Ever won a lottery but then end up poor again?
This is the story of my last DnD session. I have been the Dungeon Master for my DnD group for about 7 month. We are all new players, and our campaign is homebrewed.
The Level 9 Party consists of Franklin, the Mastermind Rogue, Avidan, the Evocation Mage, Cicero, the College of Lore Bard, Mû, the Hunter Ranger and finally, Erwin, the Oath of Devotion Paladin.
The general playstyle of the group was the following: Avidan and Erwin would combo a dimension door and a divine smite, Cicero would charm and confuse enemies with illusions, Franklin would hide and sneak and Mû would be clumsy and attacking from a distance.
Since the start of our game, players have been warned that PCs can die, and that I won't fudge my rolls, even to save them.
Our story begins when our party entered a port town named Riveport. They had a bit of time in between main story missions, so they decided to do some sidequests. A couple sessions ago, they found a mysterious currency and a letter signed with an oath: The Gardensnakes don't lie. The letter was written in Infernal mixed with some Theive's Cant, so it got them intrigued.
Riveport being the closest town to the place they found the currency, they decided to try and spend it there. They quickly figured out that the Cold coins (the name of the Currency), were used to trade in the black market of the town. After a bit of digging, they were led to an underground base. There, they met a group of Tieflings named, you guessed it, the Gardensnakes.
As a dungeon master, I did not intend for the party to meet with the Gardensnakes this early into town. They were secretly leading the party to the main quest. However, since they did, I needed to delay them for a least a couple sessions.
They began talking with the Gardensnakes and realized that they might know something useful for the main quest. But in exchange for information, the criminal group asked for Cold coins. The group didn't have enough to pay them, so they asked how they could earn more. The Tielfings told them that they could help them track someone who stole from them. The party being mostly neutral, with only Avidan being Neutral Good, they agreed.
The name of their target: Jefferson. A rogue who stole a shipment of ruby dust. The only problem: He happened to be Franklin's brother. Franklin's player made Jefferson as a second character in case he would die, so I decided to include him in the mix for a bit more fun.
The Party went looking for Jefferson. They did not plan to kill him, but Franklin wanted to at least know why his little brother would do something so stupid. Franklin had lived in Riveport in his youth, so they decided to go to his parent's house first, thinking they might know where Jefferson would be. However, when they arrived, something was wrong. The door was open and there was not a soul to be heard or seen. The party drew their weapons and entered carefully. On the table, there was a dagger and a letter.
The letter read: This is what happens when you cross me.
The letter was not signed by a name, but by Guernash's logo, one of the town's Noblemen.
The party was cursing. Jefferson, who most of them didn't even know yet, had made enemies with the two most powerful groups in town and got Franklin's parents abducted.
Skipping ahead a bit. The Party finally found Jefferson hiding in an abandoned house. At his feet, a dead body wearing Guernash's logo. Jefferson was weak, he hadn't slept in days and needed water. Even though Franklin was furious, he listened to his brother. Jefferson told him that Guernash asked him to steal from the Gardensnakes. However, when he was on his way to the rendezvous point, he saw a giant shadow tearing the roof off of a house (this would later be another sidequest). He ran away, but before he could do anything, he was ambushed by one of Guernash's guards tasked to make sure Jefferson was doing his job. He tried to run away, but was forced to kill the guard.
Now understanding Jefferson's point of view, the party's priority was to find Franklin's parents. They then decided to infiltrate the Noble's house to confront and question him.
My party has never shied away from breaking the law. So, getting in Guernash's house was the first thing that came to their mind. Like I said, mostly neutral. They split into two groups. One was Avidan and Erwin, who were supposed to ask for an audience with Guernash.
Sneaking around to the back of the house and through the garden, were Cicero, Franklin and Mû.
First, Mû climbed on the roof. Franklin and Cicero hid in the bushes. There were no guards in the back, but there was the gardener.
At the front of the house Avidan and Erwin talked to the butler who was receptive. So far so good.
For some reason known only to him, Mû decided to climb down from the roof. He failed. He slipped and fell directly into the decorative pond with a resounding splash. Before Cicero could charm the gardener, he screamed at the top of his lungs.
The two guards in front were alerted, so one went to check while the other told Avidan and Erwin to stay outside. Not knowing what was going on in the back, Avidan and Erwin decided to attack.
This would end up being a mistake...
Cicero had knocked the gardener out and “borrowed” his clothes. By the time the guard got to the back, Cicero was in full gardener costume. He reassured the guard, telling him he thought he saw a giant spider. Being pretty good in deception, Cicero fooled the guard.
But sounds of fighting at the front of the house made the guard turn and run to help his fellow guard. This guard was getting his cardio in.
