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Metal Demon
(3/10/04 11:42 am)
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Dilema ... What Should I Do Now??
I had an unintentional TPK in the Beholder room of the excavated Temple ruins. After literally stumbling into the room unprepared (and seemingly uncaring) the 4 party members all lost initiative and began a series of failed saving throw rolls that will no doubt live in infamy in our groups gaming history.

The group, needless to say, was absolutely crushed. Their desire to finish the campaign with a different set of characters (sent in to see what happened to the missing 'Heroes of Hommlet' as they called themselves) is non-existant. Not that I can blame them.

My question is ... what do I do now? We've come so far over the last year and a half, and I have put so much work into this thing ... just to have it all end prematurely.

Do I shelve the adventure and move on, or is there a way that I can somehow salvage the campaign and make it fun and interesting again for my players?

I thank-you in advance for any advice you can give me.

CrusadeDave
Ebon Hand Cultist
(3/10/04 12:04 pm)
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Re: Dilema ... What Should I Do Now??
Yikes.

If this happenned to my party, I'd probably give them a get out of jail free with some serious consequences. I would probably have a Celestial True Resurrect the Party. Party wakes up with no gear, and sees Y'dey close to the brink of death, with just about every other important classed NPC in Hommlet: Burne, Rufus, Spugnoir, Elmo, Ingrith, Questin, Xaod, Terjon, having been ripped apart. You could also add any other NPC's of worth that the party has bumped into. You could also drop a few lesser cultists here along with some Ogres and Smigmal and Falrinth to make it look like a decent battlefield.

I'd play it as Y'dey's plea for help after the town of Hommlet circled the wagons and went into the Temple overmatched. The Celestial knows that the townsfolk aren't enough to deal with it, so they raise the party, and let Y'dey see that her prayer has been answered before she too passes away to a peaceful afterlife.

Have the Celestial give some Mumbo-Jumbo about their life-force being bound with the Temple's fate, and having 3 days to save the world or something. If they fail their afterlife will be cursed, and imprisoned with Tharzidun.

Let the party play with the townsfolks's gear and whatever they find on the Ogres/Cultists/Smigmal/Falrinth, I'd make sure to distribute their old loot throughout the cultists in the party. I might even give the party some 3 day blessing to Identify/at will, in order to reclaim their old loot and help them reequip.

Play the cultists as extremely overconfident and secure. Heck, they destroyed the bodies of the adventurers that were giving them trouble in the mines, and then their old friends in Hommlet came to visit and didn't even put up a good fight. Guards? Who needs Guards? They've won. This is just the victory lap..

So the penalty for the TPK is: Loss of all their loot, all their friends brutally ripped apart into small peices, and a blood curse to finish up in 3 days or be bound to The Dark One for all eternity.

It's Deux es Machina, but I don't think you can get around that at this point. Hopefully your players will buy into it.

Infiniti2000
Night Beast
(3/10/04 12:13 pm)
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ezSupporter
Re: Dilema ... What Should I Do Now??
Did Kella escape? Even if not, put her superior on the scene, some higher level druid. Then, have the druid cast reincarnate for all the missing PC's, equip them with whatever you can from the NPC's in Hommlet. This might also spark some more 'life' into the campaign when everyone has a new race, some might even be very nonstandard. :)

Mr Kaze
Staj
(3/10/04 2:59 pm)
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Re: Dilema ... What Should I Do Now??
You could make the party glad to have been TPK'd if you start the four of them as level 10's right on into City of the Spider Queen using de facto 3.0 rules. But that's probably not good advice.

Kella has already been mentioned, but what about Varachan; is he still alive? Are any of the cult members having second thoughts, perhaps thinking "blow up the world... blow up the world... wait a second -- I can't blow up the world! It's where I keep all my stuff!"?

