The vampire spawn that fled the party at the end of the previous session gave the group the run-around. The party moved to the mess hall and prepared to fight, but the vampires didn’t show.

When the group moved toward the cistern, the vampires ambushed them from a secret passage, grabbed the Ranger, and bled her dry. If not for 5e’s super-lenient death rules and some good rolls on her part, she’d have died.

The party figured out the secret passage and pursued the vampire spawn — the passage emptied into the cistern, where the group lost the vampire spawn.

They did manage to stay on their tail long enough the vampires dumped the Ranger and fled deeper into the dungeon. The party gave up the chase at that point.

Since they were back in the cistern, the party looked again for a method to open the secret door that had brought them into the dungeon — they lucked out and found a button in one of the many columns in the room.

Only about six hours had passed since the group entered the dungeon, so they had to camp out in the secret passage for eighteen hours to gain the benefit of an extended rest. I didn’t mind one bit. The Paladin did though.

The group tried to decide whether it was worth continuing to pursue the Sun Blade or to abandon the quest. The Ranger suggested the group use the Locate Object spell to “speed run” the remainder of the dungeon.

That argument won over the rest of the group.

Returning through the cistern, the party used Locate Object to get a distance and a direction to the Sun Blade. Fortunately (or unfortunately), they encountered a gang of ghosts that offered them a deal for details on the Sun Blade’s location.

There were some . . . difficulties. The Ranger ‘poofed’ one ghost, the Cleric turned four of them — the only reason there were any to talk to was because one ghost wasn’t turned, and the Paladin broke the turning effect on another.

The ghosts revealed a secret passage leading to the second level of the dungeon in exchange for a promise to drive another group of adventurers out of the dungeon.

It quickly became apparent the other group was the party’s henchmen.

When the party confronted them downstairs, there was a brief discussion about whether to question them before fighting, but it quickly became obvious there was going to be a fight.

The Ranger and the Fighter quickly took down three of the four azers in the group with a barrage of arrows and a flurry of steel. The remaining azer survived most of the fight, which meant he was able to do a lot of fire damage to the Fighter.

An NPC dark elf hit the party with faerie fire in the first round, and the effect persisted the entire battle, granting the enemies advantage on attacks against 3/5 members of the party. One of the NPC Clerics blessed the NPCs.

Advantage plus Bless? Brutal.

One of the NPC Fighters had the Sun Blade the party was looking for, and used it to inflict a lot of damage on the Druid throughout the battle. Almost every round, the NPC Fighter was hitting with both her attacks and dealing about 20 damage per round. I wasn’t keeping track but the Druid easily soaked 100+ damage.

The party’s Cleric was one of the PCs who was hit by faerie fire, and after dropping some a big heal became the sole target of both NPC Rogues. They hit almost every attack (advantage+Bless). And got +3d6 Sneak Attack every time.

After the Ranger demonstrated a remarkable ability to . . . kill . . . everything, one of the Clerics first tried Hold Person (lasted one round) and then Command, and managed to keep the Ranger out of the fight for two entire rounds — which significantly enhanced the NPCs’ staying power.

The party’s Fighter dropped once or twice. The Cleric dropped again, and again, and . . . again. I think the Paladin was the one keeping the Cleric in the fight, round after round. The Paladin wasn’t able to do much more than that.

The battle really turned once the Ranger was back in the fight, and the party took out one of the two NPC Clerics. The NPC Rogues continued to pour on the hurt but they couldn’t keep anyone down.

Really, the reason the fight went as long as it did — was that neither side was effectively focusing fire. The NPCs were spreading their damage across the party, and the party was spreading their damage across the NPCs.

Let me tell you, it’s hard to present an entire group of NPCs as being “about as competent as a typical adventuring party” and not like a hivemind. I could have easily destroyed the party, but I played the NPCs as “only pretty good.”

The NPCs mostly lacked “control” in their group — no Wizards or crowd control — but they had Fighters, Clerics, and Rogues, so the Fighters tanked, the Rogues hit hard, and the Clerics healed. It was a hard fight and it went really well.

In the last couple rounds, the party took out one NPC Fighter, then a Cleric, then a Rogue . . . they took out the second Cleric, then the second Rogue fled.

The second Fighter — now alone — threw down the Sun Blade and surrendered.

And that’s where the session ended.