One thing I should mention. The party being level 9, I gave the guards the Champion stat block from Volo's guide to Monsters, which is a CR 9. I gave my PCs a lot of magic items, so I knew that the party could defeat them if they wanted to. However, I planned on a 5v2, not a 2v2.
The Champion can be a formidable opponent for a level 9 character. With three attacks a turn, an AC of 18, +9 to hit and 140 health, this was not looking good for Avidan and Erwin. But they didn't know that, and fought anyway.
The combat was ridiculous. Erwin, to be fair, was a force to be reckoned with. He had 21 AC and could hit for 80 damage in one turn when he used all of his abilities. Avidan was squishy but he used his 5th level spell to conjure up an Arcane Hand and used it both offensively and defensively. But worst of all, both Champions NEVER rolled more than 11. As a result, they surrendered without having dealt a single damage to Erwin or Avidan.
My PCs were victorious. I wasn't hiding my astonishment. I even told them the Champion's rolls. But it didn't matter to them, they were just happy they won. They tied up the guards and searched for Guernash. However, having heard the scream followed by the fight, Guernash was already gone when the party arrived.
With the guards distracted fighting Erwin and Avidan, the rest of the party was searching parts of the house. They found no clues that might tell them where Franklin's parents were, but Cicero managed to trick the butler into telling him reinforcements were coming. Empty handed and in a hurry, the party left before they could search the locked treasure room.
A day or two went by. The party did other sidequests and tried to locate Franklin's parents by other means. Unfortunately, every lead led to Guernash. They knew the house would be heavily guarded after their first attack, but they had to try it. There were five more guards in total, each with a Champion's stat block. They were posted all around the house, both inside and out.
The party was more careful this time. Cicero cast invisibility on Franklin, who went alone. The first phase went pretty well. Franklin looked through every window and learned the location of most of the guards. He managed to get inside without getting spotted. Even though Guernash was nowhere to be seen, phase two of the plan could begin. Cicero charmed his way into the house, changing his appearance just to be extra careful. Luck was on his side, because not one guard succeeded on their saving throw. Once again, Cicero managed to trick someone into telling him about Guernash's location. He was hiding in the treasure room, where he thought he was safe. Cicero went outside to meet Avidan with this new information. All the while, Franklin joined with Erwin and Mû, waiting for the sign to breach the front door.
Phase three was where things went wrong this time. The door to the treasure room was guarded and very hard to lockpick. Franklin even broke his Thieve's tools. So, Avidan and Cicero decided to Dimension Door into it. Sounded like a good idea, but not really.
They went outside. What was great was that since we were using Roll20 and I hid the interior of the house from them, they had to guess where the room was, just like their character would. They couldn't teleport into it by thinking of the place they wanted to go because they had no idea what was behind the door. So they teleported to a place they pointed on the map. On their first attempt, they appeared inside a wall, taking 4d6 force damage. On their second attempt, they succeeded in teleporting... into the hallway... in front of a guard. The guard was still charmed by Cicero, but Avidan was an intruder. Seeing their cover was about to be blown, Cicero cast Hypnotic Pattern. The guard succeeded on his saving throw, running to warn the others. This is where things went really wrong. Avidan and Cicero cast Dimension Door for a third time, this time into the treasure room. Guernash and his bodyguard were there, but didn't stand a chance. The players quickly overwhelmed the bodyguard and took Guernash prisoner.
Outside, Erwin, Mû and Franklin were seeing the guards starting to fidget, so they attacked. There was only one guard left on the front door, since one of them had been tricked by Cicero earlier in phase two. But before the fight even began, Franklin disengaged and tried to flank. The 3v1 became a 2v1. But Erwin and Mû were not scared of a lonely guard. They had beaten two without taking a hit, so what could go wrong? On the Champion's first turn, Mû lost two thirds of his health and fled.
On Erwin's turn, he dealt 70 damage, which was pretty good. Still, it was only half the guard's health. Shortly after, another guard came to his friend's rescue. This was now a 1v2, but Erwin was not about to back down. He dealt a bit more damage, but the first guard hit him for half of his hit points.
Then, the fateful turn came. Erwin still had 40 hit points, but it would not be enough. On the first attack of the second guard, he rolled a Nat 20. Erwin dropped to 0 hit points. On his second attack, another Nat 20. Two failed saves. His third attack killed Erwin.
The Paladin who had been the team's only healer and tank, and a pretty good damage dealer fell to the same guard he had tied up earlier. Our entire table was shocked, myself included. After that, Avidan and Cicero blew up the roof and fled with Guernash grasped in the Arcane Hand, and Franklin was captured.
This left me to wonder how this would have turned out if the first two Champions would have been more lucky on the first day. Maybe, if Erwin almost died the first time, he would have been more careful the second time.