Character Death: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tomb

567 posts / 0 new
Last post

Your players have done it again.  They've pushed their luck to the limits, made all sorts of extreme and havoc-inducing decisions, and despite your best efforts (and fudged dice rolls bordering on an obscene insult to the Game Gods) they've found themselves in a situtation where the sure death of their characters is the only likely result.  Do you conjure up your most glorious narration to describe the characters violent end, or activate deus ex machina once more to allow the characters and the player an escape route? 

Certainly storytelling, creative social interaction, and allround fun are paramount to the game, but at what point does the genuine fear of a fatal conclusion disappear, driving players onto even wilder desicions, game-hijacking, or unchecked powergaming?  Something like a television show where the viewer knows that none of their favorite characters will EVER die for real, campaigns where a healthy respect for the possibility of death doesn't exist suffers from a collapsing 4th wall.  This could be argued to even hamper the ability for players to embrace losing themselves in a character by encouraging anachronistic thinking.   There are campaign and game groups where this is absolutely the kind of game they enjoy playing, and this thread shouldn't be confused for an assertion that that is somehow wrong.   It's all about fun.

Yet for the DMs who run games that exist in a "realistic" universe, this is a dilemma that can easily present itself every single combat or encounter.   Even when everyone is onboard with character death from the get-go, it gets hard to seperate oneself from a beloved character when the time arrives.   Hard feelings can bubble up from even the most even-keeled players if they feel like they've been treated unfairly.   In larger groups a characters death can often be avoided in permanancy simply through game mechanics that allow for ressurection and magical healing, but can also have great value as a storyteling tool.   An adventuring party forced to deal with the aftereffects of losing their beloved cleric and leader, or a gang of deceptive crooks silencing a snitch can lead to some great entertainment and player interaction, not to mention the joys of auditioning new "recruits" after the players have rolled up a new sheet. 

Personally, I prefer to run realistic games, and always make it clear from the start that death CAN happen, but that I'm not going to play favorites or entertain myself by maliciously taking lives.  With my regular players this is generally understood and nearly everyone has rolled up a couple of characters (we play Shadowrun and one players grizzled street samurai has had so many rookie runners join him that he's become quite the cold bastard, and given the player ultimate bragging rights having survived even a change of editions), and when new players join up I encourage them to come up with two character ideas right off the bat just to get them thinking about it in case the worst happens. 

So let's hear you thoughts on the issue.  Do you play in or run a game where death can lurk behind every dungeon door or up the sleeve or every "helpful" stranger?  Or is your party filled with the same proud heroes that were there in session 0?  Do you handle character deaths with a unique house rule, or allow characters to play clones.  What's your opinion on PC vs PC deaths, or have you used a character death to remove an overpowered or game-breaking character?   When is it right to kill a character?  
Your players have done it again.  They've pushed their luck to the limits, made all sorts of extreme and havoc-inducing decisions, and despite your best efforts (and fudged dice rolls bordering on an obscene insult to the Game Gods) they've found themselves in a situtation where the sure death of their characters is the only likely result.  Do you conjure up your most glorious narration to describe the characters violent end, or activate deus ex machina once more to allow the characters and the player an escape route?

Neither. Their deaths were not the point of the encounter. If one of them happens to drop, the monsters can probably just complete their goal and move on. If the players want to kill their characters, I can offer them something along those lines, trade for success, or another chance at it, or somewhat mitigated failure.

Let's not kid ourselves about games that involve a chance for player death being more "realistic." Even assuming that one small aspect of them is now more "realistic," that's setting aside a truckload of stuff that's not, even without getting into magic, or dragons. If we're already saying that the PCs engage in multiple fights per day, I'm going to go ahead and say that the enemies in those fights have "realistic" agendas that don't directly benefit from the deaths of the PCs. There: realism preserved.

Other questions:
Character death is always the choice of the player, if it ever comes up.
Character on character conflict is fine and appropriate, but no dice are rolled. It's done by narration and agreement, and each player decides the results of any action toward his or her character.
It's never right for the DM to kill a character, but it may often be right for a player to state that a character should die.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I've posted before about this and I know it's anamalous so I don't mind if people completely disregard it:

Death is absolute in our game. A few months back we came up with a "you die, you reroll, literally" plan. Basically death means you roll 2d10 for a race and 2d10 for a class. We have a chart and everything with certain races and classes given a larger percentage of the numerical possibilities. A Human Cleric is far more likely than a Wilden Swordmage|Rogue.

