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Party pooper: 5 ways to wipe out your D&D party

Written by Expy - Published on August 3, 2007

I can already picture my players as they’re reading this! Relax, I don’t intend to wipe out my party and I don’t suggest that anyone should plan to kill all the PCs in their game. But…

If I’m going to kill a PC I might as well do it right

And if I’m wiping out a party I’ll definitely make sure I make it memorable – maybe even fun! There aren’t many reasons to do this – becoming a nun, leaving to climb Mt. Everest without a guide, or taking a vacation in the Gaza strip could be reason enough to think the game will never be played again. Or maybe your players are incorrigible – even after you’ve thrown dice at them. In these rare cases you might need…

5 ways to wipe out a Dungeons & Dragons party

  • Make it heroic
    • The players might not mind as much if they feel like they chose to die for some greater cause – saving the world, getting a kitten off a tree, whatever.
  • Make it a superhuman feat
    • Killing a thousand orcs on the field of battle before being overrun by another thousand of them should leave the players with a feeling of satisfaction. If you don’t think 1000 orcs is impressive enough to make your party feel good just make it 2000.
  • Use the why won’t you die technique
    • Find a reason for the PCs to be able to absorb an incredible amount of damage before they die – a la Faromir in the LOTR. I think having an NPC – ideally an interesting NPC – scream “Why won’t they die?” will have a positive and lasting effect on party members – even after they get wiped out.
  • Make it gory
    • Vivid description of the scene is the key here. Nasty wounds on the battlefield. Torture. Being eaten by an undead. You name it. I would hope that if the scene is impressive enough, the players would remember it fondly even though their characters died in it.
  • Go apocalyptic
    • If everyone else dies with their characters, the players shouldn’t hold it against you.

Have you ever been happy your character died?

Let me know if you have any ideas about this. What kind of death is acceptable for a PC?

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Written by Expy

Meet Expy The Red Dragon

Expy is the mascot for DungeonMastering.com and the real mastermind behind Expy Games. He likes to hoard treasure, terrorize neighbors, burn down villages, and tell white dragon jokes..

No matter how fearful the legends claim dragons are, they always end up being defeated in 5 rounds by adventuring parties they encounter. That’s what dragons are – experience points for the heroes in your Dungeons & Dragon party. And this mascot is no different, hence the name Expy.

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39 Responses to “Party pooper: 5 ways to wipe out your D&D party”
  1. Phil Smith says:

    You missed out the sixth option, I feel: make it funny. Arguably this might just be a modified version of the heroic or superhuman deaths, but there’s great comedic potential to be had from the sort of scenario where the player’s got everything pinned on that one Jump or Balance check (because you know how it is, they have to show off by leaping across the chasm)… only to screw it up completely.

    “With one mighty leap Throbgar soared halfway across the ravine, only to misjudge his jump completely and tumble 500 feet to his death…. you can try raising him, but you’d have to scrape him up first!”

  2. Yax says:

    You’re right. Funny works. I don’t know how I could have omitted that one. Bringing a PC to life is also pretty funny if it’s done through reincarnation instead of raise dead.

    I’ll never forget that bear-monk.

  3. Phil Smith says:

    Ah, the old random reincarnation tables. One of the all-time greats. I shall have to code something like that, shan’t I?

    I see multiple options. Generous. Standard. Stingy. Humiliating. Hilariously humiliating.

  4. Yax says:

    Do it! Oh, please, I need that random reincarnation generator!

  5. gryphon says:

    Make it frustrating…

    I like HUNTING them. Set on the party and instead of the stand and fight…do what a party would do, sneak up disrupt the spell casters and simply wear them down.

    My favourate is to set on them with lots of Kobolds that they can not get at. “Ninja” Kobolds of a similar level o the party

    Folk’s tend not to take these chaps seriously, but my group got hunted down after disrupting a Kobold warren. And it was very touch and go…I nearly had them all

    Another time it was half a dozen Orc Ranger Werewolves who hunted them and haunted them for the best part of 5 sessions, before they finally bit the dust.

  6. Yax says:

    Ninja kobolds? I wish I had thought of that. Not only can it screw the players over but it has tremendous comedic potential.

  7. Pé0 says:

    too bad now next time we see kobold i’ll go with the baddest spell in my arsenal. Yup it’s going to be ”Summon White Ninja” for them!!!

  8. Phil Smith says:

    As requested, Yax, here’s a rough-and-ready (emphasis on the rough) random reincarnator. Good for 1E, 2E, 3E and generally buggering about too.

  9. Stûnibu says:

    is there a story behind the ”Summon White Ninja”??

    I think that if they are ALL goign to die then it would have to be in the middle of a huge war, and the DM should be nice a bout it.

