Death losing it's teeth?

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Has anyone out there implimented any house rules for penalies for being rez'd?

Just curious to see what peoples thought were on the subject. Just seems like with every edition of D&D, the penalties for dieing and being brought back are being reduced to the point where there is almost nothing to fear from death.

Now, this is assuming the players have access to be able to rez (through whatever means), but the penalty nowadays is what, -1 or 2 to all your attack and skill rolls for 6 encounters (3 milestones)?

Before it was level loss and way back when , it was a system shock roll and potenial CON loss.

I just hate to see the threat of death lose it's teeth, so I'm curious to see what other players and DMs thoughts on the subject are and if anyone has done anything to add a penalty or punishment for being dieing and being rez'd.
"We don't stop playing because we grow old...we grow old because we stop playing" George Bernard Shaw "That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger" Friedrich Nietzsche "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 My Gaming Sites World of Shantryl, a high fantasy homebrew world Darksun, the Lands of Athas
I don't allow Ressurections in my games. It solves the whole thing.
I don't allow Ressurections in my games. It solves the whole thing.

+1. That's the penalty for dying: you're dead.
+1. That's the penalty for dying: you're dead.

Death shouldn't have teeth. Dying isn't fun, so PC's shouldn't suffer from death.

Right?
Death shouldn't have teeth. Dying isn't fun, so PC's shouldn't suffer from death.

Right?

We enjoy death as part of a characters life/story/development, and give the character the sendoff they deserve. After the funeral arrangements(if any depending on the PCs) we work to integrate the new PC as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

We find death to be quite fun, some of my favourite D&D moments involve character deaths(both mine and others).

No suffering involved.
In past games, I have done some of the following:
  • No resurrection / raise dead at all.
  • Fort save to survive the process (similar to old system shock in 1e)
  • Lose 2 points of Con permanently.
  • Perform a quest in service to the deity granting the raise.
Here are the PHB essentia, in my opinion:
  • Three Basic Rules (p 11)
  • Power Types and Usage (p 54)
  • Skills (p178-179)
  • Feats (p 192)
  • Rest and Recovery (p 263)
  • All of Chapter 9 [Combat] (p 264-295)
A player needs to read the sections for building his or her character -- race, class, powers, feats, equipment, etc. But those are PC-specific. The above list is for everyone, regardless of the race or class or build or concept they are playing.
I feel it's the DM's job to alter and modify things as the game plays to make certain the PC's don't die. Unless it's something that's agreed upon ahead of time with the players (or they are spectacularly foolish - then you can kill them with impunity).

I also hate the idea that a Ress spell can cancel out terrible losses. Many of my stories center around using NPC's as fodder to involve characters. When you attempt to do that with a level 12+ character... the invariable response is not to chase after the culprit, but instead to get a Ress Dead ritual cast as soon as possible.
I'm of the "Death bites, so we try to avoid it" camp. Our group has found that sitting out of a fight or a session after being knocked unconscious plenty of reason to avoid getting to that state. Not to say that I won't kill off a character, just that I prefer not to.
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What I find most frustrating about 4E is that I can see it includes the D&D game I've always wanted to play, but the game is so lathered in tatical combat rules that I have thus far been unable to coax the game I want out.
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I don't penalize my PCs for things that aren't their own fault. No resurrection penalties.
While death might not be fun its a fact of life. If a character can just comeback after any encounter then the point of surviving becomes futile. Sure it cost an exuberant amount to come back and you get a couple of penalties, but if you can come back then why can’t your enemies do the same. I don’t think that death for the PC’s should be cut and dry, it should depend on the death. One of my PC’s died after a horrible session of rolling, I let him be unconscious not dead; however when the paly died because he wanted to be cocky and flick the bugbear to death because he thought he was invincible (two completely different games) I let him bite the dust.
I don't allow Ressurections in my games. It solves the whole thing.

and that is a bull- solution.

why NOT let your PCs come back from the dead? this is Fantasy, not real life. Death works differently here.

the penalty is weaker than it used to be, true, but it isn't negligable.

While death might not be fun its a fact of life. If a character can just comeback after any encounter then the point of surviving becomes futile. Sure it cost an exuberant amount to come back and you get a couple of penalties, but if you can come back then why can’t your enemies do the same.

This is Dungeons & Dragons, not Luncheons & Laptops.
Ahh, so THIS is where I can add a sig. Remember: Killing an ancient God inside of a pyramid IS a Special Occasion, and thus, ladies should be dipping into their Special Occasions underwear drawer.
Now, this is assuming the players have access to be able to rez (through whatever means), but the penalty nowadays is what, -1 or 2 to all your attack and skill rolls for 6 encounters (3 milestones)?

