I've been running an online Roll20 game of D&D 5th edition for almost three years now, meeting weekly. My party is level 12, and they have been through some fantastic adventures, travelling deep into the desert to combat hordes of formians, navigating the deadly politics of the decaying Empire, treking through the Feywild to stick a shard of Winter power into the heart of a Bastion of the Seelie Court.
For our next session, they were going to meet an ancient blue dragon named Kuradegos who is a world leader, and a major force on the continent they've been having their adventures on. They had just done a great service for him, retrieving an ancient artifact that had been crafted specifically to kill blue dragons. I knew I wanted it to be an epic encounter, to properly establish the gravitas of this all-powerful creature, leader of a thousand year old kingdom, so I set about preparing.
I wrote passages scene setting exposition, really descriptive prose that touches all five senses while painting a picture of their circumstances. My players have enjoyed it in the past, and this time I wrote over two pages describing their laborious journey through the outer edges of Kuradegos's domain, piercing the dust storms and sink holes caused my his presence, entering into the eye of the storm where his gleaming jewel of a city lay.
The players climbed for hours into the bowels of his impregnable fortress and into his audience chamber, filled with an honor guard that included rank upon rank of dragonborn knights, as well as two full-grown adult blue dragons, children of the Lord of the Desert.
Finally, he emerged and greeted the players, and it was here that I surprised them with a new twist. I had purchased a voice changing software for the first time, and when I spoke, my fairly high pitched voice was replaced with a growling, basso rumble of a proper dragon. All the programs were set up properly and it went off without a hitch. I seamlessly alternated between terrifyingly deep dialog and DM narration in my regular voice.
Kuradegos chose to bless my players with a boon, in return for their great service. A boon which he delivered by bathing the players in his Baleful Lightning, an ultraviolet storm of electricity that cuts through all resistances, and for one turn prevents all hitpoint restoration and subjects the creature to the effects of the Slow spell.
The damage was crushing, bloodying everyone but one…. one of my players had decided to take a break from his regular character, and since he is a fan of mechanical challenges, I charged him to make one level 8 characters and three level 3 characters to play as a group. In the face of this breath of Baleful Lightning, all three of his supporting characters were instantly vaporized, reduced to fine powder. It shocked everyone, I literally heard the air go out of the room even over Discord, an emotional gutpunch that hit with perfect setup. They were not mighty enough to receive his boon.
I knew my player was not attached to his temp characters, and he told me afterwards that it was a perfect use of characters everyone thought would stick around. The Boon granted each player a small pile of abilities, all culled from the Dragonmarks from the Eberron book. Kuradegos went on to bestow other power gifts upon the party, and even gave the paladin one of his smallest scales, which when broken would call out to him, personally, to come and do one favor.
He then announced that, now that this artifact was in his possession and no longer a threat to him, he would go on to wipe out the formians in the desert, then the desert nomads the players had worked with for months, then conquer the decayed empire the players were working to rebuild, and eventually subdue the whole world.
After the session, my players were ecstatic. It was such an epic encounter, one they claimed they'd never forget. I was so happy that all of my preparation came together, this voice changer I paid money for a premium account so I could brew up the perfect dragon voice, and my strategic slaughter of the PCs themselves. And then my baddie sends the party on their way, confident in the knowledge that eventually everything will lie at his feet and the party can do nothing to stop it.
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