Our current campaign involves a motley band of 50 heroes trying to save the world from 9 evil tyrant BBEGs. We are a party of 6, when one of us dies, we bring in our alt (rolled ahead of time). 4 sessions in and we've already lost 3 characters. (note: the campaign fails if we run out of heroes)

Our game is devastating, a poor roll at the wrong time can, and will spell your demise. However the treasures are equally insane. A few weeks back we had an orb that dealt a flat 100dmg (no roll) and last week we used a trident that dropped vuln 25 (save ends) on our enemy.

It's definitely a unique group, doing unique things, and I think most players would not enjoy it for very long. But please understand none of this happens without the players consent, and none of this is haphazard or arbitrary.

We as players know what we are getting into, and so do our heroes, and they are built accordingly. Combat makes up less than 1/3 of our weekly sessions thus far (though we did battle a beholder this week that took a while). We spend most of our time exploring and poking things, solving puzzles, talking to the dead, etc. It's a good time, but it's not everyone's cup of tea.
It depends entirely on the system and the style of game.  I'll give you three examples of systems I've run games in:

Call of Cthulu - Death is outright one of the themes of Call of Cthulu.  Going insane or dying is the expected outcome of your average character, and only the most exceptional luck or planning will ever see a character survive a CoC game.  Let the dice fall where they may.  

The key I find in Call of Cthulu is to have an NPC or two handy for the character to play.  Let them interact with the other players in a more assistance/adversial manner.  Then let them come back later as another character, in the next session, but different.  Perhaps have them play NPCs for several sessions if they want.  The feeling of death and a more permanent state of it adds to the horrific atmosphere of the game.  CoC is supposed to be creepy and unnerving, and it's hard to feel too creeped out in the equivalent of a haunted house ride.

Dresden Files (FATE) - Like all Fate games, death is rare and narrative based.  Players typically consent to their own deaths, or at least the possibility of them before they occur.  From a narrative perspective, losing means failing objectives, letting important people die, losing resources, and getting stuck in crappy situations.  In fact, getting stuck in bad situations is part of the theme of the game.  In Dresden Files, at least, the heroes are always the scrappy underdogs, and to really be scrappy underdogs, they have to get kicked a lot - but never enough to kill them (unless that's part of the theme).  Characters die off when players feel that they've completed their arc and it's a dramatically appropriate time to take a life or death risk - or just a deadly sacrifice.  

D&D 4E - Characters are far more powerful than characters in either system, but the challenge of winning and losing, the game, is a huge part of 4E.  And realistically, you can't have a game where there are no penalties.  Winning is a challenge, and the challenge should have rewards, and risks.

As for TPK, well, sometimes if I see one coming I'll head it off, especially if it's at an especially dopey time to have a TPK.  Other times, it's time to let it happen.  I have an interesting one planned for my current campaign if they ever get themselves all killed.

Character death is always the choice of the player, if it ever comes up.

Character on character conflict is fine and appropriate, but no dice are rolled. It's done by narration and agreement, and each player decides the results of any action toward his or her character.

It's never right for the DM to kill a character, but it may often be right for a player to state that a character should die.



That sums it up for me.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

In my experience it's quite rare for the players to want their characters to die.  I have had players drop in for single sessions and they seem more likely to either make extreme choices that end with them going out in a blaze of glory or sacrificing themselves during an act of betrayl/rescue, but most of the groups of regular players have been more inclined to run characters until they become very powerful and then occasionally retire them.

Granted, all of this assumes a game where the group has agreed prior to the campaign starting.  If the game is intended to run completely in a limited number of sessions, then an unexpected character death can be used as part of the story, especially when there are extra characters available to be picked up (kudos to the players that make reserve characters to start).  Long term campaigns benefit greatly from deciding how the character deaths will be handled as a group at the beginning, and then, well, whatever works for that group right? 

I never kill characters as a malicious act, or force a player to sit out if it happens to them, but it has encouraged a ton of great roleplaying when I've let the dice fall as they may and characters are slain.  It's also not something that happens in every session, or more often than it should to make for an interesting twist, but it's far less effective when the players get to decide if it happens.  When I'm playing, part of the entertainment comes from the things I don't expect, seeing how things play out when critical desicions are required.

Centauri, it sounds like you run a story rich game, and I respect that.  I've had a great time playing games like Vampire or Chtulu where there's a clear influence on group storytelling, and those are stories that come up everytime there's a Remember When... conversation.   As I've progressed as a DM I've also enjoyed developing stories where I can weave in seemingly disconnected characters in order to build a living history inside the campaign world.  My regular group still plays regular sessions in a campaign where more than one player is now playing descendants of previous characters.  Of course it means having less and less original source material lore to draw from, but I can always redesign something that hasn't been touched on before to fit the new timeframe. 

Bohrdum, I really like the idea of the set number of characters used kind of like a number of available lives in medium to long campaign.   I think I'll be suggesting something like that to my group when we start our next campaign. 