  10. Yax says:

    I just think white ninjas always beat black ninjas in a fight. Good guys beat bad guys.

  11. Stûnibu says:

    lol, are they any different??

  12. Griim says:

    Dude, I made a really good death, my friend Mike wanted to play a moogle character, and actually did a pretty good job of making a balanced character race. However, he was already a Dwarf in the campaign I was going through, so I picked a cinematic way for his Dwarf to die and for the moogle to be introduced to the party.

    The dwarf wondered into a temple, a vampire is sitting on the alter and seems to know the party was coming, he insults the dwarf and Mike’s character (something underbarel I think…) charged the vampire, who sidestepped and ended up back handing the dwarf, I rolled my die but still pretended to get an instant kill roll and the vampire hit Mike through the chapel wall and a couple miles away onto a deserted island where the moogle was sitting, counting gold out of a chest he had found on that island.

    The players thought it was funny, yet terrifying at the same time, so they ran, and finally found the moogle… the story goes on from there but the campaign ended shortly after because Mike wanted to DM and made the game too “kick in the door” style, which I didn’t like, I at least want a storyline to my campaign.

  13. Fishercatt says:

    My favorite PC death:

    I was playing a smashmouth Ogre, the sort of tank and protector of the group. DM was tired of my character always surviving and finding loopholes (he used darts). I was getting bored of him, too. So I stood back and took the missile hits while the theif was picking a lock. That dropped my hit points to One. Then while the party was escaping a burning castle we turned the corner and came face-to-face with a Beholder. I charged, figuring this would be my suicide run. DM ‘rolled’ INI, and we hit at the same time. Beholder turned my to stone while I was charging, so the excelleration hurled my stone body through the Beholder. Very heroic.

  14. wayne says:

    i had a 1st level illusionist called “larin”
    he was doing ok and lasted a little while! just before my friendly dm was about to give out a much needed dose of xp to take me to 2nd level,larin fell off a castle battlements 50 ft to his death!just as he was falling i asked the dm if i could cast a spell?he looked at me a bit strange and with a shrug said “well yeah go on then”cue the phantasmal force of a huge trampoline….SPLAT! we still laugh at “larin the lacking in levitation” to this day

  15. Duke says:

    This was in an Ars Magica campaign, but applies to the question:
    I had a Companion who was viking based. I was leaving the military for home, and our GM gave me a heroic death. I charged thru a horde of minions to defeat our nemesis Bad Guy. He killed me, but I was able to land a “final blow” that destroyed him. I still tell that story fondly. BTW, a great tip for all GMs out there, when you have someone leaving your campaign for good.

  16. Ryan Reid says:

    I’m running a Sons of Grummish game for my party. There are 3 PCs and two NPCs they hired on. Halfling Rogue, Gold Dwarf CLeric, Gold Dwarf fighter,I ran the Half-Orc Ranger and my fighter is running a Sorceress. 3 of them are level 3 and 2 are level 4. I was hoping with enough side treks before they get to the actual Orc Stronghold they would gain a level or two.

    Here’s a fun one: The cleric unable to turn an Ogre Zombie and forgetting that his heal spells harm undead.

    Needless to say that was that after the Ogre got a few good roles.

    Sons of Gruumish, it’s a bitch.

  17. Soda Bob says:

    I had one character death that was totally satisfactory. This was in 1st Edition. I was playing a dwarven cleric. A “beholder” attacked us, but it turned out to be a “Gas Spore” – when we attacked it, it burst and EVERYONE in the party failed their saving throws against the spore infection, including my character. I spent the next half hour of game time having my character gather all the party’s stuff together, and then using these, along with my character’s spells, to coordinate a cure for all the characters. However, we were exactly one cure method short to save all the characters, so my character decided to cure everyone else of the spore infection, and then my character went off into a corner to pray and, shortly thereafter, die.

    That was a great, totally satisfactory way for that particular character to die. He saved the party, and sacrificed (martyred) himself. He was ready to “go home” and remain in the halls of his ancestors, and I was totally prepared and happy to roll up a new character…

    However, the DM decided that such sacrifice should be rewarded, both to me and the character. Suddenly, my character was standing before his deity (Clangeddin Silverbeard), who bestowed him with several gifts and artifacts. Onto my character’s beard was placed two rings, which fit onto and held his beard’s braids. These were equivalent to magic rings (I can’t remember their powers), which were labeled (in Dwarven) “right” and “left,” respectively. :) Furthermore, his already magical battle axe was given the additional power to “return” upon being thrown. He was then returned to life, his dark hair white as snow.

    Totally, and completely satisfactory.

  18. Soda Bob says:

    Comment by Yax on August 18, 2007 @ 7:29 pm
    “just think white ninjas always beat black ninjas in a fight. Good guys beat bad guys.”

