How to Avoid a TPK

Total Party Kill is when the party of adventurers are defeated in a single event, be it combat, a trap or an unfortunate accident. For the players it can be humiliating and for the Dungeon Master, the story ends here. Of course a TPK has its place; the Player Characters are mortal after all, and there are some modules where everyone is expecting a blood bath going into it and will roll multiple characters before the end.

For most cases, however, the Players grow attached to their character and the DM wants to create the story around them. That’s why I decided to create a book that gives the DM an option – a literal last throw of the dice – to determine what happens to the party if they are faced with elimination. And of course, that dice had to be a d20.

The TPK categories I created are:
– Combat encounter
– Construct encounter (being a combination or combat and trap)
– Ensnared by a trap
– Punishment from a geas or through a deity’s decree
– Abrupt end, such as falling from a great height or a spell gone wrong
– Life drain, such as a disease or a cursed wound.

The twenty options apply to each of these categories and in many cases I created multiple options that can be rolled, meaning there is a huge variety of possibilities to play out. Will a party gain help from allies, a magic item, or will there be a malfunction or will opponent in-fighting give them the chance to escape? It’s been a lot of fun to create an provides a solution to the age-old problem, how to avoid a TPK.

TPK Last Resort is available from DMs Guild.

NPC Creator joins the Series

The concluding part of the Creator Series has been the most intensive of the lot. I’ve released the series as a trilogy, as I will be taking a D&D break to work on my other ideas. But there’s an NPC-related product in the works…

I love creating systems, combining my creativity with a methodical structuring of the material. Providing rollable tables, to me, is bliss. It challenges me to come up with plenty of options for the DM in an overall theming that makes sense.


For this module, I rolled up the results for 100 different NPCs, including their upgrades and possession (equipment). This was so useful, because I caught a lot of changes either for grammatical errors, or because the result didn’t work as I had originally intended. I also balanced the stat increases, which is big part of the NPC creation process.

Modern applications

I found that two new tools were a massive help in creating this module. The first was midjourney, which gave me so much scope in terms of creating experimental art at an affordable price. The second was Chat GPT. I used it to come up with category lists and character backstories based on my rolls for the characters’ personality and background. I always had to tweak it, but it gave me something to work from.

There’s lots to play with in the NPC module. New actions, character traits and backgrounds combine with classic character classes and creature builds. It becomes an extension of the existing DND experience and will hopefully give DMs another tool when creating their world.

The NPC Creator, and Creator Series Bundle are both available on the DMsGuild website, in PDF format.

Rolling Word Play – 23

Creating Roleplay ideas based on randomly generated words.  Here’s today’s selection.  Discover more about Mining Brilliant Jubilant Clubs, Circuit Propelling Misconduct and Pronounced Resembling Sizzled Tank.

Mining Brilliant Jubilant Clubs
A type of stone is said to be the source of a great army’s powers.  If a weapon contains a core made of this stone, then it provides the user with immunity from fear when in combat.  A weapon made completely of the stone provides immunity from fear and Charisma checks with advantage.  It also adds +1 to attacks and the user can re-roll natural 1s.

Circuit Propelling Misconduct
Think Fagin from Oliver Twist but with an extra twist.  All Urchins within his youthful gang of thieves have magical ankle bracelets with a single bead attached that cannot be removed by normal means.  He has a corresponding bead for each urchin.  With these, he can propel his beads along a miniature circuit increasing the speed of the child attached to the corresponding bead.  The result is hastened thieves causing havoc.  How do the urchins feel about this?  What happens to the urchins when they reach adulthood?  Have any managed to escape the gang?

Pronounced Resembling Sizzled Tank
The MeAwzs, or “MeAwwzsss” is the roughest and most aggressive orc gang in the city.  There is a social desire by some to express their primal barbaric nature. The MeAwzs gang is based on expressing wild, primal rage (think half rogue, half barbican multiclass).  They are often involved in aggressive, petty acts of violence, but lately they’ve become more militant.  How will the MeAwzs feature in your city?  Who is behind their more organised activities?

Rolling Word Play – 22

Creating Roleplay ideas based on randomly generated words.  Here’s today’s selection.  Discover more about Paraded Crabby, Storm Undisputed and Hears Common Analogy.

Paraded Crabby
This mission could be played as protagonist, passer-by or protector.  The carnival of Noitos is spectacular and runs through the centre of the town, passed the cathedral, parks, the mayor’s headquarters and many cheering citizens. This undercover operation is an attempt to infiltrate the mayor’s headquarters and hold the mayor as hostage. To do this, one of the carnival floats contains many giant crab-like creatures that have been trained to open doors, attack and guard spaces.  How will the adventurer’s be involved in this crime?  What demands will the criminals have should they succeed in holding the mayor hostage?

