"A good time for a PC to die is whenever s/he runs out of hit points."

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STOP! Before you release the Kraken on me, please understand that by good I mean fair and by fair I mean that a DM shouldn't feel guilty if a PC dies whenever s/he runs out of hit points.

I've always come to the table knowing that rolling dice meant that there were certain outcomes that even the DM couldn't control and that gaming was risky business -- I might loose my own PC or I might be responsible for a friend loosing theirs. It was an unwritten contract.

I posted a thread last week that has me reeling about the concept of PC death. If you look here (community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...), I admittedly like the logic behind several of the responses, but I can't depart with this idea that "a good time for a PC to die is whenever s/he runs out of hit points." Without the real risk of PC death, the game has lost some of its luster.

Why is PC death so strictly forbidden? Have I gamed in a bubble for the past 20 years? Did something change? Why's everyone so sensitive about PC death these days?

Yes, there are a lot of exciting alternatives to simply allowing a PC to die and I'M ALL FOR THOSE OPTIONS WHEN THEY FIT IN WITH THE STORY, but I'm having a hard time seeing anything "wrong" with allowing a PC to die when they mechanically reach that point. It's a great part of the game.

If you read the referenced thread above, a strong argument is made for why "game math" alone shouldn't kill PCs -- and my party is struggling with one of these consequences right now -- but if the dice don't kill PCs, why do we even use them? IDK, this aversion to mechanical PC death just isn't sitting well with me.

Thoughts?
The dm gets thousands of monsters to attack the players.  Often times outnumbering the players or having monsters that use daily quality powers that recharge during the fight.  The dm also has total control over what type of monster, and how powerful.
The players get what, two or three characters?  Their powers are finite, and they have no control over strength and their initial class choice.  Heck, it's the dm that allows characters to even get stronger.


You want to talk about fair?  Let your players have 10 people each, and let them go against the dungeon you set up for 1 each.  Your dungeon would be slaughtered because you did not set up the thing for 50 player characters.
You're going down a different path. I'm assuming PC death is reached within the confines of the suggested encounter building protocol as per DMG.

Assuming both parties play according to the rules, what's the problem with mechanical PC death.

---

Maybe what I should be posting is a thread on the benefits of mechanical PC death.
Depends what you mean by 'a good time'.

And by 'run out of hit points'.
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I've never understood why PC death is so controversial.  If you've ever read Chris Perkins' articles he makes it seem so casual as he mentions every now and then just how many times some of his players have died. I like his approach and tend to follow it. Every time session zero occurs I advise my players that character death is not something to fear, and so, even in my current game they all have back ups just incase. This way they can be interjected some how, some way in the case of sudden death.

Some times back up can even be temporary as I also tell my players that their characters will never be gone for ever unless they absolutely allow it. Such as being resurected, the party going to the netherworld to save them (penny arcade) or a sorceress saving their soul an dplacing it in a construct, thus becoming a warforged.

All the same I don't do any hand holding when it comes to death. If a player dies in an encounter, (HP to zero, and fail the saves) they die. I keep them involved by either tossing in their back up some how or allowing them to control NPC's / Enemies. And then I allow the group in game to find a way to either bring them back or seek a new companion. My players don't have any problems with this.

I've only had one death so far in my current campaign. The leader of the group got captured and executed. He got captured at the end of one session so on the next session I involved his back up in the story via a plot twist, and they then witnessed their ex leaders execution, and his back up became his main (fyi, he was only executed because the player approved)

I think a campaign with out PC death halves the emotion and the experience. Due to their ex leaders death they have pretty much declared all out war on the city, which makes it all the more dramatic because they were the original founders and the reason the city flourishes. PC death can drive the story in new directions. ex; character dies to a standard orc during an encounter due to bad luck. he opts to use a back up but is fond of his now dead character so he expresses out of game he wouldn't mind if they later found a way to bring him back. Suddenly the story has two new objectives. A generic orc encounter has become about revenge, the DM toss a spin on it and suddenly the Orc Killer is a son of the cheif of an orc clan in the area, and now the party must wipe them out! Only to discover in the cheifs employ he has a hag, a hag that dabbles in necromancy, who can bring back their fallen comrade, etc yadda yadda.

I personally find that way more interesting then "oh your character died." "But I don't wanna" "okay he's just unconcious." "yay"

Maybe that's just me.
I thought of an idea. What if they create a character name Maked Soldier #1. That way you won't feel bad killing them. If that player feels that soldier is important, he can remove the mask and give him a new name. 

if I am in your game and I have a fighter name Maked Soldier #1, you have my full permission to put him through hell.  
There's sufficient character death in my campaign as well. I think I've hit the mechanical 'death' point two times now and each of those times it resulted in actual character death. It has never de-railed the campaign or been picked up by a player as somehow being 'unfair' or 'unfun'. Each of the times I asked the players whether they would like to continue with their character or they want to roll up a new one. 

There's a movement of DMs here that seem to oppose character death with all their might, because it causes unfun things to happen to their game. However, I and my players view death as a somewhat random part of the game which can either result in interesting scenario's, not have that much of an impact or be a chance to try a fresh character. I encourage any DM to ask their players whether death should be a real thing in their game, or whether they would like to have any death be handwaved into some other scenario. And to ask himself this as well.
Heroic Dungeon Master
The question is when it is appropriate for people to run out of hit points, and the answer is "rather uncommonly."


Yes, it's rare that a party should "run out of HPs" if the DM follows the guidelines for encounter building as per the DMG. But I respectfully disagree, both personally and mechanically, that this is the question that needs answering. Let me explain --

Personally, as noted in another post, a game devoid of PC death lacks a significant aspect of emotional involvement and experience. If the player knows *ultimate* failure is NOT an option the DM is willing to consider with any kind of regularity, then the game lacks any real penalty for completing a quest. Adventurers can fall into a pattern of "yeah, that sucks, now it's gonna take longer, but we'll still accomplish x" anytime they fail. Somewhere along the line, a party has to realize, "wow, we aren't going to accomplish x, ever."