Nit pick, 3 milestones is not the same as 6 encounters. A milestone comes from 2 consecutive encounters, not 2 encounters. So if your group decides they want to rest, that last encounter did not help you any at all towards getting rid of your penalty.

Biggest penalty I usually give is standard loot, possibly with a "I get to roll your low level item which you can keep or sell for 1/2 value" clause. Generally I give slightly above average loot, and usually try to make sure it is marginally useful or if not at least cool.

It always seemed to me that the magic worked well enough to bring them back so they should be at full. If the mage was really crappy or something, then I could see being at a penalty, but not for something as minor as "I want to disrupt the plot, and go through introducing a new character for some bizzare reason known only to me, the DM".

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Put too large a penalty on raising dead, and your players will just make new characters. If your players know that PC death is final (or bringing someone back is too costly compared to making new ones) they'll have less attachment to their characters. The misconception is that death in a game had any teeth at all in the beginning. Unless you're kicking a player out after his character dies, the player is still going to keep playing in the game somehow.

In the end, D&D is just a game. PCs will "respawn" whether you allow generous raise dead, or just have the player roll up a new "dwarf fighter mark II".
Death shouldn't have teeth. Dying isn't fun, so PC's shouldn't suffer from death.

Not exactly. Extended penalties for dying aren't fun, particularly when they make it more likely that you'll die again in the future.

I have very little experience with D&D before 2000, but at least in 3.x, death was a heck of a slippery slope. Dead characters came back with worse saves, worse attacks, and worse HP than they had before they died--but the encounters didn't get any easier. If you died again, you were at least 2 levels behind the rest of the party, making it even more likely that you'd die yet again.

I've seen this happen multiple times, and it happened to me in one game. Believe me, it's no fun to adventure two or three levels behind the rest of the party.

I just hate to see the threat of death lose it's teeth, so I'm curious to see what other players and DMs thoughts on the subject are and if anyone has done anything to add a penalty or punishment for being dieing and being rez'd.

I've also used the "no rez" rule, primarily because most campaign worlds don't satisfactorily account for its effects on things like political killings, disease, etc. I actually call this Final Fantasy Tactics Syndrome; in the Playstation game, a major plot point requires the dramatic on-screen death of one character's relative, regardless of how many ways the player's party has to resurrect her.

What I like better, though--because occasionally PCs die in ways that aren't fair and aren't their fault--is attaching serious RP consequences to death. Maybe the party has to go retrieve the dead character's soul, maybe the resurrected character and his friends owe a serious favor to the god or angel that permits the rez, or maybe both.

The only trick when you penalize resurrection harder is that you don't overprioritize bring in a new character. Some people don't mind the chance to play a new character, but some get really attached, and I've found it's pretty easy to generate friction between the two camps if you penalize one more than the other.
I've taken the Raise Dead ritual out of my campaign and death is permanent in my setting. However, I allow my characters to make a relatively low Heal check (easy to moderate level based DC) to resuscitate fallen characters within 5 rounds of them being killed. So, if they're knocked to their bloodied value below 0 or if they fail all of their death saving throws, they have 5 rounds to be revived before they're dead permanently. The Gentle Repose ritual can be used to halt the count (the countdown stops as soon as the ritual begins), and low Heal checks can be used from round to round to also halt the countdown.

Is it perfect? No, not at all, but it works well for my group.
and that is a bull- solution.

why NOT let your PCs come back from the dead? this is Fantasy, not real life. Death works differently here.

It should be possible, but very, very rare. Death needs to have meaning in order for the rewards to have meaning. With death not occurring or just being a speed bump, there's no point to fighting at all.

the penalty is weaker than it used to be, true, but it isn't negligable.

Yes it is. A -1 for a few fights is ::yawn::
I don't believe death should carry an inherent mechanical penalty because it's already taxing the party resources on raising the dead PC, and this investment is even less worthwhile since encounters will be more difficult with a handicapped PC.
A -1 to all d20 rolls is the equivalent of the loss of one or two levels in 4e. The penalty lasts for at least 6 encounters, and if the DM is following the 10 encounters = 1 level, then the penalty is basically lasting for at least 60% of a level.
Put too large a penalty on raising dead, and your players will just make new characters. If your players know that PC death is final (or bringing someone back is too costly compared to making new ones) they'll have less attachment to their characters.

I've found the opposite to be true. Without permanent death, the game and characters have no meaning. With true death, the attachment to a character with meaning grows.

