This establishment was located about one and half miles (almost two and a half kilometers) north of the city on the Long Road,[note 2] only a half mile (0.8 kilometers) from its sister house, the High Flagon inn up the road to the north.
The Roaring Dragon was a high-walled compound that contained a yard, stables for visitor's mounts, and a main building. Everything was constructed of sturdy stone (in direct contrast to the all-wood construction of the High Flagon) to keep thieves out, prevent beasts from escaping, and drastically reduce the chance of severe damage by fire. The grand arched entryway to the gambling hall was built to resemble a gigantic dragon's head with an open mouth full of fangs. Visitors walked into the mouth of the dragon to reach the main doors.
Upon entering through the dragon's maw, visitors were directed down a hall on the right side of the building to a greeting gate. There, flanked by guards, was a seductively dressed hostess that questioned the visitors about their entertainment preferences, made suggestions or gave directions, and then admitted them through the gate. Once inside, visitors turned left and saw the entire gaming area with various gaming tables, throwknife circles, a dueling arena, a beast battle pit, and a zzar wrestling pit.[note 3] Directly in front of them was a corridor, kept clear of tables and other gaming activity, that led to the bar and a teller cage on the far wall. The cavernous room had plain stone walls, a flagstone floor, and a 20 ft (6.1 m) ceiling.
Behind the bar was a "ready room" where the proprietor on duty supervised operations. In this room was a stairway down to a short passage that led to the strongroom below the teller cage. There was a separate entrance to the rest of the basement which contained a wine cellar, an armory, storage for gaming tables, equipment, and chairs, and a beast battle staging area.[note 3]
Most of the gaming tables were set into metal sockets on the floor and secured with cross-pins. This prevented them from being moved by overly zealous Hardriders players, or being upset or overturned during a fight.
Visitors to the Roaring Dragon had to pass the scrutiny of the guards just to get into the compound. They were dressed in full plate armor with dragon-head helmets and turned away any they judged to be troublemakers. The hostess at the greeting gate was pleasant and attractive but also jaded and world savvy. If she wasn't satisfied with the answers to her questions, she (and the guards, if necessary) often suggested that dubious customers take their business elsewhere.
The stone construction made the main room cold (pleasantly so in the summer months) and very noisy with the echos of roaring crowds and gaming shills. Escorts of both sexes were hired to teach the rules of the games to novices and to entertain the more experienced customers. To increase the House's profits and their own gratuities, these temporary companions expertly cajoled their patrons into excessive drinking and gambling.
The proprietors tried to keep the intemperance orderly. Weapons could only be drawn while standing in a throwknife circle. The punishment for cheating, excessive taunting, baiting, drawing a weapon outside a game circle, starting a fight, starting a fire, or causing loss of life was immediate removal from the premises. The use of magic was deterred by beating, confiscation of personal funds and property, or death. Very powerful or influential practitioners of the Art were known to get away without suffering such penalties, but were not welcome thereafter.
During the daylight hours the establishment was not very busy, hosting a few inveterate gamblers, folks who wanted to play a game without the pressure of a crowd, and the occasional business meeting.
The Roaring Dragon House offered very little in the way of services. They served no food, rented no rooms, and had a meager selection of alcoholic beverages that were overpriced. A cup of ale or stout was four silver pieces and the few wines, spirits, or zzar were two gold pieces per cup. (The cups were made of thin clay so they were too light to be missile weapons and broke easily.) Customers often took a break for food at the High Flagon just up the road. Escorts were provided to circulate among the clientele and entertain guests for whatever tips they could garner.
Games of skill and chance were popular at the Roaring Dragon, especially a dice game called Over the Hurdles and an unusual arcade game called Hardriders. For more physical activity there was throwknife, beast battles (dogfights, cockfights, ferret-fights, and the ever-popular monster fights when combatants could be acquired), and zzar wrestling. Of course, wagering was part of every game in the House.
There was also a dueling arena where hired contestants fought for cash prizes. Customers were allowed to use these venues for settling their own disputes. Those with a gripe, a grudge, or a score to settle were encouraged to take it to the arena. The combatants typically stripped down to the barest minimum for decency, donned thick leather hoods that completely covered their heads, including their eyes, and were given either wooden whips or long leather paddles with a metal barb protruding from one end. The duelists were then turned loose to fight blindly until first blood, surrender, or unconsciousness. The guards quickly stepped in to prevent serious injury.
