D&D Encounters Week 17: Monsters at the Door ended with a TPK for our DM. This is why they tell you not to split the party, boys and girls.
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After slaying the black dragon, Vermastryx, the party safely returned to Restwell Keep. They met with Lord Drysdale to pass along all they’d learned of Benwick’s forces, then sought a much-needed rest. They were awakened the next morning by the trumpeting alarm of the imminent attack.
Outside the Great Hall, Lord Drysdale gave each of the heroes a battle horn, to mark them as having the authority to give orders to the keep’s other defenders. As Yulbraxis, Vermastryx’s brother, soared overhead, a page rushed up to the group, reporting that a large force of lizardfolk were assaulting the front gate with the aid of an immense behemoth. Drysdale charged the adventurers with repelling the attack on the gate, telling them to meet him in Fountain Square after the gate was secured. Without hesitation, the party rushed to the outer gatehouse.
The heroes quickly established a secure defensive position atop the wall and wasted no time in lowering the sturdy portcullis to reinforce the thick wooden gate. Within moments, a horde of lizardfolk warriors began to swarm up and over the fortress’ walls. At the same time, a huge, horned beast crashed through the wooden gate and thundered into the portcullis.
Despite the fact that every defender was needed atop the walls, the wizard chose that moment to abandon the party’s position and move down to the open ground just inside the battered gate. The other four heroes, along with the guards atop the walls, were hard pressed to beat back the lizardfolk attack. Just as the last of the brave guards was overwhelmed by the attackers, the behemoth finally managed to break through the portcullis. A number of lizardfolk warriors broke off their attack on the heroes atop the wall and swarmed down into the keep to join forces with the huge, horned beast and the fiendish mystic who was leading it through the destroyed gate. The wizard, facing this furious assault alone, was quickly cut down.
After finally managing to dispatch the last of the lizardfolk swarming up and over the outer wall, the remaining heroes left their position atop the gatehouse in an attempt to rescue the fallen wizard. Even though they had the best of intentions, abandoning the high ground proved to be a costly mistake. Once they were down on ground-level inside the keep, the adventurers eventually succumbed to the combined attacks of the mystic, behemoth, and lizardfolk warriors.
Total Party Kill.
As you can see from the note and question mark in my campaign journal (below), I wondered at the time why the wizard was abandoning our defensive position atop the wall and heading down into the keep by himself. It seemed like an ill-advised move since— in the face of an overwhelming assault— he was giving up the high ground and ignoring the teammates that he should’ve been working with. After the session was over, our DM said that he thought the turning point in the encounter came when the party was split by the wizard’s actions.
Hopefully Lord Drysdale was able to send additional soldiers to plug the gaping hole in the keep’s defenses that was caused by the party’s failure to secure the gate. We’ll find out next week if the debacle at the gate doomed the fortress or if victory can still be snatched from the jaws of defeat.