How the Death Cleric Outsmarted the DM to Save the Newbie Paladin


This story takes place at the game store I am playing at. I am fairly new to D&D having only played for two months, but am familiar with D&D's overall mechanics due to podcasts and streams. This knowledge helped me outsmart my DM in the tale to come.

In this game of Descent into Avernus, I am playing a Firbolg Death Cleric of Kelemvor and the newest player is playing an Aarakocra Paladin. The new player often irritated the party by acting like the protagonist, smiting first and asking questions later, using all of the artificer's buffs to get 21 AC, and wanting to allocate party funds towards a full set of enchanted plate armor for himself. Note, the party was level three at this point. His holy Paladin also did not like me because I was a Death Cleric. Yet, he always seemed to ask for my healing. In his defense, the Paladin had never played D&D before and approached it like fantasy games he had played-Skyrim and Dark Souls. 

Up to this point in the story, the Paladin had managed to kill and smite his way through the campaign which boosted his confidence and dominant playstyle. So when our party had emerged from a dungeon with our chests of loot to encounter an ambush from cultists of Tiamat, the Paladin had no fear. Our Warforged died outright in this encounter, and the Paladin said he could just roll a new character. Imagine the Paladin's surprise when at the end of the encounter the last two cultists manage to put him on Death Saving Throws

(For those who do not know, if a player is put on Death Saving Throws they must roll three successes to stabilize to 0 hp. Three failures is death. Rolling a ten or higher is a success, and nine or lower is a fail. If a player stabilizes, all Death Saving Throws are reset. However, if the dying player is attacked at any point, the attack is an automatic hit. Each attack counts for two failed saving throws. This knowledge is important for later on.)

The cultists demanded we give them the chests and let them escape lest they kill the Paladin. None of the party or the DM really cared if the Paladin died especially since he could re-roll a new character, just like he told our Warforged to do a few rounds ago. Having the Paladin die would also allow the party to no longer allocate funds towards that enchanted full set of plate armor he wanted. However, I could see the Paladin becoming visibly upset at losing his character so I chose to parley with the DM. For context, cultist 1 is holding the Paladin at knife point, and cultist 2 is demanding the chests.

DM: The cultists have two held actions on the Paladin if anyone attacks.

Me: I give my chest to cultist 2.

The party is taken aback and start to bicker amongst themselves.

DM: Paladin roll your Death Saving Throw.

It's a 19, success.

Sorcerer: I fire bolt cutlist 1.

DM: It hits, and she looks bloodied but doesn't die. Paladin, a knife sinks into your chest. You fail two death saving throws.

I am mentally cursing at my sorcerer. His attack was well intentioned, but it was ruining my plan.

Me: Everyone, give your chests to them.

Most of the party argues and grumbles before dragging the hard earned loot to cultist 2.

DM: Paladin, roll.

11, another success.

Cultist 2: Thank you. Now would kindly back up to the entrance from where you came.

The party begrudgingly trudges back to the entrance.

DM: Paladin, roll.

11, the final success.

DM: Paladin you are no longer dying but are still unconscious.

At this point, my first plan had worked. I had bought enough time for the Paladin to roll his saving throws. He thankfully succeeded in all of them, despite the two automatic failures from the firebolt attack. Now, there are still two held attacks against the unconscious, but no longer dying, Paladin. Phase two of my plan begins.

Cultist 2 picks up two of the four chests; and the DM appearing smug, looks expectantly at the party.

Me: I let him round the corner.

The party and DM stared in disbelief trying to figure out what I was doing. 

Me: Cultist 2 has used his action to pick up the chests and used his movement to round the corner, correct?

DM: Yes…

Me: I cast chill touch at cultist 1.

DM: The cultist sees your attack incoming and stabs your Paladin who…

There was a long pause before the DM’s face fell as he realized my plan and his mistake. I had bought enough time for the Paladin to stabilize, let cultist two’s held action to be used to carry the chests; and with the Paladin re-stabilized, he could tank one more stabbing and only be down two of his three failed Death Saving Throws. 

Me: I rolled an 18 to hit with 7 for damage.

Cultist 1’s body crumpled in a heap, as our Life Cleric rushed to heal Paladin. The rest of the party pursued cultist 2; and after a small chase scene, the party killed the last cultist, reclaiming our chests of loot. 

As an update, it has been a few sessions since this encounter, and the Paladin has chilled out a bit more by working as a team member and less like a protagonist. I mean, after having his holy Paladin being saved by the Death Cleric he disdained, his 21 AC confidence got knocked down to a more tolerable level.



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