So I had a recent session that was just one big fight....A town my player's characters were in was besieged by a multitude Mephistopheles and their role was to help in some way. To make matters worse, none of the party members were near each other in the fight.
To set the scene, there were 20+ zombies, 8 gnashers (think langoliers but on short stubby legs), 6 gargoyles (not D&D gargoyles, more nasty). There are 7 players but only 5 showed up for this session and their characters are 2nd/3rd level. Before everyone showed up I preset the monsters and characters on the map. The character were awoken to screaming and when they went to assist, they came on the effects of some psychotropics. Their assessment of time and distance were so warped they could not keep together in the confusion of the town in chaos.
When the fight started, they were in various parts of the town and there were about 12 villagers still hadn't found a place to hide (they were trying to get to one of the stone buildings). All the player's save one immediately went to attack the closest creature to them. None of the creatures were 'easy kill', the zombies were the simplest and they had 39 hp each (which low for this game). Now the fight was designed that if you kept moving, they couldn't attack you, just follow you around the town. The NPC had it bad, they could be overrun and finished off.
So, as the players fought their immediate surroundings, the monsters closed in on whatever was closest and after about three rounds villagers started dying and the party found out that they could brute force their way through this encounter. One player did have his character help the villagers, running and directing them to get them to safety, he only stopped to take the brunt of attacks while the villagers ran ahead.
Well to make a long story longer, the managed to save 4 villagers out of 12. I only counted 2 of them as actual 'saves' as these were the two the 'heroic' character had helped. One was saved by game master coercion, the other merely coincidental, happen to be running in the same direction as one of the characters trying to get away.
None of the monsters were new to the players/characters and most of the party had known each other for a long time. The real problem is a strong lack of leadership in the group and the two players who could actually pull of the role would rather not do it. There is an issue with heckling anyone trying to give orders. I did not expect them to kill everything and there was a lot of random movement, no-one was bum rushed. I was surprised that no-one tried to even seek out another player and there were some statements to the effect "I didn't know where you were, everything was in chaos" as if some of the players overcompensated for player knowledge to justify being obtuse.
This is not the first time this has happened and I was kinda enough to let those actions slide, but at this point I feel I should have just TPK'd the party and be done with it. thoughts?