 



I've only seen character death due to combat happen in 4e once. We were playing a series of single-session adventures and trading DMs every week last summer, due to having a reduced group size. Even with a DMPC, it was typically a party of 3, and we were playing on low levels. We had an encounter with a string of bad rolls for us / good rolls for the monsters, and two of our three characters ended up unconscious. Then, both of those characters failed three death saving throws before the one who was still standing could get close enough to help. That left a lone Kobold in the room, with only one remaining enemy: A dire wolf that was higher level than her (I don't remember how high). The wolf had been let out of a cage, which we'd failed to prevent. The wolf was at full health. She was unwilling to retreat and leave her slain companions behind to get devoured, so acting in typical Kobold manner, she rigged a spike trap and lured the wolf into it. She finally got some good rolls, and ended up killing the thing single-handedly.

At that point in time, for the DM to have invented some plot twist to keep the characters alive after things took a sharp turn for the worse would have felt cheap and artificial. No, we didn't want to die, but we'd already accepted the mechanic that if you drop to 0 hitpoints and then fail three saving throws, that's what happens. It's a very rare occurance in this particular game, but I don't think anyone I play with would want things to be rigged to make it impossible. We still talk about the Kobold killing that wolf.  And here's the point -- there's a definite thrill for everyone involved (even those just watching for the last bit) for pulling off a victory like that within the confines of the combat rules you've already agreed on. Yes, some house-ruling was involved in figuring out how the spike trap worked, but it would not have felt remotely as epic if she'd just said what she was trying to do, had the DM say okay, that happens, the wolf is dead. We did have the option afterward of inventing a narrative reason for her to have sraped together enough gold to resurrect us, but we elected not to.
We did have the option afterward of inventing a narrative reason for her to have sraped together enough gold to resurrect us, but we elected not to.



In other words, given the option to live or die, you chose death. Interesting...

I offer that choice by default without a raise dead hoop to jump through. Players still choose death quite frequently. Risk or thrill is not diminished at all and the player gets to decide, for whatever reason he wants, whether he's taking that heroic death and goes into that Good Night or shrugs off a lame death and presses on, rather than the game system deciding that for him or forcing a bunch of pointless table transactions to get around it.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Eh, it wasn't that heroic in this case. I was playing a Gnome Warlord named Nacklewocket who should have needed a bag of holding to carry his ego, and cared more about his camel than he did the other party members, who he thought of as his minions. He was entertaining for a few sessions, but at that point I was ready to drop him anyway.

I get what you're saying though, that sometimes players will choose death because it's dramatic or whatever. In a more recent campaign, someone did so. (It was not death by combat, but death by ritual. Also, in a twist we didn't anticipate, he kept playing that character afterwards. Complicated storyline I won't get into here, lol.) But maybe my group is just different from yours, in that we've essentially given prior consent for our characters to be killed, in the event that the die rolls turn against us in such an incredibly bad and unlikely manner to cause that to happen. (Because let's face it, 4e characters past about level 5 are almost immortal.) Assuming the DM isn't just ramping up combat difficulty until someone dies, if things really do turn that badly for the worse, chances are it's going to create circumstances dramatic enough for a character death to feel appropriate.

On the other hand, there have been two occassions where I, as a DM, failed to anticipate amazing synergy between my monster and/or terrain choices, and fudged the mechanics to avoid a total party kill. In both cases, players who knew I fudged were not upset by it, because the encounters were not winnable. Although, in the second case if I'd thought things through I might have let it proceed and forced a party retreat (which would have been easy for them to do), because coming up with an alternate solution for that situation would have been very interesting. Regardless, I felt that player death due to a mistake in DM planning was stupid and shouldn't happen.
But maybe my group is just different from yours, in that we've essentially given prior consent for our characters to be killed, in the event that the die rolls turn against us in such an incredibly bad and unlikely manner to cause that to happen.



The bodycount in my games is significantly higher than in every other game I've ever been a player in*, save one. I've got consent to kill. I still give the power to make that kill "stick" back to the players. It's bad design to take a player out of the game with mechanics, "take out" being here defined as sitting out the rest of the session, being forced to play or create a new character, or jumping through hoops or resource drains like getting a raise dead cast.

* I believe this is due to the fact I have no story and character death doesn't really impact my "plot" at all since I don't have one.

Regardless, I felt that player death due to a mistake in DM planning was stupid and shouldn't happen.



Also obviated by simply letting the player himself or herself choose.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Character death is fairly prolific in most of my games, but it is something that is discussed and agreed upon prior to the game.  The players in our group have a good attitude about it and most of us have back up characters (sometimes whole collections of them) ready to go prior to the beginning of the game. 

When PC's die it is generally a permaneant death.  For most games ressurections have been removed, death is meaningless and a waste of time when you can just cast a spell to undo it. 

