You and your party are standing on a stone outcropping jutting out over a hole deep like the Grand Canyon. You notice three grey, legless things climbing silently but deftly towards you. They are fifty feet below. There is a rickety wooden elevator you rode down in, another rickety elevator going down farther, and a door into the cliff face. The door's inset handle has two inscriptions. One on the left, one on the right.
What do you do?
My players dithered around talking about the door. One mage threw a vial of bees at the creatures. He scored a critical hit, but they were just normal honey bees. I had the creature save to see if the bees made it fall but, no. Finally after the magic-user freshly rolled up this session was eviscerated, one of the fighters decided going through the door might be a good idea. His hand was amputated when he turned the sunken knob the wrong way. Things went down hill from there. A newly bought gazehound critically missed and fell to its death, a fighter critically missed, failed a dex check and fell to her death. The beloved hireling Pita, twice saved from death, was brought down again, and Weegie the magic-user with fresh scrolls scribed, spells freshly inscribed in his spell book, and a new custom crafted rope ladder died in a split second.
The one player and two hirelings left limped back up out of the maw. Everyone was bummed. To say it cast a pall on the evening would be accurate. Part of the problem is our infrequent playing makes the events of play disjointed and it is hard for them to learn as players. I mean, I think most of them had missile weapons. Why would you not use them in this situation that seems the reason you'd carry them around for? One of the magic-users even had magic missile memorized and didn't cast it!
Part of the problem is that one of my players has a strong personality and wants to make the decisions. I think he's driven at least one player to playing Tiny Tower on her phone. The magic user with magic missile was also on her phone but that's a first, maybe it was just some really exciting texts.
If I sound kind of defensive its because the usual happened "I killed them" they said in half-joking terms. "Were these boss monsters?" they asked stunned. The ghouls were randomly encountered. I rolled their targets randomly. I don't think ghouls would be considered impossible for 5 fighting types in plate and shield, 2 war dogs, and 2 magic-users. Especially when you encounter them 50 feet away and have time to prepare. Some of the party got into a shield wall, but on an outcropping, with backs to a wall that these creatures were climbing, it didn't do much good. The creatures flanked them and hit the mages behind the wall.
I'm not sure that I would have done as a player. An earlier party had a similar bad battle at this same spot with a cleric losing his hand too. I think only one party ever thought to rope themselves together (and that after losing someone over the side) even though traveling around the rim of this sheer, rail-less cliff face. There is no real set plan for if they are attacked by stirge which they know live in abundance in the Maw. Oh well, I hope they can come back from defeat feeling more hungry rather than giving up. I'll try to give them some tips now that I've reflected on Friday's session.