Dragon Heist is my favourite official 5th edition storyline so far (read my review and running notes here), and one of the things that makes it so great is that it’s very easy to enhance and expand the material that’s presented in the book. In fact, you’ll be more or less obliged to add to the adventure, as your party run amok in Waterdeep, completing various faction missions (presented as only one or two sentences in the WOTC publication), and getting embroiled in the city’s social, political and commercial fabric.
The following supplements all helped me develop either Dragon Heist the adventure or Waterdeep the setting, and I’m pretty confident any DM would benefit from getting their mitts on a handful of the following list. So here they are in no particular order…
Best Dragon Heist Supplements
1. Waterdeep City Encounters
This rather wonderful little book of inspiration has been number 1 best-selling product by Wizards of the Coast / Guilds Adept on the DM’s Guild for as long as I can remember. It consists of two major parts. The first is a series of random urban encounters – close to one hundred in total – that you can use in your game, with percentage chance of triggering the encounter based on what ward (district) your party are currently exploring (meaning you don’t have to reroll Sea Spawn in the Castle Ward, as that encounter only appears on the Dock Ward section of the encounter table). A mix of every day city life (Angry Mob, Book Thief, Chamber Pot, Crashed Carriage, Funeral Procession, Snake Oil Salesman) and more fantastical fare (Awakened Tree, Ensorcelled Child, Haywire Experiment), these encounters will definitely help bring Waterdeep to life in your campaign – and fill any lull in the adventure. The second part is perhaps even more interesting, as it details 31 location-based encounters. I found just having a list of these locations (Blackstaff Towers, Endshift Tavern, Spires of the Morning, Court of the White Bull), and one line about them, helps your world-building capabilities – and if your party does visit any of them, you’ve got a ready-made encounter. Even better would have been more info on each of the locations and maps would have been lovely, but hey! The appendix features some more nuanced weather tables, that I also appreciated having. (Tip: put one of the PCs in charge of determining the weather every day… you’ve got enough on your plate!). The book is written by Will Doyle.
Buy Waterdeep City Encounters on the DMsGuild. Price $7.95.
2. Waterdeep Background Hooks
I’ll justify putting my own product at number two on this list, as chronologically it concerns events that happen before Waterdeep: Dragon Heist begins, so something to think about pre-adventure. One of my principles, as a Dungeon Master, is to use my players’ backstories as part of the narrative, intertwining them with my NPCs – after all, the players are invested in their backstories and you can leverage more emotional engagement when you design your game this way. However, when you play a published adventure this is pretty much impossible to do. The players don’t know that they are going to run into Xanathar, Jarlaxle, Volo etc. so they can’t possible include these personalities in their backstory…. my background hooks however does that for them. It introduces events in their past that involve the NPC cast of Dragon Heist, helping raise the stakes when those same NPCs come onto the scene. Obviously you don’t want to force a player into taking one of these hooks, but with 30 to choose from they should find one that fits their character concept – whether it was once ill-advisedly working for the Xanathar Guild, or perhaps being Volo’s guide when he was out in the wilderness researching monsters (strange how the renowned author studiously noted down everything you said, and then didn’t show any interest in meeting said beast in the flesh!). At any rate, these worked really well in my campaign, so I hope they will do likewise for yours… if you check the preview on the DMs Guild you’ll get a better idea of how these work!
Buy Waterdeep City Encounters on the DMsGuild. Price $1.99.
3. Complete DM’s Bundle
J.A. Valeur has made a career of publishing popular ancillary products for official WOTC campaigns. His series of chapter-by-chapter running guides for Dragon Heist are all best-sellers in their own right, but you can do yourself a favour and buy them bundled up! Each chapter guide comes with valuable insight on the adventure, which should speed up your processing and understanding of how to run it. It also includes plenty of cool little ideas on how to improve each scene, several of which I incorporated into my own running of Dragon Heist – while other suggestions inspired my own ideas. After that, you get handy ‘DMs Notes’ for each chapter, plus the collated stat blocks of the monsters encountered in that chapter (so you have the stat blocks you need, when and where you need them!). Finally there’s coloured maps of key locations (with DM and gridded versions) which are worth the entry fee alone! Especially for VTT users, who can plug and play. Speaking of VTT users, you can also buy this bundle for Fantasy Grounds…
Buy Waterdeep Dragon Heist: Complete DM’s Bundle on the DMsGuild. Price $14.95.
4. Expanded Faction Missions
My first thought when reading Dragon Heist was “someone should really expand on those faction missions!” Hey presto, up stepped Brandon Waldmann to the plate and delivered these more fleshed out side quests to correspond with those that appear in Chapter 2 of the official adventure. If, like me, you are not that keen on improvising stuff on the fly, it’s really nice to have all this done for you! As a ‘pay what you want’ product, you can even grab it for free… but I think the suggested price of 5 dollars is more than fair!