I don't see death as something to be avoided, most of the time it enhances the storyline and opens up a whole new chapter in the groups story.  I respect other DM's and groups choices for their playstyles, but I don't think I would enjoy playing in a game where I chose if I died or not. 

When I prepare an encounter, I don't make empty threats.  If I'm not willing to kill the PC's then I don't write a combat encounter, I'll write something else.  Just about any monster can wipe a group given the right circumstances and die rolls.  The threat of death in my games is constant, and my players tend to have visible angst about their decisions when combat looms, and in my opinion, thats how it should be.  You should be on the edge of your seat in combat-and not just for alternate success/failure conditions, but for every dimension of success and failure.

My players know this upfront.  They know I won't shy away from killing them if thats where the dice fall, but they also enjoy the tension that it creates when they are facing a monster.
...and in the ancient voice of a million squirrels the begotten chittered "You have set upon yourselves a great and noble task, dare you step further, what say you! What say you!"
Yes, exactly. That's why the ability to just wave it away when it does happen would annoy my players; the risk and tension would be removed. A lot of that is an out-of-character feeling, which is why a change in game mechanics would ruin it.
My players know this upfront.  They know I won't shy away from killing them if thats where the dice fall, but they also enjoy the tension that it creates when they are facing a monster.

What happens if their character dies? Resurrection is out, so they have to make a new character. Are they expected to have a back up ready? Is there a time during which the player is waiting to participate before the new character can be brought in? How is this handled.

Everyone has their own way of handling this, because the books are silent on the matter. I find it very odd, given the general expectation that death will occur, that the game doesn't offer much advice on what to do afterwards. Sure it probably expects Raise Dead to be used, but not all the time.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Yes, exactly. That's why the ability to just wave it away when it does happen would annoy my players; the risk and tension would be removed. A lot of that is an out-of-character feeling, which is why a change in game mechanics would ruin it.



That makes no sense to me. If you're the type that wants to have risk of death due to the games' mechanics, my approach does not remove that. You simply choose death, every time, when it comes up. Those who don't want to, don't have to. Risk and tension preserved.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Choosing death and having it happen despite your best efforts are not the same thing, emotionally. But I think we're disagreeing over terminology, or level of IC/OOC separation, or something.
Choosing death and having it happen despite your best efforts are not the same thing, emotionally. But I think we're disagreeing over terminology, or level of IC/OOC separation, or something.



Alright, consider the following:

DM: I've got a house rule - if you get to negative bloodied or fail three death saves, you can choose whether you actually die or if you're just "out" of the current scene (or whatever).
P1: Sounds good.
P2: That removes tension and risk for me. I think I'll always die when I get to negative bloodied or fail three death saves by default as per the rules.
DM: Fine by me.
P1: I prefer to choose take it as it comes. Maybe I'll die, maybe I won't. We'll see how it goes.
DM: Also fine by me. 

How is the tension removed for Player 2? He's playing by the rules as written since he believes that will keep tension and risk in the game.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Character death is fairly prolific in most of my games, but it is something that is discussed and agreed upon prior to the game.  The players in our group have a good attitude about it and most of us have back up characters (sometimes whole collections of them) ready to go prior to the beginning of the game. 

When PC's die it is generally a permaneant death.  For most games ressurections have been removed, death is meaningless and a waste of time when you can just cast a spell to undo it. 

I don't see death as something to be avoided, most of the time it enhances the storyline and opens up a whole new chapter in the groups story.  I respect other DM's and groups choices for their playstyles, but I don't think I would enjoy playing in a game where I chose if I died or not. 

When I prepare an encounter, I don't make empty threats.  If I'm not willing to kill the PC's then I don't write a combat encounter, I'll write something else.  Just about any monster can wipe a group given the right circumstances and die rolls.  The threat of death in my games is constant, and my players tend to have visible angst about their decisions when combat looms, and in my opinion, thats how it should be.  You should be on the edge of your seat in combat-and not just for alternate success/failure conditions, but for every dimension of success and failure.

My players know this upfront.  They know I won't shy away from killing them if thats where the dice fall, but they also enjoy the tension that it creates when they are facing a monster.



Yes, exactly. That's why the ability to just wave it away when it does happen would annoy my players; the risk and tension would be removed. A lot of that is an out-of-character feeling, which is why a change in game mechanics would ruin it.



^These two have pretty nicely sumed up my stance. Though, I will say that in my games, if the living/remaining PCs can afford a raise dead or true ressurrection spell, they are completely allowed to opt for it. Sometimes, the dead guy even pays for it...>_>

Choosing death and having it happen despite your best efforts are not the same thing, emotionally. But I think we're disagreeing over terminology, or level of IC/OOC separation, or something.



