Tickled to Death by Tiny Spiders: TPK

I don’t usually talk about events in my weekend campaign because I’m not very good at writing up interesting accounts. Fiction — even at the session report level — just isn’t something I do well. However, we had a TPK in the ninth session of my S&W/M74 game Sunday. A TPK caused as much by fancy equipment as by bad player decisions.

Fancy Equipment: The characters had acquired a bundle of continual light torches a couple of sessions ago and quickly decided that they could carry a lot more treasure out if they did not pack in extra torches and lanterns that they would never need. Those continual light torches could not be blown out by gusts of wind nor did they go out if dropped.

Bad Player Decisions: The party had found a map to “a treasure that would make a dragon jealous” the other side of a section of caverns connected to the first and second levels of the dungeons. Caverns they had avoided because they did not want to map them. They found their treasure map accurate enough. It even warned that that a bridge over a chasm was a “dangerous bridge.”

Unfortunately, they interpreted that to mean that the old and rickety bridge was itself dangerous and spend their time looking at it instead of checking out the chasm. Had they looked down the chasm they would have seen it was full of webs, a few giant spiders, and hundreds of 1hp hungry baby giant spiders. A couple of real torches (or any other type of fire) dropped down the chasm and almost all of the spiders would have been toast. But they were too busy trying to decide if the bridge was safe to cross to look. That was a mistake.

A wave of tiny hand-sized spider came out of the chasm and took a couple of hired warriors by surprise. They were soon covered with spiders. The players decided to wade in and fight instead of run. That mistake was their last. Real torches would have at least let them hold the spiders at bay, but those fancy continual light torches would not. Within three rounds the five PCs and their eight hired warriors were dead. A couple of their hired bearers managed to run away and I arbitrarily decided they made it back to the surface with their terrible news. This will activate the wills left by the PCs which will allow their new characters to start with a few hundred gold pieces each — even after Baron Smeldley gets his 25% inheritance tax.

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Randall is the author and publisher of a number of old school games (Microlite74, Microlite81, BX Advanced, etc) through RetroRoleplaying.com. Randall's main job, however, is being caregiver for his MS-afflicted cancer survivor wife. You can support Randall with a donation to the RetroRoleplaying Cancer Fund. Gates & Glamours RSS Feed

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You’re my hero! Swarm monsters are extremely potent, and so easy to under-estimate.


What a great story – how did your players feel about the TPK? Did you end the game on that note or start up right away again?


The players took it very well. Or at least they did after they got over the shock. It all happened very quickly. They’ve rolled up new characters and we spend the last 30-40 minutes of the session having the new characters meet each other, buy equipment, etc. They’ll be all ready to go exploring next weekend. They are thinking of trying a different entrance to the dungeon, however.


“Dangerous bridge”. I love it. I’m going to have to keep that trick in mind for my own players.:D

Evil Machinations