    Comment by Stûnibu on August 19, 2007 @ 5:26 am
    “lol, are they any different??”

    Yeah, the ninjas wearing white clothings say “please” before, and “thank you” after, assassinating you. :)

  19. Bird says:

    What about the Death by Red Dragon. thats just about its own category.

  20. Yax says:

    Death by red dragon is always acceptable.

  21. StandardFiend says:

    I had my PC’s wandering through a miniature version of Ravenloft for part of a campaign, and they made it through to the top of the castle by employing incredible ingenuity and, of course, luck. They were a force to be reckoned with, both physically and mentally. They went out onto the castle’s battlements, and a zombified Red Dragon, the “pet” of the castle’s keeper, appeared and began making strafing runs at the PCs, whose only method of defense, since none of them could cast spells, were stationary crossbows mounted between the buttresses. As the PCs began losing, one of them ran away by himself and got trapped in a hall of living statues, where he was inevitably slaughtered without his companions’ help, and the other two, even having heard their friend’s cries of pain as he was hacked to bits, resolved to keep firing tiny pointy things at the huge, armored, undead dragon. In the end, they all became crispy critters, because they wouldn’t trouble themselves to duck back inside beyond the dragon’s reach. I had hidden some Arrows of Dragon Slaying nearby, too.

  22. timbvampire says:

    All those are fine ideas but why not talk them into killing themselves or even better… “GREED”, killing each other?! You can make it funny, heroic, end of the world, and epic all at once and in the end your players will laugh and thank you for the time of thier gaming lives!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It works TRUST ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Evil Laugh)

  23. PondScum says:

    That’s a great idea timbvampire! Just the thought of a party that’s been through hell and back slowly turning on each other until they finally murder one another puts a tingle in my spine. Deception, misdirection, guile – might go well with a horror campaign so that the party is totally freaked out. Your players would have to be into it though, otherwise this would get boring fast

  24. timbvampire says:

    The general idea is to screw them over at every turn but make them laugh about it. It works fantastically if you make them use their heads and work together as well as use their own skills to obtain an item or goal. I have had sessions were every player hated anther in the party but was forced through different circumstances to get over it and work together or die. In the end my players were plessantly surprised and psyched to play the next quest.

  25. gorgardard says:

    This is kind of wierd. I know most people had a sympathetic attatchment to the first character they ever played… not me. I hated it from the get go.
    First off, I had wanted to play for years, and my best friend was interested, but his complaint was that D&D was “Too generic”(because an endlessly customizable game is completely generic, obviously). He spent a lot of time playing WoW too.
    So then the WoW d20 game was released. My friend got really really excited. So he bought the books and I thought, hey, fuck it, its almost identical to D&D(in fact the game is D&D, except you can play orcs and goblins and trolls and night elves, etc…)
    Problem was, he got his other buddy who was big into WoW to play too. So they essentially went with the idea that if they picked characters who kicked ass in WoW, it would work in the RPG too. So…. I wanted to play a ranger. I’d always wanted to play a ranger. Problem was, there was no “Ranger” class in this game. My friend told me the “Scout” class was the same thing, so I rolled up a Night Elf Scout. Turns out the class that was closer to ranger was the “Hunter” class. This wouldn’t have been so bad, the scout was pretty close too. However, my two fellows decided they would play a Night Elf Shaman(aka Druid) and a Goblin Tinkerer. So, basically, we had a level 1 Goblin who did FUCK ALL in the dungeon, because he needed to invent things before he could do anything cool, and our shaman was so physically weak, I had to tank. I was constantly low on HP, begging the shaman for heals, and constantly falling unconscious. IN THE MIDDLE OF COMBAT.

    So when my character successfully killed a doppleganger, had 5 hp left, and had to drag around the unconscious body of our shaman, I was never happier when I ran into an undead horse(our DM was wierd) that killed me. After that I rolled up a Human Rogue and enjoyed bringing him up to level 7. The end.

  26. The Gouge says:

    I was sitting in on one of my cousins game sessions and witnessed this excellent kill:

    The players were in a large subterranean room fighting an Earth Elemental, when one of the players, a rouge, retreated to a smaller room (I can’t remember why) and the Elemental sunk into the floor to pursue it. The rouge reached the room, and was waiting for the other players when the elemental dropped through the ceiling and the floor, taking the rouge with it. The only trace left of the rouge was a shiny silver spot on the floor of the cave where his mithral shirt had fused with the stone of the floor. The DM made this spot a recurring feature of the dungeon whenever they played this setting.

