Saturday, January 24, 2009

D&D: Total Party Kill

I didn't really mean to kill them... honest.

On day two at the gladiatorial arena, everyone in the group again awoke fully healed. After their bread-and-water breakfast, the guards came to get them one-by-one, as before. This time, they were taken to an armory, where they could help themselves to a fitting suit of leather armor and their choice of shields and weapons (although no bows, crossbows, or other projectiles). As they were being secured to the lifts that would take them up to the arena, they could see another group of similarly armed prisoners being gathered on the other platform.

Now, just so you know, I'm going to explain how I planned this session and what I expected the group to do as the situation developed. The prisoners on the other platform were commoners (an NPC class that is incredibly incompetent at fighting) ranging in level from one to three (and even the highest-level among them only had six hit points). These guys were meant to be cannon fodder, but not necessarily for the party. After all, the party is composed mostly of good-aligned characters, including a paladin. I figured they would probably try to negotiate a truce with the other prisoners, defying the arena staff and refusing to fight for their entertainment. It wouldn't take much role-playing effort for that to work. Even if they horrifically failed their diplomacy check and ended up fighting, three of the four commoners would probably be dropped by one sleep spell from the party's sorcerer.

In either of those scenarios, the crowd would boo, and the arena staff would reveal that they had been prepared for just such a situation. The gates at the end of the arena would open, and a giant scorpion would come barrelling into the arena. With the scorpion appearing behind the commoners, it would naturally direct its attacks against them first. The scorpion would be the real fight; it's got just enough hit dice (five) to be immune to a sleep spell, and it's not affected by charm person. Still, with all of the party pounding on it -- enchanted club, sneak attacks, magic missile spells, and good old warhammer smiting, I figured they'd be able to manage it before it shredded more than one of them, and that person would survive in the infirmary.

Alas, things did not go according to plan. When the locks on the platforms were released, the party went on the attack, and the sorcerer didn't just end it quickly with a sleep spell; he started tossing magic missiles. Being the pathetic commoners they were, the other "gladiators" dropped fast, but the sorcerer still managed to deplete all of his good spells, leaving him with nothing but level-zero "cantrips".

Naturally the audience wasn't satisfied with this one-sided slaughter, so the staff released the scorpion. Unfortunately, there was no cannon fodder to absorb it's first charge, and the closest target was the party's rogue. Lucky for her, it missed, but it was a short reprieve. In the next round, it dropped the paladin with one clip of a pincer (Important safety tip: If you're the party's tank, Constitution should not be your dump stat!). A round after that, the rogue was down and the druid was terribly, terribly hurt.

Still, the party had actually managed to hurt it; the sorcerer was using puny level-zero attacks, but they were adding up; the paladin and rogue had each gotten in a shot, and the druid gave it a good one. With one hit point left, she lucked out on her next round and the scorpion missed with every attack. If she nailed it with her next swing, it just might die. It was not to be, though; she missed with her next attack, and it struck her down. That left just the sorcerer and the scorpion. The only thing he had going for him was the mage armor spell he had cast at the start of the whole scenario. When the scorpion charged, the spell deflected its attack. The spell did not deflect its next full attack, though, and he didn't really have a chance of knocking it out before that attack came.

Well, the city had put them into the arena to get them killed, anyway, so there was really no reason to expect the staff to try to revive them all: it was a TPK. Plans for new characters are already under way, and a new campaign will begin soon, hopefully with a few lessons taken to heart.

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