Buy Expanded Faction Missions on the DMsGuild. Suggested price $4.99.
5. Various Trollskull Supplements
We play Dungeons & Dragons to unleash our heroic fantasies of being blade-twirling barbarians or wizards that can turn invisible, fling fireballs or bend time…. right!? Well, if Waterdeep: Dragon Heist has taught us anything it’s that a surprising amount of us fantasise about being a pub landlord. Seriously, your players WILL get invested in their new property on Trollskull Alley! As a result, you may wish to pick up some of the following best-selling supplements to make the most of this part of the story: Fixing Trollskull Manor, Residents of Trollskull Alley, and The Haunting of Trollskull Manor, while this rather beautiful Trollskull Manor Deed handout makes for a fine prop. Finally, the Platinum best-selling Lady of Trollskull Priory is a gothic horror adventure that takes place on the PC’s new doorstep, and a fun way to extend the neighbourhood exploration.
6. Blue Alley
This seditious side street is a part of Waterdeep lore, first conceived by Ed Greenwood himself, and expounded upon by renowned adventure writers M.T. Black and Alan Patrick in this Dragon Heist side quest. Essentially a deathtrap dungeon hiding in plain sight on the surface of Waterdeep’s city streets (Sea Ward to be precise), its existence owes to the whims of a crazy wizard (naturally!), who set up the obstacle course for sh*ts and giggles, basically. In this adventure, Mirt charges the PCs with recovering the Celestite Unicorn as a side quest, not related to Dragon Heist’s main plot… however, given that a unicorn is one of the potential Vault Keys needed to enter the adventure’s final location, you could easily up the stakes here and make entering Blue Alley a key component of your rendition of WDH.
Buy Blue Alley on the DMsGuild. Price $4.95.
7. Waterdeep: A Tale of Two Fishies
I confess, I haven’t read this one, but I would definitely pick it up if I was running Dragon Heist again… a Platinum bestseller with 21 five-star reviews, it promises to put the ‘heist’ into Dragon Heist with a daring mission to steal Xanathar’s beloved gold fish, Sylgar (and who wouldn’t want to try that!). This tale sounds like it would also work well as a short stand-alone adventure and with “a talking goldfish, a table-flipping bugbear, a gnome with ichthyophobia, robot beholders, a disco dance floor, a giant slot machine” it sounds like it’s not taking itself too seriously!
Buy Waterdeep: A Tail of Two Fishies on the DMsGuild. Price $5.99.
8. Dragon Heist Forgotten Tales
A collaboration between two of the writers who worked on the main Dragon Heist storyline (in James Haeck and James Introcaso), plus Will Doyle of Waterdeep City Encounters fame (see number 1 on this list), you’re in safe hands with this release that re-imagines many of the happenings of WDH by putting Jarlaxle’s Bregan D’aerthe faction and the Cassalanters’ secret cult of Asmodeus front and centre, rather than the conflict between Xanathar and the Zhentarim. In other words, this is the perfect product for DMs running the adventure a second time…. but not only, because one of Forgotten Tales’ major allures is that is also includes a wholly reimagined end of Chapter 4, wherein the Vault of Dragons is a three-storey, above ground bank, that is begging to be heisted. This feels more like the ending that the adventure demands!
Buy Dragon Heist: Forgotten Tales on the DMsGuild. Price $7.95.
9. Here’s To Crime + A Handful of Heists
While we’re on the topic of putting the ‘heist’ back into Dragon Heist, here are two great supplements that will help you get that Ocean’s 11 or Italian Job flavour into your adventure (something which D&D doesn’t excel at!). Here’s To Crime is a really innovative re-imagining of Dungeons & Dragons mechanics to allow for fast-paced, narrative crime capers, using mostly skill checks. The author, Jimmy Meritt, breaks heists down into three stages: The Plan, The Caper and The Score, and provides really simple fun rules for determining the success of each, which should lead to some memorable game play! It would be churlish not to mention Jimmy’s complementary product A Handful of Heists, featuring several cool Waterdeep locales begging to be burgled. Both PDFs have proved mega best-sellers.
10. City of Splendours
I can see why Wizards of the Coast don’t release location-focused lore books these days. They make for rather dry reading, and Wizards’ formula of mixing lore, mechanics and player options into most of their present-day releases seems to have hit the mark, sales wise. On the other hand, this throwback to the days of 3.5e is encyclopaedic in scope and offers much of the information that I felt was missing in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. If you’ve never been to Waterdeep before, it’s a very useful read, with a lot of material you can bring into your game, especially if you’re no respecter of canonical timelines (and really, why would you be?), as the NPCs are from the 1300s (we’re currently, officially in the 1490s).
Buy City of Splendors: Waterdeep on the DMsGuild. Price $9.99 (also available as a soft cover).