Storm Undisputed
The borders between the wilds and the nearby populated towns are always stormy.  But in fact, there is an illusion in place to always keep it looking this way.  It is based on truth and anyone venturing into the wilds should roll a 1d10 die. If they roll a 1, it is an actual storm, which can do untold damage to those caught in it.  What is the storm illusion hiding?  Who or what is causing this illusion and keeping it in place?

Hears Common Analogy
Strange common sayings that people tend to use are starting to literally occur in one particular town.  The source of these disturbances can be traced to a powerful sorcerer who has the sub-conscious ability to manifest what he hears and believes he understands.  Such examples of these saying coming true could be: People flying by the seat of their pants Being becoming mad hat makers (‘Mad as a hatter’) It raining cats and dogs (‘It’s raining cats and dogs’)

What type of creature is the sorcerer?  What will the adventurers decide to do when they encounter such an innocent but powerful being?

Rolling Word Play – 21

Creating Roleplay ideas based on randomly generated words.  Here’s today’s selection.  Discover more about Fireplaces Bedroom, Whips Locator and Fragmented Cigar.

Fireplaces Bedroom
A thief has been making a nuisance of themselves in the city.  They operate at night, keep to the shadows and are very good at evading capture. This is because their hideout is beyond the fireplaces of the town.  This strange semi-plane – a space between spaces – is only reachable using a runed bracelet produced in the town.  It’s locale is what gives it these special powers.   A vital clue to discovering the thief is that the arcane blacksmith that makes the amulet has been burgled three times.  Who is this thief?  What made them become such a shadowy figure?

Whips Locator
A client has hired your adventurers to protect them and prevent a bounty hunter from claiming his prize.  When the bounty hunter cracks their whip, it reveals the scents all around as colour trails, which they can follow.  The bounty hunter is tough and will stop at nothing to complete a job.  Who is the client?  What debts do they owe and to whom?

Fragmented Cigar
The only link between a series of crimes in the city is the fragments of cigar ash found at the crime scenes.  It is distinctive enough for a dog or a highly-perceptive player to identify.  Who is the cigar smoker and what is the crime they are committing?

Rolling Word Play – 18

Creating Roleplay ideas based on randomly generated words.  Here’s today’s selection.  Discover more about Rallies Swings, Events Tilting and Reserved Sawdust.

Rallies Swings
The thieves guild has an assault course that tests their agility and ability to work together.  New initiates have to wait till at least four creatures are ready to join the guild before they’ll be considered.  They must then take the assault course together by each completing a lap of the course with a bundle of goods (represented by a sack of stones) and passing it onto the next initiate.  Failure can be very costly as there are not only dogs chasing the runners but also swinging weaponry to dodge and walls to climb.  Those that get hit by the assault course obstacles can become crippled for life or even die.

Events Tilting
Ambal’s Trembling Disk is a very powerful magical item.  Its size makes it very distinguishable as is it has the appearance of a black rock and so heavy that it uses a four-legged stand, making it a similar size to a desk. The central-top area of the disk is separate from the outside.  In shape, this central area is flat and then curves into a ball at the bottom.  A skilled magic user who has taken time to master the device can project a visible area of land up to 300 ft. onto the disk and start physically moving the central part of the disk up, down and around.  This causes the chosen area of land to do the same, affecting any creatures or buildings in that area as if hit by an earthquake.  It has been used in city defence and even carried into battle warfare before.  But where is it now?

Reserved Sawdust
In the Gamalen Forest, the wood lives on beyond the death of the tree.  This wood attempts to protect the soil beneath by crawling worm-like on the ground and find the best place for it to finally decompose.  One clever entrepreneur realised that if the wood is taken from the forest, it can have other uses.  Reserved Sawdust is a thieves’ favourite tool to cover their tracks as when dropped on the ground it looks for damp patches to cover and divots to fill.  Before long, the ground looks as if no one walked there at all.

Rolling Word Play – 17

Creating Roleplay ideas based on randomly generated words.  Here’s today’s selection.  Discover more about Extremely Parenthood, Pampering Caves and Translate Servants.

Extremely Parenthood
The Basin of Innocence if a profound place, which includes many items of curiosity as well as some wondrous magical items.  The feeling when entering is hard to avoid, however and affects the whole body.  It is a squeezing, popping sensation as if sucked through a worm hole whilst flying at high altitude.   Those who are swept up in that feeling (the equivalent of failing a Wisdom saving throw in D&D 5e) become very young versions of themselves.  Roll 1d6 +6 to determine their new age.  Now, best try and retrieve the object they came there for (if they can still remember) and find a way out.  The age effects last for 1d6 days after leaving the Basin.

