At my webcomic, Friendship is Dragons, I invite the readers to share their own roleplaying stories in the comments. It’s become such a regular thing that they even share stories when I don’t ask for them, just picking a topic that’s relevant to the current comic page.
I usually keep my hands off the comments, but this time I have a story I want to share.
I was DM-ing an Eberron campaign (one that I originally had co-DM’d, but picked up fully when the other DM got too busy). The Paragon-tier party was launching an assault on a very large force of undead-worshiping cultists led by a lich. Because this was a very large-scale battle, I planned for the players to recruit various NPC combatants to their party. And so they did – an extra healer, an arcanist, a deathless ranger, and even their own airship to bombard the battlefield.
Naturally, things went well for the PCs. They fought to the lich in four very long rounds (24 freaking seconds in-game), pushed her back into a small enclosure, knocked her prone into a pit of acid, and walled off the entrance (and secret exit) with a Druid power.
At this point, they got ready to bombard the area with the airship’s cannons. One of them says, “Wait! Could we get them to drop a crate of Alchemist’s Fire on her?”
This suggestion had been brought up in passing before, but now the player was really gunning for it. I brought up all the objections I could – how would they know to do that in advance, Alchemist’s Fire isn’t cheap enough to waste like that… But it was quickly apparent that it would be REALLY COOL for the players if something like that happened, so I rolled a d20 behind the screen… and an even number came up.
A crate of Alchemist’s Fire tumbled from the airship, directly into the small enclosure they’d imprisoned the lich in. Cue great balls of fire. I just rolled d20’s for damage until I was satisfied.
The funny thing is, the Alchemist’s Fire didn’t completely kill the lich. She was left with a sliver of health. But when her turn began, the pool of acid she’d been left prone in finished her off.
Thus, the trend of the PCs breaking my combat encounters began – a trend that continued until the very end of the campaign.