[RPG] How to handle players killing the NPC outside of combat


My players tried to capture one of my bosses (they didn't know it was a boss) and after a few rolls they succeeded. They started to interrogate him (the NPC is a human) and after obtaining the information they wanted he was stabbed in the chest. Basically, imagine having one of the most powerful warriors of the kingdom killed by a throat cut because the rogue rolled 19 on Stealth.

Now here's the thing: how do I handle realism and one-shotting bosses out of combat? Because I can think of excuses but I don't want my players to feel discouraged or think that their actions are meaningless if the DM wants this NPC to fight them.

Best Answer

Adapt and move on

Players do have a tendency to ruin the best-laid plans of the DM!

In your scenario, I wonder if maybe there was a mistake somewhere that allowed such a powerful NPC to be captured and made helpless in the first place. Typically you would not expect such a character to be walking around alone and defenceless in the first place.

But what's done is done, so now you may need to adjust your plans. Bearing in mind that your players (hopefully) don't know your entire plan.

So, perhaps this NPC was not the big boss after all. He was actually an underling, a front, the right-hand man and so on. He may even have put up the pretence of being the boss to act as a diversion to the real guy.

Assuming the players didn't take measures to prevent it, his body could always be recovered by his own allies and raised. (Possibly the simplest answer).

Or maybe the NPC could end up returning as an undead, even meaner than before!

Or another NPC, one the players have not encountered before, could take over the boss's criminal organisation. You could even have multiple criminals and/or monsters fighting to take over the criminal enterprise and causing your plot to veer off into a completely different direction!

Note: All of the above could be in addition to the points made in SaggingRufus's answer.