Ever since I was a kid, the number 12 has been my favorite number. Sadly, Session 12 of this campaign didn’t live up to being my favorite. It turned out to be a total party kill (TPK) pretty early on in the session. The party pressed on in their exploration of a lower level of the mines, seeking a way to escape. They found one but encountered a couple of the “electrical landsharks” blocking their way. The party came out on the short end of this battle. Given that the party was killed by some beasts who would feast on their bodies, I didn’t see much of a way out for them…so TPK. All in the session of my favorite number.
While there are all the “killer DM” memes around the internets, I know I don’t get any pleasure from a TP and anyone who thinks that a DM gets pleasure or enjoyment from a TPK has probably never been a DM themselves.
Players typically see a TPK as a bad thing for them…they’ve lost a cherished character or the like…but it pales in comparison to what the DM is losing. Few players–if any–invest time and effort in a campaign that is anywhere near that which a DM invests. All those hours, all that effort, all that creative investment in the campaign up to that point and all that might have spun out of it is unexpectedly snuffed out by the TPK. I don’t really prep “stories” or “plots” but I do prep settings and situations.
For a player, it means rolling up a new character. For a DM, it means redoing everything…the setting, the situations, the locations, the NPCs, all of it. That is no small amount of work. It means putting aside other things that the DM might want to do (e.g., catching up on that ever growing reading list, finally getting back to finishing Daredevil Season 2, and the like).
Even if your DM is grinning as the TPK is happening, believe me, that grin is probably hiding a whole lot of “oh f@cks” as all that prior time and effort is now out the window and a new set of long hours and hard effort needs to be spent again to start a new campaign.
So yeah, a TPK sucks. It sucks way more for the DM than it does for the players, even though many players just can’t seem to see it that way.
Scheduling looks like we won’t be playing at all for the next two weeks and that we may not have the whole group together until maybe early July. I’m hesitant to start a campaign without having everyone at the table for at least a couple of sessions so I guess I at least have time to do all that work again. 😉