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5E So, how hard is it to kill PCs anyway?

CubicsRube

Registered User
In times Ive run i know that i probably err on making fights too easy most times, but I think I under estimate the ingenuity and resources of most players.

If you were to create a moderate cr fight for a tier 2+ fight, do you think you'd be able to kill them?

No traps, no special items. Just pure tactics and playing ruthlessly.
 

CubicsRube

Registered User
TPK. Lets not go half way about it :)

No does not matter.

In fact i have in the back of my head a campaign I want to run at some point where the pcs have already died. And everyime they die, they wake up again over and over in the same town. That is until they find a way out.

That one will be fun as i want to make that one deadly but also fair
 

neogod22

Villager
TPK. Lets not go half way about it :)

No does not matter.

In fact i have in the back of my head a campaign I want to run at some point where the pcs have already died. And everyime they die, they wake up again over and over in the same town. That is until they find a way out.

That one will be fun as i want to make that one deadly but also fair
Well it gets difficult because you're dealing with a lot of hit points at this point. The CR of creatures are off in the MM, I think because they expect boss monsters should have minions but never really state that. The best way to kill characters is to have smart villains with minions that will use tactics like isolate party members to take out others. Or use hit and run tactics. The key is to wear down players spells or kill the spellcasters first.

Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk
 

neogod22

Villager
I think the key to TPK is not let the players rest, but don't let them know they can't rest until they try and take one.

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DRF

Villager
If you do what PCs do and focus fire, not very hard.
This is always difficult I find. If I focus fire a downed target while other PCs are alive and fighting, I might seem like a rude DM who just wants to murder. Typically I have monsters change targets once a character is down (unless he's isolated), but it does mean that PCs have an easy time helping their buddies... hmm
 

ad_hoc

Explorer
In times Ive run i know that i probably err on making fights too easy most times, but I think I under estimate the ingenuity and resources of most players.

If you were to create a moderate cr fight for a tier 2+ fight, do you think you'd be able to kill them?

No traps, no special items. Just pure tactics and playing ruthlessly.
The mistake here is assuming 1 combat per long rest.
 

DEFCON 1

Hero
I think there's a direct relationship between the ease of a TPK and the number of PCs you have at your table.

The smaller the number of PCs, the easier it is to TPK them. And this is for a couple reasons. First, the smaller the number of PCs, the less likely they are to have enough healing support to keep themselves up and active. If you only have 4 PCs, odds are much better you only have a single one that can heal. Which means that if someone hits 0 HP, it's harder to get them awake again. Thus they have better chances to fail Death saves, and/or better chances to have allies far enough away that monsters are available to hit them when they are down.

The more PCs on the field, not only is that more HP you as the DM have to grind down... but there's many more people available to keep the ones who get knocked out from actually dying-- even if they don't necessarily heal them, they at least can stabilize them so they won't die. But most likely they WILL heal them enough to get them back on their feet and back into the fight and thus you're back to large numbers of available PCs to run to each other's aid.

But I think there's also a psychological issue DMs have when they have tables of large number of PCs: Because of the fear of making long, drawn-out, grindfest fights, they are less likely to really throw enough enemies on the battlefield to make a challenge for tables of large numbers of PCs. A table of 8 PCs means those players are waiting a LONG time between turns-- especially if they aren't so up on the rules and tactics that they know exactly what they are to do and can run their turn immediately. Now a DM needs to put enough monsters down to challenge that table of 8 PCs? Forget it... that would make most fights interminable. 8 PCs and like 15 to 20 enemies? No one wants to run a fight like that. But when you have things like PC power, focus fire and the like, you NEED that many enemies to even give them a shot at a TPK. Because you need that many to occupy all the PCs so they are less likely to be able to get other PCs back on their feet, and thus move your way towards a TPK.

And on top of that... there are not many DMs who can effectively plan and run a 16-20 monster squad with effective and strong tactics, while at the same time trying to maintain table interest and cohesion and story. And thus any fight against a table of 8 PCs is going to be less tactically effective than against a small group, which is the exact opposite of what you need in order to take down a group of 8 PCs.

I'm a narrative and story-focused DM so I don't really have any desire or care about trying to TPK my players-- I use other things to generate story tension. But the deadliest and scariest battle I've ever run was for 3 PCs against a single banshee. That's it. That's all that was on the table and it was scary and deadly mainly because it played SO quickly that all 3 players maintained engagement, only a single PC had any sort of healing capability (which meant that should one of them have dropped to 0 HP odds were good a party death spiral was going to happen) and I was able to run that single monster much more effectively tactically since that was all I was focused on.