So you’ve conquered Waterdeep and become local legends… the swashbuckling band of fearless souls who fought off the city’s most nefarious factions to return Neverember’s gold to its rightful owners. Now that you’ve built up an army of admirers, allies, patrons, collaborators, love interests, and a rather wonderful pub of your own in North Ward, what are you going to do next? Obviously, you’re going to want to disappear off the face of the earth and down into Undermountain for the next 15 levels of your adventuring days….
I’m not the first one to point out that Dungeon of the Mad Mage is far from the ideal sequel to Dragon Heist. The two storylines share nothing in common, except rough geographical location, nor do they represent the same style of gameplay (urban intrigue vs. funhouse dungeon clearing), and by the time you’ve finished Dragon Heist you should be sitting on all manner of ripe story hooks and personal development quests that mean your players are unlikely to want to leave Waterdeep for too long. But I think I might be the first person to write an alternative sequel to Dragon Heist to rectify that…
Dragonbowl takes the adventurers down into the Underbelly cavern in the bowels of Mount Waterdeep, where an underground fighting tournament is taking place. In fact, Dragonbowl is much more than a gladiatorial games, it’s a week-long festival of parties, parades and processions with 30+ locations to explore and a cast of Machiavellian showrunners and spectators that will allow DMs to continue the same intriguing style of play that they adopted during Dragon Heist. For example, Jarlaxle is there selling nimblewrights fitted with scrying devices (hat tip: The Alexandrian for the inspiration) at the arcana trade fair he is sponsoring, Davil has set up a money lending operation and is in talks with Thay representatives about reestablishing a slave trade along the Sword Coast, while Xanathar has plans to fry the Dragonbowl executives and take over the entire franchise. All fun things for your players to get embroiled in, as they simultaneously seek to be crowned Dragonbowl Champions.
You can read more about Dragonbowl elsewhere on the blog, or click the DMs Guild link below to preview the adventure.
Buy DRAGONBOWL on the DMsGuild. Price $14.95 for a limited time only!
Best of the Rest
i. The Press of Waterdeep. 13 front page hand outs that can also serve as story leads.
ii. Dragon Heist NPCs Map. This chart should probably have an entry of it’s own! The author has done a great job of organising the adventure’s 150 NPCs by factions!
iii. Waterdeeps Notice Boards: Quest Seeds. 42 well-thought out quest seeds here, for your players to sink their teeth into. Also presented is a paragraph of DM info for each seed, so unlike with the adventure’s faction missions you won’t have to invest much creativity yourself. A lot of the work’s been done for you.
iv. Waterdeep: People, Places & Shop. A useful suite of content that can help you improvise a living city on the fly.
v. Unseen Waterdeep. Four villains not enough for you? James Introcaso introduces a 5th potential arch-nemesis for Dragon Heisters in Hlaavin leader of the Unseen group of creeps and misfits. Comes replete with new encounter chain for Chapter 4.
Official Products / Supplements
For those with a little spare cash, WOTC official partners do a fine array of additional products, such as themed miniatures, dice and DMs Screen, all available to buy on Amazon.com.
1. WizKids Miniatures
These pre-painted miniatures look awesome! Seems like they’re sold like the old Panini sticker packs, though and you basically get a random a bunch of figures, possibly / probably leaving you short of a full collection or the ones you need for your game. Still, for mini-lovers a fun buy you can use on your table, even if the business model seems a little geared towards selling you a bunch of duplicates you don’t need, while leaving you short of a few you do. Take a look yourself, here. (Update: I noticed you can get a few icons as singular miniatures, like Xanathar).
2. Laerel Silverhand’s Explorer’s Kit
I’m a little wary of themed dice, however gorgeous, as I feel you’re paying a big mark up for some packaging. But seeing that this pack includes colour maps of both the Sword Coast and Waterdeep, as well as some location-lore cards, this is starting to look like a really good deal. The latter would be nice handout for your players! You can buy here.
3. Waterdeep: Dragon Heist – DM’s Screen
A handy themed screen with Waterdeep’s Code Legal, two encounter lists (daytime and nighttime), a list of inns, taverns, and festhalls by city ward, a pair of d100 charts for pickpockets etc and a broadsheet list. Shop here.
Lords of Waterdeep Board Game
This board game has kept me and my friends entertained on many an evening, as well as during the first lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a really cool resource management game that is strategic without being too challenging, and with a round limit that keeps the game from ever dragging on too long. I mention Lords of Waterdeep here, because each of the quest cards (there must be well over 100) is the perfect seed for a faction mission you can fit into your D&D roleplaying games. So it’s an ideal game for Dragon Heist inspiration… while being fantastic fun in its own right. You can grab it on Amazon.com.
Finally, don’t forget to pick up a copy of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist itself 😉
Or head over to my review of Dragon Heist, with new beginning and running tips!