I was thinking about the possible TPK in the works in my game.
I don't spare a lot of time thinking about the plight of my PCs. They'll figure out what they want to do, and we'll roll dice to see how it turns out. My job ends with presenting the challenge - it's up to them to find a way out, or roll their way out.
But this deeper level of my dungeon has some traits of the rest of my dungeon, only more so because of the depth:
- monsters are more dangerous, even if the base monster isn't especially so.
- monsters are bigger. Yes, the deeper you go the bigger stuff gets. Like in 50s monster movies, the big stuff is down in tight tunnels.
- the treasure the greater. The 5000 in emeralds they found last time was pretty close to "no treasure found" by the standards of where they are delving.
But is the party capable of handling that?
It's a big maybe. Even amped up with a lot of buff spells, magic items, and one-use enhancements they're having a tough time. They knew this going in, after the last session's "entry room" fight with one and then two more purple worms. They know how easy they've gotten off when I dump a huge pile of dice over the screen and do much less than average damage. But the game is about risks.
I think the level is only about as lethal as it should be - and yes, it gets more lethal from here. The water entrance rumors they followed up on found them a way into a dangerous area. They knew it went deep, and that deeper = more risk, more reward, in a dungeon where levels much higher up had plenty of risk already.
So I don't feel like it's too much. It's going to be tough - and if they survive, I expect they'll be less likely to return. Out-maneuvering the orcs might be trouble but it'll be better than grappling with purple worms and giant trolls and unholy cleric ghosts.
But even if there is a TPK, I know someday there will be PCs back to this level, and the players will have a much firmer idea of what they'll want to bring with them to risk it. For their sakes, I hope they find a way out. But I'll keep rolling the damage in front of them and adding trolls to the fray until the level key says there aren't more to add.
That's where the fun is.