20 Hooks to make a TPK into a Story Beat instead of a Campaign Ending Moment

May 17, 2019
Storytelling

Game over man. The heroes are toast; dead or captured. The party wiped and its a Total Party Kill (TPK). There’s only one problem, the Dm doesn’t have another story ready, the heroes are chosen by destiny, all the players including the Dm just aren’t ready to give up on these characters yet, or worst of all, you made a mistake, the monster was too strong. If the story needs to keep rolling, what do you do?

When divine intervention is feeling too tacky, save your bacon by having one of these plot hooks in your back pocket as your nuclear option for when it all goes to Hell. You aren’t playing nice and throwing the players a bone, you’ve had this contingency planned for all along. The story just got way weirder, and its time for a comeback tour.

  1. Your BBEG needs a goon squad and no mindless undead will do. What he really needs are a group of powerful thralls. After the battle, he summons his clerics, who cast revivify and raise dead on the recently deceased adventurers, and crush their free will while the disorientation is still fresh. Can your heroes eventually escape from the prison of the mind or will they crush all that they love beneath their own heel?
  2. A savy BBEG is also a good businessman. How else is he going to pay for his army of darkness and matching uniforms. Recycling, that’s how. Before your corpses were even cool, he raised you and sold you into slavery for three times the cost of the components he used. Its a lucrative deal, almost as good as the one he got for your gear.
  3. Slaves are a pain to transport. They complain, eat, shit, and die. Life is so much easier for the enterprising slaver if he hires a cleric of his own and transports his inventory in an already deceased state. No chains, food, or escape attempts. Best of all, you can stack them like cord wood, and buyers can look all they like before you have your cleric raise their picks and give them a tune up. But if you’re a deceased hero, who knows where you are now. Or when…
  4. Minions are the worst. Sometimes they just can’t cut a throat right or they even gasp get squeamish and can’t finish the job. But you can’t expect a busy BBEG to clean up all his messes and sometimes mistakes happen. A shallow grave isn’t the worst place you could wake up, but its on the short list.
  5. A minion with some spleen and creativity is a threat no one can ignore. Who can forget about that time you told Harold the imp to clean up the bodies and the little viper had the gall to raise them and set himself up as a boss with his own indebted and geas bound brute squad. After he used them to kill off his hated rival minion Jimmy the quasit you spent weeks looking for a new familiar.
  6. Practice, Practice, Practice. Its how you got to be the good evil overlord you are today. Its time to give back to the alma mater and these fresh bodies will make a fine donation to the college of necromancy.
  7. Sometimes, its all about the money. So, you sold those dead beat adventurers to the local temple for a pretty penny. Their under priest wants to practice his raise dead skills, but that hack has no talent so you’re perfectly safe. He’s never raised anything bigger than a gerbil in his life.
  8. Years ago, a group of brave but foolish hopefuls challenged our overlord. They failed, but in the years since his scheme succeeded, hes grown fat and complacent. Its time I, Jeremiah, Rebel Priest, brought them back to free us from the red hand of the oppressor.
  9. The worst part about your self sustaining zombie garden is that sometimes, what you bury there just won’t stay down. The place is so suffused with necromantic energy that everything underground pops right back up. Better make sure to check with the minions again and see that they understood how long to wait before burying these fresh corpses. Wouldn’t want them coming back fresh instead of as zombies.
  10. As a villain, I must say I’m a traditionalist. I like to exercise my power to spread fear among the rabble so they won’t rise up. I find killing them over and over again simply delightful. Why, the look on their faces when they are yanked back from their well earned afterlife just to be forced to run naked through the woods away from my werewolves is simply divine.
  11. Vivisection is such a hard profession. The kidnappings, the cover-ups, its all so tiring. Grave robbing is so much easier I’ve found, and that villain in the castle does find the most superlative specimens. Near the peak of physical perfection they are, and all mine for the small fees it takes to get that drunken cleric to bring them back once they are strapped to my table.
