My players still have to perfect the notion of backing off when things turn sour. By “perfect” I mean “realize it exists as an option and not only is doable but oftentime necessary”: they just go forward like badasses, plowing into whathever is between them and what they’re looking for.
Actually they just hate losing PCs and oftentimes behave in case of loss (“ah, I’m dead so I’ll just roll another crappy PC so i can ruin your game because your game sucks nag nag nag”) in a way that is quite lame. I’m the first to take the blame as, for a number of reasons, in the big d20 campaign I’ve run for them a raise dead was just a big bag of gold away. But the GM that ran games for them after I stopped was much worse in this respect (every encounter was against a Mary Sue, thus nonsensically deadly, unless the GM decided the plot was ripe for a given Mary to be killed by our heroes).
Anyway, last thursday 2 retainers and 1 companion (it’s a PC’s “favourite” and most trusted retainer) died, and another left because he felt it was getting too risky. This happened because they were in a narrow valley and didn’t want to pay the toll asked by a stone giant. At level four. And when the battle turned really bad, they didn’t try to retreat, parlay, beg, buy their freedom, anything.
And this afternoon, while the whole party backed off after a skirmish with a 10 headed hydra hiding in a thicket, the dwarven fighter decided to charge ahead. Here we go, another fine hero ready for the halls of the Bearded Forefathers.
I’m not really above ringing the TPK bell should they deserve it, but heck if it’s annoying. I guess it’s going to happen soon. The bad part of it as that the above quote is not distant from the truth (can’t remember it exactly but that was the point driven by the nagging player). The problem is that I want to give everybody fun and a nice experience and TPK, unless it’s totally dramatic and cool, is the worst closure ever (still, at times better than no closure at all).
Most probably they didn’t get the fact that encounters are NOT tailored to their level: if dice say “4 stone giants in their lair” and the party goes straight towards it after noticing that actually the lair was a crude fortification across a narrow valley, they deserved what they got.