Mechanically, the game's main (if not sole) representation of chance are the dice. They oppose the PCs power increase over time and are an invaluable constant throughout a campaign. Even if a DM is unwilling to put the PCs in situations where death is very real possibility, s/he has a responsibility to allow the dice to represent the chance for death to occur.



Here's something else to consider, the game contains an entire section on PC death; if the game wasn't designed to have PCs die [regularly], then why is it addressed at all?
I thought of an idea. What if they create a character name Maked Soldier #1. That way you won't feel bad killing them. If that player feels that soldier is important, he can remove the mask and give him a new name. 

if I am in your game and I have a fighter name Maked Soldier #1, you have my full permission to put him through hell.  



Look, I assume players don't want to loose their PCs, especially if they've tried their best and still failed. What I'm trying to say is that as DMs, we can't take PC death off the table as a distinct possibility when they walk into a dragons lair. Because, as we all know, sometimes the dragon wins. . .and he eats you.
There's sufficient character death in my campaign as well. I think I've hit the mechanical 'death' point two times now and each of those times it resulted in actual character death. It has never de-railed the campaign or been picked up by a player as somehow being 'unfair' or 'unfun'. Each of the times I asked the players whether they would like to continue with their character or they want to roll up a new one. 

There's a movement of DMs here that seem to oppose character death with all their might, because it causes unfun things to happen to their game. However, I and my players view death as a somewhat random part of the game which can either result in interesting scenario's, not have that much of an impact or be a chance to try a fresh character. I encourage any DM to ask their players whether death should be a real thing in their game, or whether they would like to have any death be handwaved into some other scenario. And to ask himself this as well.



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I have a different take on the matter:

A good time for a PC to die is when that death matters.

In detail:
I think everybody would agree that telling your players, "rocks fall, everyone dies!" is almost a sure sign of bad DMing.  However, if the DM would spin the whole thing just right, even that can be spun to his advantage.

I remember reading in one of the threads here that there was this one DM who had his group create characters in great detail.  Then the first encounter began with, "You're all dead," causing a lot of unhappy faces (I do believe one player even snapped his pencil at that).  Then once the anger had subsided, the DM continued the adventure by having all the PCs float around as spirits as they investigated the events behind their characters' deaths (who did it? how did it happen? why were they killed? etc.).  Long story short, that session was a pure stroke of genius.

I also remember reading one post where there was this player who talked with his DM in private, then sessions later the DM instantly killed the player's character, no questions asked.  No attack rolls, no damage, not even save-or-die, just "the helicopter blows up, and crashes on the ground with your buddy Jimmy on it".  The shock on the faces of the rest of the group was priceless and the player didn't end up tearing his character sheet and walking away.

I also recall my own PC's death, along with a few other posts about PCs dying in combat.  There's only one thing that I find common with all of them: all of them died for a purpose.

Part of the negativity on PC death is the assumption that PC death equates to the end of a character's story.  I suppose the Gygaxian approach of "don't name your character until he's level 5" is a huge contributor to this perception, but the point is that groups often fear the death of the PCs not only because of the time and effort invested on the PCs, but more because of the attachment involved with the PCs combined with the detachment involved with PC death.  To be specific: the unwritten assumption that a dead character is forcing your character to retire permanently or until they're raised from the dead.

When people think of deep, engaging stories for their characters, only to see their characters die meaningless deaths, it doesn't matter how they died, the result is the same: frustration, annoyance, rage quits.

This is the very thing behind the hate on save-or-die, "gotcha!" moves, and "rocks fall everyone dies".  Reducing the HP of PCs to zero is still a painful experience but there's one thing about normal combat that makes it much more appealing than SoD or insta-kill: if the PCs are going to go, they won't be taking it lying down.  You'll more likely see PCs:


  • fighting until they drop to 0 HP and a TPK occurs (even if they see how powerful the enemy is)

  • reviving their allies and aiding each other to the best of their effort

  • buying their allies time to escape even at the cost of their own lives


And in general they do their best to be heroic. The tension, the dynamics, the fact that you'll always be giving it your all; all that combined results in an enjoyable encounter even though one or two deaths occur (or even a TPK happens).

Remember, the whole point of TRPGs is that you are able to make stories happen, regardless if it's impromptu, scripted or anywhere in between.  Normal folks don't like having their part in the story end prematurely -- which is what usually happens with surprise deaths -- so if they find themselves in a situation where their character dies, make sure that the said character would've first left a lasting impression to, and a legacy on, everyone.

Finally, the most important thing here is trust.  Its presence is what keeps the group together in spite of TPKs and character deaths and the like, and its absence is what fractures a group even if it's just because of issues that aren't as big as character deaths, whatever those issues may be.
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I guess I'm confused that this is even an issue. This is the exact reason why HP exist. Now when it comes to other things, like SoDs or level drains, I might take issue, mostly because they bypass the mechanic that is supposed to measure how close a character is to death (HP). But especially in 4e where it is basically impossible to accidentally kill off the PCs if you are you following the encounter guidelines (I don't mean it's impossible to kill them, that's pretty easy, I mean the "oops I didn't realize that thing could kill you guys in a single round before you even got your turn" type of event), I just don't understand why this would even be up for debate.
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I play a hard and fast game, and have a proverbial graveyard of characters that have died in games I was DMing. I remember each character death. The first was a thief played by my little brother, his first character, and played a little too loose with the chaotic nature of his alignment. Among many actions that didn't sit well with the lawful group it culminated in a CvC death. The group encountered a pair of bear cubs chained to a wall after defeating their captor. The druid in the party rolled low on a check to calm the cub so it nipped at his hand out of fear. The thief in question threw a dagger, killing the cub in front of the druid. After a short struggle the thief was tied up and left helpless and naked in front of the other starving bear cub as the party walked away. The player grabbed the PHB and started rolling up his new character. Of course I am an evil DM, so when the party returned to town a week later the druid found a dead bear cub in his bed and the thief became a recurring villain NPC over the course of the next 4 years of the campaign.

The last PC death was a dragonborn fighter named Tarkus during the final battle of H1, lulled into the portal by the shadow dragon on the other side of the veil. He fought heroicly but the dice didn't favor Tarkus last week. I talked with the player after our session, allowing him an out, giving the character a second chance, but he opted to allow the hero tomeet his heroic end.

