No well-designed dungeon is too lethal. You said yourself in the thread that you put in three ways out, and the players found another unanticipated one. The players have the choice as to whether to engage, ignore or retreat. It's up to them - TPKs are their own fault. Any dope of a DM can design a dungeon where the sole intent is to slaughter parties, mince up their corpses and laugh at them, but DFD is not that sort of dungeon.
I'm the guy who started that thread on ENWorld. Maybe someone can help me out here...how can the party get away after the "big event"? 1) Run Immediately (assumes they know something bad happened, which is unlikely)2) Make the deal Otherwise if the folks downstairs get them, those above ground will. Right? Anyway, thanks James for the adventure. It really is about the coolest one I've read in ages.
It truly is an exceptional adventure - and I think running it at conventions would be great adapted to various editions up through pathfinder... particularly with how sissy folks are with attachments to characters after a first session...That's why folks speaking of it as a campaign starter is nice indeed. I will utilize it similarly next time around
Obviously, if you approach DFD from a post 3rd edition angle, it will chew out your party, and likely result in a TPK. DFD isn't "balanced" in the 3.5 sense at all. It doesn't make pretensions about it at all, so why would anyone expect it is beyond me. In my opinion 3.5 made a huge disservice to role-playing when it introduced encounter levels and challenge ratings, because those mechanics basically mean that any obstacle met should be beatable by a straightforward approach involving violence, thus enabling a "balanced" party to survive any module without using their brains.
How can the party get away... major spoilers here.1- Merely loot the crypts and never touch the plant creature. Or use gaseous form or some other method to get past the plant without killing it. This is the least likely scenario, I'd say nobody is going to do this, but it is possible.2- Make the deal.3- The spider pit. It's difficult to get into, what with the hypnosis and the spider and everything, and it does lead out to a rather tricky place, but it is possible. Thieves do start with quite large climbing chances in most editions...4- My players came up with this one and I pretty much had to let it work. As they discovered each crypt, they basically barred each door. they had this strange idea that thousands of corpses in a death cult shrine were bad news. So when the big event happened, there was lots of scratching and pounding at the bronze doors, giving the party plenty of time to escape out the front door. Once back in the cabin, they used the clock to get past the ghouls.4- The shaft at #28. Yes, it leads up to the ghouls, but a bit of stealth and luck and especially patience can make sure this isn't an insta-kill situation.Of course with higher level characters the possibilities open up more. It is listed as suitable for up to 6th level characters and at that point flying and fireballs and invisibility 10' radius are possible and clerics' turning ability is automatically destroying ghouls so I bet the options are limitless.