In a recent session, an encounter with a single particularly tough Orc (who was my doppelganger, trying to kill me) left the party dealing chip damage a few rounds at a time while they attempted to bring down my character, the de facto tank of the group. Eventually, they were able to reduce my character down to 0 hitpoints.
Now, being a (relatively) well-balanced group, we had a healer (a Druid) who was dutifully keeping me alive, healing me every time I went down to ensure that I couldn't just straight-up die from this encounter. But there was a big problem: in the Initiative order, the order was specified as Orc→Me→Our Druid→Our Rogue. (All party members are level 6).
What this meant is that in these stages of the fight, the encounter, for many turns in a row, looked like this:
- Orc attacks me (twice), at least one hit hits me, reduces me to 0 hit points
- My turn begins, I make a Death Saving Throw. Irrespective of the result, I'm still alive, but still unconscious and bleeding out (I never successfully rolled a Natural 20).
- Druid heals me, I'm back up with some quantity of hit points (usually about 4-9)
- Our Rogue attempts and (usually) fails to deal damage to the Orc (Long Story Short, their stats are suboptimal for combat situations)
- Orc sees me up, attacks again, and with advantage (due to me still being prone) basically guarantees both hits, I go down again
- My turn, I make a death saving throw
- Druid heals me
- Rogue (maybe) gets in some damage
- Orc attacks me
- ♪♪Here we go again♪♪
What kind of options did we have to mitigate or stave off this cycle, which only ended after our rogue managed to deal enough damage to bring the Orc down about 5 cycles later?
One important constraint is that we did not have any meaningful "Crowd Control" type abilities: our Rogue was an Assassination Rogue (no spells, no powerful tactical abilities), our Druid was using their whole turn keeping me alive (a double hit usually resulted in me dropping to two automatic failures, meaning waiting even a single turn to heal me could have left me dead), and my turns were all spent bleeding out due to 0 hit points (so my Paladin features were unusable during this process). What could we have done to break this cycle early?
We did not have any (useful) magic items. I (the paladin) had an attuned Spell gem that could cast Shield of Faith (but which would have required me to be up long enough to actually cast it), and our Rogue had a pair of Boots of Flying that, for RP purposes, they did not have knowledge of their capabilities. Neither of which, naturally, could be used. Both I and the Druid had both Potions and Healers Kits (but like I said, I was stun-locked and the Druid was using said potions or Cure Wounds as their Action each turn).
The rogue did not have proficiency or expertise in Athletics—we did not attempt any Grapple checks in this fight, and in hindsight it does seem like something we should have tried, so that information is available if it factors into the strategy.
In terms of spells, I don't recall exactly which spells the Druid had prepared, but I do recall they were out of all spell slots except for first level slots, and were alternating between Cure Wounds and administered Potions of Healing to keep me alive. I had two remaining first level spell slots, with Bless, Command, Ensnaring Strike and Speak with Animals prepared (Ancients Paladin), but like mentioned, I was in no situation where I could use these spells.
Also, because it's been brought up a few times: the encounter was structured as an encounter between us and a group of identical doppelgangers of the party. So the 'Orc' in question was, in fact, a clone of my Half-Orc Paladin (at least in terms of stats and abilities). All of the clones had explicitly incentivised targeting their respective doppelganger, which is why the clone kept focusing me down, even after going unconscious. At this point in the fight, the clone Rogue + clone Druid had already gone down (low HP + bad positioning + use of my Ancient's Paladin spell/class features to root them in place) made them vulnerable to AOE attacks from the real Druid), but the clone Paladin (me) had managed to stay up through persistent use of Lay on Hands + spell healing, which brought us to the point where this post begins.