The PCs died - what now?


Jade Regent

Scarab Sages

Ok relax this hasn't happened yet but I was thinking what happens in the event of a TPK, say in Brinewall Castle?

The party have been travelling with Amieko and the others since leaving Sandpoint so most likely they haven't picked up "an NPC party of adventurers" so what happens then?

How does the DM bring in a new group, assuming everyone wants to continue the AP?


You have several options.

1) NPC rescue. The PC's awake from being knocked out to Sandru, Ameiko, Koya, and Shalelu's smiling faces. After the PCs did not return, the NPCs went after in and saved them. Even if they are dead, you can say they pooled their money to have them raised. Heck, there is nothing stopping you from having Shalelu bust in and save the day before the TPK even happens.

2) Take over NPCs. Probably dissatisfying for many people, but entirely possible. Everyone takes a caravan NPC and gets to run them as their character from then on. It might actually make for a different and interesting experience.

3) Rewind time. Heavy handed and metagamey, but it is an option. Just say "okay, that was terrible. Lets run that fight again" and go with it.

Or, you know, just don't kill the party. The encounters aren't so ridiculously powerful that the a smart party won't win, or at least be able to run away. "Not killing them" is probably the easiest answer of all.

Scarab Sages

Not wanting to deal with this very issue is the reason I'm going to be using "hero points" for the first time when I start running this campaign. I'm planning to use plot twist cards.


A seasoned gamemaster won't make a TPK, at least not al low levels. There are lots of small tricks for preventing this, but for me the main one is: Always throw your dice behind a screen. A TPK often comes from critical hits or monsters passing several saves they should have failed. If a monster just -ooopssss- misses when its blow was about to kill the paladin, you can probably avoid the wipe.

And, as Matthew said, the Hero Point system is the closer that has been invented to a savegame in a computer game.

Scarab Sages

Yeah. Also factored into my decision is that my players hate DM fudging. Knowing your group is invaluable.


I haven't read the AP yet, but I was wondering what happens if certain (one in particular - you know who) NPCs die...

Scarab Sages

It's not a big deal.


Matthew Trent wrote:
It's not a big deal.

Really? But what happens when they get where they're going and can't do what they're going there to do because X is dead?


Matthew Trent wrote:
Yeah. Also factored into my decision is that my players hate DM fudging. Knowing your group is invaluable.

Most groups do. The trick in fudging is to not have them realize you're doing it. If you can't, don't.


Midnight_Angel wrote:
Matthew Trent wrote:
Yeah. Also factored into my decision is that my players hate DM fudging. Knowing your group is invaluable.

Most groups do. The trick in fudging is to not have them realize you're doing it. If you can't, don't.

That's about it. I'll throw the dice, roll my eyes, and then raise the screen to show the two 1's I have just rolled. How can the players know those are not the dice I rolled? You cannot do this with every roll, but it comes in handy to tweak with the chances of a party kill now and again.

Sovereign Court

gang wrote:
Matthew Trent wrote:
It's not a big deal.
Really? But what happens when they get where they're going and can't do what they're going there to do because X is dead?

Spoiler:
Once they've got the seal it accepts them.
At this point they can do X's job.

GeraintElberion wrote:
gang wrote:
Matthew Trent wrote:
It's not a big deal.
Really? But what happens when they get where they're going and can't do what they're going there to do because X is dead?
** spoiler omitted **

Uh-oh. I hope some of my more ambitious PCs don't realise that and get start getting ideas above their station.


gang wrote:
GeraintElberion wrote:
gang wrote:
Matthew Trent wrote:
It's not a big deal.
Really? But what happens when they get where they're going and can't do what they're going there to do because X is dead?
** spoiler omitted **
Uh-oh. I hope some of my more ambitious PCs don't realise that and get start getting ideas above their station.

The AP still works if they do. :)

However, part of the player's guide setup is that your PCs have a strong connection with the NPCs. Hopefully, good friends won't murder one another over power and prestige. That would never happen in real life... ;)


ENHenry wrote:
gang wrote:
GeraintElberion wrote:
gang wrote:
Matthew Trent wrote:
It's not a big deal.
Really? But what happens when they get where they're going and can't do what they're going there to do because X is dead?
** spoiler omitted **
Uh-oh. I hope some of my more ambitious PCs don't realise that and get start getting ideas above their station.

The AP still works if they do. :)

However, part of the player's guide setup is that your PCs have a strong connection with the NPCs. Hopefully, good friends won't murder one another over power and prestige. That would never happen in real life... ;)

Never? I think you underestimate just how much people can be jerks.


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Some people do a "rewind" and let the party try again with their existing (but now dead) characters. I don't like this approach, but that's just my personal preference. I feel that if your characters are dead, they're dead. You now have the opportunity to roll up a new character -- what's so bad about that? I love getting to try something new! The only reason I ever get upset when a character dies is if I feel it was unfair or the odds were stacked against me by the GM. If I just happened to roll a 1 on my saving throw against Finger of Death, but I'm playing at a level where that's an appropriate spell for a foe to have... oh well, I'm dead. On the other hand, if I'm only a 6th level fighter, the DM should not be throwing those kinds of enemies at me, and I'll be pissed. But, assuming your GM is fair, that's the game... and PC's die.

