Final game in my campaign that ran from May 2017 to March 2021. 122 sessions. Five players. 20th level player characters, 7 epic boons each, with 575,000xp earned.
In the finale, the PCs faced off against Tiamat, who had killed Bahamut, absorbed his divine portfolio, and was attempting to conquer the heavenly plane of Celestia. On the material plane, the metallic dragons were now under her control. Many good gods and their followers fought back, but Tiamat had the advantage.
These were the PCs at the start of the battle:
- The aasimar vengeance paladin had ascended into the new incarnation of Ilmater, replacing his patron as the god of suffering.
- The elf arcane trickster rogue had been revealed as the mortal incarnation of Erevan Ilesere, elven god of trickery, who had been nearly destroyed by Tiamat when he was caught looting her hoard.
- The tiefling shadow sorcerer had defeated her mother, Glasya, archdevil of the sixth layer of Hell. She now ruled that layer and held Glasya's soul captive.
- The half-elf whispers bard had freed his soul from the clutches of Glasya and was now the ruler of Avernus, the first layer of Hell.
- The halfling lore bard was Open Lord of Waterdeep.
- The human beast master ranger wielded the Sword of Io, the legendary blade that killed the original god of dragons and created Bahamut and Tiamat. With its power, he could destroy Tiamat forever and bring Bahamut back from the dead. Or claim their power for himself.
- An ancient silver dragon, who was an exarch of Bahamut and the mother of the ranger.
- Glaysa, archdevil, former ruler of the sixth layer of Hell, and mother to the sorcerer.
(Yes, that's more than five PCs. Events had conspired to give the players control of several NPCs.)
My intent for the battle was to make it short but exciting. High level combat was seeming a little bit of a grind...and the previous session had a large number of emotional beats that resolved most of the ongoing storylines. So while this was the climactic fight it was also a bit of a coda. It was the place where the PCs could definitively establish the awesome might they now wielded.
As war raged in heaven, the PCs made their move. I described Tiamat as a capital ship in a Star Wars space battle -- a colossal figure surrounded by countless life and death fights. Tiamat was aided by a cadre of metallic dragons that had fallen under her thrall since the death of Bahamut.
I had granted Tiamat quintuple hit points. Each set of hit points represented one of her heads. Eliminate those hit points and she lost a head, lost the corresponding resistance, and lost that head's reaction/attack. Tiamat hit like a Mack truck but the PCs had so many epic boons, class features, and magical artifacts that they were able to recover. Watching her heads get destroyed one by one by one was very satisfying.
I had given the ranger the Sword of Io in hopes it would help him be the hero of this battle. While he was very tanky, he lacked the offensive output of the paladin, and I could tell he often felt overshadowed. So I gave the sword every conceivable advantage possible against Tiamat: +3 vorpal weapon, advantage on every attack, crit on a 19-20, automatic maximum damage on each hit. Yet the poor ranger could not roll above a 15. It was pathetic.
Meanwhile, the ranger and paladin combined their powers to resurrect Bahamut. And once the last legendary of resistance Tiamat was expended, the sorcerer plane shifted her to the sixth layer of Hell. The tide had definitively turned against Tiamat.
Finally, when only the red head of Tiamat remained, the ranger rolled a 19. In fact, he rolled two of them! On his last swing of the campaign he cut off Tiamat's remaining head and killed the evil goddess for all eternity.
The ranger felt the power of Tiamat flowing into him. He had the choice to become the new god of evil dragons. Or perhaps even destroy Bahamut and become the god of all dragons. Instead, he passed the power into Bahamut. With the combined power of both dragon gods, Bahamut morphed into the original god of dragons, Io.
Bahamut had been slain by Glasya and Tiamat had been betrayed by her. Io, combining aspects of both dragon gods, wanted revenge. The sorcerer handed her mother over to the dragon god, who flew out of Hell with the screaming archdevil clutched in its claws.
In the aftermath of the battle, I asked the players to narrate the ultimate fate of their characters.
- The lore bard established a democratic process in Waterdeep, resigned the Open Lordship, and when he died decades later was welcomed into the afterlife by the vengeance paladin.
- The rogue continued to live as a mortal in Silverymoon while raising his child, the product of his union with Glasya.
- The sorceress plotted the conquest of Hell from her throne in the sixth layer.
- The whispers bard ruled the first layer of Hell but eventually screwed it up.
- The ranger lived in peace and raised a family...until the vengeance paladin came calling for one more adventure.
Upon reflection, the campaign was pretty great. It wasn't perfect. There's a lot I would have done differently in retrospect. But I learned so much and had so much fun. It definitely feels like a major life achievement. I've been a little bit melancholy since it ended.
Next up, we're going to dabble for a while. Another player will GM some Star Wars d6. I want to play around with Marvel Heroic and Nights Black Agents. And then I'd like to try some shorter campaigns of 13th Age and Shadow of the Demon Lord before returning to 5th Edition.