This story comes at the end of a campaign played in D&D 5E, a modern recreation of the Isle of the Sea Drake campaign from 1E. Our party was a rather odd bunch, and not necessarily for the better, composed of a chaotic neutral kenku bard named Cello, a true neutral homonculus artificer named Fred, a chaotic neutral young yet gray-haired human sorceror named Aster, a lawful evil middle-aged human fighter named Telios and a lawful evil green oozefolk paladin in the shape of a 7 foot tall blind gummy bear named Thaddeus. In addition, we had 2 NPC allies, a neutral good human fighter turned zombie named Jaguar who at this time was under Cello’s command, and a lawful neutral human ranger named Boneblood, who was Aster’s best friend and who, unbeknownst to only Aster, had just been ripped to shreds a minute earlier by the gargoyle Aster had been tasked with freeing from the BBEG’s prison by a homonculus NPC by the name of Bixby.
To say this party was disfunctional is arguably an understatement. Cello was very much your stereotypical chaotic neutral bard, whose tendency to poorly try to seduce captured enemies left many mentally scarred in their final moments before these prisoners were inevitably executed by Telios, lest Aster intervene. Fred played more of the strong silent type, making him effectively absent outside of combat but had an itchy trigger finger on any NPC who showed even a hint of traitorous intentions. Telios was a highly self-righteous, religious and egotistical man with a touch of simp and a sprinkle of itchy trigger finger, resulting in him falling just short of being the infamous “lawful stupid paladin”. And then there was Thaddeus, a cowardly and deceptive character who was down for playing hero only insofar as eliminating potential obstacles for his cartel was concerned, yet was a threat enough to the rest of the party and the NPCs we were supposed to save in the off time that he proved to be more of a BBEG than the actual BBEG, a neutral evil goliath pirate and wizard by the name of Ulars Bhet. Jaguar tried to be a voice of reason where he could but at the end of the day was still subject to Cello’s whims, and Boneblood’s inability to speak common caused a language barrier that prevented him from being of any meaningful position in directing the party. Thus it fell to Aster to function as the party’s moral compass and almost sole driving force in keeping the party on track.
While Aster already had much power as was, as a sorceror of blue draconic ancestry wielding a Staff of Thunder & Lightning, his being forced to carry the plot alone as well as compensate for the other players’ weaknesses resulted in the DM granting Aster much more power in order to move the story; this included gaining his lightning resistance earlier than normal, his taking on the Wild Magic origin in addition to the draconic ancestry, and later the ability to take the souls from enemies he killed, in the form of soul gems. These and the fact that the DM adapted the story such that Aster was foretold in legend to be the savior of the homonculi made Aster the overpowered anime-like main character of the campaign, a rather ironic and sharp contrast with what Aster was originally meant to be: a physically weak magic user who absolutely nobody would ever rally around.
Flash back to the present moment. Aster had unintentionally convinced the BBEG’s necromancer that he was on their side, having mistakenly attacked the gargoyle he was tasked with freeing under the belief that this gargoyle was the BBEG and only later realized his mistake, and was now exiting a tunnel onto the dock of the BBEG’s citadel, where their ship was about to depart for uncharted lands when it came under attack by a sea drake. Most of the BBEG’s soldiers at the scene were preoccupied with fighting this sea drake, so Aster faced no resistance as he approached the gnoll guarding the ship. When asked by the gnoll, “Who are you?”, Aster replied “I need to speak with Ulars Bhet. I came with the necromancer.” No lie told, so no need to roll for deception with Aster’s poor charisma stat. “Alright, he’s downstairs”, said the gnoll. Surprised that the gnoll didn’t suspect anything, Aster just stood there for a moment in disbelief, until the gnoll yelled a few seconds later, “What are you waiting for? Get down there!” So Aster goes into the lower levels of the ship into the captain’s quarters, where Ulars Bhet, the necromancer and a sorceror who had just fainted in his chair were. On seeing Aster, Ulars Bhet questions him about where he came from and other details, to which Aster answers with carefully selected truths that get corroborated by the necromancer: that Telios broke the gargoyle out of its holding cell, and that he had chased this gargoyle down into a room with the necromancer in an attempt to stop it. Once again, no lies, no suspection of ulterior motives.
Ulars then asks Aster if he can use magic, to which Aster replies that he can. Ulars then forcefully rips the coral crown the fainted sorceror was wearing off his head, then shoves him out of his chair and tells Aster he needs to use this crown to wrestle control of the sea drake from the gargoyle, from whom this crown was made, but asks Aster first if he’s sure he wants to do this, as he’s seen firsthand from the other sorceror that this will be very painful and draining if he does. Aster doesn’t want to do this, but outright lies for once and says he does because he knows he has to destroy this crown, as Thaddeus had been planning for a while to use this crown to assume control of the island for himself once Ulars was defeated. Before Ulars can put the crown on Aster, however, he is struck with a Thunderwave by Aster that shakes the whole ship and instantly destroys the crown and kills both the sorceror and the necromancer.