Assuming that they weren't *all* disintegrated, you can probably bring one of them back as a ghost/shadow/somesuch (see Savage Species or Ghostwalk?) or something, raise/reincarnate another or two and then toss in a deus exed new counter-cult-character whose primary motivation is to ensure the world doesn't cease to be when s/he's standing on it -- maybe being hired by an insider who knows what the cult is up to and thinks its a dumb idea but can't get out now...

Maybe what you need is to run a short mod to help your players appreciate that you didn't TPK them lightly. I've heard that Heart of Nightfang Spire is utter misery for players if played at the recommended levels. Pitch it as a "we'll take a short break from Elemental Evil while I figure out how to work out the story continuity to give you all a breather. In the meantime, we can [make you Suffer! Suffer Greatly!] play this little mod here for a bit 'till we get bored of it." If they get irked and fail, then they should be ready to go back and polish off EE. And after they do that, you can reward them by letting them take their big EE characters through the other mod (that is their revised focus of loathing).

At least, that's the sort of thing that my group did going from Elemental Evil to Spider Queen and then from Spider Queen to Elemental Evil. We've only ever finished the first campaign we started on...

::Kaze

Cordo Crowfoot
(3/10/04 3:57 pm)
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Re: Dilema ... What Should I Do Now??
What about Varachan? Is he still alive? Sure he is far away but if he hears about this he could potentially intervene and his intervention will seem much less like a deus-ex-machina than a celestial popping up all of a sudden.

chartam
Lastrogos
(3/10/04 4:25 pm)
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Re: Dilema ... What Should I Do Now??
Varachan is a good choice. To give him enough power to raise the heroes himself, you could have him become a cleric of Johydee who is a neutral good hero goddess of Deception, Espionage and Protection. It allows him to fake being an evil cultist, gives him his spellcasting abilities back, and retain his good alignment, all at the same time. This is, of course, assuming you're running Greyhawk.

Chartam Plicatus, Paper Prestidigitator
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N1njato
Ebon Hand Cultist
(3/10/04 9:07 pm)
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Don't let them get away with flaking!
Here's what I think. The MAJOR problem here is that your party members didn't care. I say let em cry about their dead PC's. It really seems like they deserved it. Here's an important point that I've learned over the years of DMing: PC's MUST die. I played a game for about 2 years where I'd 'step in' as a DM and save the party members from a TPK with a (insert celestial intervention etc here). At first the party is like 'cool! I can keep my (insert lovely PC here)!". But the 'magic' is gone. The fear is gone. What it sounds like in this case is that your party has had similar encounters before where you may have fudged the rules in their favour to prevent possible TPK's or deaths. They notice, and it takes the fear factor out of the game. I say you let them die and stay dead. Don't let your integrity as a DM falter here. If they always think you'll save their azzes, the suspense and tension wears off and the players may actually get mad at you when you *don't* save them in future.

Keep em dead. Don't resurrect. Start the party off at 3 or 4 levels lower than they were. There's no reason to turf the campaign. Have this new party hear of the fall of the other party, and maybe be sent to investigate. The players will remember that yes, if they 'don't care' then their players will certainly get rocked, and will value your DMing as fair when/if they mess up again and get killed. And don't let them recover any of their magic items. Cultists or whoever strip them clean. The PC's shouldn't benefit from a TPK.

So in short I strongly suggest you do *not* raise them all. It will hurt your campaign more than help it. Yes, I'm a harsh DM, but I've found since I switched to this style (from the fudging kind) my encounters are far more intense and exciting. And, truth be told, I sometimes fudge *only slightly*, but they never realize it. By no means would I raise them, and they know it. Keeps things much more fun.

chartam
Lastrogos
(3/10/04 9:41 pm)
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Re: Don't let them get away with flaking!
Yeesh. Glad I don't play in your campaign. TPKs are hard to take. You're looking here at a group that doesn't want to continue. We're trying to come up with ways to get them interested again. Telling them to suck it up and stop crying about it isn't going to help them want to come back to the campaign.

