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Thursday, May 16, 2013

How Many TPKs Have You Been a Part Of?

As a player, I've probably been part of 4 or 5 TPKs. Each one effectively ended campaigns, and two actually caused us to change systems.

As a DM/GM I think I've inflicted 3 TPKs (not counting the random campaigns of my high school years, where TPKs were a ritual of DM passage), 2 of which were with Rolemaster and it's sister system MERPS - both campaigns died at those moments.

I've expected and worried about TPKs in my recent campaigns, but luck and player ingenuity kept it from happening. Heck, my players aren't even sure about the moments I fretted, so either I have a great poker face or they have great player skills, or both ;)

So, what's your experience with TPKs? Do your campaigns survive it, do you start anew or do you even change systems?

20 comments:

  1. To me, TPK's are (well, fortunately?) this great and dreadful myth so many people talk about that I haven't experienced yet - except that one game.

    It was set up as a oneshot, playing in something that IIRC resembled The Black Company in terms of setting, using a free, simple rules system (can't remember which one, but we used d6 only). We played some kind of special ops team, sneaking behind enemy lines to figure out what sort of demon-possessed warlord we were dealing with. We learned stuff, fought our way out, gathered troops and planned an attack. In the end, we all died (quite horribly, I might add), but it was fun. Since it was quite obviously planned to end not well, I guess it doesn't really count as a TPK in the classical sense.

    Should my current campaign (Pathfinder, Eberron setting) see a TPK, I'm not sure what the outcome would be. My players start to dig the setting more and more, so they might just want to roll up some new characters. Change of system would not happen, since I have a few newcomers and although they still make baby-steps, they quite like PF and I wouldn't inflict another system right now (bad timing).

    I'm kinda preparing an oldschool hexcrawl right now and I actually planned TPK's to not result in aborting the campaign :P

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    1. I've never seen a TPK either (in D&D, that is - I had a couple in Call of Cthulhu, but that's expected). In my experience of running 1st edition, maybe a third of low level characters would die during each adventure. Once they start to hit third and fourth level, maybe one character would die in a typical adventure. I almost lost a party of six 4th level characters to some horrible combat rolls on their part, but the lone conscious PC managed to kill four bugbears singlehandedly and salvage the situation. That's the closest I've ever come to a TPK.

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  2. Just one.. First PF campaign I ever played in.. First encounter.. "Hey look at the cute lizards" BZZZZZTTTT! Two rounds and we were all dead.. The DM felt bad enough that he had the NPCs revive except one character was so far gone he had to reroll..

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  3. I haven't outright been in a true "TPK." Most of our game enders have been far less predictable than that. Wait to see my "Rune Blades of Carnage" in Petty Gods, and you'll begin to get the idea.

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  4. Probably had at least 5 or 6 in the early days, pre 1986, between D&D and Gamma World. After that they've been sparse, except for three notable exceptions: in 1991 I had a 2nd edition game end on a TPK, coincidentally with semester's end, so everyone saw it as a wrap and the next campaign started fresh. I had a deliberate TPK in 1997ish which was brutal, because the plot was that the main villains slaughtered the PCs, stole their bodies to serve as vessels for a resurrected god and his minions, and then gave their souls to another old foe of theirs. The next session opened with them as literal souls in jars, and they had to figure out how to escape the lich lord's laboratory (which took a year in game time, played out in bits over this opening session until they found a way to convince the lich's familiar to place their souls in the bodies of unformed homunculi, which then sculpted to fit the "images" of the souls inhabiting). Problem was, I had played innocent on the TPK being planned, and so when that game ended two of my players walked! Those who returned next session loved the twist.....but it was the last time I planned anything like that without some measure of warning, at least back then.

    I also had a GURPS Space campaign implode...explode, really....when the players, all with space marine characters, concluded the storyline by ramming the Big Bad's ship with theirs, releasing all their anti-matter in the process. But it was a good death, I guess.

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  5. Outside Cthulhu probably not...
    Im soft - i only kill really dumb or consistently unlucky characters. If a cool character is roleplaying something dumb and heroic in character i kinda am less inclined to to murderize them outright. Id rather have them live to suffer like lose stuff, get captured, taken to faraway lands, experimented on, mutated or other stuff you cant do to a dead character. Don't lose friends corpses in my game though...

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    1. I don't fudge rolls at all and I've never had a TPK either. I try to make adventures just hard enough to ALMOST kill the party. I guess I'm a pretty fair judge of where that line lies.

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  6. Does losing a full set of clones in Paranoia count? If so, then yes. Very yes.

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  7. All of our campaigns have ended with TPKs. We never get to ride off into the sunset.

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  8. In the past four years I can remember several (five?). Two of which were in the same day / game (the two deaths of my halfling assassin that I posted in the nasty deaths contest).

    Sometimes they lead to us rolling up a new party and running right back into the same adventure (as per the first actual play logs I posted to my blog several years ago in the temple of Ilhan).

