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Narratively, the players seemed baffled that not a single spectator could escape the room without direct intervention, especially as the fire begins the encounter threatening and scary but not immediately dangerous - there isn't enough smoke or chaos to obscure the southern exit or enough danger to freeze them all in fear[...]
I had many more spectators on the map than the ones who would become trapped. I ran it so that the spectators all went on the same initiative, and on round one all but the specified trapped ones escaped, but in so doing knocked over the benches or partially trampled the remaining people to explain why they needed help.
I also told the players they could hear the council members outside the hall organizing a bucket brigade.
And you can imagine the exasperated vindication felt by the player who measured the meeting hall mid-encounter when I introduced the citadel at the very end of the session and it was clear that the Breachill's meeting hall - which was only part of its town hall - was somehow 3/4 as wide as the entire citadel...
The map was indeed quite large, with almost 20' long tables (!) for each council member.