This encounter involves an encounter with an ancient white dragon named Arveiaturace. Arveiaturace is utterly insane. She used to be ridden by a powerful wizard, but the wizard died a long, long time ago. His ancient, freeze-dried corpse is still strapped to her saddle, and she still talks to it as if it were alive, and believes it responds.
The party is level 6. An ancient dragon is an impossible encounter, but it was constructed in such a way that they didn't have to get involved.
Oh, what a sideways romp that was. Just finished a session with my group. They started out in Bryn Shander just after the giant attack in the last session. They made their way to Iron Master to deliver a friend's ashes (switching up the built-in quest), then headed out the patrol Icewind Dale.
They made their way along the southern border to Dougan's Hole, then continued east. Before they got to Good Mead, they were hit by a blizzard and had to take shelter in the nearby forest. That's when things got interesting. While they were camped, they heard trees breaking. They stuck their heads out just in time to see a frost giant go flying through the trees, leaving jagged stumps behind, only to end up bent backwards around a larger one. The crashing sound continued, and two of the party members pushed forward to scout it out while the other two and the cleric stayed behind while the cleric cast Speak with Dead on the dead giant.
The two scouts entered a clearing to see a wounded frost giant holding a chunk of torn tree trunk in his hand, looking around as if searching for something.
Cut back to the cleric, questioning the dead dragon. "What killed you?"
"Ok, what threw you into the trees?"
"What is that?"
Cut back to the two in the front. "The giant speaks the word 'dragon' just as a massive white dragon drops from the sky, claws raised, attacking the giant. On its back is a desiccated, skeletal corpse."
Two sets of character traits took charge. The druid has a mortal fear of undead, and thinking he was looking at a lich, turned and fled. The dragonborn fighter, meanwhile, has an absolute hatred of tyrants, which, by his definition, included the 'lich.' He breathed acid and hit the body. Something fell off, but the blizzard, combined with a poor perception roll, prevented the fighter from seeing what it was ( it was the body's arm.) The dragon and giant continued to fight. The fighter used the distraction to charge ahead and clamber up on Arveiaturace's back. He quickly realized that this was no lich - only a lifeless skeleton. He tore it from the straps that held it in the saddle and flung it to the ground.
Arveiaturace made a perception roll and noticed this. This fighter, unknowingly, had just torn up Norman Bates' mother. Arveiaturace snapped in her madness, cried out in Draconic, "Master!", leapt up, and took to the sky, fighter still clinging to the saddle. He pulled himself into the saddle to keep from falling. Arveiaturace, seeing her friend torn in half by this tiny pest, turned and breathed. Fighter went from full to zero. As the rest of the party rushed into the clearing, they saw the fighter, now unconscious but strapped into Arveiaturace's saddle, being carried over the treetops. He begins his death saves.
He rolls a 20. He comes to, 150 feet in the air, with one hit point. I try to give him an out - Arveiaturace is completely off her rocker at this point, so she turns and cries, "Master?" He takes the hint and tries to convince her that he is her master, still alive. He rolls deception. He rolls a 2.
At this point, there is nothing that I can do. As a DM, I have to be honest with my players. I gave him a chance to get out of a no-win scenario, but stretching that too far would shred the credibility of my game. Arveiaturace would only do one thing. She turns, she bites. One successful death save and three failures later and the fighter is dead. I compliment the player. He sacrificed his character in favor of playing his traits. That is fantastic. He lost his character, but he was laughing and cheering the whole time - as was the rest of the table.
The best part? He's still strapped into the saddle. The next time they see Arveiaturace in a few months, he'll still be there, and in her madness, she'll believe that THIS desiccated corpse is her old master.
Now there is a villain they'll have reason to hate!