Last night, I killed the entire party.
It was a 3.5 Eberron game, and we were playing through the Age of Worms Adventure Path from Dungeon Magazine. We have been for a couple of weeks more than three years. We try to get together every second Sunday, but we’re all people with busy real lives, and it doesn’t always work out, so the sessions are a little irregular.
It’s also a verys social, beer-and-pretzels game, with a lot of non-game directed table talk, and a tendency to drift off topic. In the three to four hours we meet each time, we get through one, maybe two encounters.
So, after three years, the group was almost finished with Spire of Long Shadows, which is the seventh of twelve adventures. They had only the Harbinger (an advanced spellweaver lich) and the Kyuss Knights (very tough combat monster undead) to face, in two separate encounters.
They picked the room with the Harbinger, and died.
A big part of it was the the thing was ready for them, with a high Spot and Listen check, so it heard the people in the hallway and had a couple of rounds to buff and prepare. The good guys got a face full of empowered level 17 chain lightning when they opened the door.
And then the monster beat them all on initiative.
Well, the prismatic spray kicked the dwarven cleric/fighter and the half-orc barbarian right out of the world with the violet ray. Bam. Two of the heaviest hitters gone in the first round. Everyone did their best, but it wasn’t all that much of a contest after that, although the rogue did almost take it down (within 20 points, Erik) before succumbing to the frost bite of the cold fire shield. The warforged juggernaut sucked up waaaaay too much damage the next turn, thanks to the thing being able to cast three scorching rays in one round, and that left the wizard and the druid.
At this point, the Harbinger turned invisible and healed itself up to about 80 HP. The druid summoned some girallons to try and find it and deal with it, while the wizard made a mad dash for the bodies of their comrades, in a bid to dimension door them out. One attack of opportunity from the invisible monster, and it was down to the druid and his monkeys. When the Harbinger sealed the way out with a wall of force and used a power word stun, the fight was essentially over.
Everyone sort of sat around and went, “Well. That sucked.”
And it did. A TPK is no one’s idea of a good time. Not even the GM. Sure, I could have pulled some punches, and fudged some rolls, but that minimizes the excitement and challenge, I think.
The turning point was that prismatic spray. I’ve never really liked save-or-die effects, from a play perspective, because it takes people out of combat and prevents them from having fun. Prismatic spray has two or three such effects. The plane shift that got our heavy hitters basically turned them into spectators for the rest of the combat. So, not only did it suck for their characters, it pretty much sucked for the players, too.
So, the characters failed in their quest. Kyuss awakens, and ushers in the Age of Worms, spreading death and destruction across Khorvaire, waking the other Rakshasa Rajahs, and dooming the world, despite Dragotha’s interference. Which would have been cool if the characters had died a little less anticlimactically.
I want to say thanks to my players:
- Chris, who played an elfÂ druid with the biggest, baddest doggy in the whole, wide world.
- Erik, who played an Extreme! explorer and rogue, for the sheer zest he put into shouting “Extreme!“
- Pedro, who played an inexplicably scottish dwarf fighter/cleric, and incidentally gave us the place to play.
- Dan, who played a ranger who grew up to become a wizard. Mainly for the imaginary chicks.
- Paul, who played a warforged juggernaut who really liked to break things. And wander around underwater fighting squid.
- Mark, who joined the game later on as a far-too-civil half-orc barbarian with a great name.
It’s been fun. Also deeply offensive on many levels, but still fun.
Now, on to our 4th Edition game.