My campaign is ending.

My players and I have agreed due to time commitment issues that our campaign should end soon. They have just encountered a summoning ritual of the Avatar of the Evil God of Destruction. I think since it is planned to be the last session, it is fitting to have a wave-based fight to the death as parts of the God become corporeal and summons monsters. Or at least, that's what I thought I'd do.

My goal for the encounter was to make it into a fair TPK, but as I designed it more and more, I added mechanics and special elements that made the encounter feel more like an epic fight that could be won, and less like a fair TPK.

But first, what is fair?

My definition of a fair fight (from a player's perspective).

A fight where the player could have done something different to change the outcome.

Please refer to this definition when answering this question.

There are many kinds of possible outcomes for a fight. The outcome where a party dies, or where they do not is one kind. Another kind of outcome is if they can repel oncoming doom! or if they fail to do so (they may have lost the battle but won the war).

If a fight is planned to be a TPK from start to finish, is it still possible to retain that sense of fairness for the fight?

What I'm not asking.

  • I am not asking if a TPK can be fun. It is related, but is not the focus of this question.
  • I am not asking how to end my campaign. My particular campaign will likely not end with a TPK.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Miniman, Oblivious Sage, Ruse, Aguinaldo Silvestre, Mark Wells Sep 15 '18 at 6:56

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Sep 15 '18 at 2:18

Yes -- you can design a "fair" TPK, using the definition you provided

Using the definition you provided, it's absolutely possible to have a fair TPK battle. You could create a situation in which "success" is something other than survival -- for example, perhaps the players avert a catastrophe at the cost of their lives. You've defined "fair" as a situation in which the player can achieve different outcomes depending on their actions, and this would meet that definition.

But "fair" is missing the point

Normally, when we use the word "fair", we're referring to some sort of competition, in which each side tries to defeat the other side. Then, if one side does something that's forbidden by the rules, we say that that side is "not playing fair".

It's weird to use this term in the context of a D&D game. A D&D game should not be a battle which pits the DM against the players. A D&D game should be a kind of shared storytelling, in which the DM tells a story which the players will enjoy participating in. In a game like this, you're not competing against anyone, so there's nobody to be "unfair" to.

A different way to say this: as the DM, you have basically unlimited power. You can create any monster you want and make the characters fight it. The only balancing factor on this power is that you're expected to give the characters challenges they can win -- but that's exactly what, in this question, you're proposing not to do.

To put it more simply: your players aren't expecting you to be "fair". Your players are expecting you to be fun.

Sometimes, on this site, we get questions from people who are about to do something they know their players will hate. And the question goes: "hey, I'm about to do this awful thing -- but at least it's fair, right?" (example)

Your question has gone through a lot of edits; I assume that some of the edits are your own doing because you want a specific type of answer, and other edits are requested by moderators and don't necessarily reflect your intent.

One way that someone could interpret your question is that you just really want to kill off all your characters, and you know it's not going to be fun for them, but you want us to tell you that at least it will be "fair". So you've provided a definition of "fair" which will get you a clear "yes this would be fair" answer, and you've added disclaimers like "please only use this definition of fair" and "please don't talk about whether this would be fun" and "as long as you can make something fair, it's a lot easier to accept as being fun."

I'd like to ask you, for the sake of your players, to please not be that guy.

One last thing. All of the above has assumed that your players don't want their characters to die horribly at the end of the adventure. This is a pretty safe assumption -- most players are attached to their characters and want good things to happen to them. But there are sometimes exceptions. If you wanted, you could have a conversation with your players and say: "hey, I think a good resolution to this adventure would be if your characters all died horribly in an unwinnable battle -- what do you think?"

It might happen that your players say: "Heck yeah, that's so metal, we're all in!"

If this happens, then you could plan a TPK, and we'd be comfortable with you calling it "fair". You'd want to think about interesting ways for them all to die. (Or you could just ask them each to describe how their character dies? That's probably safer, in that you'd be less likely to accidentally narrate something they'd hate.)

I don't think most groups would go for this in practice, though.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I don't see the benefit in half your answer (especially your second and third paragraphs) simply reiterating that the asker is not interested in certain related issues. It seems like only the second sentence of your first paragraph actually explains how what the OP wants could be possible. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 14 '18 at 22:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the related issues are very relevant, and omitting them substantially changes the character of this answer, so I think it's valuable to emphasize that they're not being touched on at OP's request. \$\endgroup\$ – Dan B Sep 14 '18 at 23:05
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ This question has been put on hold for a while so I've gone through many edits defining what the question is about and what it is not about to avoid confusion and make it super opinion-based. Also, this question is not directly related to my specific campaign, but is a question that popped up in my mind as my encounter design drew away from a TPK design. You are welcome to talk about related topics. However, the particular section detailing what this post is not about is an attempt to make the question's intent clear. \$\endgroup\$ – John Carroll Sep 15 '18 at 3:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DanB: The fact that the asker already points out what he's not interested in within the question, in my opinion, makes it entirely unnecessary to repeat that information in your answer. You have the start of a good answer, but 90% of it just repeats information from the question instead of expanding on the point in your second sentence. If you elaborated on that point instead, it would make for a much better answer. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 15 '18 at 7:52

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