I remember every death, and only one player in the dozens of character deaths has ever opted to be returned to life.

If every encounter is meaningful, then every character death will have meaning, and be remembered years later. If it is not time for the character to permanently be laid to rest, then it is time for a new adventure to bring the fallen comrade back to the fight. Multiple characters died in Buffy only to be brought back because it makes sense for a high magic setting, but if Wash was to suddenly be resurrected in Firefly the fans would revolt. Unless you set out at the beginning, in session 0 or through some event in game to explain the absence of souls returning to the mortal realm, then the ability to raise a fallen comrade should be an option.

The risk of death isn't a requirement for a fun experience, but I disagree that it should be eliminated for the sake of "fun" or possible hurt feelings. It is a mechanic of the game and should have the same importance as how often you can use a certain power or the intricacies of invisibility versus hiding. Make the quest to return as meaningful as the death and the story will be worth retelling.
Make the quest to return as meaningful as the death and the story will be worth retelling.


+1 to your entire post but especially this right here. I always thought the constant resurrections via a simple spell (or ritual) cheapened death far too much. I made access to resurrection magic much rarer in my campaign, and then pretty much got rid of it in favor of story-based considerations. You want that character back? Great, go bargain with the God of Death. Or travel to Purgatory, risk annihilation by its guardians, and snatch the traveling soul before it reaches its final destination. Or find the Potion of Life, rumored to have been take from the Fountain of Life by the wanderer Zellek Farstrider to save his ailing wife, but lost after he died in the wilderness on the trip back home.
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I don't care if my charactres die personally. I like to make a new character a lot!

One DM I play with sometimes when I am home lets us players decide if the characters die when the dice go bad. It is interesting point he makes and I will try to explain it. Why in the game do they have things like negativ hit point, THREE death save, and resurection that cost very little money? Why not die at 0 hit points right away?

The reason he says is because the game is not a sport or competitive so there is not a way to lose. If the rule say you can't play anymore, this is stupid because nobody can lose at D&D. A game that is about participation should not say you can not play any more. With every edition they make it more hard to die and more easy to come back. THat is why... because a game that have no competition mean you should not be able to lose.

So in this DM games, if you fail the three saves, you are just out for a few minutes OR you can give your death speech and die. The game is still really hard and lots of people die. I even died three times in one session with 2 characters! Risk is there still but all of my death were awesome because I get to choose when I stay dead.

But anyway the regular rules are okay too. I thought this DM had a fun version of it. 
I have a different take on the matter: A good time for a PC to die is when that death matters.



I see the value of this, I really, really do. Do you see any value in unabashed cold, hard death? I see several benefits of PC death. 
The deeper and the longer duration the investment of the players into any PC in an ongoing game the fewer situations where it is "a good time" for a PC to die for any particular reason.  Yes, PC's of even epic history should be able to die truly permanent deaths (no recovery or rez) and players should accept that it can and will happen.  But also that it will happen at times that the DM CANNOT ultimately control because it will increasingly happen only by the arbitrary dictates of random dice rolls.

It is nonetheless UNSATISFYING for a PC to die a random, pointless death.  It is unsatisfying because it means the player is suddenly and arbitrarily forced to abandon further investment in the game with a PC whom he was having a perfectly good time with.  It is unsatisfying because significant effort must be expended by everyone to incorporate some new, entirely random character into the combat and roleplaying dynamics of the party.  It is unsatisfying because although the rules have clear expectation of player character death there is virtually zero good advice to the DM or players on how to handle it both in game and out of game so as to not only minimize the immediate negative impacts but actually embrace it as necessary or even good for a game in the long run.

Instead, the game designers only approach has been to simply make it harder to kill a PC at all, much less permanently.  Oh, and the "rules" for resurrection should be different for NPC's and PC's for obvious reasons of setting design.

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The deeper and the longer duration the investment of the players into any PC in an ongoing game the fewer situations where it is "a good time" for a PC to die for any particular reason.  Yes, PC's of even epic history should be able to die truly permanent deaths (no recovery or rez) and players should accept that it can and will happen.  But also that it will happen at times that the DM CANNOT ultimately control because it will increasingly happen only by the arbitrary dictates of random dice rolls.

It is nonetheless UNSATISFYING for a PC to die a random, pointless death.  It is unsatisfying because it means the player is suddenly and arbitrarily forced to abandon further investment in the game with a PC whom he was having a perfectly good time with.  It is unsatisfying because significant effort must be expended by everyone to incorporate some new, entirely random character into the combat and roleplaying dynamics of the party.  It is unsatisfying because although the rules have clear expectation of player character death there is virtually zero good advice to the DM or players on how to handle it both in game and out of game so as to not only minimize the immediate negative impacts but actually embrace it as necessary or even good for a game in the long run.

Instead, the game designers only approach has been to simply make it harder to kill a PC at all, much less permanently.  Oh, and the "rules" for resurrection should be different for NPC's and PC's for obvious reasons of setting design.



This is a really good argument re: player investment and PC death. I agree that there's a direct relationship between the two, especially at higher levels, but am interested in where you fall in line with the idea that PLAYERS don't have to stop playing when their PC dies. I'd argue it's harder to become invested at higher levels with a new PC, but things don't have to stop.

One thing I think we agree on is that players need to experience real loss in the case of failure. I agree that loss can come in the form of hard-won magic items, wealth, status, etc, but argue that the ultimate loss of character should be as likely a possibilty at higher levels because monsters/quests should go "up in level" similtaneously.
The reason he says is because the game is not a sport or competitive so there is not a way to lose.



This is the second or third post that mentions DMs allowing the player to decide whether or not to continue with their character. . .it's an interesting approach. At first glance, I guess I personally felt like it was nerfing the game and stops just short of outlawing PC death completely. But the more I think about it, it's a solid compromise as long as it means additional risk for the rest of the party -- like journeying to the Fugue Plane to retreive the deceased commrade a la Perkins' session with Acquisitions Incorporated.

Something to take under advisement. Thanks!
I think this question depends greatly on what you want out of the game.

