How many PCs have died in your PFS game?


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If you are a DM and have run PFS games, how many PC deaths have you had? Especially those who've run a lot of games.

How many TPKs?
How many almost-TPKs? How many survived?

Most curious how/why it happened...there's probably lots of great stories in this.

4/5

I remember 6 PC deaths, and I've run a lot of games.

One L4 was playing up in a 3-7 scenario and got a Bodak gaze to the face. I rolled maximum for 4 neg nevels.
One character killed by a chainsaw and another by a PC under confusion (same fight.)
One human fighter got wrecked by a ranger critical hitting him who had favored enemy (human.)
One enemy spellcaster fired off circle of death in a 7-11, and someone was playing up and failed a save.

Grand Lodge 3/5

My venture-captain was running a game that resulted in a TPK.
Then there was a second near TPK.

in the case of the first one, we had a wizard that had a poor strategy of using Detonate as his go-to spell. Even after arguements that Fireball was a better spell, he wouldn't relent that the Xd8 was more damage.
He went kaboom, and most everything in the radius made their saves- except him.
My druid made the poor choice of trying Aqueous Orb, rather than just wildshaping.
We also had an archer-paladin [who had survived Bone Keep] being face to an Invisible Stalker while the rest of us waited for the signal.
Invisible Stalker and four large Air Elementals... not a fun fight. The party was "saved" by the HP-Tank Barbarian using his Prestige to "rescue" the party.
We had all stabilized, and the HP-Tank kept telling the GM to bring it, and he didn't mind if the character died.

In the case of the second-
same wizard, who had to rewrite his spellbook because he kept selecting 3rd-party spells.
But we ran afoul of a monster that was a walking swarm, and an alchemist that was the bane of our Tower-Shield-toting, full-plate-clad tank.

When the whole party was downed, the tank was irate and annoyed that we just TPK'd. After an hour of arguing, the GM let us continue the now abbreviated adventure as the group's tactics were just to delay. Eight hours and a friend NPC later, we've healed up and proceed.

Dark Archive 4/5 5/5 ***

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path Subscriber

I don't have a specific number, but over 20. A part of this is because I prefer to run lower levels and characters of levels 1-3 can be killed by an unlucky crit.

That said, there was this freak incident in the spring of 2014 that's locally called the Blood Spring, when over a month, four sessions that I ran saw a total of 16 character deaths, including TPKs in two scenarios that are not regarded as particularly dangerous.

There was one instance where they come upon a room with an object in the middle of the floor. They look at it, and go "this is obviously a trap". Then the paladin goes: "watch out, imma go spring it". Twenty minutes and a lot of poor rolling later, they've triggered two encounters and six PCs are dead.

Then there was the forum game where they went into Mists of Mwangi with four PCs and no melee combatant and wiped on the first encounter.

In general, I think modules and sanctioned AP bits are more lethal. Masks of the Living God saw the only survivor of a six-person team escape by throwing herself through a second-story window.

Personally, I've had three characters die permanently, the first of them in the first scenario we ever ran in Finland. It is, in fact, possible to get killed in Silent Tide.

Dark Archive 4/5

I have GMed around 100 PFS tables now, and I have kept note of each character that has died under my supervision; the obituary on my GM screen has several names on it already (I do not revel in killing, but it does serve as a warning that I do not softball). Any death that requires Raise Dead or higher is placed on the screen.

A very common trend amongst the dead is the unfortunate crit on a low-on-health PC: wizard who happens to be the only Elf versus Harpy Archer with favored enemy Elf, with the last arrow of the salvo critting. Or Qlippoth that crits on the 3rd round of combat versus a softened-up character. Etc, etc.

The ones that really stayed with me where the two drownings I have witnessed: in a room with 4ft high water, a creature who fascinated the entire party, a set of Toothfairies and a party of four Charisma-dumped Dwarves… Two dwarves lost consciousness due to Charsima 0 and went sleeping in the water, with the other two Dwarves more interested in the beautiful song they where hearing… It was not a good day for them…

Dark Archive 4/5 5/5

Many close calls, including my daughter's character almost being removed from the campaign as a result of charisma damage/ curse in a certain scenario. Only 1 true kill, 1st level of Thornkeep. The PCs declined to try and identify any of the combatants and the 1st level Tower Shield specialist charged ahead confidently provoking AoOs, sure he won't be hit. Consecutive 20s later he was sitting at -1 character level.