  12. Listen up stiffs. You just found out how long the arm of the law around here really is. I don’t care about who you were fighting, but I’ve been working this lost girl case for two months now, and you and your friends are the last ones who saw her alive. Your unrelated quest doesn’t mean jack to me, but you’re the best lead I’ve got, so I’ve brought you back and I’m going to get some answers.
  13. You didn’t hear it from me, but brother Vincent down at the temple is an idiot. The elders sent him out to the battlefield to bring back the bodies of the frenzied berserkers who we keep in the temple basement. Only, I’ve seen the berserkers, and the bodies he brought back ain’t them. I looked for our guys, and their gone, so I really hope when we warm these guys up in a few years for the next orc attack they are worth something in a fight.
  14. Did you hear what happened to Brother Wilcox? He was cleaning down in the catacombs when he caught an orc dragging bodies in and hiding them among the recently buried. Well we all know he’s been wanting to try out that new mace and he smote that orc about the head and shoulders something awful. Turns out the peon had gotten half a dozen bodies down there. If Wilcox hadn’t seen him, we’d have been none the wiser. We’re raising them next mass, hopefully they can tell us who they are.
  15. Jason over at the big villains league told me about this new scheme he was running. When he wipes the floor with a bunch of heroes he revivifies them, then has his pet basilisk turn to them to statues which he keeps in his basement to gloat over. Says he’s keeping them on ice till he needs a thrall army one day. I hope no one gets in there one day when hes away and turns them all loose.
  16. I just got the news about Big Zombie Tom. His deal with that barbed devil went hella south. See, Big Tom had this devil wipe the floor with some intruders. Then, the devil demanded the bodies as interest on Toms late payment. That beast brought the adventurers right back as his own personal knee breakers. And you know who’s knees were the first to get broken, Big Zombie Tom. Serves that cheap ass right says I for trying to cheat a devil.
  17. Oh. My. God. I can’t believe it worked! Your Alive! I’m your biggest fan. Well, I was. When I was a boy. Still am actually, but I’m a cleric now, like you. But anyways, its taken me decades to find you and your friends. Oh… I’m so excited. You’ll never guess what happened while you were away…
  18. Arise clones! March over there are get your clothes. Jim? Jim why aren’t they marching. Something is wrong, why do these clones have free will? (Worse still, what happens if the clones level up, re-equip & find the original bodies in suspend animation days, months, maybe years later? What will they do?)
  19. Sometimes, it all ends in fire. But, that might not be the end for our dead and buried heroes. Because when that phoenix dug up the graveyard to make her final nest, everything buried down there was reincarnated with her in the flames. EVERYTHING.
  20. Sometimes, when you’re a duergar working close to the surface, you tunnel up into a graveyard. Its just an occupational hazard. So, you’ve got to make the best of it, raise zombies from the bad bodies, raise dead on the better ones, and hand them all picks. You can never have enough slaves.
  21. From time to time, the information you need can only be gotten from the mouths of the dead. But, when you’re the kingdom’s top spy, you don’t let that stop you. So, you raise up these corpses, find out what they know, and send them far away. Wouldn’t want to use speak with dead and risk someone ELSE speaking to them. Might be best to kill them again and rebury them someplace safer though. If you have time between you new suit fitting and tonight's grand ball.
  22. By Vecna’s blackened balls Larry! What have I told you about disposing of bodies in the master’s alchemy vats! Do you have any idea what could happen in there? What if they ruin his experiment, or wake up as some nightmare beastie? By Pelor, what if they remember who dun em in?

There you have it folks. 22 wacky and inspiring ways to get your campaign back on track after killing off the party before you were ready, and nary a sympathetic deity in sight. Just some self interested bastards and uncertain allies to start your party on their next story arc. Sometimes the end doesn't have to be the end.

I hope that helps, and next time your players are thinking this is game over, don't worry, you've got this.

Content info

Author:
u/LaserPoweredDeviltry
First posted here: https://www.reddit.com/r/DnDBehindTheScreen/
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