Are you looking for a simulation of living in a dangerous fantasy world?  Then you probably want random death.  The world kills people, that isn't any real suprise, just don't name your character right away. 

Area you looking for a series of hard fights, tricky traps and deadly puzzles that culminate in you finding treasure? Then death is probably the one thing making the game interesting, the chance of failure is important.

Are you looking to craft an epic high fantasy story?  Do you care more about narrative then realism? Then random death kinda sucks. Your characters have goals and histories, and characters should die when their either good an ready or when they can do something epic and worth dying over.
You just used 250 words to say virtually nothing.

In fact, that's the problem with this entire thread: you're being completely inarticulate. If you were actually phrasing your positions coherently, I'd wager we barely disagree, but you're really not doing so. This leaves the rest of us with little choice but to either project opinions into your writing and then argue against those or just not pay attention to the thread.

So, work on that.



Ooo, getting personal. Instead of beig unproductive, you could drop out of the thread.
I think this question depends greatly on what you want out of the game.



I think this is key. Different strokes and all that. 
I have a different take on the matter: A good time for a PC to die is when that death matters.



I see the value of this, I really, really do. Do you see any value in unabashed cold, hard death? I see several benefits of PC death. 


Only if the group is perfectly fine with "unabashed cold, hard death".

Personally I would only be fine with said type of death if, and only if, death does not mean end of character (or even worse, end of participation). If I get to undergo a separate adventure, or participate in the adventures as a spirit, it'll be an interesting perspective.  If the system as a whole wholeheartedly encourages players to make and run multiple characters with shallow backgrounds PLUS encourages me to risk reckless behavior resulting in death (as in zero "real" investment, see: Ars Magica's Grog class), then all the more I would be fine with "unabashed cold, hard death", because at least I'm playing the game as intended, and I wouldn't feel that I'm actually playing *my* character (just some nameless, insignificant red shirt, or at worst clone # XXXXX).

But if I invest a lot of effort in creating my character (both mechanically and story-wise), then I'm forced to retire that character in a meaningless way for a forgettable cause, I think I have the right to complain and question the infalliability of the DM, and probably not play with said DM anymore.  If My PC is to die prematurely, let them dictate how they're going to die.  It's a fantasy game after all, not real life.
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This is what I believe is the spirit of D&D 4E, and my deal breaker for D&D Next: equal opportunities, with distinct specializations, in areas where conflict happens the most often, without having to worry about heavy micromanagement or system mastery. What I hope to be my most useful contributions to the D&D Community: DM Idea: Collaborative Mapping, Classless 4E (homebrew system, that hopefully helps in D&D Next development), Gamma World 7E random character generator (by yours truly), and the Concept of Perfect Imbalance (for D&D Next and other TRPGs in development) Pre-3E D&D should be recognized for what they were: simulation wargames where people could tell stories with The Best Answer to "Why 4E?" Fun vs. Engaging
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Instead, the game designers only approach has been to simply make it harder to kill a PC at all, much less permanently.  Oh, and the "rules" for resurrection should be different for NPC's and PC's for obvious reasons of setting design.



Which is why their game design has been fairly bad in that regard. It is attempting to make something foolproof when fool-technology is always advancing. You can't create proof against a fool.

Instead, your only real option is to remove death all-together if one does not want it as an outcome. This, however, is to ignore fail conditions in a game. Since the structure of D&D revolves around the games point of character advancement, the only true full fail condition is the removal of that character from the possibility of advancement (IE death). Removing it is the equivalent of putting godmode on Doom...a large part of the games challenge has been removed and its difficulty has been reduced to navigation and little more.

In the end, it makes for a less compelling product because people want to be challenged. Also, by removing a failure condition like that, it diminishes the accomplishments one makes because the challenge is ephemeral.

The game requires better game design and better thought put into it, especially in regards to what will actually have traction with gamers. "Nothing worth doing is easy".

All of my players fear death...they welcome that fear. They've told me as such. It makes what they do in-game worth it because there is weight to their decisions. I also wisely accomodate the possibility of death with a combination of in-game and metagame design decisions so as to avoid the classic pitfalls of "Dead PC syndrome"...none of it has to do with removing the real threat of death, though. In fact, we played a session last night and last Thursday...last Thursday the paladin literally came 2 HP away from being kaput.

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One thing I think we agree on is that players need to experience real loss in the case of failure. I agree that loss can come in the form of hard-won magic items, wealth, status, etc, but argue that the ultimate loss of character should be as likely a possibilty at higher levels because monsters/quests should go "up in level" similtaneously.



I would say the "up in level" mentality of monsters is flawed on its surface. This does not need to be true. It needs to be dependent on the players. Can they become embroiled in higher level combats against fiercer monsters? Yes absolutely. Should it be necessary? No. Just like everything else, players should be able to mitigate their risk within the confines of the campaign setting. Naturally, this will not be foolproof since life is not foolproof, but it can be done within reason.

On the flipside, if players are playing to achieve and advance, they will seek out greater challenges and so it will become a delicate balancing act for them to seek out dangers that have good rewards for them yet are not beyond their power. This balancing act is great for creating tension & excitement AND it supports player agency as they get to directly control their destiny.

Thankfully for us DMs, players tend to be power & treasure-hungry daredevils so they will seek out "bigger & badder". Allowing them to do so as a goal instead of as a matter of fact is very important.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

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100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I have a different take on the matter:

A good time for a PC to die is when that death matters.

In detail:
I think everybody would agree that telling your players, "rocks fall, everyone dies!" is almost a sure sign of bad DMing.  However, if the DM would spin the whole thing just right, even that can be spun to his advantage.

I remember reading in one of the threads here that there was this one DM who had his group create characters in great detail.  Then the first encounter began with, "You're all dead," causing a lot of unhappy faces (I do believe one player even snapped his pencil at that).  Then once the anger had subsided, the DM continued the adventure by having all the PCs float around as spirits as they investigated the events behind their characters' deaths (who did it? how did it happen? why were they killed? etc.).  Long story short, that session was a pure stroke of genius.

