|Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber||
Here's something I learned, the hard way... I was running another adventure path and I accidentally TPK'd the party. The group was notably upset, and when we went to make new characters and pick up where we left off, the players had lost their enthusiasm. Their fire was gone, their interest waned and the game died out. I had inadvertently killed my campaign.
So after this debacle, and several months of free time, I was still kicking myself for killing my campaign and I came to the conclusion that I should have played it differently. Like most of us, I exercise my love for fantasy and action-genre with both RPG's and movies. And in most of the movies about our beloved genre, the villains don't kill the heroes... if they do, it's either a minor character, or if a main character dies it's almost never arbitrary. And that's the mistake I made. You see, in our particular campaign, the party had gotten both front-line fighters paralyzed with some bad rolls and the rest of the party was too occupied and too far away to prevent their coup-de-grace the following round while helpless. After the main muscle had succumbed, the support characters lacked the power to stand up to the remaining foes and soon fell as well. At the time, it seemed a logical choice by the villain to finish the heroes off once and for all while they lay helpless but really... in the movies, in the stories, that would never have happened. I should have gloated.
Gloating is a cinematic staple and employed correctly can prolong fights long enough for the hero to make a quick recovery and a desperate comeback. Think about it... Zod doesn't melt Superman's eyes and give him a heat-vision lobotomy while Supes is busy holding up a crumbling building... instead, Zod gloats and brags how Superman is so inferior to his own evil genius. Joker can't just slice Batman's throat while he's tied up... instead the Clown Prince of Crime has to brag about his latest zany scheme, giving Batman time to escape his bonds and turn the tables. James Bond isn't shot in the head after he's knocked unconscious... no, that isn't Evil Genius etiquette. Instead Mr. Bond has to be strapped to the mastermind's rocket/bomb/atomic-laser, watching the timer countdown while the villain gloats at having defeated his noble foe, then goes to get himself a Cappuccino while Bond disarms the bomb and gets away.
So... instead of having Xanesha blow up the heroes of Sandpoint at the top of the clocktower, have her use her spells to shock/stun/incapacitate them, and then while they lay helpless, have her brag about it... let her tantalizingly wrap one of her prey in her coils while tracing her claws lightly across his face while she teases him with disclosure of her leadership of the Brothers of Seven and how foolish the heroes were for stopping her evil plans... this may give the heroes time to stabilize, chug a potion or two, maybe even get off a healing burst or quick Cure Wounds spell and then make a heroic last stand. Or if the Skinsaw Man has his prey paralyzed and bleeding out and all seems lost... have His Lordship brag about his ascension to undead status and then exclaim how the party could never understand his pure unholy motives. A few rounds of his boasting could give the party time to recover or un-paralyze and give them a second chance to fight back.
I'm not saying that bad dice rolls don't happen, 'cuz obviously they do. But don't miss the opportunity to give the party a good fighting chance to recover from being helpless, should it happen. And don't miss the chance to let the villains gloat... it makes a much better story than "You failed your save, so I guess you're dead."