    Sometimes they lead us to starting a new game (as per the "two TPKs in one game" for my halfling assassin).

    Occasionally we use it as a way to end a campaign and take a vote on switching GMs and Systems. We have a bunch of GMs and a bunch of systems we love, so it gets pretty fluid sometimes.

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  9. I've never been in one, nor have I inflicted one. I'm not sure they're quite as common as some OSR commentators make out and I've been gaming since the early 80s (and mostly skipped 3e and 4e).

    The closest I've been to inflicting one was in a MegaTraveller campaign I ran. My players had been arrested for the suspected murder of local law enforcement types and, whilst incarcerated awaiting trail in a chateau that was also acting as local military HQ for the regional separatists, Lucan's imperial forces launched an invasion. They were abandoned and trapped in a prison that was being assaulted by orbital drop troops.

    They would have all died (and I would have let them) had not the one player who escaped the mass arrest not managed to highjack an army truck and reverse it through the wall of their cell just at the crucial moment, allowing a desperate cross country escape while pursued by local army units.

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  10. A campaign ends with a TPK, how can it survive? I don't understand that part of the question. If you mean do I continue playing in the same campaign world, then hell yeah. What better way to easily add history to the new campaign?

    My past or present players and I have never felt the need to switch systems, because of a TPK. Everyone is aware of the type of game they are playing.

    Amazingly, The Delvers have only experience one TPK. I thought it would have happened sooner and far more often than just one. Wth?
    Albeit, there were plenty of sessions where everyone died with the exception of ONE character, which doesn't count as a TPK.

    I would point out that all of the TPKs and even just a single player death is the result of the player's decisions. I'm just the Dungeon Master.

    You say you've inflicted 3 TPKs and it was also a rite of passage? That's "bad wrong fun" Erik! ;]

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  11. i have been in 2 TPKs as Player First one was a group of ghouls which paralyzed all party members (4 or 5) and then had lunch. Second one was in an ogres lair where the Party was foolish enough to shout attracting all 12 ogres. Bashed us to a bloody mess...Never had a TPK as GM. So two TPKs in about 25 years of gaming...

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  12. I've had only two I can think of, 2011 - first session of the Loudwater campaign, players rolled new PCs and 2012 - end of the Yggsburgh campaign, it was pretty much a natural end point. I don't think I've seen a campaign cut off in its prime by TPK, though 3-4 PCs dead and a couple survivors is fairly common.

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  13. I have not experienced a TPK as player. I've only once had a PC killed in play that I can recall, that was in uber-grimdark Midnight setting; and I was the last survivor of the original PC group.

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    1. Oh, as well as Zana Than (Fighter-6) in Midnight, I recall I had a Fighter-3 killed in the first 3e D&D campaign I played in. Still no TPKs though. As a player I tend to not let the group die - I'll eg initiate surrender to the baddies and then work out a way to escape. Or I'll get the group to retreat before we get killed.

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  14. Exactly one. It was 1977 and I had just purchased the Holmes D&D boxed set. Two of my friends agreed to play in a dungeon that I had created. There were four kobolds in the very first room of the dungeon. They rolled well, the players did not, and we had our first TPK (4 characters) within 15 minutes of our very first D&D session. We thought it was very cool and immediately played again with new PCs. To this day, "Yikes! Four kobolds!" is our favorite inside joke.

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  15. Lots of TPKs on both sides of the screen.
    Always campaign enders, sometimes friendship enders...nothing good, certainly not improved player skill, has ever come from them as far as I can tell.

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  16. I've never been a player of any RPG. I ran 1st edition for a little over ten years and never had a TPK. The closest I came was when five out of six PCs were down and bleeding to death, and the 4th level dwarf fighter was up against four unwounded bugbears (the party had unbelievably lousy rolls up to that point). The dwarf mowed down all four bugbears in six rounds of melee, suffering not a single hit himself, and was able to save four out of five unconscious party members. So that went from looking like a TPK to only one PC killed. It was hairy though. I didn't fudge a single roll - the dwarf just had a really low AC (something like -2) and I couldn't manage to hit him. The players talked about that epic four on one fight for the rest of the campaign!

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  17. I'm a very old school DM. I always warn players in advance that characters will die and I make all combat dice rolls out in front of the screen, where the players can see I'm not fudging. Needless to say I've had a lot of TPK's in my time. Some down to bad luck, some due to stupidity, bad planning or simply being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

    I've never had a player walk because of a TPK but I have had a player walk out on a long-term friendship because one of his characters died in an OSRIC campaign. This was after I'd warned him repeatedly (knowing how attatced he always got to his PC's) that characters die frequently (and oftenly pointlessly) in my games, I get the impression he thought he'd get special treatment because I knew how upset he'd be if his character died. Unfortunately for him, I don't play favorites. I haven't heard from him since. Very sad, really.

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