Dark Archive 4/5 *** Venture-Lieutenant, Finland—Turku

I've run a bit over 30 scenarios (and lots of modules). I don't try to kill PC's, and since most of our lodge is still in levels 1-5, I often softball encounters if they seem too hard.

That being said, with more experienced players/higher level characters, I try to play the monsters as intelligently as their stats/tactics allow, and that may lift the difficulty a bit.

So far, I've had a couple of PC deaths that were retconned because of missed tactics or bonuses but those don't really count. The "real" deaths have been 3: All of them in halflight path.

First two were in high tier (6-7) with a party of 6, 2 of them were level 7 pregens. The party had specifically hoped for a more challenging experience, so I didn't pull any punches - first character died to a surprise that, since they failed to spot/recognize/prepare for, dealt a whopping 14d6+14 damage before the character had a chance to act (wasn't enough to kill the PC immediately, but it's next turn sealed the fate). Luckily, the Party managed to breath of Life him back.
Second death was kinda bad luck - a pregen (level 7 bard) died because there were no other PC's at range/in sight, and the monster rolled a 20 to hit despite having penalties for cover and the pregen being prone (he was taking cover behind the unconcious body of another pc :P). It wasn't a crit, but the bard was already in low health. It was for an empty slot, though, so I don't really count that as a kill >.>

A third death was when I ran the halflight path in a con. Party consisted of levels 3-5. Encounter was from the "minor threats" list. Party didn't have anything to counter the monsters tactics, and rolled really, really poorly. The solo monster with about the same amount of HP as a single PC managed to send an eidolon back to it's home plane, knocked 3 characters unconcious during the combat, and killed one. I admit that the party had poor luck on their rolls, but I consider the death pretty fair: Nothing stopped them from running, and the PC who died was on low health - the party know about how much damage the creature dealt per attack, and the killing strike wasn't a crit or anything - just a couple of points more than the avarage damage, dropping the PC straight into over-con-negatives. The combat took something like 8 rounds or so so the PC could have just pulled out to heal for a bit.
I think it might have very well result in TPK, but I started pulling punches when it started to look really desperate for the PC's (giving them clear hints on where the monster was despite poor perception rolls and pointing out that it "probably wasn't anymore in where it was when it stabbed you")


Geez so it does happen more often than I thought. These stories are hilarious (albeit tragic for the player).

RealAlchemy -- Bodak gaze to the face, rolled max

Selvaxri -- poor strategy of using Detonate as his go-to spell

NiTessine -- the only survivor of a six-person team escaped TPK by throwing herself through a second-story window.

Mr. Bonkers -- a party of four Charisma-dumped Dwarves

Davor Firetusk -- 1 true kill, 1st level of Thornkeep

Tommi Ketonen -- a whopping 14d6+14 damage

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden

Not that many in Pathfinder, compared to the number of games I've run.

* A rogue double-moving up towards a Graven Guardian that just hasted itself.
* A barbarian that didn't step out of a flank between a ghoul and a ghoul rogue.
* A monk with a fly potion that got familiar-tagged with Slay Living, then dropped down unconscious next to another character that got targeted with Flame Strike.

3/5

I've ran 91 PFS games.

7 Characters have went below negative constitution. 4 of those characters were saved by the Retail Incentive Program (RIP, lol).

  • #1 A paladin tanked a stone golem. Hero’s Defiance was not enough weather the onslaught. RIP saved them.
  • #2 A level 1 barbarian refused the advice of a halfling and charged a minotaur. The AoO crit made short work of them. RIP could not save them.
  • #3 Two party members attempted to sneak around into a flanking position on the boss. While the the rest of the group waited until they were in position before making the frontal assault. They were spotted, the rest of the group was 2 rounds away. One died. The RIP was not funded at the time.
  • #4 A paladin with 10 Con was beat down by a mummy. RIP saved them.
  • #5 A swashbuckler attempted to solo the boss as the rest of the team struggled with climb checks. The dual wielding boss made short work of the swashbucklers limited parries. RIP saved this character.
  • #6 moved beside an invisible boss and then got full attacked. Their teammate channeled to heal them, waking them up. The boss then continued to attack their now prone form (tactics were clear, this enemy killed irrationally). RIP saved this character.
  • #7 was a level 1 and took a divine favor longspear crit AoO. The RIP could not save them.

