Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Miscellany: The Total Party Kill

In party-based roleplaying games, the "total party kill" or "wipe" occurs when everyone in the party catastrophically dies in a single battle. For computer MMORPGs like "World of Warcraft," this can actually occur pretty often, especially if people stop cooperating. Thankfully, in most computer games, the consequences of a TPK aren't dire - you might have to resurrect yourself or reload your game, but you're not really stopped from continuing to play.

Tabletop RPGs are a different animal. TPKs are usually pretty rare in a well-balanced and well-played campaign, since the difficulty of encounters is custom-tailored by a living game master. Additionally, in most pen-and-paper RPGs, you are able to run away if you feel overmatched (most of the time it's pretty obvious when you should run). But, through a series of unlucky dice rolls, poor tactics, or simply unbalanced monsters, it is definitely possible for everyone's characters to die.

This effectively grinds the campaign to a halt. It's tedious to replay the encounter again, after all, since tabletop encounters are long, drawn-out affairs. It also feels gamey to "skip" the encounter and move on with the story, and it can gut the tension of a campaign if there's no risk of failure. Every gaming group handles character death differently, but I suppose what's important is that everyone has fun. After all, it's only a game.


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