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Reservoir dogs 01

A scene from the film Reservoir Dogs, in which several main characters have died.

A TPK or Total Party Kill is when every player character in the party dies, leaving no survivors to continue the campaign. A TPK can also be called a wipeout, wipe, or total party death.

TPKs can be shocking and potentially disappointing to players and GMs, especially when caused unexpectedly by random resolution (e.g. low-rolling dice) or by nonsensical character choices. If taking place at a dramatic moment, a TPK can make a memorable story, but at other times a TPK can be more deflating and anti-climactic.

Groups have several choices for what to do after a TPK:

  • End the campaign. Perhaps start a completely new one.
  • Reboot the campaign with a new party of characters facing the same issues in the same game world, picking up where the previous party failed.
  • Retcon the TPK, either to re-do or change the outcome or to declare that the party only appeared to suffer a TPK but actually somehow survived.
  • Treat the TPK as immutable, but continue the story with the same characters anyway, e.g. by resurrecting the characters, by making them undead, or by playing some sessions in their afterlife.
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