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Scoundrels of Skullport
Bart Carroll

S coundrels of Skullport—bringing two new expansions to the Lords of Waterdeep board game—has arrived! Two new locations are added to the game, with the sprawling dungeon of Undermountain and the criminal haven of Skullport (both adding in new Lords, Buildings, Intrigue, and Quest cards). Fans of the Forgotten Realms will be well-versed in these locations, but to help celebrate the expansions' release, we wanted to further explore their connections to this grand setting.

Both locations carry a mountain of game history behind them—an exhaustive history of each would be a nigh impossible task. Instead, let's consider Skullport and Undermountain through the following 10 Quests....


First off, we wanted to showcase the gameboards for each expansion.

Undermountain

Undermountain is a vast and multileveled dungeon beneath Mount Waterdeep that once served the crazed wizard Halaster as a site for magical experiments. Now it is a labyrinthine maze with few refuges for weary adventurers.

Skullport

Skullport—also known as the Port of Shadow—is nestled in the heart of Undermountain, deep below the streets of Waterdeep. It is a haven for nefarious crimes, underhanded deals, and back-alley murders. Those who visit Skullport do so at their own peril, for around every corner are new ways to make people disappear.


And now for the new Quests.

10. Defend the Yawning Portal

Here it is—for a great many adventurers, The Yawning Portal is the entry point into Undermountain (and why we start with this particular quest). "A certain infamous inn near the docks in Waterdeep, The Yawning Portal—its proprietor, one Durnan the Wanderer—is the only widely-known entrance to Undermountain easily accessible to the general public. Rather, it is the only known entrance accessible to those elements of the general public desperate or deranged enough to attempt entry into the underways."

Durnan we've already met, since he is one of the playable lords in the Lords of Waterdeep base game. Look for his inn on Rainrun Street, two doors west of The Empty Keg Tavern and next door to Mother Salinka's House of Pleasure. For a fee of 1 gp/person, Durnan himself will hoist you down the Entry Well—from there, you're on your own in Undermountain.

Click Image for the Quest Card



9. Protect Converts to Eilistraee

Located within Undermountain's third level, Skullport has long served as "a smuggling and trading base for stolen and illegal cargo in the City of Splendors. Body parts, cadavers, drugs, ask-no-questions mercenaries, slaves, evil and vile magic, poisons, and almost anything else can be found for sale in its dark ways."

Sanctuary is hard to come by in a setting as cutthroat as Skullport. Adventurers are advised to make use of any possible haven—even if that means working with the drow. Although most dark elves worship the Spider Queen, good-aligned drow often worship Eilistraee, the Dark Maiden. Thankfully for escaped slaves and wayward adventurers, the clergy of Eilistraee maintain a presence near Skullport—and are said to provide much needed succor.

Click Image for the Quest Card



8. Defend the Lanceboard Room

Set within the Dungeon Level of Undermountain: "the floor of the room is of some glassy-smooth, gleaming rock, laid in alternating squares like a giant lanceboard game: 10 × 10 black and white squares…. This room is, as it looks, a series of waiting traps."

To successfully cross this room, adventurers must determine which black and white squares are safe based on the rules of lanceboard (a variant of chess, played with the knights trying to reach the opposite end of the board while guarding their queen). Stepping on the wrong square summons lightning bolts, magic missiles, stirges, or gargoyles—not to mention one square that should be safe instead conceals a pit trap (with a mimic disguised as a coffin at the bottom, for good measure—a gotcha monster for a gotcha trap, though Halaster would occasionally change out this monster for variety).

NOTE: Chessboards have made their appearance in other sources—for instance, the following set of Dragon magazine covers:

Click Image for the Quest Card



7. Enter the Tower of Seven Woes

Much different than the biblical “seven woes” criticizing the Pharisees, the woes in this tower concern Skullport—and specifically, Skullport's Skull Island, which serves as the holding location for slaves being transported and sold. Skull Island's most prominent feature, the Tower of Seven Woes was sculpted from a massive stalactite extending to the ground ("piercing" the upper halls of the prison itself).

