Why TPKs Suck

It’s Friday night D&D again, and we’re well on our way to all having our butts handed to us hardcore by some treants, which are essentially the D&D version of the Ents from LOTR. Our DM, a few sessions ago, decided he was annoyed at us always surviving the encounters, and has since tried his hardest to destroy us.

TPK stands for Total Party Kill. It is where the DM manages to kill each and every one of you. He just rolled two natural 2os. At the same time.

Doomed.

Anyway, I don’t have to tell you how frustrating it is to continuously fail in everything you try when going up against a powerful enemy. When you pull out your most powerful attacks, the ones that you can only do every once and awhile, and it just bounces off their hide while they laugh.

As much as it sucks in gaming, it sucks just as much in fiction. While conflict is essential to keeping a story moving, at some point it can become too much. While you want your interest kept, conflict after conflict after conflict without break can cause anxiety, and most people don’t read to feel anxious.

There’s another crit from the DM. Holy Batman.

Additionally, if the main characters come up against their big bad, if they give it their all, and it does nothing – that pisses readers off. Especially at the end of the story.

I mean, occasionally you can get away with an unhappy or ambiguous ending. But when you’ve walked with a character, sat with them through their hardships, cheered as they pulled themselves up – only to have them fail at the last minute – that hurts.

It hurts bad. Bad enough that, a lot of the time, readers will just give up. And sometimes there may be throwing of books across the room. (At least in their minds – most book lovers I know will not physically damage a book, no matter how upset they are at it.)

Anyway, we really are doomed. I think I shall name my new character exactly the same as the last and stick a number on the end, just like the cat in the Simpsons.

 

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Christopher on 2012/02/24 at 9:30 PM

    I have had the sadistic streak needed for a TPK– at least, not without an out. (I tend to run superhero games, so there’s usually a way around it on some character’s sheet.)

    I never enjoyed playing in campaigns that resulted in those– too often, anyway. Of course, the GM I played under most often tended to be pretty unlucky on his dice rolls… and had a policy of “all rolls on the table,” so we knew it really was bad luck, not him being soft on us.

    Good luck with your next character!

    Reply

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