4E & Character Death

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So, if creating magic items doesn't cost XP anymore, can I infer that the XP/level loss hit for character death is gone too?

The current 3.5 system is way to punitive for me. I've had characters that are almost 13th level (for instance) die and now they're barely 11th, and that's a lot of gaming time to make up the way we play.

I really like Andy Collins' house rule on death: you get 1 negative level that can't be removed until you level again normally. If you die again before leveling, you now have 2 negative levels, and can only remove 1 next time you level. I hope 4e uses something like it.
So, if creating magic items doesn't cost XP anymore, can I infer that the XP/level loss hit for character death is gone too?

The current 3.5 system is way to punitive for me. I've had characters that are almost 13th level (for instance) die and now they're barely 11th, and that's a lot of gaming time to make up the way we play.

I really like Andy Collins' house rule on death: you get 1 negative level that can't be removed until you level again normally. If you die again before leveling, you now have 2 negative levels, and can only remove 1 next time you level. I hope 4e uses something like it.

I think a rule like Andy Collins' would have been used if Wizards were producing a revised 3.5e instead of 4e. But I suspect the whole idea of negative levels is going to be ditched. I'd say they'll use something akin to what the MMOs call 'rez sick' - a persistent penalty that lasts for a considerable amount of time following resurrection.

This could be a flat minus to all rolls, a state of persistent fatigue/exhaustion, or being stuck one or two places down the 'condition track' until the rez sick period ends. Often, parties will be able to ride it out by resting in town for a week till the sick person recovers, but that's not so easy if the party's deep underground in a dangerous dungeon.
I think rez sickness is a good idea. Losing levels was a pretty big bookkeeping annoyance, and often didn't make any sort of roleplaying sense unless you pretended the character had some sort of weird amnesia.
I say they should just get rid of resurrection entirely. It's the ultimate story killer.

Instead, just make combat less lethal. You don't die at -10. In fact, no amount of damage can kill a PC, they just get incapacitated. A PC dies only in special circumstances, and death is more or less final (barring some crazy one shot plot device artifact or ritual).

Basically to kill a PC you need an enemy who does a CdG or something similar to him. Normal wounds can just take him down for a while.
Well, in 1st edition you had Raise Dead and Resurrection.

Raise Dead was time-limited, in that it didn't work after a few days, and if the cleric cast Resurrection, both the cleric and the target were incapacitated for a fairly long while (minimum was 1 day, I think, during which they could do nothing but rest.)

In either case, the target had a limit on the number of times he could be brought back from the dead (14 con = 14 resurrections/raises) and had to pass a % roll or neither spell would ever bring him back.

Wish would bring the person back, bypassing the % check, but that cost the magic-user casting it 5 years of his life (iirc). Which meant it was expensive, and the party usually had to go on a quest for the magic-user as well.

I seem to recall that being brought back from the dead always cost you a point of constitution as well, but I don't actually see it as a rule in the PHB or the DMG.

So, making Raise Dead and Resurrection less reliable, thus leading to the potential permanent loss of the character, might be an option vs. just losing a level.
I hope they do what Saga Edition does.

If brought down to 0 HP with damage that doesn't exceed one's damage threshold, one is merely unconscious. Even if damage exceeds the threshold, however, one can still spend a force point/action point to stave off death. Death comes much less often this way, and I hope to see 4e follow suit. Especially hearing how the healing role will no longer be crucial to a party's effectiveness...
Okay... no risk of death, infinite use of healing and combat spells (maybe not the big ones, but certainly a lot of the smaller ones), more feats, talents, easier multiclassing, no risk of losing levels...

I'm sorry, was this game supposed to be fun? Because at least part of the reason that D&D is fun is the "joy of victory" thing, you know, where your party *could* have lost everything and died irretrievable, but instead managed to pull through and win.

Without the risk of losing, where's the joy of winning?
First of all, we don't even know how healing will work.

Secondly, we don't know how many ways to risk player characters in combat there are.

Thirdly, what the hell was so much fun about having your class features dictated to you?

Fourthly, what the @#$% was fun about getting level drained?!

