The Total Party Kill Blues

I killed the entire party Thursday night.

Character death is part of the game in D&D. Most campaigns I’ve been a part of as a player have seen at least one death in the party, and when I’ve GMed, most of those campaigns have featured several. This is, in fact, the second campaign I’ve run that has come to an abrupt halt after my dice and my suspect encounter building practices have put all of the PCs into the ground. While a very small part of me is proud for instilling fear in the hearts of my players, most of me is bummed out and annoyed.

I’m annoyed because this, of course, brings the campaign to a screeching halt. Everybody was up to level 11. I had planned out most of the rest of the campaign and made my game notes for a good chunk of it, too. I was really looking forward to running the rest of it, too – there was a whole mess of insane battles and set pieces waiting for the group further on down the line, and I wanted to see and hear them freak the fuck out about all of it. Now all of that hard work (and really, I work harder on game prep than I do most everything else) has gone to waste, and all of those ideas will fester in my brain, unused until such time as I can wedge them into another campaign.

I’m bummed out because as GM, my main responsibility (really, my only responsibility) is to make sure that everyone has fun, and let me tell ya, when everybody’s characters get killed, you can rest assured that not everyone enjoyed themselves. I can’t speak for my players, but I’ve seen a fair amount of my own PCs get killed. While I strive to be gracious in accepting my character’s deaths (like I said, it’s part of the game), I’m not going to pretend I enjoyed myself when it happened, or viewed it as some sort of weird privilege. And I’m not always the best with picking up on social cues, but a quick scan of people’s faces on the video call made it clear that people were pissed.

When the entire party is killed, there’s a real “well now what the fuck” malaise that falls over the table. Players want to see their characters advance (one of the players was openly shopping for level 12 feats before we got the game started), and they want to see what happens next as much as the GM does. Where there once was a stable game with a stable campaign, there now exists only uncertainty.

I’m still quite shell shocked by this turn of events, so I have yet to parse out any teachable moments from this experience. This Thursday’s uh, ‘game’ is going be much less of a game and more of an open forum to discuss what everyone wants to do next. Perhaps we’ll continue the campaign with new characters, perhaps we’ll doing something weird with all of the dead characters, or perhaps we’ll start all the way back over at level 1 with a new campaign entirely. I have no idea which of these options I prefer, and I suspect I don’t actually have a preference. Regardless of what we decide on, I’m going to have to do a bunch of prep work, and frankly, as long as the group sticks together I’ll be happy enough.

We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, beware the encounters that impose lots of saving throws. They’re real killers.

One thought on “The Total Party Kill Blues

  1. Have you considered… A jailbreak from hell? Did they have powerful patrons that might be willing to spring for resurrecting then (for some future favors)? Are they on a mission from God (checks sunglasses)? They could play a party in search of their corpses. The campaign isn’t necessarily over, just the way forward is a little muddied.

    Since they were level 11, the jailbreak from hell would be appropriate for their level, and super memorable. I’ve always wanted to flip off the devil/hod of the underworld as I escape from their grasp.


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