Grand Lodge 4/5 ** Venture-Agent, Colorado—Denver

It was my first or second game of PFS back in August 2010. In the first encounter we're headed towards a keep, get surprised by the attackers on the wall, and THUNK! -my level 1 ranger gets critted by an arrow. Like beyond Con score so I'm dead-dead. I sat there dumbfounded for about an hour thinking "Well, this sucks. Never gonna play PFS again..." Then the GM snaps me out of my thoughts, gets my attention, and says "Oops, sorry, dude. I ran that encounter wrong - that was high tier damage." He rolls a die and says "you only take six points." Whew! I kept coming back after that. So that was my first PC death. Which was later fixed, of course.

4/5

Pathmaker wrote:

Geez so it does happen more often than I thought. These stories are hilarious (albeit tragic for the player).

RealAlchemy -- Bodak gaze to the face, rolled max

Selvaxri -- poor strategy of using Detonate as his go-to spell

NiTessine -- the only survivor of a six-person team escaped TPK by throwing herself through a second-story window.

Mr. Bonkers -- a party of four Charisma-dumped Dwarves

Davor Firetusk -- 1 true kill, 1st level of Thornkeep

Tommi Ketonen -- a whopping 14d6+14 damage

Not sure how many you were thinking, but I quoted 6 deaths out of over 100 tables reported. (Not sure how for over, but a ways.)


I was thinking the nature PFS garnered a lot of kid gloves treatment. I thought it would be more like 1 in 100 games.

3/5

Pathmaker wrote:
I was thinking the nature PFS garnered a lot of kid gloves treatment. I thought it would be more like 1 in 100 games.

The GM perspective might be what is throwing off your expectations. GMs count every death 4-6, players count only their own death.

For example; Of 190 games played I've had 2 characters die. that is bang on your expectations.

Grand Lodge 1/5

I mean, the Roleplaying Guild guide does say to try to avoid killing the PCs of new players (it's on page 14).

I don't have a ton of gm'ing experience, but I've typically softballed 1-5 scenarios for new players by letting them see the enemies coming or allowing a good perception check to give them a surprise round, or dropping hints about what they might face. Stuff like that where I don't have to fudge die rolls. Experienced players generally don't get killed in 1-5 tier scenarios.

Grand Lodge 4/5 ** Venture-Agent, Colorado—Denver

Out of my 150 games GM'd, I've had 1 tpk (the party made some bad choices in Night March of Kalkemedes) and probably 3 or 4 PCs killed total.

4/5

Using Breath of Life doesn't count as a death!

As for the deaths... only 2, in just over a hundred tables worth.

One was a out of tier player in the higher tier of a 5-9 who just got unlucky about positioning.
(It is my long held belief that high tier 5-9's are where unprepared PC's go to die!)

The other was a player who thought their PC was awesome and invincible and thus ignored common sense. ('It's a very low five foot ceiling, are you sure you want to enlarge?')

Though I have had good luck killing various pets/companions/familiars. Hell, even managed to take out an inevitable once.

Silver Crusade 1/5

I've run about 20 tables of PFS, so not a large sample size.

I have not killed any PCs so far, but on one run of Tome of Righteous Repose it all came down to one attack roll; everybody but the pregen Hunter was unconscious, with one of the PCs still bleeding out. The orc boss was only standing because of his Ferocity, but he was right up in Adowyn's face having used Step Up when she tried to back away to use her bow. Whoever hit next would decide it - if Adowyn fell it was a TPK. Fortunately for the party, Adowyn landed a longsword hit and finished off the bad guy.

I have killed two Droogamis and a Lerwyn I believe.


More great stories!

Ward Davis -GMs count every death 4-6, players count only their own death.
***Yes that is right on.

