[RPG] Total Party Kill – What do I do as a GM


Your party has had a streak of bad luck and/or made a poor choice and are now staring down death. The rules were followed to the letter and loss is assured. How do you handle this as a GM?

Does story trump rules? If you give them a means to pull out of the situation it could lead to the party feeling that nothing will ever beat them.

Do the rules trump the story? The party may feel cheated and may lose interest in making new characters.

Best Answer

I think this all depends on your group(I'd say this is the biggest factor), the game you're playing, and the tone you've had since the beginning of the game.

  1. Group - I know the players in my group get very attached to their characters. Weeks of building personality and backstory, and then it can be gone because of a streak of bad rolls? All groups are different, so I think it's important to figure this out early on.
  2. Game - If you're playing D&D 4.0, it's already pretty hard for everyone to die. If you're playing shadowrun, it takes less than a few bad rolls for your character to be permanently erased.
  3. Tone - If you've flat out told your group from the start that there's a possibility they might die, they probably need to be willing to accept it, or they shouldn't have joined the campaign. Depending on whether you're playing the game seriously or just for fun can affect how the party handles it, as well. This kind of ties in with 1.

If your party's willing to accept a TPK, then you can either start a new campaign, have them roll up new characters that pick up where the group left off, or have them fight their way out of hell (if the game has it, or you want to make it up).

Otherwise, like Stefano said, you can say "it was all a dream". I read a blog post a while back (can't find the link) that described how he did this with his party, and they were actually playing in a "flashforward", so when the combat ended and they were all dead, the group was actually speaking with an oracle, and the oracle had been showing them what dangers lay ahead of them. The group then knew what kinds of things would show up in their next encounter, and be more prepared for it. Useful if you kill the party with an encounter you accidentally made too difficult.

Other options are having the combat get interrupted; having the attackers get distracted, allowing the party to flee. A TPK can really add a lot to your storyline. You could say some powerful magic user comes along and raises them, and the party is now in their debt. Where you go with it depends on your story.