Here’s another story from my personal collection:
So, we’d been playing a campaign (2nd Edition) for about three months at four/five hours a week. The players all started at 3rd level and were nearing the end of the story at 8th or 9th. I had a pretty balanced group with a warrior, a bard, a rogue, a wizard, and a ranger and they all worked together nicely. In fact, the roleplaying had been fantastic all campaign long as the characters were mercenaries trying to hold the group together just long enough to get the job done. They also had a nice range of alignments going from Lawful Good (warrior) to Lawful Evil (rogue) which made for some interesting arguments.
After a whirlwind chase through a forest and several ambushes, the final dungeon had been found and the “boss” for the campaign was waiting inside. The characters readied themselves for hell and they were not disappointed. I threw everything at them I could think of to put them off their games; mummies, trolls, a black pudding, a dark naga, and more than a few traps. I even turned one of the characters to stone for about a quarter of the dungeon. But they were smart players and teamwork pays off in my games, so they managed to have an extended rest at the right time and got to the last room with only minor damage on them and most of their spells intact. That was when they discovered that the “boss” they had been chasing all this time, a rather unimpressive looking elf, was really an elder green dragon in disguise.
With barely a moment’s hesitation, my players jumped in to take him down. I vowed to not hold back and to use all of the dragon’s attacks/spells to the utmost. Right from the first round this battle was epic and it definitely lands in my top five all time. It started about two-thirds of the way through one session and took up all of a second. The highlights included: a character dying and being brought back with a Rod of Resurrection; the dragon opening up a portal and bringing forth a dozen or more lizardmen; the wizard, having completely used up all of his spells, sacrificing his spell book and using it as a magic bomb; and the dragon smashing out of the dungeon to fight the last few rounds of the battle outside under the stars on the side of an Incan style temple. It was very back and forth all battle long with both sides gaining and losing advantage several times. And, just when I figured that the end was nigh and the players had this fight in the bag, the rogue did something I had never seen before nor would ever see again afterward.
He ran away. That’s right, brave Sir Robin bravely ran away.
Unbeknownst to me or to the other players, Mr. Lawful Evil had made a decision at the beginning of the campaign that should he feel that any fight was a threat to him, he would simply pack up his stuff and bugger off on his own. So, despite the fact that this was undeniably the last fight of the campaign, he had reached his limit and yelled goodbye to all of the other players as he flew away using his Cloak of the Bat. A few jaws dropped around the roleplaying room, including my own; a few people simply laughed; and at least one got upset. But, as far as the rogue was concerned, he had made his decision and was playing his selfish character to the letter. I really had no grounds for dispute.
Thankfully, even minus the rogue, the players managed to polish off the green dragon and complete the campaign. As a small reward, I did an epilogue for each character spinning a short tale of what happened to them over the rest of their careers. However, when it came time for me to tell the tale of the rogue, it was payback time! I spoke at length on how he managed to escape the battle unharmed and how he returned to a previous dungeon the party had visited to recover some loot that had been left behind. It was then I told him, much to his horror, that something dark and powerful had been missed the first time around. I spoke of how he tried to run and how he tried to fight but when this darkness finally got a hold on him, he had no friends nearby to hear his powerful screams.