Content of the article: "How can I get my PCs out if this situation without it feeling cheap?"
This is long I apologize, but the context is necessary.
We’re playing a homebrew campaign and they’ve been traveling through the jungle via river boat for a few weeks in game time. They’re looking for a missing Harper agent who has information about a powerful artifact that is supposedly making some yuan ti extra aggressive and dangerous.
Along the way they were directed to look into this lizard folk tribe that might of been the culprit behind the missing agent. It was the closest place for the party to visit first and the leads they had all pointed there. They find the general area where the tribe lives and the warlock uses his hat of disguise to look like a lizard folk. They encounter a hunting party, which are then deceived into leading them back to the main village.
Queue tense conversation with Lizard king totem Barbarian who says that he took the missing agent to be judged by god and that only god knows her fate. He says he can take them to god (an adult black dragon) but he wants trade.
The king tells the warlock, who is still disguised as a lizard folk and pretending to be the owner of this group of “soft ones”, that he wants the paladin for himself. Then the lizard king proceeds to pick on the paladin until he speaks out and challenges him to one on one combat to humble him.
The barbarian lizard is way over leveled for the paladin but the paladin is stacked with good gear so it’s a fun one v one. As the lizard king gets the upper hand and is clearly going to win this fight, the party wizard fucking polymorphs the paladin into a T-Rex (which they had seen but not fought earlier in the jungle). Well they botched the deception make it look like the paladin cast it himself and the tribe surrounds the king and begins to claim that the PCs are cheating and it’s an unfair fight. As the party gears up to start a massive combat the Lizard king bellows out in draconic, summoning the dragon to his aid. The dragon rises up from somewhere behind the village (because black dragons are vindictive and he’s the only one allowed to torture his servants) and begins circling overhead. That’s where I called the session because it was late, and it was a great cliffhanger.
Now how do I get my level 8 party out of this without a TPK?
My initial idea is that the dragon should be enough to intimidate them into standing down and the lizard folk hold them captive. The next morning the lizard king takes them to “God” for judgement. They get a long rest, can fight the dragon and if they win they’ll be stronger than god so the king will stand down. It also gives them the option of escaping and getting the fuck outta dodge during the overnight captive time frame if they want.
What do y’all think? Does that feel like a shitty dues ex machina just to save the party? If you think so what would you do?
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