This may be somewhat controversial, but as a GameMaster, sometimes you just have to kill off all of the Player Characters, for the overall good of your gaming group. I know the idea of a TPK (Total Player Kill) is anathema to many GMs, but let me tell you, in my 40 years of running and playing games, there are absolutely times when it is not only a valid action on your part, but entirely required to continue the gaming group.
Let’s look at a few examples, shall we?
First of all, let’s say some or all of your players have gone a wee bit “Murder Hobo” on you, to not only the detriment of the campaign, but also the fun of all involved. While many players enjoy the freedom roleplaying a wandering slaughterhouse gives them, in a relatively short time, it gets old, and then the players will start to resent not only you (for not reining the offending players in), but of course those Murder Hobos themselves. That sort of animosity can quickly kill off a gaming group, and perhaps even permanently ruin friendships.
So kill them all off. Blue Lightning of the Gods strikes them down!
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the Noble Sacrifice TPK. Basically, ending a campaign by having the entire group killed off in order to prevent a much greater evil from occurring. This can really upset some players, as they will be losing characters they have come to cherish. But if handled right, in the right story, and if the deaths feel worthwhile, those players will remember that game for years to come. their characters become Legendary, and suddenly you go from the worst GM ever, to the best!
Again, kill those suckers off! Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies!
Of course, then there’s the TPK to save the campaign. maybe the players themselves just aren’t meshing well. Maybe they just can’t play together, and one or more really needs to go, but you can’t just ask them to leave, for whatever reason. People are Human, relationships are complicated, and sometimes you just have to blow everything up, for the good of all involved. This is especially true in informal groups, such as you might see meeting at a local gaming store. They are friends, but not entirely so, and perhaps some just can’t play together without great amounts of animosity, which makes the game uncomfortable for all involved. Regardless, sometimes just blowing things up and reforming with either new players or just those who can be reasonable makes things better for all involved.
Great Cthulhu rises from the Deep, and steps on the PCs, while on his way to get a coffee!
That all said, killing off all of the player characters in a group is always a difficult thing to do, and must never be done on a whim, or out of malice. But when the circumstances, or the Story really requires such a bold action on the GMs part, then that is what needs to happen. I’ve done it a few times in may many campaigns, with mixed results, but in the end the gaming group came out of it stronger and tighter knit than before. Hell, I just ran a TPK for the “Knights of the Tabletop” podcast, during our October sessions, playing “Dead of Night”! And the players loved every second of that game!
Again, I know this is a controversial subject, so feel free to comment below, if you have any thoughts.