Yeah, y'know, none of these exist in Saga, and we manage to have fun all the same. I wonder why...?
Because Star Wars runs under a different set of tropes.
What, and just because these tropes are different, D&D must have level loss, must have quick, irreversable death at low levels, and must have absurdly risky combat at all levels of play?

Gimme a break.
Personally, I found low level character were weak and I had to take care of DM not to kill them, but still got funny fights
(ever had you fellow adventurer throw a burning chair at you, in the hope the magic clothes let go?)
In mid-levels all is good, if hard to find a nice challenge
In high-levels instant death abilities can be a little to decisive on the battlefied
In short, some change would be nice. However I agree, that taking away all the edge won't be fun. I ask for a bit more of balance. Level loss is slightly annoying for player (loosing abilities) and for DM a bit (party balance), however I do believe death should not be easy to circumvent. Resurrection sickness is, in my opinion, a bit too weak. A more persistent ability penalty seems the better idea, to me that is.
Okay... no risk of death, infinite use of healing and combat spells (maybe not the big ones, but certainly a lot of the smaller ones), more feats, talents, easier multiclassing, no risk of losing levels...

I'm sorry, was this game supposed to be fun? Because at least part of the reason that D&D is fun is the "joy of victory" thing, you know, where your party *could* have lost everything and died irretrievable, but instead managed to pull through and win.

Without the risk of losing, where's the joy of winning?

No risk of death? Umm, a game like that is one where combat is done purely for flavor, and the DM decides when you win. Last I checked, losing too many hit points meant dying. That can happen, even with reusable spells.

Losing levels adds nothing to the game. More feats & talents plus easier multiclassing (huh, it's pretty 'easy' to multiclass in the current game) means a greater variety of characters. There's nothing to stop you having combats you win by the skin of your teeth, so I don't see what the issue is here. TPKs in the depths of the dungeon will be as irretrievable in 4e as they are in 3.5e (without the DM introducing a deux ex machina).
Okay... no risk of death, infinite use of healing and combat spells (maybe not the big ones, but certainly a lot of the smaller ones), more feats, talents, easier multiclassing, no risk of losing levels...

I'm sorry, was this game supposed to be fun? Because at least part of the reason that D&D is fun is the "joy of victory" thing, you know, where your party *could* have lost everything and died irretrievable, but instead managed to pull through and win.

Without the risk of losing, where's the joy of winning?

At mid to high levels, this is pretty much the case. infinite healing with wands of CLW, resurrection magic, etc.

Only a TPK will stop the PCs and that assumes they didn't set up a clone spell or what not. In fact, if you have character death be less frequent, but permanent, it adds more risk to the game.

This is a game where we want recurring characters. This isn't call of Cthulhu where heroes are supposed to die on a regular basis. We can either get recurring characters by making death a reversible status condition, or we can make PC death rare, but actually mean something.
In my game you lose the experience points, but not the abilities you had already earned. For example you are a level 2 PC with 1200xp and die and are raised, you now are a level 2 PC with 500xp (or however the math would work out). This saves the record keeping headache of which feat did I just lose, and was it 12hp or 13? But can still be a significant penalty to the player.

Death and raising can get way too complicated. The simpler the system the better. Losing levels, whether by death or special attack, usually just frustrates me enough as a player to want to start a new character.
I preferred that idea, just dropping the XP whatever amount WITHOUT negative levels. Keeps them from levelling, and the only side effect was the variations in level I would get sometimes.. (example.. the cleric and barbarian were at odds. mainly because the barbarian "had his way" with a female priest at the Cleric's Temple... [it was actually a spy from the death cult sent to destroy the temple of pelor] and the cleric failed to heal the barbarian a few times out of anger. the barbarian was around 5 K xp behind the pack). but I fixed this by going the "rest XP" route. It was cheap, but I allowed the barbarian to recieve .5x more the xp in bonus XP at the conclusion of certain games to catch up... mainly cause you can't have a barbarian 2 levels behind the group trying to go toe to toe with a potentially disasterous wizard who turned out to be the leader of that death cult.

