TPK: Ambush on the road to nowhere

What happens when the party face an unexpected ambush in an otherwise tranquil scene? Can they fight off a horde of attackers long enough to survive? Who are these attackers and what do they want?

This is a TPK post by Matthew the Evil GM. This encounter is designed to expose players to a risk of a dead character. TPK posts are partly generated and may not be the same the next time you refresh the page. The specifics are generated from your data and a seed. If you want to see changes, give the TPK a shuffle.

This woodland based encounter can be tuned to the party’s level. Use the form at the foot of the post to make sure you have the best saves and stats from across the party. That way this will be quite hard for them. I mean a sneaky ambush is hard anyway but we want to make your player really sweat.

A pleasant road

You are making good time when you enter a clearing. It is filled with blue-bells being lazily enjoyed by a few bumblebees. You hear nothing but the sounds of insects. Roll perception.

With a perception DC of 11, the party notice the fruit trees ahead.

Up ahead, at the edge of the clearing, you spot a grove of trees heavy and ripe with red and green apples. You suppose that this may once have been an orchard but the trees have been growing wild for some time.

Should the party pick the apples, they will discover they are small and bitter. they are enough to keep starvation at bay. Eating a full meal of these apples will require a DC 12 save to avoid becoming sickened for 1D4 hours. A DC 11 appraise will reveal that these apples carry no sale value.

Apple trees

You approach the edge of the clearing a large number of apple trees that have grown wild. They are heavy with ripe fruit. Some of the apples are remarkably large while others are tiny and red. There is more fruit than you could possibly hope to carry.

Allow the party time to start picking fruit or to have a bit of a poke around at the trees which are exactly what they appear to be. If the party appears to be ready to move on or if they are getting excited about picking fruit, suddenly yell “Roll Initiative”. That’ll teach them to let their guard down.


You are pelted from behind with some sort of red gloopy substance that sticks to your clothes and armour. It smells vile and makes you feel a little queasy. Everywhere that it touches your skin burns painfully.

Strong red toxin

This unusual toxin used in this ambush is absorbed on contact with the skin and takes effect immediately leaving the victim disoriented and sickened. As this is a contact poison, multiple doses stack increasing the save DC by +2 and the duration by 50%. Non-humanoids enjoy a +2 bonus on saves against this poison.

  • Onset: Instant
  • Fort DC: 24
  • Frequency: 1/day
  • Duration: 6 days
  • Effect: 1d3 Con and 1d2 Str
  • Cure: 3 consecutive saves

Every instance of skin contact with the red gloopy substance counts as a full dose of the poison. Each creature in the party without armour or the benefit of clothes that cover their body has a 100% chance of making skin contact with the gloop. 1d6+1 of the lumps touch them.

Those with armour or good clothing coverage have a 50% chance of touching at least one toxic glob. Due to the way the toxic globs stick to hair and clothes, anyone who touches one also has a 5% chance of touching 1d3 more.

Roll the contact rate for each creature (including mounts, familiars, animal companions, etc).

The party has been attacked by 16 goblins armed with slingshots and daggers. These goblins are wearing leather gloves covered in red gloop.


During the surprise round, a further 8 goblins armed with short swords charge out of the bushes.

In the first combat round, on the turn of the very first goblin, 8 drop from the trees, onto the party, gaining a +5 circumstantial bonus to grapple for that round.

The goblins work in groups of two to three using Aid Another to (flank) attack, trip, and disarm the party. If that does not work, they will work in groups of five or six. If more than half of the goblins are killed, the rest will flee in every direction.

Should the goblins get the upper hand they will kill some party members (in order to eat them) and tie up others for use as food later. The party really should try very hard not to lose.


If the party splits up, a remaining battalion of fleeing goblins will quickly turn on an isolated party member and resume fighting in the hope of getting a kill. Eventually, however, either there will be a TPK or the goblins will be dead or escaped.

The party will discover that the goblins have come prepared for various outcomes including death. They are not carrying money or valuables. Even the weapons they have are cheap and basic. Each goblin is worth 135 XP. Divided among the party that comes to a little over 1080 XP.


should the party manage to take prisoners they might like to try interrogating their prisoners. The goblins will, however, alternate between simply jabbering about wanting the party to die and demanding to be fed a large meal of meat. Wiser goblins will offer to lead the party to the camp of Scar Horsebiter (their leader). As you might imagine, that will only lead to a repeat of the previous ambush. A sense motive check with a DC of 17 will reveal deception and an ongoing unwillingness to cooperate. Which only leaves the party with the moral choice of what to do with goblins they don’t want.


Most of the party – and their mounts – are likely to get very sick from the poison. Even when the fight is over, they are going to need to seek shelter, and wash their clothes. If they do not wash their clothes feel free to remind them with another dose of poison from contact with the stuff. Feel free to do that in the middle of a battle they were finding too easy.

The toxin is strong enough to put a sturdy character down over time. Mounts and familiars might not be so lucky. Antitoxin – if the players can get it – grants a +5 bonus to fortitude for resisting the poison but that only lasts one hour. This is a gift that keeps on giving.

Because cure spells and potions only heal HP, recovery could be very slow. Once the poison is dealt with, the party will need rest to recover from the damage. Barring access to the spell “Restoration”, the party will be spending a lot of time in bed recovering. At the very least this encounter is going to cost them a day or two – probably a whole week. 

If this was me running the game, I would allow the party to discover copious amount of (unsellable) antidote to the toxin during their next encounter with the goblins. I’d probably be quite mean and make it fairly heavy. What I would also do is not use that toxin again. Unless the players got rid of their useless supply. Scar Horsebiter is canny enough to have his alchemists mix up something new next time.

Party Best Values

Character Stats

STR (0)
DEX (0)
CON (0)
INT (0)
WIS (0)
CHA (0)

Other Stats

Best AC
party size

This TPK encounter is for Pathfinder and other DnD 3.5 rules based games. For other systems some adaption may be needed.

Seed: 1713314417 (shuffle)

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