Christian Dragos -It is my long held belief that high tier 5-9's are where unprepared PC's go to die!
***So true, with characters I entered into 5-9 games, I either get a solid or a worried feeling. It really points out your characters' flaws that for some reason was not evident through 1-5.

The Exchange 4/5 5/5

I don’t count. A lot, that’s all I know. By the time you get into 5-9 scenarios it’s an acceptable risk. If I had to guess, probably around 20-25. That works out to one every 8-10 games (but includes newbie tables, where I almost never kill anyone).

I’ve also died a lot. Probably at an even higher rate. I know my -1 character died 4 times in reaching level 12.

Because of the way I GM I actually kill less PCs than some GMs I know. Unless the tactics say otherwise, my intelligent creature NPCs are fighting to win, not to get a couple of kills before they die. So if they drop someone, that PC is off the target list (unless they get back up). Many times I’ve left a trail of three or four unconscious characters behind me where another GM might have gone ahead and killed one dead before falling to the rest of the group.

Unconscious or breath of life isn’t dead. It doesn’t count unless you need a raise dead or better.

Scarab Sages 4/5

I've yet to kill a character in PFS as GM. There have been some close calls, but have avoided it through 101 games.

As a player, I've had 3 characters killed, not counting breath of lifes, all of which got better. One was to a Coup de Grace by a harpy (before the use of coup de grace by GMs was discouraged). I didn't have a problem with it at the time, and I had the prestige for an Osirion Risen raise dead.

One was in a tough fight at 3rd level on a character with negative energy affinity. I bled out while the Rogue was trying to UMD my wand.

One was to an unlucky crit on a 3rd level character that took him to exactly negative con.

Both the 3rd level characters had to stretch resources and get help from party members to get their raise deads. The first I only agreed to, because the group didn't want to finish the scenario down a party member. The second was a boon race. I could afford the raise, thanks to now being able to split gold and prestige. Someone kicked in for one of the restorations, which I'm very grateful for. I GM credited the character's next scenario to be able to afford the second restoration.

Christian Dragos wrote:
Out of my 150 games GM'd, I've had 1 tpk (the party made some bad choices in Night March of Kalkemedes) and probably 3 or 4 PCs killed total.

Very Spoilery for Night March of Kalkamedes. Do not read if you don't know the scenario.:
I really hope they weren't killed by the demon.
Night March wrote:
If the PCs decide to free Koth’Vaul, he cackles gleefully as he teleports next to Sulianna’s summoning circle in area C3, breaks the circle, and kills the azata. To prevent the PCs from interfering, he commands Illvaster to attack, and upon slaying the celestial, Koth’Vaul uses greater teleport to leave the Black Edifice forever.

And

Night March wrote:
While trapped inside his circle, Koth’Vaul cannot attack anyone outside his circle. If anyone foolishly enters the circle, he attempts to subdue her and then use her as a hostage. Once it is clear that he is not a gnome, Koth’Vaul offers one’s heart’s desire to anyone who aids his escape, though he has no intention of granting such a boon to anyone, much less expending his wish spell-like ability.

At no point should he be actively trying to kill even one PC, let alone the whole group. Maybe if 1 by 1 they all enter the circle like lemmings and won't stop attacking him, despite seeing their friends slaughtered.

Or did they all hurl themselves off a cliff or something like that?

Grand Lodge 4/5 ** Venture-Agent, Colorado—Denver

Ferious Thune wrote:

Christian Dragos wrote:
Out of my 150 games GM'd, I've had 1 tpk (the party made some bad choices in Night March of Kalkemedes) and probably 3 or 4 PCs killed total.
** spoiler omitted **
...

Spoiler:
They kept entering his circle even after he had a hostage that kept trying to attack him with a light weapon while being grappled and the other party members did keep attacking. He warned them to back off after revealing his true form. Even with my warnings that he was too powerful for the party, the players believed their characters were invincible.
5/5 *** Venture-Agent, Netherlands—Utrecht

I'm at 130+ tables GMed, I can recall only two player deaths. There might be one or two more, but that's about it.

First was a first-level Cleric that kept getting missed by an enlarged Duergar with an Earth Breaker. He was getting cocky, and then I crit him. He was pulp.
Second one was a character getting caught in a Darkness and then getting a TWF sneak attack from a Dark Stalker.