Chartam Plicatus, Paper Prestidigitator
- [Minibase] - match a mini to your character (1700+ minis)
- [RttToEE Minis List] - [Campaign Website] -

Angelalex242
Ghoul Worm
(3/10/04 11:13 pm)
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Re: Don't let them get away with flaking!
If the players lost interest to the point of "We pick up our dice and go home", perhaps the TPK was just the catalyst that they'd like to move on with the real lives, their jobs, dates, and so on, and leaving the world of D&D behind them. In which case...you need a new gaming group.

Heaven's wish to destroy all minds! Holy Explosion!

N1njato
Ebon Hand Cultist
(3/11/04 2:17 am)
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Re: Don't let them get away with flaking!
I never suggested telling them that. I think though it seems the excitement is gone because it sounds like they've been given too many chances in the past. I said let their current characters die, and give them a new party a few levels lower. That way in future they'll know to be more careful, and your encounters will have the level of tension and excitement that should be expected rather than have them 'not care'. If they don't want to play, then there's nothing much you can do about that. Personally if players aren't interested in the campaign then yes, it's time to shelf it and come up with something they'd enjoy playing. But I expect they've lost interest because the tension is gone. I'm speaking from personal experience as I mentioned. The tension used to drop off in my games when the players knew they couldn't really fail at anything, which was what I was getting at. I'm not *that much* of a harsh DM. I give my players lots of leeway. For example one player started at 4th level and was able to create mithril plate using his own skills and feats. I ruled the time spent (186 weeks) was spent before his adventuring life.

As I keep saying though. Save your PC's too much and the interest in D&D in general will drop off considerably.

Edited by: N1njato at: 3/11/04 2:22 am
SirJalore
Human
(3/11/04 10:22 pm)
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Re: Don't let them get away with flaking!
Wow! That's a really hard situation. Sorry to hear you had a TPK. But I believe any TPK should be unintentional... :p (IMO A DM that purposely has a TPK isn't a good DM.) So it sounds like it was not something you set out to have happen to them... and that's good. Bad that it went down this way.

(Warning! I am going to get on a soapbox for a moment...)

But It never ceases to amaze me that players never seem to consider the option of 'RUN'! when encountering something that is going to mop the floor with them and they are unprepared to deal with it. Not sure if this was the situation here. But if it was, I would be inclined to not raise them. Retreating is not cowardly, when faced with a situation of overwhelming firepower and opposition. But somehow players think they are the invincible 'Heroes' and will never die...

In some campaigns that is just fine, as that's the whole point for some players of playing. They are the 'Heroes' and nothing fatal is going to happen to them. They want to be the Hollywood action hero that destroys the bad guy, gets the girl and saves the universe. (Captain Kirk anyone?) I am not of the opinion that that makes for a fun time in an RPG. It can be for fun at first, but gets old real fast.

I found this on an RPG site. I don't agree with the use of the foul language in the original and have modified it to be more palatable on this website. (I don't want to get banned or offend... :( ) but I think it is more in line with what I try and create in my campaigns. Maybe not this bad... but you'd have to ask my players what they think... ;)

Rat Fink DMing
Pronunciation: 'Rat Feenck Dee eM' ing'
Function: noun
1: A philosophy that asserts that a role-playing game's capacity for providing enjoyment can be greatly increased by weaving a complex web of psychological challenges, moral or ethical dilemmas, frequent plot twists, and unforeseen consequences to create a gaming environment with verisimilitude that rises above the mundane with the ultimate aim of creating an atmosphere of awed paranoia for the players.

(steps down from soapbox...)

All of that being said.