The Barbarian ended up catching a VC, venerial Curse. But luckily for everyone, the cleric and barbarian made ammends...
I say they should just get rid of resurrection entirely. It's the ultimate story killer.

Instead, just make combat less lethal. You don't die at -10. In fact, no amount of damage can kill a PC, they just get incapacitated. A PC dies only in special circumstances, and death is more or less final (barring some crazy one shot plot device artifact or ritual).

Basically to kill a PC you need an enemy who does a CdG or something similar to him. Normal wounds can just take him down for a while.

This is a great idea, and should be implemented posthaste. As in, why wait for 4th?

Okay... no risk of death, infinite use of healing and combat spells (maybe not the big ones, but certainly a lot of the smaller ones), more feats, talents, easier multiclassing, no risk of losing levels...

I'm sorry, was this game supposed to be fun? Because at least part of the reason that D&D is fun is the "joy of victory" thing, you know, where your party *could* have lost everything and died irretrievable, but instead managed to pull through and win.

Without the risk of losing, where's the joy of winning?

Once the party is down, the trolls just pop off all their heads, and that's the end of it. There's still a risk of death, there's just no risk of sudden, anticlimactic death.

On the other hand, having one party member killed, and the party departing for home to get him fixed right back up again, cheapens the threat of death far more than simply making it difficult for characters to cross that threshold. Death should have a finality that the current rules don't afford it; it's the second-worst* status effect, to be sure, and the hardest to get rid of, but it's still ultimately just a status effect. In my mind, if you really want your friend back, you can get off your butt and go to the afterlife to fetch him back yourself!

*After domination.
I say they should just get rid of resurrection entirely. It's the ultimate story killer.

Instead, just make combat less lethal. You don't die at -10. In fact, no amount of damage can kill a PC, they just get incapacitated. A PC dies only in special circumstances, and death is more or less final (barring some crazy one shot plot device artifact or ritual).

We do something like this in a game which I don't DM. If you're taken to -10 or below, you make a fort save with a DC 15+1/2 the damage past -10. If you save, you survive, but get a disfiguring scar that does 1d4 drain to a random ability. If you fail, you die. Places a little more emphasis on fortitude saves, but the adventuring life favors hearty chaps, yes?
There used to be no save at all for level loss. Ouch!

The trend in D&D development has been to move away from an all-or-nothing struggle between the DM and the players and more to risking the characters, but always being able to continue in the story.


While some think that raise dead is a story killer; not being able to continue in the story because your character died seems like more of a story-killer to me. At least for the player(s) that died.

Of course, a TPK is still going to be pretty hard to recover from...
Thirdly, what the hell was so much fun about having your class features dictated to you?

Fourthly, what the @#$% was fun about getting level drained?!

Yeah, y'know, none of these exist in Saga, and we manage to have fun all the same. I wonder why...?

Hey, YOU signed up to play D&D.
So you found out you don't like these things (small details like class, levels, set abilities).....
Well, there's the door. Quit *****ing & go play GURPS or something.

Oh, I see you're still here.
Must mean you want to play D&D. So what class are you?
I played D&D 3.5e. With massive house-ruling (and a good heaping of the Ultimate Classes).

Then Saga came out.

Now I can't stand it and look forward to seeing what 4e plans to do about 3.5e's worst @#%$.

Hey, look! These are the 4e forums! Wonderful, that.
Okay... no risk of death, infinite use of healing and combat spells (maybe not the big ones, but certainly a lot of the smaller ones), more feats, talents, easier multiclassing, no risk of losing levels...

I'm sorry, was this game supposed to be fun? Because at least part of the reason that D&D is fun is the "joy of victory" thing, you know, where your party *could* have lost everything and died irretrievable, but instead managed to pull through and win.

Without the risk of losing, where's the joy of winning?

Yeah, the new philosophy is very close to "Dying isn't fun, so you can't die." It's not the dying that's fun, but overcoming the danger. No danger... it's like cheat codes.

I'm sure there will be a few ways in which the community will decide to patch some of the more video game-like aspects they introduce.

