Avoiding TPKs

ThinkDM

Wrath of God by Quinton Hoover shared per Wizards of the Coast’s Unofficial Fan Content Policy

What is a TPK?

TPK stands for “total party kill.” This is when a scenario (usually combat, although not necessarily) causes the entire adventuring party to die. This normally marks the end of the campaign, absent some narrative intervention by the DM.

Why do TPKs happen?

There’s three reasons why a TPK can happen. Most often, it’s a combination of these factors:

  1. The DM made the encounter too hard.
  2. The Players made a tactical blunder.
  3. The dice did not cooperate.

The first thing is going to happen. Sometimes, combats are supposed to be hard. When you’re running a big set piece, like a boss battle, you can use Schrödinger’s Orcs to keep your thumb on the scale of encounter difficulty. This allows you to run difficult encounters while mitigating the risk of #1.

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