I also remember reading one post where there was this player who talked with his DM in private, then sessions later the DM instantly killed the player's character, no questions asked.  No attack rolls, no damage, not even save-or-die, just "the helicopter blows up, and crashes on the ground with your buddy Jimmy on it".  The shock on the faces of the rest of the group was priceless and the player didn't end up tearing his character sheet and walking away.

I also recall my own PC's death, along with a few other posts about PCs dying in combat.  There's only one thing that I find common with all of them: all of them died for a purpose.

Part of the negativity on PC death is the assumption that PC death equates to the end of a character's story.  I suppose the Gygaxian approach of "don't name your character until he's level 5" is a huge contributor to this perception, but the point is that groups often fear the death of the PCs not only because of the time and effort invested on the PCs, but more because of the attachment involved with the PCs combined with the detachment involved with PC death.  To be specific: the unwritten assumption that a dead character is forcing your character to retire permanently or until they're raised from the dead.

When people think of deep, engaging stories for their characters, only to see their characters die meaningless deaths, it doesn't matter how they died, the result is the same: frustration, annoyance, rage quits.

This is the very thing behind the hate on save-or-die, "gotcha!" moves, and "rocks fall everyone dies".  Reducing the HP of PCs to zero is still a painful experience but there's one thing about normal combat that makes it much more appealing than SoD or insta-kill: if the PCs are going to go, they won't be taking it lying down.  You'll more likely see PCs:


  • fighting until they drop to 0 HP and a TPK occurs (even if they see how powerful the enemy is)

  • reviving their allies and aiding each other to the best of their effort

  • buying their allies time to escape even at the cost of their own lives


And in general they do their best to be heroic. The tension, the dynamics, the fact that you'll always be giving it your all; all that combined results in an enjoyable encounter even though one or two deaths occur (or even a TPK happens).

Remember, the whole point of TRPGs is that you are able to make stories happen, regardless if it's impromptu, scripted or anywhere in between.  Normal folks don't like having their part in the story end prematurely -- which is what usually happens with surprise deaths -- so if they find themselves in a situation where their character dies, make sure that the said character would've first left a lasting impression to, and a legacy on, everyone.

Finally, the most important thing here is trust.  Its presence is what keeps the group together in spite of TPKs and character deaths and the like, and its absence is what fractures a group even if it's just because of issues that aren't as big as character deaths, whatever those issues may be.



I would say a large part of that mentality is actually looping back from how some DMs have been portraying their role. When a DM portrays their role as that of a story-teller primarily (or entirely) with a narrative for the players, naturally character death will seem both pointless and absurd since the DM is supposed to be engaging the players in a story and to have a "pointless" (I prefer "sudden") death interrupts the story.

Of course, the game is not meant to be a narrative in that manner. Story-telling is a small part of the DMs role with their role as judge, refereee and rules-arbiter being their mandate above & beyond everything else.

When the story belongs to the DM, the players have a "right" to feel betrayed when killed...but when the players are the ones pushing the "story" forward with their actions and goals, death then is merely a reality of their efforts. Instead of something foisted upon them by the DMs "story" it is something that has resulted from their own actions.

Essentially, this is a snowball effect of trying to shift the role to storytelling-first and game-second.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I think this question depends greatly on what you want out of the game.

Are you looking for a simulation of living in a dangerous fantasy world?  Then you probably want random death.  The world kills people, that isn't any real suprise, just don't name your character right away. 

Area you looking for a series of hard fights, tricky traps and deadly puzzles that culminate in you finding treasure? Then death is probably the one thing making the game interesting, the chance of failure is important.

Are you looking to craft an epic high fantasy story?  Do you care more about narrative then realism? Then random death kinda sucks. Your characters have goals and histories, and characters should die when their either good an ready or when they can do something epic and worth dying over.



Your entire premise is flawed.

A DM is not crafting an epic high fantasy story. The players are seeking to achieve greatness. To do something great is to court disaster. Being able to achieve the greatness while avoiding death is true accomplishment. That is what is actually epic.

My players want all three of the things you mentioned. They receive all three. They could potentially die at any time. Only when a game can be lost is it worth seriously playing. Otherwise, it's just practice.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

I have a different take on the matter: A good time for a PC to die is when that death matters.



I see the value of this, I really, really do. Do you see any value in unabashed cold, hard death? I see several benefits of PC death. 


Only if the group is perfectly fine with "unabashed cold, hard death".

Personally I would only be fine with said type of death if, and only if, death does not mean end of character (or even worse, end of participation). If I get to undergo a separate adventure, or participate in the adventures as a spirit, it'll be an interesting perspective.  If the system as a whole wholeheartedly encourages players to make and run multiple characters with shallow backgrounds PLUS encourages me to risk reckless behavior resulting in death (as in zero "real" investment, see: Ars Magica's Grog class), then all the more I would be fine with "unabashed cold, hard death", because at least I'm playing the game as intended, and I wouldn't feel that I'm actually playing *my* character (just some nameless, insignificant red shirt, or at worst clone # XXXXX).

But if I invest a lot of effort in creating my character (both mechanically and story-wise), then I'm forced to retire that character in a meaningless way for a forgettable cause, I think I have the right to complain and question the infalliability of the DM, and probably not play with said DM anymore.  If My PC is to die prematurely, let them dictate how they're going to die.  It's a fantasy game after all, not real life.


That's basically the way most people (including me and my players) have the most fun. And there you go: if a character reaches 0 HP (or negative bloodied), is it fun for the player if the character dies at that moment? If yes, then RIP. If no, then something else happens. 

This is an interaction between the DM and the players, and not something that people on a forum can reach a definitive conclusion on. Only a consensus.
Yagamifire, what if DM don't make up a story to experience? What if players and DM work together on this and using the game rules as a way to craft the outcome of the story that is create during play? DM is not making stories, he is making locations like a world or dungeon. Everyone at table including DM and all players makes the story together equally by playing the location. If there is a moment where someone thinks a death don't fit good what his happening so far or if the player don't want to sit out the rest of night or for how long to make a new character, they can just come up with a good reason that makes sense to keep the PC alive?
Since the structure of D&D revolves around the games point of character advancement, the only true full fail condition is the removal of that character from the possibility of advancement (IE death).