Meanwhile, outside, the rest of the party has now reached the dock, and lie to the gnoll, claiming to be a unit of fresh recruits. The gnoll is suspicious but shrugs it off, telling most of the party to open fire on the drake with their ranged weapons or the ballistas on the dock, but instructing Telios to climb up the ship’s mast and attempt to jump onto the drake. Thaddeus and Jaguar then start shoving the soldiers on the ballistas into the bay and commandeering the ballistas for themselves, with Thaddeus using it to open fire on the ship, while Fred starts dumping the barrels of oil on the dock into the bay and then igniting it, torching the drowning soldiers before being intercepted by the gnoll. Cello, for his own part, takes lamps from off the dock and throw them through the windows of the ship, setting fire to it.
Back inside the ship, Ulars Bhet yells at Aster, “You fool! Now we’ve lost all control! What are you doing?” He then proceeds to launch a ball of lightning at Aster. Against any other player character, this could’ve been their end. Telios and Thaddeus’ armor gave them vulnerability to lightning damage, as they learned when they and Boneblood fought Ulars earlier that day; Telios and Thaddeus, both tanky characters, lost half their health to one lightning ball each before Boneblood has his finest moment in the campaign and wounded Ulars, sending him into retreat. The rest of the party did not have this vulnerability but were generally weak characters in HP and so would have suffered similarly anyway. Aster, however, had resistance to lightning magic because of his draconic ancestry, and so this attack failed to beat his high natural AC, instead merely fizzling out on contact. Aster, having pieced together from what Ulars and the necromancer said about the gargoyle before that it had killed Boneblood, one of the only 2 people he ever cared about, replied “What must be done. If what you said is true, then Boneblood is dead, and there’s nothing left for the two of us but to die.” He then knocks Ulars prone with a second Thunderwave, attempting to use these to sink the ship. As the fire from Cello’s lamps encroaches, Ulars Bhet turns invisible and Aster realizes the party’s intervention, which was not in his personal plans to face Ulars alone and sacrifice himself for the victory in a battle he believed he could not otherwise win, meant his potential death was no longer on his terms. Thus he began to flee the ship, using one final Thunderwave to keep Ulars down and deal the blow that would sink the ship. Aster barely got off the ship in time, leaving Ulars to drown in the sinking wreckage.
Telios, however, was not so fortunate, missing his jump back onto the dock and falling into the burning bay, taking some fire damage before Fred retrieved him via one of Cello’s griffons, and landing him back on the dock while Cello and Aster defeated the gnoll in the meantime. On making it back onto the dock, Telios immediately marches towards Thaddeus, yelling “Traitor!” Meanwhile, Bixby and the gargoyle fly onto the sea drake’s head, and turn towards the party, yelling “why have you forsaken us?” because of Aster’s attack on the gargoyle. Fred turns a ballista and aims it right for Bixby, ready to fire at a moment’s notice. Aster interjects while moving towards Thaddeus and Telios, who are now presently drawing weapons on each other and preparing to fight while yelling at each other over having had a deal that Thaddeus broke by allegedly trying to kill Telios, and tells the gargoyle that it was an honest mistake on his part, that he didn’t realize who he was at that time, and that he was sorry. The gargoyle accepts this apology, and in turn apologizes for killing Boneblood, but Aster, in a cold fashion somewhat out of character, refuses to accept this apology. When they turned back to Telios and Thaddeus, the corrupt paladin was missing an arm, defenseless and on the brink of death as his former ally stood over him, preparing to deal the killing blow. It’s at this point that Bixby, Jaguar and Aster, now having noticed what was happening, intervene to break up the fight in an attempt to find a civil solution.
A mock trial is held, during which it was revealed that Thaddeus and Telios had together conspired to conquer the two islands the party was sent to free for themselves, via Thaddeus getting the populace hooked on meth and enslaving them, so that Telios could use the populace as an army with which he could conquer his homeland of Lionheart, from which he was banished a year or two earlier for allegedly having attempted to assassinate King Arthur, his nephew. After nearly 2 hours of Telios tossing out any testimony that didn’t give him the desired support (i.e. the fact that Thaddeus is blind and sees only through tremorsense, thus meaning he couldn’t have been aiming for Telios) and Thaddeus outright lying to the “jury” (i.e. claiming he has only done what was called for by his business venture), Aster comes to the conclusion that neither side can be allowed to remain in a position to threaten the islands they fought for, yet also insisted on keeping the promise he made to himself at the beginning of the campaign to make sure as few party deaths as possible happened. So he proposes to the rest of the jury, as well as the gargoyle, who functioned as the judge as suggested by Bixby, that instead of sentencing either to death, they should instead be banished from the islands, a decision that is eventually agreed on despite initial arguments still in favor of Thaddeus being executed by Telios. Aster and Thaddeus may have hated each other’s guts from the onset, but in the end, he deemed it morally right to spare his rival, and thus with their exile and Ulars Bhet’s death, Aster had saved the islands from all threats of enslavement. He didn’t let his newly earned hero status get to his head though, and turned down the offer of a special home in the capitol by the natives in favor of setting up a hut away from the rest of civilization on the pair of islands, resuming the hermit’s life he had lived before his call to adventure.