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30 December 2021

Let Them Die, They'll Return

Sometimes, it's best to just let your villains die unceremoniously. Don't fudge the dice. Don't invent a new element in the encounter. Don't add extra hit points to their already massive stack. Just let them fall to the ground. But when do follow this advice?

The successful execution of a strategy. When the players concoct a decent strategy to take on a powerful foe and their characters complete it without anything going awry, you may find your big bad evil guy dead on the ground before they get to act. That's quite alright! Let the utter devastation occur. Your players (and their characters) should be rewarded for out outplaying the villain and downing them on the first round of combat. Mind you, this might even be a surprise round! It wasn't the villain's day. Let them die.

Excellent dice rolls are another time to allow your baddie to collapse prematurely. If the characters get the jump on them and roll critical hit after critical hit, high numbers on their damage die, or just a large volume of hits before they move, don't fudge. The luck was in their favor. As some say, the dice never lie. The villain wasn't meant to live. Let them die.

Now now, don't fret, for villains dying too quickly doesn't mean they need to stay out of the campaign forever. If you're insistent on a villain returning, you have plenty of tools available to you, especially in D&D. I've rarely done this in previous campaigns, but I'm prepared to pull this move quite a few times in my latest one.

Players in the Bannerless of Farloth campaign, be warned, spoilers lurk ahead.

Thus far, two minor villains have suffered quick deaths in this campaign: a goblin pirate in the first session who was quickly chased from his raft-island into an underwater treasure cave where he turned undead and was burned by Sir Talo and an ogre chieftain who was obliterated by Sir Talo and Sir Zarnost during a surprise round as the ogre remained fascinated by a tabaxi he held aloft.

Both of them will return. How?

The goblin pirate, Captain Rag Jabbergun, is cursed, doomed to remain undead until the black pearl in the possession of Sir Talo is destroyed in a very specific manner. Thusly, Captain Rag is drawn to the black pearl and will, in rotting undead form, pursue the pistolier across mainland Farloth until he reaches his prey. No matter how many times he dies, no matter the manner, he shall return.

As for the ogre chieftain whose name was never learned, his earless body was resurrected by the god of war, Gul Kravir, for deeds the ogre committed on the battlefield. It may sound silly or fantastical, but that's the point! This is a world of fantasy in which the impossible is possible and often occurs, most of all to the characters in the actual campaign!

Following this, us Dungeon Masters let our players have immense fun as they rapidly defeat a foe they once believed insurmountable or frightening, then our fun returns along with the villain and invokes fear into the hearts of our players. That's D&D at it's best.

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