Alright, consider the following:

DM: I've got a house rule - if you get to negative bloodied or fail three death saves, you can choose whether you actually die or if you're just "out" of the current scene (or whatever).
P1: Sounds good.
P2: That removes tension and risk for me. I think I'll always die when I get to negative bloodied or fail three death saves by default as per the rules.
DM: Fine by me.
P1: I prefer to choose take it as it comes. Maybe I'll die, maybe I won't. We'll see how it goes.
DM: Also fine by me. 

How is the tension removed for Player 2? He's playing by the rules as written since he believes that will keep tension and risk in the game.



Simple, some players do not want to have to make that choice. They can accept fate. But if given the ultimate power of life and death over their character, they may opt for death, but it's a completely different emotional feeling. One that may wind up leading back to resentment towards the DM for putting them in that place. Because now, they know that at any time they can full well say "he lives", which completely sucks the tension and risk out of the moment for them. And yes, they may have agreed before the game but anything can change their minds at any point. And then if the DM enforces that decision while the other player can freely flip-flop about, it...well...it's a bad idea. Which will probably lead to bitter arguments.

Better for the DM to do their job and place these kinds of warnings, expectations, and rules down before the game starts so that all players can accept it or walk away than to be given the power of life and death over their own character at all times.

In fact, I dare say to give a player complete control over his own character's life is one of the most tortureous and cruel things a DM could probably do. For many players who get attached to the character they create, they don't want to kill them. But at the same time, they want the thrill, tension, and excitement of staring death in the face (laughing while they do it), and seeing what fate has in store for them.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
If you are sitting down to play the base rules of the game, you're by default opting in to the rule as written regarding death. If, as a player you are given the option that you can choose to use the rules as written regarding death or not, and you make a conscious choice to go by the rules as written, you're doing the same thing. I don't see where this whole loss of emotion is coming from. The fact that there is a choice impacts nothing. Choose according to your taste.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

I don't know how to explain it better than what's already been said, but the fact that Lunar understands what I'm saying helps me feel I'm not being as nonsensical as you suggest.
Hold on...

The fact that there is a choice impacts nothing.



Did this sentence really just come from the same person who argues that if players have any sort of restrictions on what they can do, this is an insufficient amount of choice? 
There's a whole lot of context around that sentence you just cherry picked. That is really reaching if not flailing.

You mentioned in an example above that given the choice between life and death, you chose death. You knew during the battle it was just a cash sink if you bit the dust (and a fictionally made up cash sink to boot since you didn't really have the money). So really, your character's dying or not was a choice. You chose to buy the farm instead of a resurrection ritual.

What's the difference between that and what I propose? Somehow my suggestion comes with a sprinkling of magic dust that makes risk and tension disappear?

(And does this not reveal what the true purpose behind raise dead and the like is? A poorly designed patch to fix a bug in the game?)

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

If you are sitting down to play the base rules of the game, you're by default opting in to the rule as written regarding death. If, as a player you are given the option that you can choose to use the rules as written regarding death or not, and you make a conscious choice to go by the rules as written, you're doing the same thing. I don't see where this whole loss of emotion is coming from. The fact that there is a choice impacts nothing. Choose according to your taste.



No, there's a difference. In your scenario, it's all on the player. They can choose at any time.

In ours, the DM enforces death and the player can't just reverse the decision (be it by the roll of dice or DM action) of death mid-game (not in a meta game sense anyway). There's a huge difference. I'm surprised you can't see it.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Failure, which is what risk is about, does not have to equal death. You can maintain tension without the chance of a character a player has invested in emotionally getting randomly chucked in the garbage because he rolled a 4 and not a 9.
"The real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development." -Albert Einstein Resident Left Hand of Stalin and Banana Stand Grandstander Half of the Ambiguously Gay Duo House of Trolls, looking for a partner Wondering what happened to the Star Wars forums?
Show
Star Wars Minis has a home here http://www.bloomilk.com/ and Star Wars Saga Edition RPG has a home here http://thesagacontinues.createaforum.com/index.php
Show
141722973 wrote:
And it wasn't ****. It was subjectively concensual sex.
57036828 wrote:
Marketing and design are two different things. For instance the snuggy was designed for people in wheel chairs and marketed to people that are too incompetent to operate a blanket.
75239035 wrote:
I personally don't want him decapitated.
141722973 wrote:
And do not call me a Yank. I am a Québecois, basically your better.
And the greatest post moderation of all time...
58115148 wrote:
I gave that (Content Removed) a to-scale Lego replica. (Content Removed) love to-scale Lego replicas. (ORC_Cerberus: Edited - Vulgarity is against the Code of Conduct)
Failure, which is what risk is about, does not have to equal death. You can maintain tension without the chance of a character a player has invested in emotionally getting randomly chucked in the garbage because he rolled a 4 and not a 9.