  27. GergLeft says:

    it was actually my brother’s PC, but our party still remembers it and believe it to be a good death. Kalmon Vox, a Radiant Servant of Pelor, along with his party have been captured by a lich. DM admittedly had put us into an no-win situation. We were told to surrender and join the liches forces, or die….well, an RSoP certainly wouldn’t join…one Bolt of Glory to the lich, and then the cleric was destroyed (I forget what brutes were around the party but between the brutes and the lich there was plenty of power to kill all the PCs in one fell swoop). My pc, a chronically confused half-ogre warhulk ended up joining the lich’s forces. Now I play the cohort of Kalman Vox and have made it to Demigod (using 3.5 Epic Destinies).

  28. Takaiteishu says:

    Well, just earlier this week I was playing in a campaign where I am a chaotic evil and cannibalistic half-orc barbarian teamed up with a stupid evil (yes that is his alignment) naked sorcerer. We call the guy playing the sorcerer Caboose because he acts like the character from Red vs Blue, but anyway, the two of us were meeting the last source of evil in the world when the party idiot decides to take said last source of evil’s head off his undead body and start quoting Shakespeare. Insert instant kill. Then insert my character carving up his remains to eat later.

  29. good question says:

    I was happy my character died in a game but that was because there was no challenge and the game sucked

  30. Ture says:

    My lvl 6 goblin scout got fireballed by the party’s sorceress because it was dark; she only saw the blue Slaad I was fighting at the edge of illumination, and thought it would be clever to burninate it, and due to a Curse I suffered 2 sessions back I missed the reflex save by 2. I died with a cheer on my face because I found it quite slapstick-y. Also, to relieve the DM and to stay occupied, I got to play the Slaad, threw a Chaos Hammer on the Palladin, and accidentally killed the DM’s Invisible Stalker: RETALLIATION!

  31. theo says:

    Haha i like these. might be good when i decide to end my story so i can make someone else dm.
    As for times i’ve been happy with a character’s death…

    This one time i was playing a barbarian. my rage was running out and so was my hp, but there was still a pit-fiend left working us ever closer to a tpk. (total party kill, idk if it’s D&D or just house slang) The DM told me i could come out of my rage and just go down to 0 hp, because if if i were to take any more damage and come out of rage, i would die. Being a found role player my answer was a solid HELL NO! I CONTINUE WITH MY RAGE! So in the end i managed to drag the pit-fiend to hell with me. Death well spent, and better remembered. DM was so interested by it, that he even added in a special weapon that was basically my barbarian’s old +3 mithril greatsword, but now jet black and dealing +5 fire damage as an easter egg in the return journey to that dungeon.

  32. "James Carter" says:

    Once when my character died (not as a TPK) I asked to roleplay death. I went to the realms of the gods and got a nifty new power in AD&D (which wasn’t even introduced until 3.0)

  33. Umbra of the Hunter's Moon says:

    The best character death I’ve ever suffered came from my dwarf Baerys going deeper and deeper down the path toward evil to gain information about the twin who had been abducted after the slaughter of her entire clan when she learned that her twin still lived.

    An angelic avenger of Moradin came and asked her to repent for killing innocents and lying and forging to gain information. When she refused, she was forced to fight to the death with the angel and while the rest of her party tried to help her, she went down although her body was never recovered.

    This also happened the week that I got the PHB2 and discovered the shifter beast master ranger class, thus bringing the character Umbra of the Hunter’s Moon (and her wolf companion Shadow of Sehanine) to life.

  34. mm00se says:

    best death i almost had was fighting on a cliff side tossing gnolls off of it rolling a natural one for a grab then rolling on the crit miss table and getting “thrown d20 feet in a random direction” luckily i was thrown away from the edge but it was a very intense roll of the scatter die

  35. alicia says:

    Hi this is a random question but I’m hoping you may be able to help out. My bf is having a D&D party this weekend and I was wondering about suggestions for what kind of food to make for them. I’m not very familiar with these type of gatherings and I don’t want to screw it up. Any ideas, tips or suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

  36. Templemaster_25 says:

    Hi everyone,
    I managed to kill all my players this weekend during my game. (they are all level 9)
    I had made up an invasion of Advanced 8HD ghasts in a tavern in town.
    In the morning, the tavern was full of Ghasts and a Gravetouched Ghoul rogue level 10 was running the whole thing from the basement.
    3 stairs could be found to get to the basement but one of them was hidden behind a curtain that the heroes never checked.
    They went down without even planing the ” who goes first” and got killed one after the other while a bunch of Ghasts were hacking them to peices from behind, no way for them to escape.
    Even the one that had regeneration 1 per round got killed first so the Ghast now have unlimited food till the gravetouched ghoul decides to make the coup de grace…

    Thanks for all you do for us Dungeon Mastering Experts!

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