D&D General To TPK or Not to TPK, that is the question...

dave2008

Legend
TPK, always TPK ;)

Seriously though. Just let the dice fall where they fall. Unless there is more to the encounter then what you described, I bet they can escape as long as they quickly realize that is their goal. I would emphasize how dangerous the situation is and hopefully they take the bait and it it becomes and frantic fight/chase/escape scene. If not, then maybe it is a glorious death scene for one or all.
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Based on what you've said, it's hard to see how this bunch got to level 18. They blew off their scouting mission, split the party, walked into the center of the BBEG's lair without eliminating any of his minions and then became belligerent. I can perhaps, at a stretch, see everything except that last step as a plan gone wrong. But that last step really sounds like they don't know what they are up against. Do the players realize yet that they are in trouble?

In line with what @iserith said about fairness - did they say anything to indicate that they had a misconception about Ignus' strength, or believed that he could easily be intimidated?
I too fail to see how they made it this far... if they can't even agree on a plan, let the dice decide!
 

They're forbidden to settle their "differences" by violence, direct or indirect. The order was "Not you or any hirelings, minions, followers or agents of any kind." So he's trying to entice a party of adventurers to do his dirty work for him. He can't pay them or offer them any reward, but he has promised that, whether they do this job or not, he'll free any and all slaves held in his estate or on his lands, and will hold no more in the future.

...

The guard sounded a horn and backup arrived, two more Salamander riding fire drakes. They went to the estate and entered, past some Janni guards.

So they've taken encounter 1 and had it take them to encounter two.

Ignus was sent for and he in turn called in some mortal mercenaries he'd hired for the occasion. That's encounters four and five. (Three is still waiting in the wings.)
Negotiations were initiated, threats were made and challenges issued. Long story short, half the party is about to face three, and possibly four of the challenges I had laid out for them, all at the same time.

Short of a DM intervention, they're gonna get creamed.


I obviously haven't been in the game the whole time to know all the details, and maybe I'm misreading the situation, but it sounds to me like at least this half of the party is operating under a well-earned assumption that Ignus won't attack them until they draw first blood.

First, Fireheart has sent them on the quest. By promising a reward, he's entered into a contract with the party. So clearly, they are under the directive of protection until they break it.

Second, the reason the number of enemies has escalated so much is that they were simply allowed to walk past the guards. If I were in that half of the party, I would assume that if I wasn't supposed to be allowed inside, the guards would at least try and stop me. By letting the party inside and parlaying with Ignus, the assumption is that they won't be attacked if they don't start a fight.

So, the easy solution for that half group is to simply end negotiations and leave, and plan another scheme from outside. You've given them penty of reason to expect they will be allowed to walk free. If you stop them from doing so, the TPK is on you. If they make the unfortunate decision to attack head on against those odds, then the TPK is on them.
 


Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
TPK is on the table. Even if I talk about ways it may not, they are "may" only.

First, is the goal of the guards to respond with lethal force. I know this is D&D, but who are those guys guarding against? They may want to take prisoners, and having the other half out to try to break them out is both dangerous (penalizing them for their bad choices) and a more interesting story.

Second, at 18th level death is pretty temporary as long as one survives to get some True Res cast (assuming no bodies). That's only stopped by a full TPK. Anything else is recoverable form and not the end of the campaign.

Three, you could be nice with having reinforcements showing up. But think REALLY hard - it will be seen as deux ex machina protecting the party.

Four, Ignus may wear them down and then offer that instead of killing them, he'd let them go if they perform a service. He's got this rival, Fireheart, who is an evil Efreet that he can't go after directly...

Five, you could have something else happening at the same time that upsets everything. It needs to suck for the players so it's not seen as deux ex machina of saving them from death. Perhaps whomever has the power to enforce a deal on Fireheart and Ignus shows up, and wants the players as his own playthings since Fireheart is breaking the terms of the deal. So the players have a choice to do something for this new, more powerful being - but one who might not be evil.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
I obviously haven't been in the game the whole time to know all the details, and maybe I'm misreading the situation, but it sounds to me like at least this half of the party is operating under a well-earned assumption that Ignus won't attack them until they draw first blood.

Absolutely correct. He asked them if Fireheart had sent them and they assured him that he hadn't.

First, Fireheart has sent them on the quest. By promising a reward, he's entered into a contract with the party. So clearly, they are under the directive of protection until they break it.

Except that he made it abundantly clear that he wasn't offering them any reward or repayment. A few favors are owed to him, and he went out of his way to state that he couldn't pay anyone, offer favors nor forgive favors owed. Further, the party's current leader is a Paladin of Freedom who can't work for him, and has to fight with himself not to just kill the Efreet where he stands.

Second, the reason the number of enemies has escalated so much is that they were simply allowed to walk past the guards. If I were in that half of the party, I would assume that if I wasn't supposed to be allowed inside, the guards would at least try and stop me. By letting the party inside and parlaying with Ignus, the assumption is that they won't be attacked if they don't start a fight.

