Wizards of the Coast’s Waterdeep Dragon Heist adventure for Dungeons & Dragons is something very different and I’m of two minds about it. Meant for characters levels 1-5, it’s no dungeon crawl, MacGuffin quest, or wilderness expedition, rather an investigative style adventure set in one of the Forgotten Realms’ most famous urban locales. Supplementing that part of the book is a 25 page visitor’s guide to Waterdeep written from the perspective of an iconic Realms character.

On the positive side, Dragon Heist provides a distinctive fun adventure for low-level characters, one that combines interesting combat encounters with a variety of roleplaying opportunities, engaging story, and intrigue-filled backdrop. Part of the way through, the players’ characters may end up owning their own city property to use as a base of operations.

I love how Dragon Heist brings the city of Waterdeep to life with social and political factions, historic and mundane locations, and oh so many characters! The complex life of the city is even reflected in the art, which features a number of normal looking street scenes.

On the negative side are difficult to accept plot devices and confusing superfluous content. Now perhaps I should be more willing to suspend disbelief—players in the games I run tend to be a lot more forgiving—but some of these are very weak or poorly constructed. There’s the sentient artifact that resists revealing its secret to anyone but the player characters, the search for a creature that comes down to borrowing someone’s already-made custom detector device, bad guys that bungle their schemes just enough to attract the characters’ attention, and chase scenes rigged for a certain result.

What bothers me the most, though, is not the adventure but the structure of the product. The book takes 60 pages to describe lairs that, if the story unfolds as intended, the players should never visit. And, while the ultimate prize offered the characters is the same, the book presents four alternate antagonists, each with their own extended encounter sequence. The situations faced in these alternate encounters are different but they’re set in many of the same locations. Except, in a way, the secret location of the ultimate prize. That depends, for no apparent reason, on whom the DM has chosen to oppose the characters.

Why this convoluted setup? More than unnecessary, it creates major characters with inspiring motivations for the story line but then asks you to ignore most of them. I suggest two possible explanations. One, it fills out the page count. The essential part of the adventure is just not enough for a $50 hardcover. Or two, it’s designed to support streaming. Four alternatives to a significant part of the story means more variety among the groups streaming their games, as well as improving the possibility of groups playing at home without the whole story being spoilered by a favorite stream.

With all of this in mind, Waterdeep Dragon Heist presents a fine adventure that is particularly well-suited for new players or others who might be looking for more mystery and more role-playing than dungeon-raiding. New Dungeon Masters, however, might find the details, complexities, and difficult plot issues a bit much to handle. Otherwise, it is a fantastic resource for an urban campaign in the Forgotten Realms. There is so much more than the one story in this product to inspire a DM, hints, hooks, locations, legends, and complex characters.

A complimentary copy of Waterdeep Dragon Heist was provided by Wizards of the Coast for review.