The creatures guarding the entrance to the dragon’s lair were defeated, now it’s time to face the dragon herself. The party briefly debated how to proceed. The sneaky PCs could try to use Stealth to get the lay of the land undetected. The tanks could charge in and run full steam ahead towards any opponents that might be present. Or we could try Diplomacy and see if we could talk the dragon into not attacking the Keep.
Eventually the dim-witted Eldeth got restless and decided that a frontal assault was the way to proceed. Before anyone could change her mind she was already going down the ladder and into the hole, ready to fight the dragon or die trying. The rest of the party reluctantly followed. Fortunately level heads prevailed and we convinced Eldeth to hold her killer instinct in check until while we tried to parley.
This week we were again a party of seven, but the roster had a few changes from the previous weeks, including one brand new player. The familiar faces included Berrian, Eldeth and Sola along with a Cavalier, Sorcerer and Rogue. Our newest party member was a Ruinpriest.
Both Eldeth and the Ruinpriest were joining us with full resources since neither of them was present for any of the other encounters in the chapter. Hopefully adding two fresh adventurers would make up for everyone else’s depleted resources. The Rogue was down to one healing surge, the Sorcerer two and Sola three. So although the addition of another leader would normally be a huge boon for this party, with three characters down to their last few healing surges more healing magic may not matter.
Everyone followed Eldeth down the ladder except for the two leaders, Sola and the Ruinpriest who waiting above until the coast was clear or combat started. The Dragonborn Sorcerer called out to Vermastyx in draconic. He claimed that we were here to negotiate a peaceful resolution with the dragon and would pay handsomely for it.
After two rounds of calling out without getting a response the PCs decided to explore the dragon’s lair. We split up and took different sections of the cavern.
Eldeth, still feeling a little bit bloodthirsty was most brazen heading furthest away from the group. The Rogue went just as far in the opposite direction, trying to find cover to hide behind as he moved stealthfully. The Cavalier tried to remain equidistant to the Rogue and Eldeth so that he could help either one if they faced danger.
Both Eldeth and the Rogue noticed that there were areas in the stream that were darker, likely because that section of the water was considerably deeper. However, neither of them saw anything threatening in the water.
The Sorcerer and Berrian used Arcana to try and learn more about the strange green glowing crystals spread throughout the dragon’s lair. They determined that the crystals could channel some kind of elemental energy, but regrettably their poor rolls revealed little else.
Sola and the Ruinpriest cautiously descended the ladder and took a look around. Sola realized that for a dragon’s lair there was very little treasure about. Could the lizradfoldk we encountered last week have been wrong? If two dragons lived here where is all of their loot? Sola moved closer to where Eldeth was scouting in order to peer around the corner in search of loot. And that’s when Vermastyx revealed herself.
From beneath the water the large black dragon emerged. She taunted us with words and then followed it up with attacks. Sola and Eldeth were already in melee and the Caviler and Ruinpriest quickly joined the fray. The dragon used her Shroud of Gloom and coated the four adjacent adventurers and the nearby Sorcerer with corrosive acid. We all suffered vulnerability 5 to acid and -2 to all attacks. The only way to remove the shroud was to spend a standard action and make a successful Heal check.
Before we even had a chance to deal with the shroud the dragon moved, drawing opportunity attacks and only getting hit by one of four, and then breathed on the five heroes shrouded in gloom. Sola was missed, the other four were hit. Those hit took a lot of acid damage and ongoing 5 acid damage. The vulnerability 5 meant 5 more damage now and 5 more at the beginning of their turns. By the next round four of the seven PCs were well below their bloodied value. The DM’s prediction of a TPK was starting to look accurate.
The players decided to do the smart thing and make Heal checks. Everyone affected by the shroud used their standard action to make a Heal check and get rid of the gloom. Fortunately we all had action points so we after removing the shroud everyone engaged the dragon again.