A lot of what I would suggest to do next depends on the style of play that your players enjoy and what you want to get out the experience if/when they do return. Anything you do now to pull their previous characters out of this jam is going to complicate things down the road perhaps giving them that invincible mentality that they can't die. Hopefully next time they stumble across a Beholder they'll RUN away first and come up with a better plan of attack than 'stand your ground and die'

You've got lots of good ideas from some really good DMs from what I've read of their previous posts and how to get the players out of this bind... Deus Ex Machina it may be. There is a good argument to be made that in some cases that Deus Ex Machina can work. Especially when you consider that there are actually 'gods' involved in most of the DnD universe. :p (I would suggest it be a one time only situation and make that painfully clear to the players) I have a great deal of respect for each of the opinion people posting here. And as Chartam said, they are trying to come up with ways to get things back on track with the campaign. No one wants a campaign to fail, especially this one, as all DMs running it have a large time investment in making it go well as I'm sure you do too given how far along you are!

One idea, using the Deus Ex Machina, Ex the Deus part, is if you wanted to use this situation as a warning to the players. Treat the whole episode as if they were dealing with a mass illusion of some type. Everyone. believed they were fighting a Beholder and believed they were being killed and watching comrades die. But the reality is that they fell victim to an illusionary trap. Done right it wouldn't be as cheesy as that may sound. I would still put the Beholder as a real element in the module and it would give them real pause when they encounter the 'real' Kex. I also think that you shouldn't let them off without some penalty. Wake up as stripped prisoners and now they have to figure a way out of their captivity. They are being used a slave labor to help clear out the debris in the recovered Temple? Something along those lines...

If your players don't bite at the offerings to continue play, then I'd say shelve it, as there's no point in trying to force them to play.

Hope that helps!


Metal Demon
(3/12/04 1:57 am)
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Re: Don't let them get away with flaking!
Thanks for all the input ... some of you make some very valid points/arguments

This party (Dwarven Cleric10, Elven Rogue11, Human Paladin10, Human Wizard11) had overcome adversity time and time again during the course of the epic-module. Just when you thought it was 'lights out' for the group, that ever important Critical Hit at just the right moment would save their skin. Or the clutch Saving Throw, or the right odd-ball tactic, or several other game-defining moments would happen so that they could live to fight another day. It was alot of fun watching them struggle onward, meeting each obstacle like it was their last.

I didn't want to give the impression that the party is a bunch of whiny gamers, or that had an easy time with TToEE, just the opposite ... which is why the abrupt end was such a stunner! And it's not as if they want to stop playing the game altogther (Angelalex242 - I have no idea where you came up with that idea) ... they just want to forget the entire adventure and all the work we put into it. I just wanted them to continue so they could enjoy the finale with Imix. Some closure, if you will.

But it's like this one 'combat' took the wind right out of their sails ... and just when they were getting close to shedding the 'under-dog' moniker, they get their asses handed to them. It was a shame, really.

I don't intend on reviving their characters, or letting Divine Intervention fix the problem ... that would really mess with the way I like to run my game. I'll just put the module away, and hopefully I can incorporate the finale of TToEE (with some editing) into another campaign someday.

They all rolled up new 1st Level characters the other day, so thus begins a new campaign. Hopefully we all learned some valuable lessons from the last one.


Amethysst 
Human
(3/12/04 3:30 am)
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Re: Don't let them get away with flaking!
Like you i hate to see a well worked at campaign just dry up with no conclusion.

But it happens and theres only one way to prevent it... Fudging.

Keep your dice rolls hidden from the players and when you feel things are going bad for the party turn those hits into misses - in my experience when the party is all low and fighting near death the reaction you get from the players when a hit, that could drop them just before they drop the bad guy, turns out to be a miss is fun to see :)

Divine Intervention and Cavalry arriving to me is so fake and should be avoided.

If you like hard work you could always have a shaperone for the PCs, an NPC that joins the party and helps them out when they are in need.

One of the main reasons i like hiding dice rolls is when it comes to searching for secret doors for the elves, Rolling a random dice every room they explore prevents the Players using player knowledge and taking 20s to search a room just because you rolled a dice for one room and not in the past 12. The moment you roll a D20 the PCs feel theres something more to a situation. hiding the type of dice you rolling prevents this.