Wow, all that time wasted because you failed to notice this little non-sequiter in your logic that makes the rest of it untrue.



You can think it's untrue all you want. You are, however, disagreeing with the game designers themselves.

Levels, growing HP, higher level magical items, advancing skill ranks, stronger opponents, wider sphere of influence, better attack value, further reach of abilities & range, etc etc. All of these are the core components of the mechanical game of D&D and ALL of them support that the player character grows in power, wealth and influence...the character advances. This is the mechanical point of the game.

Again...from the designers themselves...

Players create heroic fantasy characters -- mighty warriors, stealthy rogues, or powerful wizards -- which they guide through an ongoing series of adventures, working together to defeat monsters and other challenges and growing in power, glory, and achievement.

To disagree is to disagree with the people that literally made the game.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Yagamifire, what if DM don't make up a story to experience? What if players and DM work together on this and using the game rules as a way to craft the outcome of the story that is create during play? DM is not making stories, he is making locations like a world or dungeon. Everyone at table including DM and all players makes the story together equally by playing the location. If there is a moment where someone thinks a death don't fit good what his happening so far or if the player don't want to sit out the rest of night or for how long to make a new character, they can just come up with a good reason that makes sense to keep the PC alive?



This creates a slippery slope. Why is death the inviolable thing? Why not unconciousness? After all, that removes someone from play, doesn't it? So if I reach 0 HP can I argue about why I should be able to keep playing?

Essentially what this is is banning death in the game...it is eliminating it from the mechanics. In reality however, it is banning an event along the lines of "someone removed from play for an amount of time"...but, again, MANY things do that in the game. Therefore, it is not a discrete ban...a non-discrete ban is not really enforceable.

Imagine trying to ban spawn camping in a game because it is "not fun". Define spawn-camping. Is it shooting at a spawn? Where are the boundaries of the spawn? Well if spawn camping is the best strategy, then that means if you can't shoot at the spawn boundaries then the best strategy is to shoot at JUST BEYOND the spawn boundaries. Or is spawn-camping time limited? So you can't camp for more than 30 seconds? Okay then camp for 29 seconds, then go away and come back for another 29.

Not discrete. Not enforceable.

So again, why would I not, as a player, be able to argue against going unconcious if I can make it make sense? Why can I not argue against any rule or outcome if I can make it make sense? And, if I can, does this not just reward those that can play the social game around the table the best? Isn't that what the system you're describing does? If someone is not good at coming up with compelling story points, they cannot rely on the rules to be static and dependable. Instead, they are at the whims of the DM or the others at the table. The rules become secondary to group thought...I find this to be a negative thing.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

To put it as directly as possible, it is as unbelievably retarded to claim there is no failure but character death as it is to say that the only way the hero of a novel could lose is if the book caught on fire.



The fail condition for any given character is permanent death. The full fail condition for a D&D player is to stop playing since character death does not remove a player from the larger game structure as all they need do is make another character or return the previous one to life.

It is the difference between a game with infinite continues and one with 3 (or some other discrete amount) of continues. In the former, the only full fail condition is to stop playing and the latter is to fail 3 times at which point you have to entirely start over. In fact, this is a rather interestingly made point in the game Metal Gear Solid 2 where the fiction-within-fiction narrative of the game makes it so that the ONLY win condition for the game is to STOP playing.

Also your understanding of novelization is flawed. The only way Spider-Man can LOSE is to be canceled and to no longer have stories told about him. Applying game mechanics such as "win or lose" to a fictional construct is, however, fairly useless reasoning along the lines of...how did you put it? Retarded? Yeah it's retarded reasoning.

Fictional characters are bound by nothing but the person empowered to write their story. It is literally impossible for Batman to reach a full fail condition.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

All of my players fear death...they welcome that fear. They've told me as such. It makes what they do in-game worth it because there is weight to their decisions. I also wisely accomodate the possibility of death with a combination of in-game and metagame design decisions so as to avoid the classic pitfalls of "Dead PC syndrome"...none of it has to do with removing the real threat of death, though. In fact, we played a session last night and last Thursday...last Thursday the paladin literally came 2 HP away from being kaput.



I agree with you 100% and I've recieved several PMs from DMs who feel the same way you do, yet are less vocal and prefer to stay off the boards.

I think it's all in setting expectations and finding the right group. Sounds like you have a good fit for your style. Keep it up!
Thankfully for us DMs, players tend to be power & treasure-hungry daredevils so they will seek out "bigger & badder". Allowing them to do so as a goal instead of as a matter of fact is very important.



This is off-topic, but something I'm struggling with right now, too.
 
I think how much risk a party is willing to take on is group-specific. My group [unfortunately] is not this way. I've got a couple players who will take on big risks, but scream bloody murder if they ever fall below 0 HP. There's a third player who won't take any risks unless he thinks he has a significant chance at success (i.e. not dying). I suppose that's how we make decisions in our own lives, but not something I'm use to having to worry about as a DM. Now, it seems, I spend a significant amount of time each week trying to come up with reasons that will compel this one player to "bite" on a given adventure hook. Ideas?
To put it as directly as possible, it is as unbelievably retarded to claim there is no failure but character death as it is to say that the only way the hero of a novel could lose is if the book caught on fire.



Wow, that was unnecessary. I'll never understand why a post on a gaming forum has to go to a place like this.
It is the difference between a game with infinite continues and one with 3 (or some other discrete amount) of continues. In the former, the only full fail condition is to stop playing and the latter is to fail 3 times at which point you have to entirely start over. In fact, this is a rather interestingly made point in the game Metal Gear Solid 2 where the fiction-within-fiction narrative of the game makes it so that the ONLY win condition for the game is to STOP playing.



I think that it's easy to feel like "infinite continues" (banning meaningless PC death) are necessary if the DM comes to the table with an agenda of what has to get accomplished during that session. It's gotta happen or else the story doesn't move forward. I've done it myself -- I've had several levels planned out that involve specific PC backgrounds/histories, then an important PC dies. Subsequently, I have to re-write 80% of what I'd worked on. It's deflating.