IDDQD
Yeah, the new philosophy is very close to "Dying isn't fun, so you can't die." It's not the dying that's fun, but overcoming the danger. No danger... it's like cheat codes.

I'm sure there will be a few ways in which the community will decide to patch some of the more video game-like aspects they introduce.

IDDQD

It's more "Dying isn't fun. But the worse you play, the more chance there is of it happening. So play well, and we won't take your achievements away with a single d20 roll."
I thought this was supposed to be Dungeons and Dragons, two things which could very easily spell instant doom to a careless hero.

Seems like the newer players want it to be more like Ball-pit and Lamb, two things which could only really hurt you under the most extreme of circumstances.
I'm am all for "reducing the chance of random, needless death."

In my own game, I changed this. A character can die, or a character might die but you have a chance to save him in the last instance. Which is more fun? Which is more dramatic? I chose to go with drama. My players enjoy acting heroic. They don't enjoy dying for stupid reasons.

Negative levels and energy drain only make the game more complicated than it needs to be. You can give the undead other cool abilities instead. Outside of the undead, you rarely see energy drain. Outside of death, you don't see negative levels. Changing these mechanics has a very small impact on the game.
I find that taking away the threat of random, instant death also means that there's less satisfaction to be gained from mere survival. This, to me, is A Good Thing, because it means your characters are going to have more dramatically interesting goals than just "not dying".
I preferred that idea, just dropping the XP whatever amount WITHOUT negative levels. Keeps them from levelling, and the only side effect was the variations in level I would get sometimes.. (example.. the cleric and barbarian were at odds. mainly because the barbarian "had his way" with a female priest at the Cleric's Temple... [it was actually a spy from the death cult sent to destroy the temple of pelor] and the cleric failed to heal the barbarian a few times out of anger. the barbarian was around 5 K xp behind the pack). but I fixed this by going the "rest XP" route. It was cheap, but I allowed the barbarian to recieve .5x more the xp in bonus XP at the conclusion of certain games to catch up... mainly cause you can't have a barbarian 2 levels behind the group trying to go toe to toe with a potentially disasterous wizard who turned out to be the leader of that death cult.

The Barbarian ended up catching a VC, venerial Curse. But luckily for everyone, the cleric and barbarian made ammends...

If I had been this barbarian, the next time combat got really hot, I'd step out of the way of the cleric and back of. Let the cleric deal with the big nasties. Then I'd probably find a new group to game with. The cleric obviously didn't care about his own health, or he would keep the meat shield up and running, if for no other reason than to protect his back.

Barbarian looking down a dark tunel he can hear ominous sounds coming from. "I don't hear anything here, follow me St. Vincent and we'll do a quick recon." After getting in real deep with the cleric on his heels briefly stoop down like you are looking at something written in the floor. When the cleric steps up to read the "Writting" (Remember the barbarian is illiterate). The barbarian steps behind the cleric to get out of the way and then pushes the selfish cleric into the room from which ontains the ominous sounds. Then he yells loudly, "Look out, run away" and proceeds to run back up the corrider telling the party it too dangerous and that St. Vincent is hot on you hills. He then proceeds to take a defensive stand at the entrance and lets the cleric take his beating as he justly deserves.

OK, maybe a bit overmelodramatic, but the c leric should get the point whether he goes down or not. Those front line types are pretty important.
I recently had an idea to handle resurrection by putting an actual cost on it, namely that of another life (meta-human sacrafice). In addition to finding the cleric who can raise your buddy, you need to to find (and capture) a meta-human you're willing to condemn to death.

It makes as much sense as needing a diamond, and offers much better opportunities for role-playing, and story building.

I'm also all for resurrection aging the raised, the caster or both. In either case the increase in age should be proportional to total life span to preserve cross-racial balance. It's a real cost that prevents raise dead being like candy, and avoids the massive bookkeeping of the current system.
Psst... I have a secret for all your hardcore players in here talking about how you've survived so much danger and that you don't fear death...

THE DM IS LETTING YOU WIN.