Everquest:Drakh Darkscale < Europa > Druzzil Ro

Everquest:Amethysst Rage < Ex-Europa > Tallon Zek

Caedrel
Ghoul Worm
(3/12/04 7:34 pm)
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ezSupporter
Re: You might be able to work it in somehow :)
So everyone's rolled up new 1st level characters? Some thoughts that cross my mind...

If the new party is in the same campaign world as the previous party, you could devise an interesting intersection for them somewhere along the line: the new party goes along having its own adventures, and when they're of appropriate level - the shade of a recently deceased person (one of the old party) appears to them, imploring them to complete the task he and his friends could not :) You could foreshadow some of this with the elements going a bit weird, you could flesh it out a bit more by adding some of the other elemental nodes, etc.

You could have problems with this if your group is the sort that keeps careful track of the years and seasons: they'll notice the cross overs and may want to travel some place where their previous characters had been / may yet arrive at, which would complicate things a lot. But it would still be do-able :)

If the new party is in a new campaign world, then you don't have the same problem of overlap, but have the reverse problem of how you could tie the end of the old adventure into the new one. You'd have to get creative here: maybe the opening one of the elemental nodes opens a dimensional rift that the new PCs could investigate? The ghost idea is still workable too.

If you wanted to wait until the party reaches Epic levels, maybe they could fight a freed Tharizdun :)

I do think you're right, though, Metal D - it sounds like you'll need to put the module into mothballs, as it will be some time before the new party is up to the task of facing Imix and company :)

You know, it's just occurred to me - we've generally been assuming that Imix and his fellow Prince and Princesses of Elemental Evil are happy to take part in this ritual freeing their creator, the Elder Elemental Eye. Maybe they have to, if they're being forced by the possessor of the Binders. But do they want to see the multiverse end? Does the ritual consume them, or do they survive it? Maybe another option is to twist the ending slightly so that the Princes and Princesses of Elemental Evil don't perform the ritual, but make an alliance and do other things that your new party could eventually become involved in. And if they start getting defeated, maybe that's when they fall back to the plan of releasing Tharizdun and bringing down the curtain on everything...

lightnng
Staj
(3/15/04 7:23 am)
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very simple solution (for next time)
Here is my own (published to the players) "house treatment". It solves the whole problem from the outset. And my players are just as paranoid and crazy as any other group - this has not led to any kind of boredom or a lesser sense of danger (especially as even under this we've already had 9 deaths playing this module, and they are about 25% through the CRM):
-------
Character Death - Several rules are in effect regarding character death and total party kill (TPK):

Characters played well and "in character" will not die solely due to a series of bad die rolls. This rule is designed to encourage role playing and thinking on one's feet, as well as dramatic combat.

TPK will not happen even if die rolls indicate otherwise, unless the party exhibits "gross negligence" (per DM judgement). For clarity's sake, "gross negligence" does include taking on foes that are far superior to the party, and a resulting TPK will not be altered. Thus, this rule is not intended to encourage "head against the wall" hack-n-slash behavior; instead, it is in effect to ensure that a well-played party is not completely eliminated due to a series of disastrous die rolls.

Any death effect allows at least one saving throw, regardless of whether one is indicated in the effect's description. This rule does not apply to non-death effects.

It is important to remember that characters can and will still die, and that TPK is possible; however, these house rules above are designed to eliminate non-sensical deaths. Any "fibbing" resulting from these rules will be done secretly by the DM and will not be communicated to the players.
------
Where this comes into play is like what happened two sessions ago. They were fighting a giant, and the dwarf fighter, who was just raised, got hit with a critical three times in a row. He was well buffed, had extra HP due to endurance, and was role-played very well; so instead of killing him off (three hill giant crits will kill any 7th level character, even with 18 CON), I fibbed it so the last crit was a regular hit. Still got him down to -8, but they had a chance of saving him and did.

I am a firm believer that rules are just a tool to support the story. If it will ruin a year and a half of playing, why on earth even let it happen?

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