The misconception is that death in a game had any teeth at all in the beginning. Unless you're kicking a player out after his character dies, the player is still going to keep playing in the game somehow.

But not with his beloved character. He'll make a new one, but it won't be the same, or as good. Most groups I've played with start new characters out a few levels lower than the party.

In the end, D&D is just a game. PCs will "respawn" whether you allow generous raise dead, or just have the player roll up a new "dwarf fighter mark II".

Er, no. Re-spawning means the same character. A new character is NOT a re-spawn, and if the player actually roleplays, the new character will be completely different.
When a PC dies, I ask the player OOG if he wants his character back. Many times I've heard "Nah, I'll just roll up a new guy at the current level." When they do want them back, I make sure they know what the penalties are for a resurrection. Personally, I like character death not having the teeth it used to. I don't like feeling like I'm punishing a player for having made a character that they're having a lot of fun with.
While death might not be fun its a fact of life.

Taxes are (currently) also a "fact of life." I don't play D&D to teach my players about the "facts of life." I play it to have fun. If one of my players loses a favored character, then who am I to disallow resurrection based on some notion that since death is unavoidable in real life, then it must carry a huge penalty in D&D? I'd rather he have fun.
Sure it cost an exuberant amount to come back and you get a couple of penalties, but if you can come back then why can’t your enemies do the same.

Resurrection is a plot device. Enemies can come back to life if the DM sees fit.
I'm in the camp of death seems pointless. I can't see any hero making a noble sacrifice for a cause. If he'll be back on his feet in a couple hours.

In one of our recent adventures, we came to a village where someone had been killed accidently by their "clerics". Evidently the town had gathered enough materials to pay the "clerics" to raise him. (We killed the clerics before they had the chance though... We're not evil, just prone to miscommunication)

Later on, we killed a hunting party (again miscommunication). And since we don't have rituals ourselves (or at least the fighter and rogue, aren't letting on they can), we burn bodies. We were chastised in the next town for not bringing the bodies back to be raised.

So as far as I can see, unless your a few miles deep in enemy territory. Mortality is not something you should fear. Death penalty could be a standard form of punishment, since we can raise them if we think the punishment was too harsh. I find it harder for my character to care about danger, if it only puts me out of commission for a couple hours.
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I'm in the camp of death seems pointless. I can't see any hero making a noble sacrifice for a cause. If he'll be back on his feet in a couple hours.

Yep. You can't be the hero who risks his life running into a burning building to save the kids if someone is just standing around to raise you if you die. All you get to be is some guy who risked nothing to save some kids. That's not being a hero.
I'm in the "it depends on what the players feel is the most fun" camp. Ressurection is in the game for a reason, and I see no good reason to take it out. If they want a rez, they can wait for the party to rez them. If they dont, they can roll up a new character.
I treat raises/ressurections as follows.

When you die and are brought back to life you leave behind some of what is 'you' in the other-realm. This piece of 'you' is really like spiritual flotsam, but in the wrong hands it can give the entity that finds it control/leverage over you in unforseen ways.

The more powerful and renown a person was in life, the more noticable their essence strands are in the other-realm.

This is one reason great leaders are not ressed.For players it is a potential chracter hook down the line. Especially when they become more powerful.
I don't allow Ressurections in my games. It solves the whole thing.

+2. Yeah, it really is not required. We've had two PC deaths so far and both had to make new characters. It sucks, but nothing can replace a fear of death like, well, permanent death.

That said, I actually like the way the new ritual works. -1 for 3 milestones is actually a fairly significant penalty. That can be 2-3 entire game sessions, and it serves as a constant reminder of the parties’ failure, while not causing permanent suffering. It lasts just long enough for the DM to get chuckles out of reminding the player of the penalty, but not so long that his character falls behind or the joke gets old. And the cost is only insignificant towards the end of each tier. It is a far better system than level loss or con penalties as those merely set your character far behind the rest of your party when the real blame for your death probably falls on everyone.
You can make bigger ramifications without resorting to level or constitution loss if you want. A "death is the finite end to life" scenario means cutting out resurrects altogether, making it so that death has the ultimate teeth (nothing's more painful than losing a character that you've invested a lot of story and personality into).

If you want it to have bigger ramifications, while making a return more possible, you can increase perhaps the requirements for it. In my setting, you have to sacrifice someone to bring someone back to life (you aren't raising the dead so much as transferring life force from one body to another). At paragon and epic level, the cost of life increases just as the component cost increases (10 people must die to bring back a paragon character, 100 people must die to bring back an epic character). Through this, the consequences of resurrection can be HUGE (does your party have the stones to effectively annihilate a small village solely to bring you back from the dead?).