Outside of PFS, an archer with favored enemy rolled a crit. Bye-bye character.

I like how exciting crits are, but they're too much of a power explosion, for both players and GMs. A tough fight can suddenly become trivial, or a mook can suddenly turn the tide by himself. Personally, I'd just do away with crits and fumbles (or at least, let them auto-hit or auto-miss, not be a force multiplier). They're ingrained in the system, but I just don't like 'em.

As for player deaths: I've played 200+ scenarios by now, I've had several character deaths. I can't even count how many (mainly because I didn't keep track). Several of them were definitely my fault, some were just dumb luck. I'm not sad they happened, but I'm wondering how people can have so few character deaths. Death is part and parcel of RPGs, and either you're incredibly lucky, or play vastly different from me. Which, to be fair, is pretty well possible, I tend to be rather reckless.

Also, as a GM, I tend to not overthink enemy tactics. I'm not playing enemies as dumb, but I'm sure they could've been more tactically efficient. I just don't like overthinking all that stuff. I also have a reputation for making scenarios easier, because somehow either my dice fail me at hilariously inappropriate times, or players have abilities that completely negate a fight. Be they either insanely high AC I simply can't get around, some kind of sense that disables surprise attacks, or whatever. I can't seem to make fights be appropriately challenging. A while ago I ran the first part of Eyes of the Ten, and some fights were barely even challenging. While when I played it, I was sweating my ass off.

Anyway, some amusing anecdotes as character deaths:
- Provoking an attack (or failing to tumble, can't remember) against someone with a Keen scimitar while at low HP.
- A level 3 character standing in the front line while playing up in a 4-5 tier. Bad idea.
- I got killed by a Protection from Evil. I lay bleeding out from an earlier attack, then an Alchemist threw a bomb at an adjacent party member. It hits, I would've survived the splash damage. Then the player remembers he has Protection from Evil on, bomb misses, lands straight in my square.
- I killed someone else. My character was out of commission, GM let me play the boss so I had something to do. Tactics explicitly state quickening Magic Missiles whenever possible. I threw a few Fireballs around, alongside a few Magic Missiles. Barbarian suddenly drops dead after a 10 damage Missile. Oops.
- One of my characters actually attracts bad luck. Don't know why, but whenever he's in a scenario, things go horribly wrong. In a surprise round, enemy wins initiative (and has Greater Invis on), throws a Lightning Bolt. I fail, take damage. Enemy's turn is again. Another Lightning Bolt. I drop unconscious. Someone with insanely high Perception spots the enemy, tells us where she is (ran into a corridor). Someone heals me, I wake up, I decide I do not want to be in Lightning Bolt formation anymore, and leave. Both in and out of character I hadn't heard the information about where she went. I decide to park myself right next to the invisible enemy (Carpet of Flying, so I don't have to waste actions getting up), and cast a Cure on myself. Which provokes, drops me past 0 again. Then the enemy is again, sees the guy who is able to see her, and wants to attack. Problem is, I'm lying in the way. GM looks at me looking for help. I look him straight in the eye. "Do it." "But, your character..." "It's what the enemy would do. Do it." Then he throws another Lightning Bolt. I fail, I get obliterated. Other guy has Evasion and takes no damage at all. So it goes.

There are many, many more, but these come to mind right now.

Scarab Sages 4/5

Christian Dragos wrote:
Ferious Thune wrote:

Christian Dragos wrote:
Out of my 150 games GM'd, I've had 1 tpk (the party made some bad choices in Night March of Kalkemedes) and probably 3 or 4 PCs killed total.
** spoiler omitted **
...

** spoiler omitted **

That's just... wow.

Scarab Sages 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Captain, Isles—Online

in 250 games, plenty that got a raise etc, but only a handful of permadeaths. Most of those were either
a) stupid actions on the part of players
b) crits

I always roll in the open, and let the dice fall where they may, I might softball a new player or a youngster but seasoned adventurers know the risks. When there were no consequences to pregen death, I may have been a little rough with a few aspis agents attacking the grand lodge..