That's where the rub comes in. Unless I'm willing to fudge die rolls, change the monsters' battle plan, or make it so that the enemies are not every bit as interested in not dying as the party is, a PC dies. That's not my fault as DM and as long as I've followed the rules for encounter building, I don't think it makes me a "bad DM". But it hasn't fit until now, which is why YagamiFire's approach is so interesting. By adopting a campaign design style in which "the players are the ones pushing the "story" forward with their actions and goals, death then is merely a reality of their efforts. When the story belongs to the DM, the players have a "right" to feel betrayed when killed." Good stuff.
 
It is the difference between a game with infinite continues and one with 3 (or some other discrete amount) of continues. In the former, the only full fail condition is to stop playing and the latter is to fail 3 times at which point you have to entirely start over. In fact, this is a rather interestingly made point in the game Metal Gear Solid 2 where the fiction-within-fiction narrative of the game makes it so that the ONLY win condition for the game is to STOP playing.



I think that it's easy to feel like "infinite continues" (banning meaningless PC death) are necessary if the DM comes to the table with an agenda of what has to get accomplished during that session. It's gotta happen or else the story doesn't move forward. I've done it myself -- I've had several levels planned out that involve specific PC backgrounds/histories, then an important PC dies. Subsequently, I have to re-write 80% of what I'd worked on. It's deflating.

That's where the rub comes in. Unless I'm willing to fudge die rolls, change the monsters' battle plan, or make it so that the enemies are not every bit as interested in not dying as the party is, a PC dies. That's not my fault as DM and as long as I've followed the rules for encounter building, I don't think it makes me a "bad DM". But it hasn't fit until now, which is why YagamiFire's approach is so interesting. By adopting a campaign design style in which "the players are the ones pushing the "story" forward with their actions and goals, death then is merely a reality of their efforts. When the story belongs to the DM, the players have a "right" to feel betrayed when killed." Good stuff.
 



I understand what you mean completely. I used to do the same a long time ago. DM expectations require either fudging or throwing out vast amounts of pre-planning. Great Expectations (other than being a dreadful book) are the bane of DMs and many DMs generally don't even realize it. It is building a house of cards in a hurricane because you are playing a game where ANYTHING can happen. Inevitably you get stuck in situations where you are either throwing out work or changing stuff so that your stuff still works...and either sucks. The latter can be downright toxic to a game because it undermines player agency AND pulls the curtain back from the wizard. I fudge NOTHING with my players no matter how much I want to and, believe me, the incentive can be great...but it's important to resist. Fate has to be fate and the dice have to be the dice that way player decisions can remain their decisions.

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

Thankfully for us DMs, players tend to be power & treasure-hungry daredevils so they will seek out "bigger & badder". Allowing them to do so as a goal instead of as a matter of fact is very important.



This is off-topic, but something I'm struggling with right now, too.
 
I think how much risk a party is willing to take on is group-specific. My group [unfortunately] is not this way. I've got a couple players who will take on big risks, but scream bloody murder if they ever fall below 0 HP. There's a third player who won't take any risks unless he thinks he has a significant chance at success (i.e. not dying). I suppose that's how we make decisions in our own lives, but not something I'm use to having to worry about as a DM. Now, it seems, I spend a significant amount of time each week trying to come up with reasons that will compel this one player to "bite" on a given adventure hook. Ideas?



Generally this is from past experience or from a lack of confidence in ones ability to play the game. That is natural. It's a player stage. The importance is in helping your players come out of these shells because then they will start embracing risk and risk mitigation. I think that might be worth a thread on its on and, if you pursue it, I'll happily take part.

Oh by the way, since you've given me a couple compliments you can probably be expected to be accused of being a sock-puppet account any moment. :/

I'm on a journey of enlightenment, learning and self-improvement. A journey towards mastery. A journey that will never end. If you challenge me, prepare to be challenged. If you have something to offer as a fellow student, I will accept it. If you call yourself a master, prepare to be humbled. If you seek me, look to the path. I will be traveling it.

 

Proudly playing in many wrong ways. I'm not afraid of playing wrong according to the rules. Why are you?

 

100 Crack Reply of the Yagamifire. You are already wrong.

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I would say a large part of that mentality is actually looping back from how some DMs have been portraying their role. When a DM portrays their role as that of a story-teller primarily (or entirely) with a narrative for the players, naturally character death will seem both pointless and absurd since the DM is supposed to be engaging the players in a story and to have a "pointless" (I prefer "sudden") death interrupts the story.

Of course, the game is not meant to be a narrative in that manner. Story-telling is a small part of the DMs role with their role as judge, refereee and rules-arbiter being their mandate above & beyond everything else.

When the story belongs to the DM, the players have a "right" to feel betrayed when killed...but when the players are the ones pushing the "story" forward with their actions and goals, death then is merely a reality of their efforts. Instead of something foisted upon them by the DMs "story" it is something that has resulted from their own actions.

Essentially, this is a snowball effect of trying to shift the role to storytelling-first and game-second.



Thankfully for us DMs, players tend to be power & treasure-hungry daredevils so they will seek out "bigger & badder". Allowing them to do so as a goal instead of as a matter of fact is very important.

 

This is off-topic, but something I'm struggling with right now, too.
 
I think how much risk a party is willing to take on is group-specific. My group [unfortunately] is not this way. I've got a couple players who will take on big risks, but scream bloody murder if they ever fall below 0 HP. There's a third player who won't take any risks unless he thinks he has a significant chance at success (i.e. not dying). I suppose that's how we make decisions in our own lives, but not something I'm use to having to worry about as a DM. Now, it seems, I spend a significant amount of time each week trying to come up with reasons that will compel this one player to "bite" on a given adventure hook. Ideas?



I think that it's easy to feel like "infinite continues" (banning meaningless PC death) are necessary if the DM comes to the table with an agenda of what has to get accomplished during that session. It's gotta happen or else the story doesn't move forward. I've done it myself -- I've had several levels planned out that involve specific PC backgrounds/histories, then an important PC dies. Subsequently, I have to re-write 80% of what I'd worked on. It's deflating.