For some players, death is a greater tension/excitement/risk than a mere failure to accomplish a goal.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
No, there's a difference. In your scenario, it's all on the player. They can choose at any time.



In the example I gave, the player opted to always choose death by default as per the rules of the game because that's what he wanted to do. DM said fine (as I would). The choice has been made for this player. He's always going to choose death, even though it's at his option not to. There is no difference to this player than if the rules were being played as written. Risk and tension remains the same.

In ours, the DM enforces death and the player can't just reverse the decision (be it by the roll of dice or DM action) of death mid-game (not in a meta game sense anyway). There's a huge difference. I'm surprised you can't see it.



If you're the type that needs the threat of death to get a visceral thrill, you just always choose death. It doesn't matter who "enforces" it.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

No, there's a difference. In your scenario, it's all on the player. They can choose at any time.



In the example I gave, the player opted to always choose death by default as per the rules of the game because that's what he wanted to do. DM said fine (as I would). The choice has been made for this player. He's always going to choose death, even though it's at his option not to. There is no difference to this player than if the rules were being played as written. Risk and tension remains the same.

In ours, the DM enforces death and the player can't just reverse the decision (be it by the roll of dice or DM action) of death mid-game (not in a meta game sense anyway). There's a huge difference. I'm surprised you can't see it.



If you're the type that needs the threat of death to get a visceral thrill, you just always choose death. It doesn't matter who "enforces" it.



Yes, yes it does matter. "Choosing" death isn't thrilling at all. Fighting it with all your might and losing, is.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
There's a whole lot of context around that sentence you just cherry picked. That is really reaching if not flailing.



Yeah, I apologize. I realized a few minutes after posting it that it wasn't really fair. My point is that having or not having choice really, really matters to the person choosing, or not. In this case I'm arguing that more choice is not always a good thing, which I understand is contrary to your philosophy and probably not how your usual players would view things.

You mentioned in an example above that given the choice between life and death, you chose death. You knew during the battle it was just a cash sink if you bit the dust (and a fictionally made up cash sink to boot since you didn'treally have the money). So really, your character's dying or not was a choice. You chose to buy the farm instead of a resurrection ritual.



This is true. But we wouldn't have had that option if the last party member hadn't survived the combat. The point of no return that we've always recognized is "everyone falls unconscious with an enemy still standing." The chance to resurrect the other players was partly a reward for the Kobold for heroically defeating the wolf, but the DM was double-checking that we still wanted to play them before doing that, since we were doing an atypical game style that summer and switching characters frequently. And yes, I'm aware there are other things an enemy might do with an unconscious party than kill them. But we had already slaughtered all the sentient enemies, and I think we can guess what a wolf would do with fresh meat.

What's the difference between 
that and what I propose? Somehow my suggestion comes with a sprinkling of magic dust that makes risk and tension disappear?


No, if fiat "raise dead" without needing to actually scrape up the resources were always available, that would reduce tension in a similar way. Even having the ritual always available at higher levels does that to some extent, I think. Not as much as the ability to wave away a TPK would, though. Having someone fall unconscious in combat and not being able to get them standing again is a big deal, because it increases the chance of losing the combat, decreases the chance of successfully running away (assuming you won't leave them behind), and makes the threat of everyone falling unconscious loom larger. You don't want every combat to be that intense, but once in a while is fun.

(And does this not reveal what the 
true purpose behind raise dead and the like is? A poorly designed patch to fix a bug in the game?)


Eh, it's a carryover from earlier editions, where death was much more common from what I understand. But this more than anything shows the differences between how we think about the game. Even if we agreed that character death was always a bad thing, you'd view an out-of-character solution that lets the players make meta-game decisions as a good fix, and an in-character solution that makes sense within the established world as a bad one. I'd try to explain why I think in-game solutions are better, but I won't because first, you'll probably come back with saying that you understand because you used to think like me but have seen the light, and second, because I'm not very happy with the in-game magic system for other reasons and don't want to put myself in the position of trying to defend it.
Yes, yes it does matter. "Choosing" death isn't thrilling at all. Fighting it with all your might and losing, is.



I'm beginning to think you're arguing just to argue because what you're saying makes less and less sense the more you post.

You can still choose death as default as per the rules even with this house rule if that's what floats your boat. You can still fight against that looming death with all your might. Nothing changes except for those players who choose otherwise.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

There's a whole lot of context around that sentence you just cherry picked. That is really reaching if not flailing.



