It has been a while since we had a proper TPK in the online Coup campaign. Maybe this is the first? We have had deaths, sure.
The campaign has split into two online branches; the main branch adventures in the Gnarley woods under one game master, and when they are unavailable, we have been playing adventures of Frida the witch to find Doraldina (art assembled by Eero Tuovinen), the oracle of Zagyg, who could tell where a captured elven princess might be found. This all is taking place in Castle Greyhawk, an interpretation of Gygax’s venerable megadungeon. Some of the upper areas are by Gygax, the lower areas by another author, as far as I know. At the moment we are solidly in the upper, Gygaxian areas.
We have had several close calls in the dungeons. Going only with a group of four or so characters, two at second level and others at first, is not safe when there are ten frogmen, sneaky giant spiders and hostile gnolls living in the random encounter tables. The dungeon has essentially no treasure, so we do not have the means to easily hire the ten or so hirelings with spears that would be ideal, so we go without. We have finally found the oracle, though one character was killed by gnolls (and the player made a new one and rejoined the party).
The oracle is bound into an anachronistic gambling game of the type a mad archmage would enjoy: put a gold piece in and a random effect comes out; sometimes nothing, often a few gold pieces, sometimes an answer to the question posed. We have gotten the answers we were after and have gotten gold pieces (and thereby trivial amounts of experience points) out, too. Fridswid, being good-hearted, also wants to know how to release the oracle, who is supposed to be a real person cruelly imprisoned and bound by the creepy, old and lecherous magic user. A random second level spell comes out; mirror image, nice but useless, but a warning that the thing can be dangerous and spit out random second level spells. We can probably take one of those, sure, (there is a risk someone dies, but not a huge one) and this being on the upper levels of the dungeon, the threat level seems reasonable.
The player most eager to play, a new one, does not wait for the others, but pays to the oracle again and again. A random sixth (!) level spell; death spell. Outright kills 4d20 characters of first or second level in a large area, no save or anything. There goes the party.
The relatively new player is sorry and miffed; others are okay, which we repeatedly confirmed with the new player who was quite surprised by everyone just dying like that. Frida had a bunch of campaign positioning and some experience, too. She was the only one actively going for rescuing Sarana and next we would have had a nice opportunity to tangle with a dragon in the astral space, but no, not this time, say the dice and our risk-taking. Saad Man, with more experience (and a more experienced player) had a nice devil face shield that had saved us several times already, and was on the brink of third level; but not this time, either. And one player managed to lose two characters a session, which is always an achievement.
I am not sure there is much more to say; that loss can happen, and we can see where it came from, is what keeps the game real and the achievements worth anything, but it is certainly not what one wants to happen during any given session. Had we been a bit more awake, we would at least have split the party so that only a single character or a few would have been messing with the oracle. This was our greatest blunder here, but easy to make when the session is getting close to the end and the risk is unknown, just vaguely guessed at.