That's where the rub comes in. Unless I'm willing to fudge die rolls, change the monsters' battle plan, or make it so that the enemies are not every bit as interested in not dying as the party is, a PC dies. That's not my fault as DM and as long as I've followed the rules for encounter building, I don't think it makes me a "bad DM". But it hasn't fit until now, which is why YagamiFire's approach is so interesting. By adopting a campaign design style in which "the players are the ones pushing the "story" forward with their actions and goals, death then is merely a reality of their efforts. When the story belongs to the DM, the players have a "right" to feel betrayed when killed." Good stuff.



I think here lies a particular problem of just about every TRPG I've ever experienced, both player-side and DM-side: how we approach the storytelling aspect of a roleplaying game.

Unless I'm mistaken, D&D was classically run in a very specific way, which is similar to how the Sims or the Elder Scrolls series worked: you have a fantasy world setting, you have players controlling their avatars, and the stories build themselves as the players faced the dangers the DM threw at them.  Sure some DMs would have a predetermined story like how Elder Scrolls had a main storyline, but otherwise D&D was all in all a modified fantasy wargame where stories were the aftermath, and not the crux of the sessions or the system.

As storytelling became a greater priority than the game aspect -- to the point where the game's mechanics were being used to tell a story, rather than the story being a by-product of the gameplay -- this created all sorts of problems, especially when you consider how classical storytelling works; each story has a start, various levels of tension, and an ending, often in the form of "happily ever after".  As YagamiFire pointed out, the problem with classical storytelling is that it utterly fails to take into account how D&D used to be run, which means that the expected ending of a character in story-centric campaigns and the actual ending of a character in combat-centric systems is horribly dissassociated.

So what specifically went wrong, and what can we do to fix it?

I think the main thing that went "wrong" is that, in part due to lack of exposure to the myriad of TRPG systems out there (as well as the fact that D&D is often the first TRPG system taught to budding DMs), DMs end up forcing a storytelling-centric campaign into a game-centric system, rather than running a storytelling-centric campaign in a storytelling-centric system.  By running campaigns with solid arcs complete with scenarios where a specific PC or number of PCs become key components in the story, because you (should) have absolutely no control over the fate of the PCs, unexpected death becomes problematic at best.

Or to put it bluntly: If you play a combat-centric, story-light campaign in GUMSHOE, you're doing it wrong.  So why are you playing a story-heavy campaign in a fantasy wargame system that you can tell stories in, like AD&D?

The way I see it, the solution to this issue involves three things:


  • Good in-group communication.


    • Casting plot hooks without truly understanding what would make the player and his character want to get involved in the campaign in the first place will always be a frustrating endeavor.  Rather than waiting until you either run out of ideas or use the right plot hook, why not just ask the player what his character's motivations are for being there in the first place, and then design the challenges and campaign from there?

    • Are the players open to the idea of PCs being permanently killed or not, and why?

    • What sort of campaigns do the players really want?


  • A solid system appropriate to the type of game you want to run.


    • It's probably cheaper to do a bunch of houserulings for a system you've already invested in, but let's face it: no single system can accomplish everything that may be needed in a campaign.  Not even Microsoft. For instance:


      • A lot of threads I've read have basically agreed that D&D isn't designed with PvP in mind.  You could try doing it - FourthCore Deathmatch has certainly done it - but compare D&D to Paranoia and I think it's clear which of the two is really designed with PvP in mind.

      • GUMSHOE is expressedly a system with investigation in mind. True you can do an investigation-centric campaign in D&D, but if you compare the two systems, failing in D&D tends to hamper a storyteller approach to the game, while GUMSHOE essentially gives everyone auto-success but with complications, which means the story always flows, just in different directions.  Those are two very different -- both valid, but very different -- mechanical approaches to skills.



  • Learning, practicing, and mastering improvisation.


    • Improvisation is the most important skill that a DM should learn, because that, I believe, is what really sets TRPGs apart from CRPGs: the human factor.

    • Note that it's one thing to say that, with Rule 0, all rules are merely guidelines for improvisation... and it's a completely different thing to actually teach improvisation.


      • While D&D 4E has given me a glimpse of what improvisation could be, it was 13th Age that truly taught me what improvisation is.  The difference: 13th Age rules talk directly to the DM, telling them things like, "GMs, make a call on this", and "GMs, here are a few ways you can use these things".


        • It was only in 13th Age where I was able to finally break away from pre-planning because the system gave me the tools I needed to do so.  Especially after reading http://www.pelgranepress.com/?p=9061




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If you're crossing the street and see a city bus barreling straight toward you with 'GIVE ME YOUR WALLET!' painted across its windshield, you probably won't be reaching for your wallet.
I Don't Always Play Strikers...But When I Do, I Prefer Vampire Stay Thirsty, My Friends
This is what I believe is the spirit of D&D 4E, and my deal breaker for D&D Next: equal opportunities, with distinct specializations, in areas where conflict happens the most often, without having to worry about heavy micromanagement or system mastery. What I hope to be my most useful contributions to the D&D Community: DM Idea: Collaborative Mapping, Classless 4E (homebrew system, that hopefully helps in D&D Next development), Gamma World 7E random character generator (by yours truly), and the Concept of Perfect Imbalance (for D&D Next and other TRPGs in development) Pre-3E D&D should be recognized for what they were: simulation wargames where people could tell stories with The Best Answer to "Why 4E?" Fun vs. Engaging
Interesting that I would happen upon this thread.  Last weekend, two of the party's players that I DM died.  They died to a large Gelatinous Cube elite monster.  It wasn't an encounter meant to run a risk of death per se, but apparently the combination of events and player decision caused it to take the lives of two characters.  The Cleric and the Ranger fell while the wizard almost did and the other two survived.

The two deaths happened within two rounds and did actually catch me by surprise, along with the group I believe.  However after it happened, I didn't get a feeling that the group was angry or that they found in unfair.  One player in fact stated that he believed it had been a very fair encounter and that "**** happens". 

I've never been against player death as, to me at least, it feels like it's a part of the game.  You play with hp amounts, hp means that when it drops to zero something should happen.  It doesn't have to be bad and can actually be positive for the story, RP, etc.. 
"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

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