D&D 5E You've just TPK'd in the final fight. What do?

Depends on the situation. If the party are definitely out, and no hope of intervention from others. If there were other/rival adventurers established in the game, I might run a one-shot where the group plays another party trying to recover the original party or beat the BBEG.
Generally a new game would be started rather than the campaign continuing with the repercussions of the BBEG's victory.
 

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ReshiIRE

Adventurer
Talk with the players and figure out how they feel and what they want to do. It's the only way to actually figure things out and ensure everyone is satisfied.

I think it's very valid to have the game and story end with the party's failure against their last and or main quest, as long as everyone is okay with that. If not, asking people what they would prefer to do and whether it would be good to try a new adventure based on the consequences of the previous, etc., would be best.
 

Fauchard1520

Explorer
Talk with the players and figure out how they feel and what they want to do. It's the only way to actually figure things out and ensure everyone is satisfied.

I think it's very valid to have the game and story end with the party's failure against their last and or main quest, as long as everyone is okay with that. If not, asking people what they would prefer to do and whether it would be good to try a new adventure based on the consequences of the previous, etc., would be best.
I feel like this is an extension of my PC death policy: As a GM, I don’t like permadeath. Or rather, I don’t like permadeath without player buy-in. I’m running on the theory that tabletop role-playing games are an act of collaborative storytelling. Sure the guy at the head of the table has the lion’s share of narrative control, but the lowly players ought to have some input as well, especially where their characters are concerned. Players, after all, are the people you as a GM are trying to entertain. If their entire experience of the game world is bound up in the trials and tribulations of a single character, why in the world would you unilaterally decide that character is no longer a part of the story?

Now extrapolate that out to TPK.
 


the Jester

Legend
Suppose your party TPK’d in the final fight. Would you reset and try again? Would you accept defeat? Or would you expect your GM to fudge the dice just enough to keep the BAD ENDING from ruining a good campaign? What's your philosophy of failure when it comes to the campaign finale?

(Comic for illustrative purposes.)
Move forward, explore the consequences with a new group set an appropriate number of years later.

Any game that ever ever EVER retcons is 100% not for me. A retcon tells me that what I have chosen, what I have done, what I have experienced doesn't matter. Only the DM's desired story matters. That DM should go write a book and get it out of their system. D&D is a game with all that entails, including the chance of defeat/failure. I don't want to be part of the DM telling me his story; I want to be part of a game where we play out the action and the consequences arise from game play, even if that means we all die and the world ends.
 

SakanaSensei

Adventurer
Going into my big fight this weekend, and I've planned a contingency just in case. The cleric follows a dying god of chaos and trickery: If they wipe, they get one last chance as the last light of the goddess saves them, but chaos is drained from the fabric of reality and dice rolled until they somehow fix that problem always come up average. All d20s are treated as 10s, all d8s are treated as 4s. It should only affect a session or two, but I liked the idea of representing consequences in a mechanical fashion that way, and reducing randomness seemed to fit!
 

Steampunkette

Rules Tinkerer and Freelance Writer
Supporter
Put it to the Players to decide.

We could rewind and retry. They could beg the gods or other entities for help. Fight their way out of heaven or hell. Play Chess against Death. We could roll newbs and do a different game. Could have those newbs taking up the mantle of the fallen champions to defeat the same BBEG or do something else. Could do same-world with consequences, or earlier in the timeline, or simultaneous to what the other team was doing.

Lots of options offered to the players to let them choose how to move forward, rather than declaring only what -I- want.
 


Oofta

Legend
I run my games in a persistent world. So if there's a TPK events just go on as they would have. Sometimes the effect is minimal, sometimes cities fall and the BBEG starts Ragnarok and the next group has to deal with it.

I rarely do true end of the world campaigns (the follow-up to the TPK was an exception) because I don't assume the PCs will win. Bad for the region? There's a new Evil Empire? Sure. End of the world? Unless I want to reset things, no.

