This past Friday's session was, as I'd hoped was the last session of the Reavers of Harkenwold campaign. As I'd expected, it ended in a TPK.
In the penultimate session, the heroes had headed to Iron Keep to kill/arrest Nazin Redthorn and cripple the Iron Circle's ambitions in the area. They'd scouted around the keep, located the keep's sally port, and broke in. I was pleased and surprised by this: the writer certainly hadn't accounted for the PCs avoiding the front door entirely and the sally port was on the first floor of what's effectively the final building (side-stepping a lot of fighting).
They're going to end this thing, yeah.
The folks on the other sally port put up more of a fight than the heroes expected, though, and the battle frightened several servants who ran away. This made the party too nervous... so they hoofed it.
In the aftermath, the keep was on high alert, and sent out some patrols to find the group that snuck in, stabbed some people and left. A plan was formed to ambush one of those patrols, murder them, and sneak into the Keep disguised as members of the Iron Circle. (As I'd recast the Iron Circle as human supremacists, the party's dwarf and goliath would be "prisoners.)
So, at this point, they'd (effectively) done it the easy way, decided it was too hard, and then decided to go back and do it the hard way.
In the final session, they made contact with another patrol, Bluffed them convincingly, and then accompanied them to the keep's gate.
Bluff rolls were extremely good, for the record. Too good for the party's own good, really; they let the heroes dig themselves a deeper and deeper hole before things hit the fan.
They'd convinced the gate commander they were legitimate. The portcullis was coming up... and one of the members of the patrol they'd bamboozled noticed something wrong with the rope "restraining" the party's dwarven cleric.
"He's getting loose!"
At this point, I expected one the other PCs to punch him in and "subdue" him.
Instead, they basically did this:
So, that happened. The thief, tumbled under the half-raised portcullis, ran into a nearby tower, and was engaged by a clanking iron dog. The goliath jumped high and scrambled over the rampart over the gate.
The rest of the party stuck together outside of the keep and fought the rest of the patrol they'd tricked.
To be clear, the party's now split: one guy in full view of half the keep's sentries (and their crossbows), another locked in a tower with a robot dog, and three guys sticking together but blowing their rolls and standing in front of some murderholes.
I low-balled a few things (the gatehouse door was suspiciously easy to break down, for example), but the combat started off grim and only got grimmer. There was a whole group of sentinels, for example, in full view of the combat completely unmolested by the PCs over entirely too many turns for them not to have called for help.
So, just as they're finally getting a grip on their enemies... another wave showed up and, well, yeah.
There was a great deal of laudable, "I can get to your corpse in time!" that sadly proved untrue. And, of course, once one PC drops, it's downhill from there.
I'm not sorry for it, though. As I've said, I was ready to be done with the campaign, and I think the players were, too. I'm ready for the next thing, clearly. And, really: it was the only way things could have reasonably worked out. I didn't go out of my way for the TPK... it was inevitable.