It was a game I was running online and I was pretty sure everyone was going to die.
When the last session ended the players had just failed an assassination attempt on the Deep Janeen. They were trapped in a tunnel, surrounded by his army.
His army was dozens of older and younger temporal duplicates of all the PCs, including duplicates of the 10th level wizard, the 9th level monk, the 9th level roachman thieves and the 9th level assassin.
They players were in a tunnel. They had been discovered. They had just lost one fight and were about to roll initiative on another.
On paper, it looks very simple. All the PCs' badassness added together = X. Whatever was out there was at least 8X plus a genie.
The session began.
The wizard had a deadline, the monk had just been promoted. The roach thief showed up with the 6th level monk and a 4th level race-as-class elf. Versus an army.
The elf and roach surrendered, the monk hid in the shadows in the tunnel. They found her.
"Are they gone?" she said, pretending to be one of her own duplicates. She hadn't been here during any part of this adventure, they had no idea she was with the party. Also: 18 charisma.
"Let me kill them myself, alone" said the monk. Who would buy that? But 18 charisma prevailed.
They sent her to a dark room. But they weren't stupid: Unbeknownst to the party, the room was crawling with roachthieves hiding in the dark. This was just delaying the inevitable. As soon as they began faking their deaths, the roachthieves descended.
And then the real roach thief-- Fiddlin Joe--said "Oh I have that thing from the Insect God where I can control any insect with lower HD than me". And so he did.
I rolled to see how many were lower level than him. All but one. The roachmen revolted. A thri kreen PC showed up late and sent an indigo demonbat plunging into a Web.
A great battle ensued-- against dozens, almost every PC got knocked unconscious but their bodies were watched over by obedient roachmen. Then the assassin showed up.
"Ok, this'll take a second to explain..."
Two rounds later the PCs were tied up at the bottom of the mine, surrounded by other selves. 120 feet above, the Janeen mocked them and ordered their execution. But in the complex melee in the mines of the Janeen the assassin had made his Hide In Shadows roll.
He struck, knocking the Janeen 120 feet to the ground. The yielding stone kept the earth-spirit safe (half damage), but the roachthieves had just enough time to sleight-of-hand their hands free. In a round they had sprung onto the boss, pinning his hands and leaping on his face. The lackeys attacked, hitting hard.
And then the assassin said:
"Can I jump 120 feet, sword first."
"The only way you won't take 120 feet of falling damage is on a critical hit."
"......................I'll do it"
And soon the empire of the Great Janeen was ended.
People say "Oh there are so many consequences more interesting than death" maybe. But as stakes in a game? When your heart skips beats on the edge of a die roll, that's amazing.
And unlike so many other thrills it gets more intense the more you play, because the characters get more established, more loved. 3 years of gaming and leveling and murdering were gambled on that roll.