their actions. This is a natural progression and makes sense for the players. Upon receiving this quest, they are pushed into the town of Waterdeep to learn more about their environment.
This is a brilliant intro, and even after they get to a section with combat, the combat is not lethal at any point. The party should solve this conflicts easily, gain allies, and feel accomplished near the end. This is a great introduction and a lesson on how to make a level 1 adventure exciting, informative, and engaging.
Level 2: Settling In
At this point, the players gain allies and a house and are forced to interact with the world. Anything can happen here. You go on a quest based on who you are loyal to (or trying to be loyal to) and learn about your neighbors while gaining a place to live.
Getting a house prevents the players from becoming murder hobos (as described in our murder hobo article). You prevent the players from going off the rails and encourage them to learn about the world. Obtaining a house also brings neighbors, and Dragon Heist does an excellent job describing the neighbors and making them useful to the party.
The level 2 section of Dragon Heist is absolutely amazing. At this point, the group is able to make the campaign their own through their choice of mission, affiliation, and how to handle their home.
Level 3: Fireball
Your players have become accommodated to their neighborhood and have a place in the city of Waterdeep. They might even have a reputation and should definitely have alliances. Rooted into their comfortable life, this is when things pick up with a Fireball right outside their doorstep!
The action-packed journey makes the players take initiative to figure out what is going on. They need to clear their names or at least divert any suspicion of themselves away from the fireball that blew up right next to their house. If they do nothing, a Fireball might hit their house next time after all! Since they have a personal stake and need to satisfy their curiosity, the players push the plot forward with investigations.
There are many ways to figure out what happened, but all roads lead back to a linear plotline that entangles everyone in a plot of intrigue and mystery. This is a great setup for what is next to come: the finale.
Level 4 : The Finale
Unfortunately, this is where Dragon Heist drops the ball. This is what drew you and many others into the game – varied plots, different villains, and more! The reality is that this part of the adventure becomes a slog-fest that lasts forever.
Remember those extra alliances? Because of those, the players might want to do some side-quests with different factions. This makes level 4 take longer, and there is already a lot to do in this section.
First, you must go through 8 scenes that could take 2-3 sessions if your players are not pushed to make quick decisions. Next, your players need to find out how to get the Stone of Galor, keep it, and get the keys to the vault while avoiding the enemy.
After that, you finally get to enter the vault, possibly be thwarted by your enemy, and either take the gold or just come to an otherwise anti-climactic conclusion.
Almost every time, the players seemed bewildered at the end of the adventure. Often they think, “This is it? Isn’t there more? Where is the Heist?”
At the conclusion, either you succeed in a persuasion roll, or get help from your allies. If you make a persuasion check, then the whole thing seems very anti-climactic. If the players get the authorities involved, then they won’t get the gold, which leaves them unhappy as well.
The ending is a mess that seems to last forever. It takes about as much time to get from level 4 to level 5 as it does to get from level 9 to level 10 in many other games. It is one of the few times I have heard players expectantly asking, “Do we level yet?” They did enough to level a long time ago, so understandably they are confused.
It is unfortunate that the main draw of Dragon Heist, the variable ending, is exactly what holds it back.
This wraps up my review of Dragon Heist. All in all, an almost perfect adventure is sadly ruined by the ending. I would have almost declared this the best adventure hands down for its many wonderful aspects. Handling level 1 players, introducing them to a city/world naturally, giving them a house, and so much variability in plot progression. At every step except for the last, Dragon Heist did an amazing job. This adventure is what many newer DMs need to study and adapt to their games.
As stated, however, this adventure’s perfection is marred by the ending. It lasts too long, has too much built up, and the ending goes out with a whimper, not a bang.
For this review of Dragon Heist, I would give it an 8/10. The first 3 levels are amazing, but the last just needed to end.
I hope that you found this review of Dragon Heist helpful.
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