Sola realized that she was more valuable as a healer then a combatant so she used her standard action and her action point to remove the Sorcerer’s shroud effects and then heal him, otherwise the ongoing damage would have dropped him at the beginning of his turn.
Over the next few rounds the heavy hitters attacked the dragon relentlessly. The Rogue managed to get a few good shots in with his crossbow before eventually getting hit and falling unconscious. The Cavalier did his job as a defender and drew attacks as often as possible. Unfortunately he too fell unconscious after taking massive damage.
By the time the dragon was bloodied the remaining heroes were in pretty bad shape. The only one safe from the dragon’s attacks thus far was Berrian. The dragon realized this too. She dove into the water, swam through underwater tunnels, and emerged next to Berrian. In one round she managed to bring the Wizard from full hit points to zero.
The heroes spent the next couple of rounds chasing the dragon as it kept using the underwater tunnels to swim around the cavern. We finally managed to get it to stay in one place long enough to hurt it. It was during this melee that Sola used Healing Word on herself and managed to revive the Rogue with the extra healing her power granted.
Just when we thought we had things firmly in hand the dragon recharged her breath weapon again and let loose on the Ruinpriest, Eldeth and Sola. This time the dragon hit one of the crystals with her breath. The crystals around the room emitted Acid Breath Echoes, elemental-like creatures that attacked us.
The Ruinpriest shifted away from the Echoes and into melee with the dragon. He scored a hit and blinded her. Sola and Eldeth moved in for the kill.
Down to her last few hit points and blinded from the Ruinpriests attack, Vermastyx agreed to surrender if we spared her life. The party wasn’t willing to talk now. We tried that earlier and she wasn’t willing to listen. It wasn’t until she realized that her death was imminent that she opted to surrender. We fought on.
Sola and Eldeth both scored hits, but it was the severely wounded Rogue with only 2 hit points firing his hand crossbow that finally killed the black dragon. The party quickly revived their dying comrades Berrian, the Ruinpriest and the Cavalier. It was a tough fight but we survived. No one died. No TPK.
Regrettably Berrian was stuck making death saves for the final four rounds of combat. His rolls were phenomenal: 17, 19, 17 and 18. If he’d been conscious his attacks would have ended the combat a lot earlier. As it was he managed to holds on until help finally arrived.
When the euphoria of killing a dragon wore off we realized that we didn’t get any information out of her. One of the goals of our quest was to gather information. Our bloodlust and survival instinct demanded that we keep fighting to the death – ours or the dragons. In retrospect maybe the last few shots at the dragon should have been non-lethal so that we could have tried interrogating her – too late now. We’ll see how this lack of information comes back to haunt us for the final chapter of the adventure. In the mean time we managed to kill a dragon!
Searching the underwater passages revealed the missing treasure. Coins, jewels and magic items were all ours for the taking. Hopefully the Keep would still be standing when we return and we’d have someplace to spend our newly gotten gains. We’ll find out next week when we begin the final chapter of the Keep on the Borderlands: A Season of Serpents.
For the remaining four encounters the PCs advance to level 3. Things will no doubt get even more difficult. Dungeon’s Master will be providing PDF copies of the level 3 pre-generated characters before next week’s adventure. Be sure to visit us again before you play D&D Encounters next Wednesday if you need a level 3 copy of any of your favourite heroes.
Visit the Dungeon’s Master D&D Encounters Archive for all of our ongoing weekly coverage as well as other great D&D Encounters articles and resources.
On the lighter side of D&D Encounters, the player running Eldeth spent a lot of time imagining all of the positive outcomes that might have transpired if only the party had won the dragon’s heart rather than killing it. See a few carefree illustrations below.
Vermastyx loves to dance, but it wasn’t until she met Eldeth that she had the courage to finally do it.
Vermastyx makes cookies for Eldeth and her friend. Mmmm chocolate chip, Eldeth’s favourite.
Vermastyx takes Eldeth and her friend flying through the sky. What a beautiful day, even Mr. Sun is wearing shades.