Preventing TPK with explosions

The dice explosion mechanic is nicely dramatic and my players have a lot of fun with it. The issue I am having is that I know, eventually, I, as a GM, am going to have some massive explosion on my PCs and that is going to, at some point, inevitably lead to a TPK. I have made a few rules for myself to prevent this from happening too badly, but am a bit confounded. I want the players to be able to lose, and lose badly without either:

  1. killing everyone OR
  2. pulling punches and saying they “were taken captive”…often it just doesn’t make any sense a villain would do this. Construct, undead or opponents of animal intelligence are even less inclined towards taking prisoners.

-How do you set up to plausibly allow a party, or at least a few survivors to escape?
-Since there is no resurrection in the system, how should this be handled?

I can think of many possible solutions, but wanted to get some community input as either verification, refutation or better spin on my ideas.

Rules for not killing your party with an explosion:

  1. Only do banes for Area or Multi-target attacks, If you put the whole party in the fireball and roll double 20, it is Game Over. Do a Persistent Damage bane and light them on fire instead.
  2. When things go against the PCs, again switch to banes, and somehow try not to make it obvious you are pulling punches a bit. ( I roll fully in front of the players as the drama of exploding dice, or my rolling all 1’s is great fun for everyone)

Remember that no single attack can kill a PC (unless the GM says so, but why would you if you’re trying to avoid it?). At 0 HP player characters drop unconscious, and an enemy has to take a specific action to attack and finish them off.

From the combat chapter section on HP:

When you reach zero HP, you fall unconscious. Your hit points cannot be reduced below zero. While unconscious, you are helpless and any attack made against you counts as a finishing blow. Any healing that you receive to bring your hit points above zero also causes you to regain consciousness.

Furthermore, you’re not even guaranteed to die from a finishing blow:

When you suffer a damaging attack while unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to defend yourself, the attack counts as a finishing blow and may cause immediate death. Your defense against a finishing blow does not include any bonus from your attributes. Furthermore, if a finishing blow deals any damage, you must make a Fortitude roll with a Challenge Rating equal to 10 plus the damage dealt. If you fail this roll, you die.

With this in mind, I find the easiest solution is to just avoid having your NPCs take finishing blows unless it really fits the narrative and would be a satisfying or necessary death. It makes sense for most enemies, they’ll ignore the unconscious characters while trying to deal with the ones still attacking them.

If you somehow KO the whole party in this way, have a plan for what they’ll do with the unconscious bodies. Maybe wild animals drag them off to their den to eat later, minions take them back to their masters and lock them up, major villains would likely have something even more devious in mind. That way, your accidental one-shot KO becomes a new part of the story rather than bringing it to a crashing halt.


I thought I’d answer this in a separate post, because it’s a very different topic. Basically, resurrection isn’t included because it’s hard to have stakes in your game when a character can pick up Boon Focus (Resurrection). In D&D resurrection is kept consequential by having a large material cost associated with it, which is very difficult to do with OL’s simplified wealth system; similar to Boon Focus, once a character rises above the required WL there’s suddenly no downside.

That being said, you can of course add resurrection to your game. We only encourage you to make it narrative rather than mechanical. Maybe it involves questing for some rare materials, or winning the favor of a god, or pleading to Death herself for your friend’s soul. You can make it as easy or as hard as you like, but please make it more interesting than D&D does. Your players will thank you :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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I agree with everything Sam has said, but I want to add that it’s hard to give any token advice on the resurrection topic, because what resurrection looks like vastly depends on the setting: In a futuristic setting biological parts might have been replaced with robotics and you can have some conflict from malfunctions, or in a fantasy setting you might bring back the soul to the body, but the person no longer feels whole, because they have felt a greater presence.

No matter the setting though, resurrecting someone should have consequences, as showcased in the previous examples, and should feel meaningful to the characters and the story. If I were to introduce a ressurection mechanic, I’d probably tie it to the Creation Attribute and I’d make it a generic role, with the difficulty depending on the circumstances.

Also, at the end of chapter 7: Combat, there is some advice on how you could handle or avoid character death or party kills, by introducing other consequences. You might find something useful to your problem there.

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