Besides, if every campaign is world threatening it gets old.
 

We have a multitude of characters in our FR storyline using various APs (level 13, level 10, level 7 and level 5).
I'm thinking if the primary TPK in the final fight against Tiamat I have two options
  • Resurrection by 3rd party some time later in a much changed setting and finish our high level run. I'd change some of the system mechanics too to make higher level play easier for me to DM, but build that change into the fiction. (i.e. damage to the Weave - high level spells drain more slots, item corrosion - items do not survive, foul environment working against endless hit points and HD, no free magic - no cantrips...etc
  • Start afresh in Mystara
Both are appealing to me. I'd likely consult my table and put both options before the players.
 


Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
This happened a few months ago. We TPK'd at the end of Rime of the Frostmaiden in the final battle. What did we do? Not much we could do lol. Our characters are dead icicles on her island now. I suppose at some point another group of PCs may find them, but it's not in the immediate plans.
 


Celebrim

Legend
The last time I was running D&D I told the players that if they TPK'd, the campaign was over and we'd start a new campaign in the aftermath of the bad guys 'victory'.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Suppose your party TPK’d in the final fight. Would you reset and try again? Would you accept defeat? Or would you expect your GM to fudge the dice just enough to keep the BAD ENDING from ruining a good campaign? What's your philosophy of failure when it comes to the campaign finale?

(Comic for illustrative purposes.)
This post hit several triggers for me.

First, it committed the sin of conflating character goals and player goals. There is no way that a heroic attempt can be a great story or anything, it must be a BAD ENDING.

Second, it assumes that a big ending is satisfying if there is no way to lose at it. That "the players don't matter, the DM will ensure they win" -- for many that could be a BAD ENDING.

Sorry, if this question came from a DM who's game I was considering playing, I'd treat it as a red flag.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
You can dance if you want to. Do the TPK DANCE DO THE TPK DANCE
Names go on skully. And the Adventure League body recovery team is called for pick up.
 

Four possible answers:
  1. Just accept it. This is the "worst" of the good answers, in that...well, it sucks, but it's better than most other options. Doesn't feel good. A downer ending can really ruin player enthusiasm, but if they feel there's nothing they could've done to lose, that'll ruin it worse. So better to accept your drubbings and move on to new games.
  2. Let the players take advantage of some kind of benefit...with some kind of nasty cost attached. The game is ending, so many costs of that kind are not generally going to work (you aren't returning to this story!) But there are almost certainly still things where you can treat it as a temptation or as a...shall we say, alternate bad ending. E.g. the Paladin secretly falls, getting Asmodeus' power to make it work, tainting the resulting victory, giving the Lord of the Nine Hells a foothold in the world. IOW, tempting the players (perhaps each of them!) with a "better" ending...that creates hooks for something else.
  3. Extend the campaign with either (a) a one-shot, or (b) a mini-campaign, which gives a new opportunity for closure. Perhaps the PCs are saved, perhaps they die but are brought back by desperate rebels against the BBEG, somehow they get a second chance--but this time they're the underdogs and need to rally support before they can win.
  4. Decide the campaign isn't actually over, and treat everything from before the defeat as "campaign 1." New campaign to follow that builds off of the initial failure. Perhaps a "next gen" sequel, perhaps a "you've been brought back," whatever it is, a new game builds off of the previous failure. You tell a new story as a result, as opposed to offering a new opportunity to win.
I can't really see any other answer that doesn't end up being deeply unsatisfying.
 

Bluebell

Explorer
For me, it would fully depend upon the campaign itself, the themes and character motivations of the story we're playing, and the context of the TPK. Some stories are most poetic when they end with the heroes going down in a blaze of glory. Some stories feel wrong and unsatisfying if they end there.

I would never want a reset or for a DM to fudge die. But some other means of moving forward from there, such as bargaining with some god or something, might feel like the most appropriate option. Or not. Honestly it's all about what feels right for that particular table playing that particular game.
 



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