Mechanical penalties associated with death only give the player more reason to cease playing that character, and there's no reason for that. There are ways to create an aftershock from character death that don't necessarily involve penalties, and there's no real logical reason (other than "this is how I feel magic should work") that these penalties necessarily have to exist. Roleplay it, folks!
I don't allow Ressurections in my games. It solves the whole thing.

-1. If players can roll up new characters, then a no-rez policy is about as meaningful as the Profession skill.
Bah. If players can roll up new characters, then a no-rez policy is about as useful as the Profession skill.

Losing a character you have invested with time and emotion is a heavy cost of death. That you can bring in a different character doesn't remove either of those costs.
Interesting discussion.

I find taking resurrection out entirely too strong medicine, and stiff death penalties are no good either. Not only is the player miserable because they're so far behind, but I'm miserable because I have to do even more work trying to write encounters that will challenge the party but not necessarily decimate them, since I now also have to consider the handicapped player's penalties, and balance accordingly.

Of course, light penalties simply make death a non-issue.

My solution thus far is that in the Jon-gotten Realms is to make resurrection magic a reality, but a very scarce one. To raise a player, the party will have to do some serious thinking and role playing.
Death shouldn't have teeth. Dying isn't fun, so PC's shouldn't suffer from death.

Without the threat of deadliness or suffering a major loss, the combat loses any intensity it once had. If I don't care about my character, the game gets boring. If my character can't die, I wouldn't even bother with marking damage.

My players have to reroll, usually. Once or twice in the past I've made the resurrection mandate such a long, arduous quest that it became a story arc in itself. They are told about this at the beginning of my campaigns, if they didn't already know.
Wow, tons of replies!! Thanks for all the feedback guys. I think, in reading these replies, the "death penalty" (the -1 for 3 milestones) actually may be a little more telling then it appears at first, but even more so, I will just not have the rez ritual be a very common item in my game. Maybe at least not until level 15 or so (maybe not at all to me, death has to have teeth).

Also, Fenris_Lathiin, thats a neat little rule you have there. Maybe I'll try something similar in mine. Not sure about the # of rounds, but it's be basically the equivilent of performing CPR and reviving them.

Also, Polyhedral, I like your idea of the "piece of you left behind". That's kinda neat, makes some sort of "fantasy sense" and provides for potentail adventure hooks.

Thanks again all, some excellent feedback there!
"We don't stop playing because we grow old...we grow old because we stop playing" George Bernard Shaw "That which does not kill us, only makes us stronger" Friedrich Nietzsche "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 My Gaming Sites World of Shantryl, a high fantasy homebrew world Darksun, the Lands of Athas
I've struggled with resurrection from a story point of view for some time, while appreciating that players get very attached to characters, especially after months of play. My approach was to always portray resurrection as very powerful, almost forbidden magic, and not something to be undertaken lightly. Acquiring a resurrection required first finding a priest powerful enough to perform the spell, and then convincing him to cast it (which could involve favors that could be used as future plot hooks), in addition to the substantial monetary investment required. This has worked fairly well, and players in my games treat death with respect, not as a temporary status condition.

On the other hand, I have traditionally DM'ed groups that refused to bite the cleric bullet, and thus did I rarely preside over games that featured PC's able to raise the dead (unless you mean as skeletons and zombies). I have had a number of druids in my games, though, and who can resist the fun of a reincarnate spell?

In my 4th edition game, death has been taken very seriously, especially since the group has no cleric, they are nowhere near a temple with priests high enough in level to perform the Raise Dead ritual, and they couldn't afford it even if they were. We've already had one party death, and the players quickly arranged a solemn funeral, not a trip to the nearest cleric. I like this trend. Hopefully, by the time they can afford a trip to the cleric, they'll still treat death with the same respect.
I treat raises/ressurections as follows.

When you die and are brought back to life you leave behind some of what is 'you' in the other-realm. This piece of 'you' is really like spiritual flotsam, but in the wrong hands it can give the entity that finds it control/leverage over you in unforseen ways.

The more powerful and renown a person was in life, the more noticable their essence strands are in the other-realm.

This is one reason great leaders are not ressed.For players it is a potential chracter hook down the line. Especially when they become more powerful.

I actually like this a lot.
Without the threat of deadliness or suffering a major loss, the combat loses any intensity it once had. If I don't care about my character, the game gets boring. If my character can't die, I wouldn't even bother with marking damage.

I take it you're not a fan of action movies then.
My solution thus far is that in the Jon-gotten Realms is to make resurrection magic a reality, but a very scarce one. To raise a player, the party will have to do some serious thinking and role playing.