I know this is a concept that some people will simply never accept, but at its very core, D&D, like almost all pen & paper RPG's, is a complete and utter waste of time. It is not actually a challenge. It's a lopsided sort of chess where one "team" has the ability to say "The sun explodes and you all die and I win" whenever it feels like it, but instead spends its entire time setting up its little chess pieces purposely to lose, all the while smiling and patting you on the back for your "strategy". Here's another shocker: when you were four years old, and you kept winning all those footraces against your dad? You weren't actually faster than him! He was letting you win too!

There comes a time when you need to face the facts of the game: all this talk of challenge, threat, and danger is mostly an illusion. It's not a competitive sport; EVERYONE loses if the players lose. The DM wants you to win. If the party dies, you have to stop playing.

Now, I still love D&D and roleplaying games. As a player, I will strategize and make powerful builds and get excited when we survive a dangerous battle. But when I DM, I'm constantly reminded that my role is to make the players think they're accomplishing incredible acts of tactical genius, while simultaneously doing everything in my power to ensure that they always win every time. The few times I've had a TPK or was forced to fudge a roll or inexplicably alter an enemy's strategy to avoid a TPK stand out as failures in my mind.

My primary purpose as a DM or player is to ensure that an interesting and memorable story coheres out of the games. Rarely have I enjoyed a story that, somewhere in the middle of a good novel, it says "Then for no reason a random bodak appeared and all the main characters died."

I've played a few other RPG's where individual PC death is more or less impossible (for example, you can only be knocked out and unconscious, and only really die if everyone in the party is knocked out), and they are still exciting. We still fought every battle as if our lives depended on it; we still felt a sense of fear when trekking through dangerous areas. It's easy to evoke fear without an actual threat of something happening to the character. People still get excited watching Lord of the Rings over and over even though they know everyone survives at the end.
If I had been this barbarian, the next time combat got really hot, I'd step out of the way of the cleric and back of. Let the cleric deal with the big nasties. Then I'd probably find a new group to game with. The cleric obviously didn't care about his own health, or he would keep the meat shield up and running, if for no other reason than to protect his back.

Barbarian looking down a dark tunel he can hear ominous sounds coming from. "I don't hear anything here, follow me St. Vincent and we'll do a quick recon." After getting in real deep with the cleric on his heels briefly stoop down like you are looking at something written in the floor. When the cleric steps up to read the "Writting" (Remember the barbarian is illiterate). The barbarian steps behind the cleric to get out of the way and then pushes the selfish cleric into the room from which ontains the ominous sounds. Then he yells loudly, "Look out, run away" and proceeds to run back up the corrider telling the party it too dangerous and that St. Vincent is hot on you hills. He then proceeds to take a defensive stand at the entrance and lets the cleric take his beating as he justly deserves.

OK, maybe a bit overmelodramatic, but the c leric should get the point whether he goes down or not. Those front line types are pretty important.

Rofl. Well, my players "try" to roleplay on a few occasions. And the Cleric was actually BlueBooking this to me (wrote me a note saying he had the spells, as I would know, but wasn't going to heal the barbarian) so the barbarian had no clue this was going on. The group was heavily martial... out of the four playing there was a barbarian, rogue, and ranger. The Ranger naturally being the back up meat shield as he was the 2 weapon type of ranger. The Barbarian found out about this later and tried to kill the cleric until the cleric pointed out some things to the barbarian... they made ammends before killing the dark wizard. Also, the spy became pregnant and the child that was born was the vessel for a demon later on... or would have been if the game hadn't fallen apart... which sucked. Cause I had a great idea for a Dark Barbarian "boss" character that kept meddling. ::sigh:: I am planning on picking up another long term game with the release of 4E, so all of this has me pretty excited.
In the Vlad Taltos series (starting with the book Jhereg), death came easy, but so did resurrection. The idea was that raising dead was common and pretty cheap. Crime groups would punish someone by killing them and dropping them off back home. Then their family would have to pay for the raise dead.

In the books, there was a more permanent way to kill. If you're spine was cut or your brain damaged (e.g. dagger through the eyes) you couldn't be raised. Also, there were certain blades that would make you permanently dead. These were feared in the books.

I don't know if this works for Core D&D, but it would make neat flavor for a home campaign world.