A Black Bucket Hunt was an annual revel and treasure hunt held in Waterdeep that ultimately led into Undermountain. It was sponsored each year by a different noble family and tacitly allowed by city officials. It had no purpose or meaning beyond entertainment for apathetic and cynical nobles, but by the second Hunt, it became quite popular among the upper echelons of Waterdhavian society that were able to observe the hunt from safety on the surface.
A Black Bucket Hunt began at a party hosted by a noble family. The wealthier, usually more senior members of the House sponsored the event: by providing the treasure to be hunted; paying healing fees to clergy of various faiths; and hiring wizards to facilitate the Hunt, enforce the rules, and, beginning with the second Hunt, provide visual observation of the participants while they wandered about Undermountain.
At the kick-off revel (where much alcohol was available), the ceremony began with the Black Bucket being escorted by a bevy of women wearing masks. The large Bucket appeared to have seen many years of hard use and was blackened by exposure to fire. It contained tokens that were drawn by the participants to randomly determine teams. After the drawing, there were typically at least eight teams with a minimum of six persons on each team. The empty Bucket was then filled with rubies and twelve tokens that granted the bearer freedom from city taxes, fees, and fines for one year. In a flare of pageantry and showy spells, the Black Bucket was teleported away to "a secret corner of Undermountain". Likewise, monsters were summoned and sent off to provide a challenge to the hunters.
The "Hunting Ground" for the event was the Dungeon Level of Undermountain with many of its exits to lower levels temporarily walled off. Prior to the event, various adventuring groups (mostly from outside the city) were hired to kill or remove the worst monsters from the Hunting Ground. Invariably, these same groups were approached by agents from noble families with an interest in the outcome of the Hunt to plant notes, disallowed weapons, and/or fake Black Buckets in the section they were clearing. In addition to the summoned monsters and those left behind by the cleansing crews (skeletons, spiders, etc.), there were other unpleasant hazards throughout the Hunting Ground, such as heaps of smelly refuse, dung slides, and "perfume bombs"—breakable bags of inexpensive, strong-scented liquids that could be thrown at rivals or creatures.
After teams were chosen, the participants donned silly costumes to represent their team. They were made of thin, cheap cloth in bright colors (pink, yellow, orange, etc.) and styled to give the wearers a distinctive characteristic, such as a huge bird beak, a wagging tail, or a dozen extra tiny arms. The costumes were enchanted to glow like a torch and were the only source of light allowed on the Hunt. Likewise, all armor, weapons, and magic items were prohibited, but the contestants did their best to sneak them in. The teams then formed a loud and boisterous parade through the streets of Waterdeep in their ridiculous, luminous splendor to places where they would either be teleported into the Hunting Ground or escorted to an entrance through a cellar, and the Hunt began.
The Black Bucket Hunt served as an excuse for all sorts of misbehavior by jaded nobles. Since the teams were chosen at random, it was possible that rivals and enemies could be placed in close proximity to each other, or even on the same team. Fights commonly broke out between teams and between team members using whatever weapons were at hand or smuggled in. At best, a person might get their face rubbed in some foul substance or be doused with a perfume bomb, but it was not uncommon to be stripped of one's costume and left to wander alone in the dark. At worst, there were serious injuries, maimings, and murders.
During the first annual Black Bucket Hunt, those left behind had to wait until the winning team appeared back at the revel to find out what happened, although some wizards may have spied on the proceedings with arcane eye. By the second Hunt, a modified version of arcane eye that allowed the image from the eye to be projected in the air for anyone to view was under development and was successfully cast twice. The violent and salacious images brought back were deemed greatly entertaining by the crowd and more such remote viewing was strongly demanded at future Hunts. Representatives of the Watchful Order of Magists and Protectors were tasked to watch for and prevent any other spells from being cast into the Hunting Ground. Wagering on the winner and other aspects of the event was minimal at first, but increased year by year.
The first team to find and touch the Black Bucket was immediately transported back to the celebration where priests from the prominent churches were available for any needed healing. All winning team members—alive, dead, wounded, or malodorous—were brought back, no matter how far away they were from the Black Bucket, and then began dividing up the prize in view of the crowd, which provided even more drama. While the revel continued above, members of the Watchful Order and some soldiers rounded up the rest of the participants and brought them back. At the second annual Hunt, "consolation prizes" were given out to individuals or teams that accomplished the most impressive and entertaining successes or failures. One such prize was a large tankard made of silver with a sculpted lid in the form of a beholder decorated with gems.
At the time intrepid explorer Volothamp Geddarm reported on the Black Bucket Hunt in the early 1370s DR, there had been only two events thus far with plans being made for a third. The first Hunt was hosted by the Kothont family and the second was taken on by the Urmbrusks. Between Hunts, the Black Bucket was displayed in an alcove of the entry hall of Piergeiron's Palace. The guards and magical wards were increased after each of several thefts of the iconic trophy.
Despite the silly pageantry and frivolous nature of the Black Bucket Hunt, the event gained a particular notoriety in Waterdeep that spread down the Sword Coast and northward as well. It was spoken of with pride to non-natives, and those that risked humiliation, injury, and death in a Hunt experienced an increase in social standing. The winners, even if they were commoners or outsiders, were welcomed into various cliques, guilds, and formal groups that otherwise would have been unreceptive.
During the second Hunt, modified arcane eye spells revealed two encounters that fascinated the viewing crowd and ensured that more such spells would be cast at the next Hunt. The first was a fight between teams where Guster Ilitul was clearly shown strangling Delbert Thorp to death and then stuffing the body in some watery nook. The second was a passionate interlude between Daervin Husteem and Tlannada Gralhund that displayed more than just acrobatic flexibility. Arsten Thunderstaff II technically broke the rules by magically teleporting a large quantity of cherry fruit jelly to their location, dumping it on the randy lovers and their immediate surroundings.
Rumors & LegendsEdit
Rumors about the event stated that Halaster himself approved of the Black Bucket Hunt, but it was more likely that he was amused enough to refrain from doing unspeakable evil things to the participants. The Black Bucket itself was the subject of much speculation because its origin was not publicly known. The rumors ran the gamut of it having magical properties, being sacred to some unnamed cult, and being sentient with its own sinister agenda.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Ed Greenwood (April 2001). “The New Adventures of Volo: The Urge to Hunt”. In Dave Gross ed. Dragon #282 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 72.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 Ed Greenwood (April 2001). “The New Adventures of Volo: The Urge to Hunt”. In Dave Gross ed. Dragon #282 (Wizards of the Coast), p. 73.