There are few good reasons to willingly enter the tower—its seven levels are each dedicated to a form of pain and suffering in the name of Loviatar (the Maiden of Pain). It is said that "on days holy to Loviatar, the tower rings with the screams of the tormented, a sound which can be heard throughout the Port."

Click Image for the Quest Card



6. Recover the Flame of the North

Another chamber within Undermountain's Dungeon Level, the tomb of High King Arthangh, held the magic sword named the Flame of the North. After defeating the sword’s guardian (a crawling claw), the weapon could be recovered: a two-handed sword, +2/+4 against chaotic evil creatures with an everbright blade that could not rust, tarnish, stain, or be harmed by acid, blood, flames, or other substances. In addition, the sword absorbed electrical attacks and magic missiles (thus making it quite useful in crossing the Lanceboard Room), and had a chance to reflect other spells back on their caster.

Not a bad find, down in the Dungeon Level.

NOTE: The sword also made an appearance in the Baldur's Gate II video game, where its description claimed that the sword's name "does not refer to the blade itself, but rather to the woman who originally wielded it in the icy hinterlands of Faerûn."

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5. Give Honor to the Mask

What is this mysterious mask, described as a veil of bejeweled white silk, secured by a string of pearls (and functioning as both a hat of disguise and a medallion of thoughts)?

The mask's significance beyond a mere magic item speaks to Waterdeep's greater intrigues. Lhestyn (the Masked Lady and another Lord of Waterdeep) once used it to infiltrate the Shadow Thieves—with the mask since becoming a symbol of justice to the common citizen of Waterdeep. Nevertheless, the mask itself has since vanished, with the Shadow Thieves themselves now among those searching for it.

Click Image for the Quest Card



4. Steal Gems from the Bone Throne

The area featured here is one more chamber from Undermountain's Dungeon Level—this one containing a giant, high-backed throne. "This grand seat is fashioned of interwoven, bleached bones. Gems wink here and there on its arms, and its arms are carved into the semblance of two spitting snakes."

Naturally, adventurers look to pluck these gems (as adventurers are wont to do), where they soon discover the throne's arms to be actual snakes (which either animate or teleport in, depending on the source)—said to be Halaster's strange research method into finding humans resistant to snake venom.

In addition to the gems, the throne's arguably greater treasure was hidden beneath its seat—various magic items, which have often included monsters trapped within glowing spheres.

NOTE: The original gems, for trivia, included the following:

  • 26 carnelians (orange, pear-shaped cut; each worth 50 gp)
  • 4 large citrines (pale yellow-brown, cabochon cut; each worth 75 gp)
  • 18 moonstones (white with pale blue hue and "glow" reflection, table cut; each worth 55 gp)
  • 33 sardonyxes (banded red and white, step cut; each worth 50 gp)
  • 24 large zircons (clear pale aqua, scissors cut; each worth 65 gp)
  • 12 garnets (violet, navette cut; each worth 500 gp)
  • 8 spinels (deep blue, briolette cut; each worth 500 gp)

Not only did the original throne mention the value of the gems, their type, and their color, but also their cut! 1st Edition conveyed a great detail of such miscellany—such as the further information from the Dungeon Master’s Guide, that the reputed magical properties of gems would have included the carnelian’s protection from evil and the moonstone’s potential to cause lycanthropy.

NOTE: A cousin to the Bone Throne has also appeared in Magic: The Gathering.

Click Image for the Quest Card



3. Explore Trobriand's Graveyard

You might think it's the undead that wander this graveyard—but no, Trobriand was the secretive "Metal Mage," said to rate second to none as a master of metal and its enchantment—and regarded as the most powerful of Halaster's ex-apprentices.

