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I am fairly confident that my party is going to die; am I being “too mean”?

Content of the article: "I am fairly confident that my party is going to die; am I being “too mean”?"

TL;DR – my party has ignored followers of a dragon on several occasions, and expect those followers not to intervene in their effort to kill this dragon. Involving these followers feels mean, but I feel like it is justified.

This is many sessions in the making, so I will try to simultaneously be brief and thorough.

My party is hunting a dragon. After arriving in a town that had been attacked, the party soon found out that the town had several agents working for this dragon planted in various positions. They had revealed themselves to be hunting the dragon to these agents through several avenues, but had also found several people in town who had been working to identify the agents in town. Before leaving for the dragon’s lair, the party told the townspeople that they would send a message, via the Sending spell, when they arrived at the dragon’s lair, so that the townspeople could find and arrest the agents in a kind of sting operation.

Well the party arrived outside the dragon’s lair, fought the dead corpses of previous adventurers who thought they could kill this dragon, and then… rested. This particular dragon is green, and thus has a magical connection to the wildlife in and around its lair, using them as eyes and ears around its lair. After spending several hours well within the radius of this effect, along with revealing themselves days ago in town as wanting to hunt and kill this dragon, the dragon is abundantly aware of the party’s presence. Were it not for Leomund’s Tiny Hut, the dragon would probably have ambushed them in the night.

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In the morning, there are several things that should be noted. First, the party had the opportunity to kill/capture/convert these agents in town, and chose not to. Second, the party still had not sent a message to their allies in town to initiate the sting operation to capture, or at the very least preoccupy, these agents. Third, the party is aware that the dragon’s agents in town were funnelling money out through a mage’s estate, and not over land. This mage is working on establishing permanent teleportation circles between the lair and his basement. The party found the circle just outside the lair proper the previous day. Finally, the party was aware that the dragon, or at least his followers, had access to and made judicious use of the Sending Spell.

Thus, in response to the threat sitting on his doorstep overnight, the dragon ordered his followers to defend the lair. The mage, who had now rested and could use Teleportation Circle again, could transport the agents, whom the party had ignored in multiple ways, to the circle just outside the lair. Which they did, now serving as guards to the least guarded of entrances to the dragon’s lair. The party chose to go through a different entrance, leading through a cave system that I have set up as a less-intense version of Tucker’s Kobolds.

Now, none of this was ever intended to be a walk in the park. My party is 7th level, and relatively well-equipped for their level, and have blown through very difficult encounters in the past. The Tucker’s Kobolds dungeon isn’t a problem for them, really, and fully stocked with spell slots and health and resistance potions, the dragon is challenging, but by no means impossible. I did not necessarily balance things for these agents of the dragon to be in the mix, which means the party having to deal with them as well has a pretty good chance of getting them killed.

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Hopefully I’ve made the case clear. My party is in very real danger of being wiped, and I cannot decide if it’s because I am being too mean as a DM, or if it’s reasonable given the decision making of the party. If the party is close enough to a TPK, the dragon can offer the party a chance to work for him, but I doubt they would take that. I don’t really want to kill off the whole party, but I also want the game to have consequences, and for dangerous enemies like to dragons to feel dangerous.

Source: reddit.com

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