Yeah, I apologize. I realized a few minutes after posting it that it wasn't really fair. My point is that having or not having choice really, really matters to the person choosing, or not. In this case I'm arguing that more choice is not always a good thing, which I understand is contrary to your philosophy and probably not how your usual players would view things.

You mentioned in an example above that given the choice between life and death, you chose death. You knew during the battle it was just a cash sink if you bit the dust (and a fictionally made up cash sink to boot since you didn'treally have the money). So really, your character's dying or not was a choice. You chose to buy the farm instead of a resurrection ritual.



This is true. But we wouldn't have had that option if the last party member hadn't survived the combat. The point of no return that we've always recognized is "everyone falls unconscious with an enemy still standing." The chance to resurrect the other players was partly a reward for the Kobold for heroically defeating the wolf, but the DM was double-checking that we still wanted to play them before doing that, since we were doing an atypical game style that summer and switching characters frequently. And yes, I'm aware there are other things an enemy might do with an unconscious party than kill them. But we had already slaughtered all the sentient enemies, and I think we can guess what a wolf would do with fresh meat.

What's the difference between 
that and what I propose? Somehow my suggestion comes with a sprinkling of magic dust that makes risk and tension disappear?



No, if fiat "raise dead" without needing to actually scrape up the resources were always available, that would reduce tension in a similar way. Even having the ritual always available at higher levels does that to some extent, I think. Not as much as the ability to wave away a TPK would, though. Having someone fall unconscious in combat and not being able to get them standing again is a big deal, because it increases the chance of losing the combat, decreases the chance of successfully running away (assuming you won't leave them behind), and makes the threat of everyone falling unconscious loom larger. You don't want every combat to be that intense, but once in a while is fun.

(And does this not reveal what the 
true purpose behind raise dead and the like is? A poorly designed patch to fix a bug in the game?)


Eh, it's a carryover from earlier editions, where death was much more common from what I understand. But this more than anything shows the differences between how we think about the game. Even if we agreed that character death was always a bad thing, you'd view an out-of-character solution that lets the players make meta-game decisions as a good fix, and an in-character solution that makes sense within the established world as a bad one. I'd try to explain why I think in-game solutions are better, but I won't because first, you'll probably come back with saying that you understand because you used to think like me but have seen the light, and second, because I'm not very happy with the in-game magic system for other reasons and don't want to put myself in the position of trying to defend it.


I think you're officially my favorite poster on this board.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
I'm beginning to think you're arguing just to argue because what you're saying makes less and less sense the more you post.



No, I get exactly what he's saying, and it's the same thing I'm trying to say. We just haven't figured out how to explain it to you. This is frustrating to me, because teaching is my chosen profession, but in my defense I normally teach math. I don't want to just keep escalating conflict here needlessly, but I'll try to think of another angle from which to approach the topic.
I'm beginning to think you're arguing just to argue because what you're saying makes less and less sense the more you post.



No, I get exactly what he's saying, and it's the same thing I'm trying to say. We just haven't figured out how to explain it to you. This is frustrating to me, because teaching is my chosen profession, but in my defense I normally teach math. I don't want to just keep escalating conflict here needlessly, but I'll try to think of another angle from which to approach the topic.



I feel equally frustrated. I'm trying to be a writer of novels for f***s sake and I can't even convey this one little concept. >.< Then again, I find it's one of the most difficult concepts I've ever had to convey to someone.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Even if we agreed that character death was always a bad thing, you'd view an out-of-character solution that lets the players make meta-game decisions as a good fix, and an in-character solution that makes sense within the established world as a bad one.



You're half right here. I don't view in-character solutions that make sense within the established world as bad. It's only bad when that's the only solution "allowed."

No, I get exactly what he's saying, and it's the same thing I'm trying to say. We just haven't figured out how to explain it to you. This is frustrating to me, because teaching is my chosen profession, but in my defense I normally teach math. I don't want to just keep escalating conflict here needlessly, but I'll try to think of another angle from which to approach the topic.



I feel equally frustrated. I'm trying to be a writer of novels for f***s sake and I can't even convey this one little concept. >.< Then again, I find it's one of the most difficult concepts I've ever had to convey to someone.



I already think I know what it is. It's two things, or both, depending on your views. (I've had this discussion with people before and it always boils down to the same two things.) But neither reason speaks particularly well of the person who holds that belief, so I'll trust you'll figure out that's where it's coming from and "see the light" as JTheta says or perhaps you'll come up with another way to explain that I haven't heard before.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Even if we agreed that character death was always a bad thing, you'd view an out-of-character solution that lets the players make meta-game decisions as a good fix, and an in-character solution that makes sense within the established world as a bad one.



You're half right here. I don't view in-character solutions that make sense within the established world as bad. It's only bad when that's the only solution "allowed."