His laboratories are hidden somewhere within Undermountain, where he "delights in the creation of magical constructs and creatures of metal, and considers his offspring superior in many ways to living creatures." As for his graveyard, this was a deeper region where he cast off intriguing rejects—and where they began to repair themselves and build other units out of scrap parts. Ever the experimenter, Trobriand "set up a one-way, mobile gate to send random creatures, including luckless adventurers, to his discarded playthings to see how his ‘children’ would deal with these intrusions from the outside world."

NOTES: For those curious about his stats (and how he might have fared in one of our creature competitions):

From the Ruins of Undermountain (pg. 108):

Trobriand hm W16: AC 2; MV 12; hp 36; THAC0 15; #AT 1; Dmg by spell or weapon type; I 18; AL NE.

From the Ruins of Undermountain II: "Those who have seen the earlier Ruins of Undermountain boxed set already have passing familiarity with Trobriand from that work. In the time intervening, Trobriand has progressed even farther in his career."

Trobriand: NE hm W 18; AC –2; MV 12; HP 38; THAC0 15; #AT 1; Dmg by spell or weapon type; INT 18.

Click Image for the Quest Card



2. Rescue a Victim from the Skulls

Few beings are held in more fear and deference throughout Skullport than its namesake Skulls—sentinels of order in that dangerous community. Possessed of a "strange, alien intellect," the Skulls "are known to speak in cryptic phrases and ancient tongues long since vanished from the Realms. The Skulls often make bizarre demands of those who cross their paths or otherwise attract their attention, and their reaction to events is unpredictable."

How the Skulls came to be reveals some of the earliest history of the city. Once Netherese arcanists, they experimented with the mythal (magical protection) of their city until it accidentally drew them into the magic itself—transforming the thirteen most powerful arcanists into the Skulls.

Since then, these floating, disembodied skulls wander Skullport, "tending to aims only they can fathom." Rescuing a victim from the Skulls would be a daring feat indeed—going against their sometimes whimsical and often harsh will, enforced through the use of their cryptic magical means.

Click Image for the Quest Card



1. Survive a Meeting with Halaster

And here we end things, folks—with a look at the "Mad Mage of Undermountain" himself. For a very brief recap of his activities, Halaster and his apprentices initiated several expeditions (known as Halaster's Hunts) to drive out the drow and duergar from the Underhalls beneath Mount Waterdeep—with Halaster occupying the halls for his own, populating them with monsters and treasure, and creating "Undermountain" as we all know it today.

Halaster "looks upon the dungeon as a dear and deadly home, an amusement gallery in which others perform to entertain him. It is also his own waiting trap-net which brings him new companions, new magic, and new creatures to catch, study, and catalogue." Said to be one of the few who can travel the spheres without a spelljamming ship, his expertise with magical gates allows him to travel far and wide. "Now, he spends much of his time creating gates and turning them on and off, tirelessly working to restock the dungeon with monsters. He is constantly altering its perils so no being or group gains decisive control of the upper halls of Undermountain."

Naturally, Halaster also appears as a new lord for the game. Best of luck for those looking to play against him!

Click Image for the Quest Card


Scoundrels of Skullport Livestream Archive

Members of Wizards R&D (Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee, Jennifer Clarke Wilkes and Tom Olsen) played through the Skullport expansion from Scoundrels of Skullport for the Lords of Waterdeep board game. During the game we showed off one of the new lords, new quests, new intrigue cards, new buildings, and the new Corruption mechanic.

Scoundrels of Skullport: Part 1

Scoundrels of Skullport: Part 2

Bart Carroll
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll) and at bartjcarroll.com.

Comments
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How come there are no artist credits (here or on the cards themselves)? I want to know who drew these pretty pictures!
  
Posted By: G_X (9/18/2013 2:22:09 PM)
Rating: 
0.51.01.52.02.53.03.54.04.55.0

 


In the 15 years I worked for wizards I don't think I was more impressed with the quality of a game than I was with Lords of Waterdeep and I was proud to have been able to playtest this expansion. Great job guys!
  
Posted By: MJindra (9/15/2013 11:09:05 PM)
Rating: 
0.51.01.52.02.53.03.54.04.55.0

 


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