So, the easy solution for that half group is to simply end negotiations and leave, and plan another scheme from outside. You've given them penty of reason to expect they will be allowed to walk free. If you stop them from doing so, the TPK is on you. If they make the unfortunate decision to attack head on against those odds, then the TPK is on them.

The Paladin told Ignus that he wanted to discuss the freeing of slaves (a real sore point for the Paladin of Freedom.) When asked what he offered in return the Paladin responded, "Your life". It just got worse from there.

One of the mercenaries knew the Paladin from their younger days, and though they never liked each other, he asked the Paladin if he preferred tournament rules or battlefield. The Paladin replied "battlefield". So the two are facing off for a lance-charge on horseback. The other knight may be an evil son of a birch tree, but he still has a knightly code of honor, and offered to meet the Paladin under those terms.

We stopped the game for lack of time just before rolling Initiative.

The Paladin discovered, too late, that his Paladin's mount, being Celestial, doesn't have any fire resistance, while the other man's mount does. His will be taking a D10 of damage per round, which may put the Paladin at a disadvantage. He said he was going to dismiss the mount, which places him as an armored knight, afoot in a "rough terrain" landscape (1/2 speed) against a mounted knight with a lance, and a mount that isn't hindered by the terrain.

You see why I say he's going to get creamed. His honor won't let him retreat, and it wouldn't do him any good even if he did.

BTW: I effectively neutralized the party Rogue by having the bad guys' Bard (Rogue in disguise) call her aside and ask if she has any good stories. Their "Bard", like the party Rogue, is female. She's "sparkley" as a Bard should be, and is so bouncy and happy it's hard not to like her. (She works at that.) "Oooh, this is going to make such a great story!"

So the party's Rogue present, but too far away to help and far too far away to escape with them if the Cleric (only other PC present) decides to Plane Shift away with the Paladin. And with a bit of role playing I've managed to split the already split party even further.

Rules note: In 3.5 a Rogue of a certain level keeps her Dex even when flat footed, and can't be flanked. Only a Rogue of at least four levels higher can get a Sneak against her from a flank.

improved Feint, on the other hand, is none of those things, and denies the target their Dex. The player may believe that she's immune to Sneak attacks. She isn't, and could fall in one or two such strikes.

It's gonna be ugly.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
Based on what you've said, it's hard to see how this bunch got to level 18...
I have to admit this is the worst brain fortification I've ever seen at my table.

Maybe they're just assuming that I'll make it a cake walk, that I'll pull the punch.

The adversary is Lawful Evil, and has no reason to let these adventurers walk away. Not when he has such an advantage.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
TPK TPK I LIKE Them! I LOVE THEM! I WANT MORE OF THEM.... Ok. As long as one or two pcs have the option to run away, I have no problem taking the pain to the group. Now if they choose not to run away, their bad luck.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
First, is the goal of the guards to respond with lethal force. I know this is D&D, but who are those guys guarding against? They may want to take prisoners, and having the other half out to try to break them out is both dangerous (penalizing them for their bad choices) and a more interesting story.

The guards were hired in case Fireheart disregards the Sultan's orders and attacks.

Second, at 18th level death is pretty temporary as long as one survives to get some True Res cast (assuming no bodies). That's only stopped by a full TPK. Anything else is recoverable form and not the end of the campaign.
You need at least a pinch of dust from the body to do a res or True Res.

Three, you could be nice with having reinforcements showing up. But think REALLY hard - it will be seen as deux ex machina protecting the party.

Yeah, that would be a really obvious bag of marshmallows. Like I said, if you pull out the big guns, don't load them with ping-pong balls.

Four, Ignus may wear them down and then offer that instead of killing them, he'd let them go if they perform a service. He's got this rival, Fireheart, who is an evil Efreet that he can't go after directly...
But at that point they would be in his (Ignus) employ, or qualify as minions.

Five, you could have something else happening at the same time that upsets everything. It needs to suck for the players so it's not seen as deux ex machina of saving them from death. Perhaps whomever has the power to enforce a deal on Fireheart and Ignus shows up, and wants the players as his own playthings since Fireheart is breaking the terms of the deal. So the players have a choice to do something for this new, more powerful being - but one who might not be evil.
This has possibilities. Intervention would have to wait until the first blow is struck, which is what would violate the rules laid down by the great Sultan.

Still, that's a blatant deux ex machina, which I really don't want to do.

Decisions, decisions...
 

The Paladin told Ignus that he wanted to discuss the freeing of slaves (a real sore point for the Paladin of Freedom.) When asked what he offered in return the Paladin responded, "Your life". It just got worse from there. ...

The Paladin discovered, too late, that his Paladin's mount, being Celestial, doesn't have any fire resistance, while the other man's mount does.

Ah, I see. This is one of those classic "lawful stupid" paladins.

The nice way out would be to have Ignus send what's left of the paladin back to any members of the party present, and ask them in they want to join their friend of leave. Let them decide for themselves if they want to end it or not.
 

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