Security was tight at the Roaring Dragon. The day shift, from dawn to dusk, posted twenty guards in the compound and the night shift, from dusk to dawn, more than doubled the mercenaries to over forty. Patrols walked around the high stone wall and the gate to the yard had two guards in full plate with two more in guardhouses just inside the gate. They were all equipped with long swords, daggers, glaives, and loaded hand crossbows at their side. The stables had a compliment of four guards as did the main door into the building. The welcoming hostess was backed up by four more guards, two outside and two inside the gate (which was usually left open). The bar and teller cage had more guards, inside and out, most with their crossbows in hand. Finally, the entrances to the cellars were guarded, especially the isolated staircase in the ready room that led to the strongroom beneath the teller cage.
The teller cage was made of metal bars that were anchored in the floor, walls, and ceiling. Coins were dropped through slots in the floor to the strongroom below. If the teller ran low on funds, a note was placed in a narrow bucket and lowered through a fitted hole. The strongroom attendant saved the note for the accounting records, placed the requested amount in the bucket, and tapped on it to signal the teller. All staff entering or leaving the strongroom were required to disrobe completely and allow the proprietor and guards to inspect their clothing, weapons, and armor, redressing once they passed through the door. Banks that did business with the Roaring Dragon supplied a wagon and many guards to transport the House's take to their vaults. A Harbright family agent accompanied the wagon and oversaw the recounting at the destination.
Each post of guards had an alarm gong or a pull-rope that rang a gong in the ready room. The passage to the greeting gate had a rockfall trap that covered the front half of the hall. It was triggered by a foot-treadle at the feet of the guards stationed at the greeting gate.
Drengar Harbright, proprietor of the High Flagon gambling hall and inn, saw an opportunity for a business that catered to the rowdier type of gambler without being encumbered by scrutiny from the Waterdeep Watch. Beast battles were especially difficult to host inside the city after the Watch dealt with a series of incidents where evil wizards transformed people into beasts and then sold them to the venues, their human nature revealed only after they had perished in the pit. After the Roaring Dragon House was built, Drengar put his niece Brarindra and nephew Thoalur in charge. They took turns supervising shifts and were occasionally relieved by other members of the Harbright clan.
The Roaring Dragon began with dogfights, cockfights, and ferret-fights, but their popularity waned in favor of monster battles. However, monsters became scarce after the crackdown by the Watch so Brarindra put the word out that she would pay 600 gp for unintelligent, healthy creatures capable of giving a good fight in the arena.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 The location of the Roaring Dragon House was apparently retconned in Environs of Waterdeep, the Web Enhancement to City of Splendors: Waterdeep (see page 12). The supplemental publication puts the Roaring Dragon southeast of Waterdeep instead of north like its sister establishment, the High Flagon. The two gambling halls are described in the source as being a short walk from each other, which is clearly not possible if one is above the city and the other below.
- ↑ This location is based on the pre-retcon location of the High Flagon (it was also retconned to be inside the city walls). For the retcon version, change "north" to "southeast", "Long Road" to "Trade Way", and ignore the proximity to the High Flagon.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Some descriptions are based on the artist's rendering.
- ↑ Eric L. Boyd (2006-05-03). Environs of Waterdeep (Zipped PDF). Wizards of the Coast. p. 12. Archived from the original on 2016-08-16. Retrieved on 2009-10-07.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Ed Greenwood (June 2004). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: The Roaring Dragon House”. In Matthew Sernett ed. Dragon #320 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 72.
- ↑ Ed Greenwood (December 2002). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: The High Flagon”. In Jesse Decker ed. Dragon #302 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 76.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Ed Greenwood (June 2004). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: The Roaring Dragon House”. In Matthew Sernett ed. Dragon #320 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 75.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Ed Greenwood (June 2004). “Elminster's Guide to the Realms: The Roaring Dragon House”. In Matthew Sernett ed. Dragon #320 (Paizo Publishing, LLC), p. 73.