Recently I ran a game for our RVC, the players stumble into an encounter and his PC gets bitten and grabbed right at the start. the monster gives him a little chew for good measure, and the round continues -someone blinds the creature and a few people throw some ranged attacks and spells at it. However the blind creature already has its dinner in its mouth at the start of the next turn, so has a little chew and swallows the RVC's character..leading to his untimely demise.

Dark Archive 3/5 *** Venture-Agent, United Kingdom—England—Sheffield

I've killed about 5-6 PCs in 60+ tables GMd. I've been killed twice, and had a few near misses.

I've had one near-TPK (in First Steps pt1) that ended with two PCs dead, one stable on negative HP, eidolon "dead" and animal companion killed. The last PC (a Summoner) finished off the final enemy with a dagger.

Sovereign Court 1/5

Only one death in 11 sessions. Bard got pounded by a ghost and dropped to negative hp. Healer brought them back to positive hp only for the Bard to decide to stand up next to the foe. The next moment, he was singing in the heavenly choir.

Sovereign Court 4/5 5/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden

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Kwinten Koëter wrote:
I like how exciting crits are, but they're too much of a power explosion, for both players and GMs. A tough fight can suddenly become trivial, or a mook can suddenly turn the tide by himself. Personally, I'd just do away with crits and fumbles (or at least, let them auto-hit or auto-miss, not be a force multiplier). They're ingrained in the system, but I just don't like 'em.

I wouldn't mind if crits were the reverse of the way they are right now: if you crit, you multiply the weapon's damage dice, NOT all the static modifiers. It would make them a lot less swingy.

Kwinten Koëter wrote:
Also, as a GM, I tend to not overthink enemy tactics. I'm not playing enemies as dumb, but I'm sure they could've been more tactically efficient. I just don't like overthinking all that stuff. I also have a reputation for making scenarios easier, because somehow either my dice fail me at hilariously inappropriate times, or players have abilities that completely negate a fight. Be they either insanely high AC I simply can't get around, some kind of sense that disables surprise attacks, or whatever. I can't seem to make fights be appropriately challenging. A while ago I ran the first part of Eyes of the Ten, and some fights were barely even challenging. While when I played it, I was sweating my ass off.

I don't agree - You were running for me and we were quite scared during several of the fights. I think as a GM you can see behind the scenes and know enemies are weaker than they look to the players. And you have a tendency to spill the beans on that rather than to bluff up their power.

Kwinten Koëter wrote:


- I got killed by a Protection from Evil. I lay bleeding out from an earlier attack, then an Alchemist threw a bomb at an adjacent party member. It hits, I would've survived the splash damage. Then the player remembers he has Protection from Evil on, bomb misses, lands straight in my square.

Nitpick: once a bomb scatters, wherever it lands is just splash, it can't bounce to direct-hit someone else.


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

My -1 has died twice, once at 3rd level because of bad tactics (but IMO valid roleplay choice) and (last night) at 8th level because of a nasty Mimic that took her from full to -23 in one round.

Watch out for Mimics, folks.

Grand Lodge 4/5

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Approaching 500 credits, slightly fewer actual tables thanks to modules and the like. I can only think of two or three TPKs, one in Trial By Machine with all brand new PCs. They just didn't have the resources to overcome the fights, and I had to stop fudging the numbers to put an end to the misery. Everyone took it really well and I gave them all Technophobe boons for their next characters. Another was Quest for Perfection I, where the final boss was just too much for the party.

I don't have a good memory of how many deaths I have presided over. I know my first was table 60 for a rogue with 10 Con. The monster's minimum damage was enough to knock him out, and I did not roll minimum. There have been many close calls, saved with Breath of Life, but I would guess I'm approaching 10 permanent kills. One involved a Confirmation run with a 2nd level fighter. The AoO on the way in did not put him down, leaving him at single digits for the second hit, straight to dead.

Usually, it's the dice that decree it, due to poor rolls on the player side. I will blunt the savagery of the GM's dice, but usually only for newer players who don't have the resources or experience to overcome bad dice luck. If I know the party can recover from a death, I don't interject often, as protecting them would render those resources pointless.

Dark Archive 1/5 5/5

Ferious Thune wrote:
Christian Dragos wrote:
Ferious Thune wrote:

Christian Dragos wrote:
Out of my 150 games GM'd, I've had 1 tpk (the party made some bad choices in Night March of Kalkemedes) and probably 3 or 4 PCs killed total.
** spoiler omitted **

...