You don't get that kind of action usually when you're running a game for 7 players. It just doesn't happen. At least not with any regularity.
 

neogod22

Villager
Use mind players, and slaves with intellect devourers. Stagger their psychic blasts so the players are never safe from it. Those things annihilate players.

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Warpiglet

Explorer
This is always difficult I find. If I focus fire a downed target while other PCs are alive and fighting, I might seem like a rude DM who just wants to murder. Typically I have monsters change targets once a character is down (unless he's isolated), but it does mean that PCs have an easy time helping their buddies... hmm
I think it is only rude if it makes no sense. If you have enemies bearing down on you you are probably not taking a round to stab a downed person.

Otherwise, its the way it is. I told my group (I am DM this time) that they should expect intelligent and evil characters to generally act as PCs which means each combat should be carefully considered.
 

Warmaster Horus

Registered User
This is always difficult I find. If I focus fire a downed target while other PCs are alive and fighting, I might seem like a rude DM who just wants to murder. Typically I have monsters change targets once a character is down (unless he's isolated), but it does mean that PCs have an easy time helping their buddies... hmm
Yep. This is why it's not done much. I had a Death Knight attack a downed opponent in a game over the weekend ... 3rd of three attacks, previous 2 dropping the PC, rolled a d6 in the clear to indicate that an 'even' result would mean the last attack would be against the fallen PC (who had already gotten back up from being healed earlier) rather than move to another ... and the players scowled.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
I had one tpk of a 3 person party in Tier 2. Plane shift on one pc. And the pcs were fireballing their own position. Monsters smacking down pcs depends on the INT, and if monsters know about the pcs. Or see the pcs yo-yo. In my TOYP Against the Giants, after a while the giants learn of the EVVVVVVILLLLLL Granny killing druid and his henchmen. So they started using focus fire.
If some monsters get away to higher, they may ambush Captain Kirk and his Jedi Knight gang.
At last count I had 30 names on my death skull. Tier 1 to tier 3 pc kills. 4 now deaths due to double damage on first level pcs. 3 or 4 from monsters stabbing pcs outright. The others vary from bad tactics, no healing, stupid tactics, monsters finishing their multiattack, and bad death saves.
 

Oofta

Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
Tactics, of both the party and the monsters, makes a huge difference. Split the party, focus fire on the healer, double tap when people are down. Repeat. Or just throw more monsters - particularly send in waves coming from different directions at higher levels.

However, if you ever think "In order for the next part of my campaign to work the PCs have to ____". Where the blank can be "talk to Bob the Butcher and convince him to stop selling mystery meat" or "must all die in battle". I'd rethink my plans. Sometimes it makes to have a bit of a railroad scenario, and I've run and played in fun campaigns where the one true path was laid out before the PCs.

But you have to be careful. If the players feel like they have no agency, that their decisions don't matter, that there's no save vs box text, a lot of players won't enjoy it. So if you really want a campaign arc where everyone dies in battle, bring it up ahead of time. If it's a foregone conclusion, there's not really even a reason to play out the encounter. While it may not work for all groups, some groups will have fun coming up with a story of how they all died valiantly saving the day (or really screwed up a heist). I could see a session where you start "dead" and different people tell different parts of the story through "flashbacks" as they tell different parts of how they met their demise.

However, don't be surprised when Bob says "If my character dies that's it. He's dead, I don't want to play that character any more."
 

jgsugden

Explorer
I had a single goblin TPK a 5th level party by itself in an older edition, and little, if anything, would have changed had they been 5th edition. All it took was cutting the rope they were all climbing. Falling 80 to 100 feet does somewhere around 25 to 40 damage. Fighter types might have enough hps to survive in 5e, and there might be spells or items to protect PCs, but a lot of 5th level parties these days would be in deep trouble in similar situations.

I also remember having locathah saw a boat apart from underneath it... not a TPK because they were close to shore, but if we'd waited until they were out to sea...
 

FrogReaver

Explorer
I had a single goblin TPK a 5th level party by itself in an older edition, and little, if anything, would have changed had they been 5th edition. All it took was cutting the rope they were all climbing. Falling 80 to 100 feet does somewhere around 25 to 40 damage. Fighter types might have enough hps to survive in 5e, and there might be spells or items to protect PCs, but a lot of 5th level parties these days would be in deep trouble in similar situations.

I also remember having locathah saw a boat apart from underneath it... not a TPK because they were close to shore, but if we'd waited until they were out to sea...
I think the goblin cutting the rope would count as a trap which the OP ruled out?
 

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