Monday, April 22, 2013

I don't get TPK at all

I Don't Get TPK At All
by Tobie Abad

Total. Player.  Kill.  Those three words every now and then appear in my Google plus feeds and the remarks  range from very excited to proud.  Total.  Party.  Kill.  I've seen comics laughing about it.  I've seen dungeons designed with that as the goal.  Total.  Party.  Kill.

I don't get it.  I don't get the appeal.
Yes, it probably seems odd to read me saying this, given my recent article was all about indulging in violence every now and then.  While I do confess to enjoying in indulging in a bit of crazy combat antics every now and then, I'm not quite certain if that is the same area of enjoyment which others are touching on.  Perhaps it is.  But given how frequent I see it come up, I can't help but wonder if there's a different scenario going on.

Could it be there are GMs who actually like killing off the whole party when they can?

This isn't going to be an in depth post.   This won't be a an article that seeks to villify or glamorize the concept of TPK.  This is just more an editorial post from me, if anything, about my personal feelings about TPK.

As a GM, I find the idea of running  a game that leads to the whole party dying on appropriate if it was dramatically appropriate in the game.   If the game, for example, was a dark game where the characters were more victims of circumstance than heroes who were out to save the day, I would find it dramatically appropriate and acceptable if the story ends with the heroes meeting their doom.  Games such as The Last Best Hope, Fiasco, and even the World of Darkness nicely explore such themes and challenge both the players and storytellers to help form a fun and engaging narrative even if it leads to the deaths of the characters they created for the game.  Some might even embrace such an end in a romantically charged game if they were inspired by tragic tales such as those of Romeo and Juliet.

Or perhaps if the game clearly was intended to have the grittiness and danger as part of the setting's explored themes, I wouldn't really feel there's anything wrong if the game called for self-sacrifice.  Or reflected how death comes frequently given the harsh scenario (like say games set in the Warhammer Universe.  Or for Sabbat vampire troupes.)

But for your typical Dungeons and Dragons sessions, I find it very strange when some GMs seem to proudly proclaim they accomplished a TPK again.  I mean, since you're the GM, you already have the capacity to throw in a dragon at a starting group of characters.  Why all the joy and thrill of accomplishing TPK when as a GM, nothing really is there to keep you from fudging the set-up or scenario to kill the players.  Or maybe the GM didn't balance out the stuff properly.  Or was too determined "this was the right way" that the players  kept going a different path and it lead to them dying.

And more importantly, why get off enjoying killing the characters of your players?

There's definitely a side to this TPK thing which I don't quite grasp.   And it probably connects more to the reason I'm not a fan either of games like Tekken or Mortal Kombat.  I love games that have a story.  I love games where the characters matter.  I love games where they are the main cast of the play.  The lead roles in the movie.  And yes, while I wouldn't occasionally mind a Games of Thrones kind of "even lead characters can die" approach, I still don't see myself enjoying the idea that I might have "TPK tonight!  Crazy awesome!"

It just feels like power-tripping to me.  Or a misprojected trash talk.  Or something like that.  I understand it sometimes does happen due to a string of bad luck.  Or if some players just keep rolling bad.  (A player in an Exalted game I ran once got a measly two successes out of a thirty seven dice pool.  Yes, sad indeed.  But no, I didn't kill him and the rest of the group.)  I guess ultimately it just isn't a gaming style for me.

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