No, I get exactly what he's saying, and it's the same thing I'm trying to say. We just haven't figured out how to explain it to you. This is frustrating to me, because teaching is my chosen profession, but in my defense I normally teach math. I don't want to just keep escalating conflict here needlessly, but I'll try to think of another angle from which to approach the topic.



I feel equally frustrated. I'm trying to be a writer of novels for f***s sake and I can't even convey this one little concept. >.< Then again, I find it's one of the most difficult concepts I've ever had to convey to someone.



I already think I know what it is. It's two things, or both, depending on your views. (I've had this discussion with people before and it always boils down to the same two things.) But neither reason speaks particularly well of the person who holds that belief, so I'll trust you'll figure out that's where it's coming from and "see the light" as JTheta says or perhaps you'll come up with another way to explain that I haven't heard before.



There's no need to "see the light". I understand your thinking. I just view it as wrong.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
There's no need to "see the light". I understand your thinking. I just view it as wrong.



You don't even understand your own thinking well enough to explain to someone else. That's not a slight, just an observation. I'm not sure how you can say someone's way is wrong without even understanding the underpinnings of your own approach.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

There's no need to "see the light". I understand your thinking. I just view it as wrong.



You don't even understand your own thinking well enough to explain to someone else. That's not a slight, just an observation. I'm not sure how you can say someone's way is wrong without even understanding the underpinnings of your own approach.



I understand the underpinnings of my own approach, but it's hard to explain to someone who doesn't because it's an emotional thing. And base emotions are not easy to describe.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Iserith, you're looking for a rational explanation when there is none.  This is not about rationality, but about emotions and psychology.  Being given the choice to avoid death removes some of the tension.  It removes some of the thrill of combat.  Why?  Cuz that's how our brains tick.  You may have made the previous choice to "always choose death", but you still know, in the back of your head, that you could change your mind if you wanted to.
Iserith, you're looking for a rational explanation when there is none.  This is not about rationality, but about emotions and psychology.  Being given the choice to avoid death removes some of the tension.  It removes some of the thrill of combat.  Why?  Cuz that's how our brains tick.  You may have made the previous choice to "always choose death", but you still know, in the back of your head, that you could change your mind if you wanted to.



What's the opposite of "rational?" Wink

(Hint: It's not "emotional.")

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Logical fallacy.  We're not talking ABOUT rationality.  It is not on the rationality spectrum.
Logical fallacy.  We're not talking ABOUT rationality.  It is not on the rationality spectrum.



Fair enough (and hence the smiley).

I already know the reason(s) why this house rule doesn't sit well with some people. I'm not going to post it because it doesn't speak well of that person and is too easy to deny anonymously even though every single discussion on this topic has boiled down to the same two things. (This isn't a new topic obviously.) I'm content to leave it at that and hope someday those who think otherwise will see why this house rule works for everyone and, in my opinion, should be a default rule in the game. To do otherwise is bad game design (again, in my opinion). 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

After a few shots of whiskey and some time on the can, I'm going to give this one more shot.

Put yourself in the player's shoes. You love the character you've created. You also love the thrill of risking death with that character.

But then the DM tells you "you can live or die at anytime, the choice is completely yours". The DM has just robbed you of the thrill of risking death by putting the choice in your hands. In other words, you can't have your cake and eat it too. If you choose to live, you keep the character you love, but you can no longer know the thrill of death, because you're choosing to never take it. If you choose to die, you lose the character you created but get to know the thrill and excitement of defying death. But in the back of your mind, the entire time, you know that at any moment you can flip-flop on the decision, which makes choosing death kind of pointless. It's a giant lose-lose situation for the player.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
I think the root issue at stake is about choices, specifically choices that allow the narrative to continue (something as a fellow writer I assume Lunar can appreciate).

I am of the opinion that no single roll should end the story prematurely. If I design an adventure that hinged on you passing an Arcana check and your character failed, thus shutting down the rest of the night's play, you would rightly say that I had poorly designed the adventure. There ought to be some wiggle room around the obstacle to push the narrative, even if that means going in a different direction than initially intended.

I don't see much difference mechanically between the Arcana check and a goblin (though one might argue that generic PCs are by default more optimized towards dealing with goblins than any one skill check, but that's beside the point). If I have mentally mapped out five encounters that will bracket a given session's narrative and because of a combination of lopsided rolls your PC goes down in the 2nd encounter, I don't see a lot of sense in stopping the story cold. It would be like if in Raiders of the Lost Ark the Nazis killed Indiana Jones when they captured him in Egypt. Not exactly the most satisfying end of the story.

Sure, having some notion of "no return" can raise the emotional stakes, but what of it? If I have to choose between making the players feel a sense of "danger" versus the opportunity to share a story, I will choose the story every time.
Sign In to post comments