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"In praise of the Total Party Kill" Topic

15 Posts

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Gorgrat05 Jul 2021 6:37 a.m. PST

I'll go so far as to say that rpging is much better as a game played by the players against the DICE where the Dm is mostly the referee. Yes, he tells the story and the players contribute to it, but if all it is is cooperative story telling, then why use dice at all?

The whole thing really comes down to the fact that we love ruling 20s and hate rolling 1s for a reason. But if the Dm, through his rulings, effectively eliminates the 1s, the thing just becomes boring.

I can kill orcs, dragons and evil gods all day long otherwise. But it's no fun.

Striker05 Jul 2021 10:09 a.m. PST

I wouldn't say TPK is any better than fudging rolls. If a party is going to walk into death then so be it but when I hear TPK it's usually followed by a story of how the DM was able to kill the party and that was good fun for the DM. A DM needs to strike a balance between running the story and knowing when to let the players face the consequences of their actions/inaction. A DM who runs games that have each session end in a TPK is not one I'm keen to play with.

Gorgrat05 Jul 2021 12:39 p.m. PST

To be honest, Striker, I've never met that Dmet that DM. I won't say he doesn't exist. The world is full of weirdos. But he can't be that common.

In quite a few years doing this, I've presided over a few TPKs, but I could probably count them on one hand. One was a total surprise where the monsters rolled great and the party rolled like crap, but generally they were always preceded by some version of "He who fights and runs away, shall live to fight another day", rather than some version of "Now I gotcha!"

That DM may well be out there, but I doubt if he'd have many players.

Striker06 Jul 2021 12:22 p.m. PST

lol, I've had the opposite experience. Sometimes players are stuck with the DM who is available. I rarely have a TPK if I run a game but I think that's due to the players knowing I will kill them if they do dumb stuff and let the dice roll. "Going after a lost tomb known to have swallowed a few adventuring parties? Better get some research in."

Gorgrat06 Jul 2021 2:00 p.m. PST

My thoughts exactly. If you want to run your third level thieves up against Count Dracula, well, the results will be fairly predictable, though even then I'll probably have your party meet up with someone or something that will steer them in a better direction.

But if you insist? I won't stop you, nor make gratuitous rerolls.

Striker06 Jul 2021 5:44 p.m. PST

Speaking of TPK, one thing I've noticed playing with newer players who are mostly from WoW they aren't really bothered by TPK. There seems to be more acceptance of doing something stupid and all dying then rerolling characters. I'm surprised at what they blindly do. Maybe I'm just an old fart and don't like to see my character die needlessly.

Gorgrat07 Jul 2021 6:21 a.m. PST

I'm an older player too, and I certainly lost a lit or characters over the years, it was occasionally frustrating, especially if it happened when one was just starting to get powerful, but it was no great bother.

If there can be no defeat, victory is meaningless.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP08 Jul 2021 6:52 p.m. PST

Old School vs. New School.

Old School you actually rolled dice to create your character, chose a class, bought equipment and were ready to play in about 5 minutes or less.

New School you carefully select your method of stat creation, manipulate these for optimal effect, then spend hours pouring over rulebooks searching for the arcane combination of class, sub-class/training/path, features, feats, special abilities, backgrounds and personality traits, and then equally examining the details of various equipment possibilities and combinations. A week later you're ready to play.

TPKs don't matter all that much in Old School, and thus are acceptable, as you're back to playing rather rapidly. In New School, there's too much invested in the character creation for a TPK to be acceptable, at least early on.

There's actually nothing wrong with either style of play, it's just where the emphasis lies:
Old School goes to its tabletop roots, with the emphasis on the scenario ("the adventure"), with the PCs largely the stand-ins to experience the same.
New School strives for a dramatic emphasis on the role playing side of the game, and thus on the character themselves as the central elements to enjoyment— creating an alternate persona, with setting and interaction almost equal as primary concerns… and the adventure and luck side of things are secondary.

I play the version I prefer, which is Old School with a slight lean towards New School. I want some level of player investment in the PCs beyond the table-top stand-in game, but I don't want the insanely complicated and arcane "features, feats, abilities and paths" game.

So, yes, in certain circumstances I will fudge the rolls, or lean towards rulings favorable to the players, and I don't make "gotcha" killer traps. It ain't my job to kill the players— it's my job to provide a challenging adventure that's fun for them and for me, in a way my players appreciate. "Challenging" doesn't have to be "victory or death."

Gorgrat08 Jul 2021 9:34 p.m. PST

The version I play is old school, with a nod toward new where it makes sense. Thus there is a point buy for stats, but that is about it.

As to neither being better than the other…

That depends.

If you believe that roleplaying games are about inculcating values, I'd argue that a battle that cannot be lost teaches little. If it is about pure entertainment, that can be argued either way.

But who am I to say?

Striker09 Jul 2021 5:24 a.m. PST

I like an old school+. A bit more character specialization via skills but not a fan of feats. Yep I played some 3.5 and a wee bit of 4ed, but more 5e and the feat tree got crazy. Now there's videos of how to maximize and "list build" your character. I've ended up bailing out on the 5e game and not going to restart my Keep on the Borderlands game that was going for a year before covid. I'm going back to Chivalry & Sorcery and have been reading/collecting other d100 skill type games.

Gorgrat10 Jul 2021 9:54 a.m. PST

5e to C&S? Now there's a leap!

USAFpilot10 Jul 2021 6:08 p.m. PST

It's very easy to get your characters killed in D&D; after all they are engaging in lethal combat. Never realized that our DM (my Dad) must have fudged the rolls a few times over the years until I played Baldur's Gate on the computer and was getting myself killed all the time. Adventuring in dungeons is dangerous business.

Gorgrat10 Jul 2021 7:14 p.m. PST

… very much so. Rigbt up until you play 5e. I was in a campaign for 4 months, and not one PC ever died despite weekly adventures. I came close, but only because I didn't know how to create characters properly.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP19 Jul 2021 7:56 p.m. PST

Funny, I've had two TPKs in 5e. Granted, the newbie players made really poor decisions, but still…

For the record, I can't recall ever having a TPK in either Holmes, 1e, or BECMI, though I came really close in 1e (in fact, one combat I remember should have been a TPK, but we misunderstood the details of the Cavalier class, and allowed the party's lone cavalier to remain standing and fighting into negative HP).

Gorgrat24 Aug 2021 4:33 p.m. PST

I've had tpks in a lot of old school games, and I play a lot of small print OSRs, most of which ( for good reason) tend to be based on Moldvay.

In fact, I was always one of those GM's who would nod and wink and say, "okay, maybe you're right…" when the players came up with some half baked excuse as to why they shouldn't die.

But, when you insist on kicking down the door without listening first even if you heard a rumble just loud enough that it MIGHT be a blue dragon snoring…

Well, at some point, you get what you pay for.

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