** spoiler omitted **

That's just... wow.

I'd say they earned their TPK. When I run a home game on my own world, Raise Dead and Resurrection are off the table (mostly), so I tell my players that I will not cause them to die from a freak crit, or anything like that, but player stupidity voids the warranty. On that world, that would have been a TPK.

Dark Archive 4/5 *

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I killed a pregen in Risen from the Sands - the initial encounter with the trample and hardness and the pregen investigator had no chance.
Beyond that, I've killed a dwarf who succumbed to sudden barbarian death syndrome while facing a babau in the aptly named City of Golden Death while the rest of the party was rolling terribly

Grand Lodge 4/5 ** Venture-Agent, Colorado—Denver

Yes! Risen from the Sands! Ugh. Deadly. My Undine Cleric got killed in second encounter. Party helped pay for raise dead. When i GMd RftS later on, I tpk'd a party in first encounter.

Grand Lodge 4/5

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

That one is damn challenging. Thankfully, I brought my Seeker Oracle of Flame and we had a Maneuver Master grapple the first fight long enough for us to take it out.

Grand Lodge 4/5 ** Venture-Agent, Pennsylvania—York

I've got 270+ tables of credit as a GM. No TPK's, but probably a dozen PC deaths. An uncountable number of near deaths though!

It mostly happens with unlucky timing on critical hits, or a staggeringly good roll on damage dice for spells / breath weapons.

Also a notable PC death... Channel negative energy when two players are already unconscious and within range. It was specifically stated in the tactics that one of the three anti-paladins channels negative to harm living every round... And we had a character death.

I don't enjoy killing player characters but it's going to happen occasionally. If you're rolling your dice out in the open there's no helping it. If you roll behind a GM screen, wellllllll... maybe you could fudge a bit for a party that's doing everything right, but just doesn't have luck on their side that day.

Dark Archive 4/5 *

Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Crits happen

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Florida—Melbourne

I started keeping track of my kills after my kill rate seemed kind of high, so I could determine why. Here are the stats I came up with though I know I am missing a few kills.

Monster with a huge DPR: 9
Crits : 6
Bad Tactics: 6
PC(s) stuck in a bad tactical position they had no control over: 3
Staight Beatdown: 3
Phantasmal Killer: 1
GM Error: 0 as I always reverse these when discovered.
TPKs: 0 (So far I have not killed more than 2 PCs in any single game)

Note that several years ago I took a poll with my players to see if they prefer GMs that roll their dice behind a screen and possibly fudge the rolls (for good or ill), or if they prefered the dice rolled out in the open and let the dice fall where they may. They chose rolling out in the open and there was a coinciding increase in kills, especially at low levels.

The Exchange 4/5 5/5

You know, I should make a list like Bill. Then I could come up with funny categories and subcategories.

  • Failed save
  • Killed by another PC (subset of “failed save”)
  • Bad tactics
  • Bad/selfish tactics by another player (two categories?)
  • BBEG under-CRed
  • Really unfortunate positioning choice prior to combat
  • That ability doesn’t work the way you think it does
  • Nobody brought anti-swarm abilities or gear
  • Barbarian NPCs with x3 weapons in Tier 1-2


LOL that Phantasmal Killer is a statistical bucket.

also No Anti-Swarm - nuff said.

4/5 **

I just hit my 4th star and I have no perma-death characters on record. But I've had plenty of close calls with PCs dropping below negative CON and being saved by the retail program, as well as situations involving prestige point / money spent for body recovering and raise dead.

The Exchange 1/5 5/5 ***

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I have only GMed 21 PFS games and 12 SFS games. I have killed two characters out of those 33 games. First one was when a Ghost in a well known scenario possessed the big fighter and then said Ghost ridden fighter hit and crit the poor rogue who happened to be the closest one to him at the time. The rogue was DRT(dead right there).

The second was at GENCON last year during Assault on Absalom. A Minotaur hit and crit with a great axe and the Naga fighter was DTR.

Crits happen and at lower levels they are often FATAL.


