D&D General Don’t Fear the Reaper: TPK is Not the End

mehighlow

Explorer
The main thing is realizing that a TPK does not mean "Total Party Kill", but a "Total Party K.O". This is harder in "hit points" based games, i.e. D&Derivatives, where it is strongly implied that wounds are actual damage to body and that falling down means dying ("death saves" etc). The second thing is that defeat, like a TPK, means the situation gets worse, not the party or the game is over. OP made a great list of examples, and I personally use the name of one chapter of the Hobbit as a motto for this kind of approach - Out Of The Frying-Pan Into The Fire. It's a staple of pulp narratives, and should be a staple of all action/combat oriented RPGs.
 

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aco175

Legend
Giant eagles fly in out of nowhere to carry al of you off to safety while tossing the bad guys to their death. They just drop you off at a different railroad station down the line.
 

So last night I had my first TPK as GM in a PF2e game. The full explanation is here if anyone is curious what happened, but the part for this thread is we ended the session with me offering the players 4 choices:

1. We use the undead archetype rules in "Book of the Dead" to have their characters become ghouls and continue the campaign.
2. The PCs were captured by the priestess, with the intent of waiting for the ghoul fever to take them. I'll then give them a chance to fight their way out and we continue on.
3. They roll up new characters and go in to find out what happened to the missing PCs.
4. We end the campaign and play something else.

The session ran late due to the lengthy combat we all wanted to finish, so I told them let me know in the next few days so I can plan for next week how to proceed. So far I've received a mix of options 1 and 2 for responses so I'll likely blend those 2 options as long as no one goes with option 4. For context, no one was mad or upset and they all seemed to enjoy the challenge.
 

DammitVictor

Trust the Fungus
Supporter
As a variant of Lanefan's #8, the new characters have to be "legacy characters" with a clear connection to the old, dead PCs-- but the legacy characters areall not for the players' own original PC, but for a different player's.
 

not-so-newguy

I'm the Straw Man in your argument
Giant eagles fly in out of nowhere to carry al of you off to safety while tossing the bad guys to their death. They just drop you off at a different railroad station down the line.
I assume that all these ideas would only be implemented with Player Buy-in attached. I think the ideas are heavy-handed, but wouldn't define them as a railroad.
 


Raiztt

Adventurer
A lot of referees seem to think that the dreaded total party kill (TPK) or party wipe is the end of a campaign. It could be, if you let it. But it doesn’t have to be.

“But everyone’s dead! It’s game over, man. Game over!”

This thread is all about coming up with ways to keep a campaign going after a TPK. Most D&D games take place in a high fantasy setting. Seems like a good idea to lean into that.

Here’s how.

#1. From DCC RPG: “Total party kill: Don’t end the game! Transport all the player characters to Hell—where they can give in to Death’s demands or try to fight their way out.”

#2. Have them wake up 100 years later as newly free-willed undead.

#3. Have them wake up in chains in a dungeon.

#4. Have the PCs wake up in the afterlife and have the gods strike a bargain with them to go back and complete unfinished business.

#5. Have them wake up a century or two later as undead servants to a necromancer and now they have to fight their way out.

#6. Have them wake up on the banks of the River Styx and they’re out of coins for Charon…who sends them back to the land of the living to collect the proper obols.

#7. Have an adventurer’s guild that will resurrect guild members for a fee. Have all your PCs be members. The group loses a week or a month and the cost of resurrection. They’re given basic equipment because their fancy gear was left in the dungeon, and sent on their way.

So, that’s seven simple ways to keep the campaign going with the same characters.

What ideas can you come up with to keep playing after a TPK?
So, I propose a lateral shift from this question:

Create situations where PCs can truly fail without resulting in a TPK. We need to remember that there can be objectives besides "kill everything dead" and "not get killed dead". This of course then leads to the PCs having to deal with the consequences of their failure.
 

overgeeked

B/X Known World
So, I propose a lateral shift from this question:

Create situations where PCs can truly fail without resulting in a TPK. We need to remember that there can be objectives besides "kill everything dead" and "not get killed dead". This of course then leads to the PCs having to deal with the consequences of their failure.
Sure. But it’s not either, or. Why not both?
 

not-so-newguy

I'm the Straw Man in your argument
So, I propose a lateral shift from this question:

Create situations where PCs can truly fail without resulting in a TPK. We need to remember that there can be objectives besides "kill everything dead" and "not get killed dead". This of course then leads to the PCs having to deal with the consequences of their failure.
My post deals with that sort of situation. (post #5) 🙂
 


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