Now, if you want to fudge that just a little bit... you can say they don't die, but they are all knocked unconscious. Time to either break out or be rescued. Captured by sentient creatures? Maybe they saved you to interrogate you. Unintelligent creatures? Maybe they're saving you for a snack later, or another creature came and killed the ones that almost killed the PCs... leaving the party on the edge of death but not quite finished off.

Need to send a rescue? NPCs are built into the campaign and, at least during part 1, should easily be able to rescue the PCs -- but it should come at a cost. Maybe one of the caravan's wagons was stolen, burned in a fire, or dragged off by the horses ... or all the horses escaped but you still have the wagons...

Looking at the battle and see a TPK brewing? I have had Shalelu come to the rescue once when the party was getting butchered by one of those water bugs included in the AP's bestiary. Worked fine... she showed up, fired a couple arrows that changed the direction of the battle, she came up to patch some wounds, then disappeared back into the Marsh. Party was relieved for the rescue but didn't feel overshadowed because they were still the ones that ultimately killed the beasty.

On the matter of rolling behind a screen or in secret... I hardly ever roll in secret. I don't make a show of my rolls, but I don't use a screen. Generally, what I roll is what I roll and my players understand that up front. It works to their benefit and their detriment equally. On a very rare occasion, a die will be rolled where it stops behind a book so nobody can see, and it winds up being to the party's benefit (no matter what the roll actually is) -- that's usually when the party is in deep trouble and it's not their fault, just some bad luck on the dice. It's not a big deal or huge production, there's no screen that goes up in front of me, that's just the way it is.

That said, I think public rolls can and should be used, but just as sparingly as the "secret" rolls. I had a group of PCs fighting a green dragon once. In advance of the battle, mostly for s%@%s and giggles, I gave them 1 bolt of dragon slaying and 1 arrow of dragon slaying. The bolt missed and broke. The arrow hit. The players were practically dying with anticipation, and so I rolled the d20 publicly, on the middle of the mat... and it came up a natural 1. I didn't have to say anything... the players began whooping and hollering in near-orgasmic delight. They loved it. You couldn't have that with a secret or hidden roll.

That's all just personal preference, but I do agree that if you are going to fudge a roll, you keep it to yourself. I don't always succeed; I'm not a great poker player, so my thought process usually plays out on my face, but I think it's good advice.

Now, if you do go with a TPK at Brinewall, there's a question of what happens with Ameiko. I'd say have her captured by Kikonu and locked into one of the bedrooms or rooms in the dungeon. Kikonu doesn't know who she is, but she might be important, and why is she unconscious? Curiosity and overconfidence are Kikonu's traits, so use them here. Have the other NPCs captured when Kikonu sends some minions to find out where these adventurers came from (NPCs surprised in their sleep or some such hand wave). Then the PCs roll up new characters, hear a story about how a caravan disappeared up near Brinewall and may need rescuing.

All of that is my opinion only, and I do not claim to be an expert GM... a decent one, but not a great one. So, take these thoughts for whatever worth you may see in them.


Is a spoiler tag needed? I don't know! But I'll spoiler it anyways!:

If in Brinewall Castle itself, they can be thrown into the cell with Kelda. There's all sorts of fun ways to go from there. Bust out and go mano-a-mano with Slugwort. Or, Slugwort's a bit on the dim side, a good diplomacy or bluff roll might get them out or trick him into bringing a useful potion over from their gear as an "antidote" because one of them was bitten by an icky spider. Or it might get him close enough for some strong guy to grapple through the bars while somebody else grabs the keys off of him.

If in the village, the corbies could find them and drag them back to the castle, in which case see above. That'd also be a good time to introduce Spivey, even if it's only a flash of butterfly wings and the sense that somebody just healed them.

Liberty's Edge

I roll the dice in front of my players when I am DM. Usually I tend to roll well as DM. Murphy's Law.

However, I have a general rule when PCs are on the precipice of death. If the encounter is not a significant one, (i.e. not a climatic fight, a random encounter, etc) then I allow the player to choose if their character dies or remains stable at maximum negative hp.
If the encounter is memorable, a capstone scene, etc, then the death is final.
Let a hero fall when they are being heroes, not being stabbed by a lucky goblin minion strike.

That's my philosophy :)

Sovereign Court

Part of me likes the idea of just starting a new AP.

Set it one year in the future from when your JR campaign began and during the first adventure they meet Tian refugees fleeing the violent excesses of Minkai's new rulers.

The lesson for players? That's how important your characters are!

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Let them play the NPCs and recruit new PCs at the nearest town to retrieve their fallen allies. Have the PCs captured somewhere in the Dungeon should be good.

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