I've GMed just over 30 games and have almost killed two characters but they were saved by the Retail Incentive Program. Both were due to bad tactics IMO.

The first: A rogue just had to get into flank against a skeleton wielding a nodachi with two other identical friends in the room. The rest of the party was stuck in a 5ft hallway. Whacked the rogue good on the first hit and an unfortunate crit took him out.

The second: A swashbuckler with 8 con Leroy Jenkins'd two robots with spears and caught an AoO x3 crit to the FACE. Full to really dead in a single move action! Above game, the player showed up about thirty minutes late and just sat down. I don't think they even really knew what was going on and just started going through with their turn. Literally seconds into playing the scenario, their character was paste on the floor. Felt soooo bad!

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 ** Venture-Lieutenant, Florida—Melbourne

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Pathmaker wrote:

LOL that Phantasmal Killer is a statistical bucket.

also No Anti-Swarm - nuff said.

I almost considered adding Death By Metagaming.

In one session the PCs were up against some Wraiths and a Morhg. The paladin took on the Morhg while the rest of the players dealt with the Wraiths. The tactics for the Morhg said that it would attack a single target until it was dead so that it could could create a Fast Zombie spawn. The Morhg paralyzed the paladin on the first round of combat. The player's said, 'It's okay. The tactics will have it move on to another target now that it has paralyzed the Paladin. Two rounds later it had beat the Paladin down to unconscious. The player's said, "It's okay. The tactics will surely say he moves on to a different target after it has knocked the Paladin unconscious." The next round Morhg killed the Paladin. I let him roll the attacks for the Fast Zombie.

Grand Lodge

I'm still working on my 2nd star, and haven't outright killed anyone yet, but I've gotten daaaaang close a few times. Twice with the same character at the same table.

As it turns out, charging directly into the room, that is known to be full of rogues, when you've been making so much noise that the rogues could have been deaf and asleep and *still* heard you (no lockpicks, so they took the wood door down with a greataxe over the course of a couple of minutes), is a bad idea. Especially when you're level 1. Two readied sneak attacks later, and they had 2hp left until completely dead. Fortunately someone had Channel to save them. This was after they decided to solo a boss-type character midway through the scenario instead of waiting for the rest of the party and getting hit nearly as bad.

I've been witness to one almost TPK. 1-5 scenario played on 1-2 tier, playing with five level 1s and me as a level 3. My level 3 was the only front liner, but we figured it would be fine, since I was higher level and tanky. Tanky does not help when you roll Nat 1 on a fortitude save vs. paralysis, and the GM rolls 4 rounds. Half the poor little level 1s got eaten before I got out of paralysis to save the rest of them and we had to retreat.

Shadow Lodge 4/5

Some character deaths my dice may have caused:

1 & 2: Same mummy, same mummy rot and Power Attack slams. Two piles of dust on the floor.

3: Paladin playing up vs a half-fiend. On water.

4: Three ratfolk inquisitors vs. a half-elf inquisitor. Same god, different dogmatic views + a crapload of dice.

5: 3 Greater shadows + a Strength 7 alchemist

6: Playing up vs a monk/assassin 11. Death by a thousand slaps!

7, 8 & 9: Mummies don't belong on tier 2-4. And definitely not with goons to boot.

10: Going unconscious under a fire wall.

11 & 12: Blakros museum basement blues on tier 6-7.

13 & 14: Six Seconds to Midnite. C'mon now, Paizo.

15: Two confused barbarians.

16 & 17: Cult of the Ebon Destroyers and a boss fed up clw wand yo-yoing keeping up the full attack vs downed characters.

18: Dumped the wrong stats vs Queen Rhoswen of the Fellnight Realm.

19 & 20: "We don't want to fight the optional boss we could actually damage. Surely this time precision damage shall prevail against our 3rd advanced greater earth elemental!"

21: There were kytons. And chains. And some clw yo-yoing.

22, 23 & 24: Big, nasty tendriculous and lots of awkward tactics. Also, 23th's second death during said module.

I also have to note NiTessine's 5 character deaths during Curse of the Crimson Throne AP. Guys, if the big bad is optimized to challenge your AC 43 frontliner, don't bring the backrow casters any-freaking-where near.

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