This is my position as well. Raises are possible, but rare.
Now, this is assuming the players have access to be able to rez (through whatever means), but the penalty nowadays is what, -1 or 2 to all your attack and skill rolls for 6 encounters (3 milestones)?

Before it was level loss and way back when , it was a system shock roll and potenial CON loss.

And thankfully it is not anymore. Dying is a pretty big penalty in and of itself. It shouldn't have lasting, "gotcha" type effects.
I understand the people that like to include Resurrections into their games. It all comes down to how you run your game.

Personally, my games are very gritty. I recently put the PC's in a position where Knights from a Neighboring Kingdom invaded their castle while they were away. The Knights simply charged and started cutting down everything in their path (PC's live in a no-man's land, so to the 'cultured' knights they're no better than animals and don't have any form of rights). The Knights believed themselves on a crusade to rescue a lost Duchess. The PC's arrive just in time to charge through their castle and find the last few knights still fighting and kill them. Three Knights survive, wounded. Now comes the fun part, the PC's need to choose; Do they help the Knights to better their relations with the nearby Military Kingdom but lose their followers, or give their remaining followers the blood they want by executing the Knights but chance the Kingdom coming down on them for it. There is no good choice, only 2 bad ones.

Now, this situation has a ton of bite to it. The PC's lost friends, NPC's that I had crafted and worked into their campaign for months. If I allowed resurrections, then the temples they had already done amazing things for could be summoned. Some/most of the dead could be raised - at least a few. The Knights could be forced to pay for it. Where is the moral struggle? Where is the anger and hate, that I want to inflict on the characters - to fuel the future of this storyline?

If you play your game like episodes, then resurrection is foolproof. I run mine like a story. The PC's determine the direction and paths, but if they could bring anyone back from the dead - even for huge cost and loss - it would destroy much of the climate of the game.
Losing a character you have invested with time and emotion is a heavy cost of death. That you can bring in a different character doesn't remove either of those costs.

What you're failing to understand is that if death is permanent, I won't invest any emotion in my character. Time isn't an investment either, play with this character, play with that character; I'm playing with some character.

I've played 1e for decades, I don't even bother referring to my character by name or talking in character until I have at least 20 hit points and I primarily play Magic Users. In one case, due to a low Con, I kept expecting death with every single encounter right up until he finally died in a fight with hill giants in the very first round of combat after more than a year of playing the character. Two hits by thrown rocks and I was instantly killed.

Total emotional investment zero: I pulled my replacement character sheet out of my notebook and announced "I don't want to be raised. I'm getting a soda, let me know when they meet my new Magic-User" Said Magic User also didn't have a personality or roleplaying voice for another nine months, when he finally got enough hit points to be nearly certain of surviving the first round of our combats.

It's very common in our gaming group to act like this due to the incredibly over serious way 1e treats death. One player even made a joke about it by having a succession of ever younger Clerics "Biff, son of Jeff, son of Greg." after having his first two cleric characters die in two months of biweekly sessions. On the same side of the coin it was annoying as hell when I missed one session in a three year campaign and the DM used that as an excuse to kill my character with poison as a plot hook, making me lose a point of Con and requiring a System Shock roll before he let me get raised.
There are two possibilities:

1) Don't allow ressurections.

2) Do some temporary, marginal penalty.

Those are really the options. Anything in-between is bad, because they lead to highly unfun death spirals and make your character worse than the rest of the party unnecessarily, and make the game less fun for everyone because you end up being a load on the rest of them.
What you're failing to understand is that if death is permanent, I won't invest any emotion in my character. Time isn't an investment either, play with this character, play with that character; I'm playing with some character.

Not really. That is you and how YOU do it. I've played with dozens of people who feel the same way I do about death and we still invest in our guys.

I've played 1e for decades, I don't even bother referring to my character by name or talking in character until I have at least 20 hit points and I primarily play Magic Users. In one case, due to a low Con, I kept expecting death with every single encounter right up until he finally died in a fight with hill giants in the very first round of combat after more than a year of playing the character. Two hits by thrown rocks and I was instantly killed.

Total emotional investment zero: I pulled my replacement character sheet out of my notebook and announced "I don't want to be raised. I'm getting a soda, let me know when they meet my new Magic-User" Said Magic User also didn't have a personality or roleplaying voice for another nine months, when he finally got enough hit points to be nearly certain of surviving the first round of our combats.

I tend to play in groups that roleplay, so the experiences are different. I'm not saying your way is wrong, just different. When people roleplay, they tend to get into their characters.