Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Adding To The Legend

Chgowiz has a great write-up today about a Total Party Kill (two, actually) that happened to his group. It sounds like the characters who had survived the first portion of combat had a chance to flee, and did not, preferring to take their chances in combat. The result? Bye-bye party.

I want to focus on that Troll Mage Chgowiz had out there as the party’s adversary. TPKs suck, but some good can still come out of them. Imagine the rumors that start to fly about that troll, for example, rumors that turn into tales that grow with each telling.

“Two bands of adventurers went into the Troll’s bog….and were never heard from again!”

“I heard he froze an entire party solid!”

One of the things about running a world where adventuring parties can make their mark is that the baddies can grow with them. Adventures get slaughtered, and a legend is born.

Seriously, what better way for a group to make their reputation than to take down an enemy which has hitherto seemed invincible? It’s yet another case of the reward and sense of accomplishment being linked to the heightened sense of danger and risk.

Play it up. Have well-meaning nobles put a massive bounty on the Troll’s Head. Have bards scare the wee’uns with tales of Crooknose the Troll Mage, who eats adventurers and bad children whole. Caravan guards won’t travel that way, and merchants are beside themselves as a result.

You start with an adversary. You just might end up with a bona fide Legend.


Scott said...

Michael did a fine job of giving the party ample warnings and opportunities to change plans. The weather turned against our plans to light the bridge on fire. The town marshal's deputy discouraged us from going and refused to lend us aid. The troll waited a long time to show up and even gave the last three of us standing a fair chance to run away before using its Cone of Cold.

This TPK could only be chalked up to the stubbornness of the players and the greediness of one player who knew better but wanted that XP surge so bad...

Zachary Houghton said...

It definitely sounds like he was on the up-and-up with the whole business. That was never a question in my mind.

It also sounds like the party had a plan beforehand, encountered some bad luck, and decided to take a chance. I can definitely respect that. A couple of those d30 rolls go the other way, we might be having another discussion entirely.

Barking Alien said...

I'm so confused. TPKs suck? Then why does everyone talk about them so much instead of how to prevent them?

To me it's always seemed like GMs are proud of TPKs in a way.

I'll have to read Chgowiz's post. It's one old school element that has always completely baffled me.

In 34 years I don't think I've ever had one.

Zachary Houghton said...

Yeah, TPKs suck, but it's also part of the game at times. I've very rarely had them, but have come close many times. In most cases, they only come about after the players have done just about everything humanly possible to make it happen.

killervp said...

I have only had one TPK, and it involved the characters killing themselves, literally. 5 characters went against 3, with 8 involved NPC's. I have never had PC's not take the strong hints that I have given them. The one TPK was a complete disagreement on whether to be good or evil.

ChicagoWiz said...

@Zach - sweet! Thanks for the linkage. Glad you liked the post.

@Barking Alien - As a DM, I can't answer "how to prevent them" because it's up to the players to prevent them. I was sick to my stomach watching the players die, but at the same time, they made their game, this is the result. Really sucked too - that was a 4th level mage which is damn hard to get in AD&D.

Astronut said...

I've never run or played in a full TPK, but have been involved in games that came very close... to within 1 PC's life. And these remain among the most exciting sessions of my gaming career! If you've got a PC you're really attached to, the adrenalin really begins to pump when you're that close to losing them.

BA, while I'm not an old-schooler and tend towards your more cinematic style, this is one of the elements that can have a roll in any game - assuming it's not being forced on the players by GM fiat. And, of course, for the more story-oriented games, a TPK doesn't have to mean death for all concerned. Awakening in slaver's chains or a troll's larder can lead on to some interesting gaming...

Jim said...

Agreed. A legend in the making. As an aside, I almost had a TPK in my game with my grandkids last night. The way that my grandson plays, this is inevitable. I guess we'll find out how they handle it when it happens. :)