Here’s how the much-anticipated T. rex fight went down. From a local neanderthal tribe we hired two mammoths with their mahouts and six spearmen. Also along were our three hirelings, Gustav the greataxe-wielding barbarian, Vaskin the archer, and Blixa the spear-throwing kobold thug.* Some people at a nearby fort had showed Vaskin and Flint (dwarf cleric) how to make and use a ballista while Aelar (wood elf rogue), Wilvias (halfling rogue), Gustav, and Blixa were on the road north to meet the neanderthals. One of the people from the fort, an old hunter named Barheev, had come along to help Vaskin work the ballista.
We were headed for a waterfall where a stream came down out of the hills and fell into a pool in the lowland forest. It was the known hunting ground of a tyrannosaur. We set up as shown above. Flint had the Spider Staff, an artifact he picked up in the Phandelver campaign from the Starter Box. We figured the web spell from the staff would be useful for restraining the tyrannosaur, and possibly for gumming its mouth shut as well. We didn’t know which way the tyannosaur would come in (because I rolled it randomly at the last minute), so we had assets on both sides of the pool. Everyone settled in to wait.
The tyrannosaur came out of the jungle and attacked the baby sauropod (literally in tyrannosaur’s shadow in the photo above). Everyone started shooting arrows. The first few that hit only enraged the beast, and it charged forward. Unfortunately, the tyrannosaur came along the shore opposite Flint, which meant that he and the Spider Staff were now out of range. He grabbed a vine from the cliffs near the waterfall and tried to Tarzan across. And there our troubles began.
Flint failed his easy Dex check to swing across the waterfall, and fell into the pool. The tyrannosaur saw this, which made Flint a potential target. I assigned numbers to everyone the tyrannosaur could see, and rolled to see which person it would attack next. Guess who got the short straw? Flint. The tyrannosaur stomped into the pool, bit him, and lifted him up out of the water.
Meanwhile, most everyone was sucking, hardcore. The first two shots from the ballista went wide. All six of our neanderthals wiffed on their initial spear-throws. Fortunately Aelar and Blixa hit the tyrannosaur in the face with an arrow and a spear, respectively, which pissed it off enough that it roared and dropped Flint. But now it had seen Blixa, and on its next turn it surged forward and gobbled him up. It also turned around and swiped its tail at the spearmen up on the cliff, pulping one immediately and knocking another one off the cliff into a fatal fall. At this point, Flint was mortally wounded, two of our six neanderthals were dead, and it was starting to look like we might be rolling up a lot of new characters.
Then the tide turned. Gustav, our giant barbarian, strode into the pool, aimed a mighty blow at the tyrannosaur’s ankle – and rolled a natural 20. Tendons the size of a man’s forearm split with an audible pop, and the tyrannosaur lost the ability to flex its right ankle. Now it would need a successful Dex save to keep from falling every time it tried to take a step. It actually passed the save on the next round, but now it was facing the wrong way. Vaskin and Barheev hit it with a spear from the ballista, Wilvias and Aelar put a few more arrows in its mug, and it toppled over. I rolled to see which way it fell – Flint was still in the pool and Wilvias was right on the bank, and either of them might have been crushed. But fortunately it fell toward the deepest part of pool. The surviving neanderthals moved in with their spears to finish it off.
In the aftermath photo above, you can see Vaskin tending to Flint on the near shore, while Gustav (played in this case by the samurai, even though Gustav is not a samurai and doesn’t wear armor) and Wilvias stand in the shallows, and the victorious neanderthals stand atop their monstrous foe. Flint got to roll on the Death and Dismemberment Table. Along with some nasty puncture wounds, he lost his right arm at the shoulder. Only quick work with a minor healing spell and cauterization saved Flint’s life. Blixa was dead – we cut his body out of the tyrannosaur’s stomach and gave him a warrior’s funeral, along with the two neanderthals that died in the fight.
So that went just about perfectly. I wanted it to be hard and it was. We lost one of our party hirelings, two of our hired neanderthals, and one of the PCs lost a limb. But there were moments of glory, too – Gustav’s critical hit on the tyrannosaur’s ankle turned the tide, and it’s now a legend among all of the tribes who sent people to the fight. Flint survived, and he has serious cred among the savages for having passed through the jaws of the Forest Devil and lived. Most importantly, the party got the tyrannosaur head they needed to ransom Alethra. More on that another time.