Adventure Hooks: The Xanathar – Crime Lord of Waterdeep

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 28, 2014

a-to-z-2014-xWaterdeep is to the Forgotten Realms what New York City is to the real world. If you can buy it, sell it, eat it, or experience it then you can find it in Waterdeep. It’s the centre of commerce, which naturally attracts thieves and villains. Between the City Watch and the Secret Lords of Waterdeep crime is kept to a minimum, or at least that’s what those in charge want visitors and residents of Waterdeep to believe. In truth there is a criminal master mind that secretly runs all of the criminal activities in Waterdeep, a man known only as The Xanathar.

Throughout April Dungeon’s Master is participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge is to write a new article ever day in April, excluding Sundays. That’s 26 articles over the course of the month. To make things even more interesting the title of each article will begin with a different letter of the alphabet. This year we’ve decided that every article will provide our readers with new adventure hooks. Today “X” is for Xanathar, the infamous Crime Lord of Waterdeep.

xanathar-02The Xanathar’s name has been whispered in the shadows for over a century in Waterdeep. Some believe he’s just a myth created to deter upstart rogues looking to strike it rich in the big city, others know better. The Xanathar keeps a few select lieutenants who run the day-to-day functions of his criminal organization. Cross them and you cross The Xanathar. Anyone working on the wrong side of the law in Waterdeep will eventually run into The Xanathar’s lieutenants.

What only these top lieutenants actually know is that The Xanathar is in fact very real and is not a man as most people suspect but a very powerful Beholder.

The Xanathar has always fascinated me. Think of the effort and schemes and contingencies and magic needed to keep something like that a secret for so long. It opens the doors for so many possible adventures while the party is in the city of Waterdeep. Today we provide some inspiration for just these kind of adventures.

A few years ago I had the privilege of writing an article about The Xanathar for Wizards of the Coast. The article was published in Dungeon Magazine issue 206. You can download it now from the Wizards’ website but you need a DDI subscription. In the article I even provide a few more adventure hooks, so check it out.

Adventure Hooks: The Xanathar – Crime Lord of Waterdeep

1. A Job’s a Job

The PCs are approached by a known agent of the local thieves’ guild. He needs mercenaries for a dangerous job. It pays really well and the PCs need cash. Although the PCs cannot confirm that they’re participating in anything illegal, they get a bad feeling about taking the job given this man’s reputation. Do they accept the job?

2. A Taste of his Own Medicine

The PCs are hired to rescue someone kidnapped by slavers. They learn the kidnap victim is a known lieutenant of a thieves’ guild. Do they help? To they spring him? Do they buy him in a slave auction?

3. Book Report

The PCs find rare books in their latest treasure horde. Finding a buyer is difficult. The only one willing to pay top dollar is a lieutenant of the local thieves’ guild. Do they sell? Do they try to find out why this collector wants the books?

4. Robbing the Robbers

The PCs hear about a recently discovered dungeon full of traps. Rumour is that it once belonged to the leader of the local thieves’ guild. It could still have treasure hidden within. It could still be an active base. Is the risk worth the reward? Maybe they’re told not to investigate.

5. The King is Dead; Long Live the King

An adventuring company claims that they’ve killed the secret leader of the thieves’ guild. Since the leader’s identity is not known it’s difficult to confirm or deny the claim. The known agents won’t say either way. In the weeks following the claim there is a lot more open thievery. Could there be a power play happening.

6. An Exit Strategy

A known lieutenant of the local thieves’ guild approaches the PCs. He wasn’t out and needs their help either escaping the city of faking his own death. Will they help him? What will he offer in return?

7. Secrets Exposed

One of the PCs begins receiving gifts in the form of coins or small trinkets from strangers for no reason. They simply nod or say “respect” when they present the PCs with the gift. Unbeknownst to the PC (at least at first) is that he’s been identified as the mysterious Guildmaster of the underground thieves’ guild. The Guildmaster’s identity has always been shrouded in mystery, but now that he’s been identified thieves want to provide their tribute to him directly rather than the usual known agents. How does the real Guildmaster react when he learns someone else has taken his identity and his tribute? Who started the rumour that the PC was the Guildmaster in the first place? Was it a genuine case of mistaken identity or was it intentional and perhaps part of a larger plan?

Related reading:

  • The Xanathar (the inspiration behind my Dungeon article)
  • Visit the Wizard of the Coast website and download a copy of my article The Xanathar and my adventure Eyes on the Ball. You need a valid DDI subscription to access these articles.

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1 Brian Criswell April 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm

I really like what you did here and especially what you wrote in last year’s article. Although I had to chuckle a little bit that both “Blog A to Z” entries had Xanathar for “X.” I guess there are only so many things that start with “X.”

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