10
\$\begingroup\$

In the first pages of Dragon Heist, you're told to

When you run this adventure, you choose its main villain at the outset. Your choice determines the season of the year in which the story takes place, as well as the antagonists in several of the encounters in chapter 4.

While multiple places in the book specify you can switch villains at any point.

You can swap out one villain for another at any time.

If you switch to a new villain midway through the adventure, don't change the season to match.

The problem is, there aren't any guidelines to choosing the villain. I've read the first 3 chapters, and so far there are only allusions to Xanathar's and Manshoon's (in the gang war of Xanathar VS Zhentarim). There is a brief allusion to the Cassalanters in a Force Grey mission about the Black Viper, and there is also a mission to visit Jarlaxle in his ships at some point.

So, what are good guidelines to choosing the villain at the outset? Should it depend on what my players are expecting? Or on their alignments? Or just something fun for me to DM?

My thought process so far is to either go Xanathar or Manshoon, since those are the most familiar to PCs for most of the story. But even then, I only came to that conclusion after reading a few chapters, and I'm not sure if I should read the book in its entirety before starting the campaign.


If there are no official guidelines to this question, please back up your answers with your own experience.

\$\endgroup\$
10
\$\begingroup\$

Each of the villains has their own flavor, and each suits a different style of play. It's worth reading the Play Style chapter of the DMG (page 34) and considering which suits your group, then reading the chapters relevant to the four villains to see which suits your campaign style best. In loose terms, Jarlaxle is intended as a swashbuckling anti-hero with a bit of a spy-movie feel, Manshoon is a villainous mastermind at the center of his well-defended lair, and The Xanathar is an eccentric and sometimes darkly humorous oddball character.

It's worth considering that the Summer story arc with the Cassalanters as villains is, by design, a tough moral dilemma to face the party with. To quote Dragon Heist co-designer James Haeck from an article in DnD Beyond:

The most horrific moment of the entire story happens when the player characters make a no-win choice at the end of the Cassalanter storyline.

This refers to the fact that the plot driving the Cassalanters as villains is built around

a sort of Trolley dilemma, where the party's success in the scenario dooms two children, while their failure or inaction dooms 99 strangers.

In light of all that, pay special attention to list of questions on page 34 of the DMG, and compare them against the 4 villains presented. Answering those questions will help guide you to the right choice for your group.

\$\endgroup\$
0
\$\begingroup\$

I do not have any official rulings on this but in my past experiences the most notable way to choose a villain is to determine the season and that will determine the villain. One of my DM's rolled a d4 and let that choose: 1=Spring, 2=Summer, 3=Fall, 4=Winter. There doesn't seem to be any set "right way" to choose a villain. Realistically the campaign can be played with each season to have four different outcomes. The alignments of your party does not need to be a factor in choosing and the player expectations (for most of the players I've seen) is to have Xanathar as the villain. You are the DM, make it what you want.

\$\endgroup\$
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ This is a way to do it, but it doesn't really answer the question. The OP is seeking guidelines on how to choose, depending on player expectations, alignments, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – JohnP Jun 18 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JohnP I was answering in regard to the final statement in his question. \$\endgroup\$ – Eternallord66 Jun 18 at 14:08

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.