Pampering Caves
The Doljer Hills have an extensive network of caves and hot springs, which attracts many travellers and rich aristocrats with ailments, who flock to the bath houses to be pampered and revived whilst enjoying extensive views of the plains below.  But those that do make the journey must make sure they go to the right caves, for there are also many faux bath houses.  Many travellers have found themselves in bath houses run by bandits, who store stolen goods further inside the cave complex, and also bath houses of ill repute for other activities.  Which will your adventurers discover?  How far into the cave complex do they wish to go?

Translate Servants
The Fellowship House is a bastion of civilized society, where ideas are shared, the ways of the world debated and much feasting is had.  But it is built on the back of slavery, much of which has been imported for labour. However, there is a plot underway by the servants to overthrow their masters.  Will their plot be translated in time, and if so, whose side will the adventurers take?

Rolling Word Play – 16

Creating Roleplay ideas based on randomly generated words.  Here’s today’s selection.  Discover more about Prefers Notary, Actual Materials and Cheeks Rejoin.

Prefers Notary
In one kingdom the power not only sits with royalty, but the Queen’s notary who over time, became her lover and partner in plotting the kingdom’s future behind the King’s back.  The King had been oblivious to this turn of events until recently.  But now he’s starting to ask questions and suspect there may be something more between his wife and her notary.  A plot is formed to knock him off and replace him with someone they can control (an actor, or an illusion from a trusted mage).  Will they succeed and if so, how long can they keep up the façade?

Actual Materials
A gold mine has been producing very little in precious metals and the local community is concerned that the mining company will go under.  Despite their lack of success, work has not ceased and does not look like slowing with those in control determined to continue.  The occasional pieces of glittering gold have emerged, but it isn’t enough to run a mine.  The minors are unmotivated whilst some haven’t been paid in weeks.

There are two illusionists working for the manager, who oversee the mining and carry out inspections. They have been hiding the gold in plain sight making it look like solid rock, and have been sifting out the hidden gold and storing it elsewhere for their own gains.  What is their aim?  Does the manager know?

Cheeks Rejoin
The sacred cheeks of Almara are 2 pristine velvet cushions, made of exquisite material.  They have been kept apart in separate palaces belonging to the Sultan of Almara.  There has long been a myth that the two together provide a coded message for finding the tomb of the first Sultan and untold wealth therein.  However, this interest has piqued recently with the disappearance of one of the cushions, presumed stolen.  Who has the cushion?  What other parties are interested in obtaining the treasures? Where is the tomb located and what lies inside?

Rolling Word Play – 15

Creating Roleplay ideas based on randomly generated words.  Here’s today’s selection.  Discover more about Handbag View Downward, Laughed needlessly and Connectors Parked.

Handbag View Downward
A mage created this bag with two pancake-sized portals that both link to the inside of the bag.  It enables anything within this bag to be in constant motion between the portals.  It was created as a good way to store chemical objects that shouldn’t settle (certain fluids that would turn to solid or explosive ingredients) but it can also be a very effective ranged weapon as it will be at full speed when released from the bag.  When extracting useful contents from the bag, a spell such as Featherfall (D&D) or a Slow spell prevents the contents from splattering everywhere.

Laughed Needlessly
A certain name triggers this curse upon all those in the vicinity of hearing it when it is spoken by someone. Why this powerful prank should work, no-one is sure but it is not fixed to any area.  It follows those who know of its power around, like a virus, spreading onto others who witness the effect.  Urban myths say the person is real and living, but common sense must surely mean they have changed their name by now to avoid complete ridicule.

Connectors Parked
The gates to the Avass – an imposing pyramidal structured tomb – are all connected.  All it takes is for one door to be triggered by opening it and all gates are uniformly activated.  This turns on the life and traps within.

Rolling Word Play – 14

Creating Roleplay ideas based on randomly generated words.  Here’s today’s selection.  Discover more about Filed Cliff, Confessed Limp and Unlocked Accusation.

Filed Cliff
This adventure begins out of a town when a dying man whispers the word ‘cliff’ to the party of adventurers. Enquiries lead to more questions than answers… To the watch of the town, a Cliff refers to a dead end; an unresolved crime which they could chuck resources at forever at still not solve.  There is also Posthumous Cliff; a physical cliff-face notoriously known as the last stop those that want to forget.  There is also a famous bard known as Cliff Tabard who disappeared many years ago. Where will the trail lead?  What happened to the dying man, and why did he utter that word?

Confessed Limp
An ancient swampland contains miniature magical elements or creatures that dwell in the moist air.  They attack and feed off those with a guilty conscience, so that the traveller literally feels the weight of the world in their leg.  They limp on, their movement impaired by this additional weight.  Until they atone in some way or die, thus starving the elements/creatures feeding of this guilt, their limp will continue.

Unlocked Accusation
The treasured lock of hair belonging to a powerful sorceress has been stolen.  But for what purpose?  The full green moon is approaching its fullest point in 3 days’ time.  Is trouble of a magical kind brewing?