Beginning at the End: Character Death - Page 2





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  1. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Treebore
    Character death is only permanent at the lowest levels, assuming your playing with the full set of rules. Even then, it does not have to be the case. You can always come up with a reason as to how and why someone would be reincarnated or raised from the dead. Always.
    If you'd like. The rules can certainly be tweaked that way. And then you're playing, effectively, without permanent Character Death, thanks to a forgiving DM, and thus marinating in a level of greater character depth than otherwise.

    I'm not sure how common resurrection/reincarnation actually was in playing by RAW, especially in the very earliest editions. For your character to get to that level, and have that spell, and to survive the system shock/Constitution check, or to spend the requisite GP, requires already that you've had a very effective, very lucky run through a whole host of previous dungeons or wilderness areas. The barrier for that spell was quite high, and even achieving level 8 was no simple task. Resurrection, at least at first, was more a capstone reward for surviving to that high level: a way to say "I've basically won this game, nothing can kill a party I'm with!"

    And, of course, even in the very earliest editions, there's all sorts of ways to thwart resurrection, from being eaten to petrification to turning undead.

    More to the broader point of character death in multiple games, playing a game with easy resurrection isn't unlike playing a game without character death. It winds up just being one way to make characters more permanent. It's not necessarily ideal, given the in-world ramifications of easy resurrection and how that can distort a setting, but if it works, it works!

    Quote Originally Posted by Treebore
    Not only that, a number of times that I have lost my characters I actually ended up liking my new character even better. So losing a character your invested in is not necessarily a horrible outcome, it could end up being even better.
    Ah, but it's always at least a little bit painful in the moment, no? It's a loss, however you slice it. Something you try to avoid most of the time. It can be fun to lose, even positive! But that doesn't mean it's not a loss, I think. If you take a look at a game, like, say, Pandemic, it's easy to lose, but still a lot of fun to lose.
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  • #12
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    I have been dismayed at this trend you describe. I've seen it happening.

    I want player skill to be involved but sometimes that skill is just being cautious. I know lots of groups that love to bust in without a plan and without any caution. Such groups if they were in my campaign wouldn't last long. So I like a game that is about preparation. Things like buying equipment and coming up with a battle plans in different situations. I like a game that rewards such planning and punishes the lack of it.

    My players are pretty skillful so I don't see that much death. But death is always on the table. To me thats part of the game. Of course at higher levels, death is a setback and not final. I like death though to be costly in gold and/or experience.

    I haven't seen the lack of roleplaying as a result of the game being this way. My characters develop strong personalities and interact with the world in many ways. They adventure in and explore the world. To me that is the charm of D&D.

    Now all that said. Roleplaying is too broad a name. I'm hoping the name can be retained by the games that originated it. I think we need to add story game and dramatic game as additional types. Games that take into account the sensibilities of which you speak.

    Good article. Food for thought.

  • #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kamikaze Midget View Post
    I'm not sure how common resurrection/reincarnation actually was in playing by RAW, especially in the very earliest editions. For your character to get to that level, and have that spell, and to survive the system shock/Constitution check, or to spend the requisite GP, requires already that you've had a very effective, very lucky run through a whole host of previous dungeons or wilderness areas. The barrier for that spell was quite high, and even achieving level 8 was no simple task. Resurrection, at least at first, was more a capstone reward for surviving to that high level: a way to say "I've basically won this game, nothing can kill a party I'm with!"

    And, of course, even in the very earliest editions, there's all sorts of ways to thwart resurrection, from being eaten to petrification to turning undead.
    True, but wish is an answer to most of that.

    On the subject of death and how easy it is to die, I am playing in a couple of Savage Worlds games. In one, PCs cannot die unless there's a TPK, a coup-de-grace or something of that nature. In the other, death is quite easy. I like both campaigns, but IMO combat is much more exciting in the second one.

    When I run D&D its AD&D1E, so death is pretty easy - but some PCs have survived to high level without dying, and others have died and been raised or reincarnated, or wished back.. I guess that having a risk of death is my preference, on both sides of the screen.

  • #14
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    And Wish is even HARDER to get your paws on, as a player.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emerikol
    My players are pretty skillful so I don't see that much death.
    That's kind of the crux of it. You don't see much death, so you get players who are very invested in their characters. If you DID see a lot of death, you'd get players who were more interested in survival than in character development.

    It's my impression (and I could be wrong!) that it's very easy, especially in early editions, for a DM to hand down death on a very regular basis, playing by RAW. I mean, chuck an irate OD&D Cockatrice up against a party without Stone to Flesh (a fairly high-level effect), and you've got a TPK just from a random encounter. And that's just one possibility, before the invention of creatures like Ear Seekers or Cloakers or cursed items that you can't tell are cursed and that don't leave you until they kill you, or death traps, or whatever.

    Caution is all well and good, but there's a lot in the DMs arsenal that will murder no matter how cautious a party is. That's an appealing part of certain styles of play, though it's not for everyone. For those who want more character investment, it's key to have a low mortality rate, and that can be achieved in a lot of different ways (death flags, easy resurrection, cautious players and a gentle DM, 4e's "buckets of HP and then three saves and even then rituals!"). But that certainly is only one way to play.

    PS: I love the conversation this is generating.
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    That's an insightful post. Easy vs hard death has been the topic of many heated discussions on RPG forums, and what often gets lost is your point that it's a matter of personal preference for a desired game style, entirely subjective.

    Knowing what you like and why you like it is very useful in shaping a game so that you and your players enjoy it.

    I do have to differ with one point. While easy death does encourage two-dimensional characters, you can still have deep characters when death is a very real possibility. The most enjoyable games I have been in have had both. Again, though it's useful to understand the tension between deep characters and easy death so that you can understand the challenges if you want to have both.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kamikaze Midget View Post
    It's my impression (and I could be wrong!) that it's very easy, especially in early editions, for a DM to hand down death on a very regular basis, playing by RAW. I mean, chuck an irate OD&D Cockatrice up against a party without Stone to Flesh (a fairly high-level effect), and you've got a TPK just from a random encounter. And that's just one possibility, before the invention of creatures like Ear Seekers or Cloakers or cursed items that you can't tell are cursed and that don't leave you until they kill you, or death traps, or whatever.
    As a player of early editions I can tell you that it's very easy to have the lethal situations you describe. But you don't have to. I found that the real possibility of death was fun for my group, but death with no way out was not.

    For the cockatrice example, if they didn't have Stone to Flesh then there was something else they could do. Maybe a patron gave them a potion for to deal with the hazard. Maybe a local cleric could fix it for a price. Maybe they heard lore that a cockatrice was in that location, letting them avoid the encounter. Maybe they saw it first, or had a good opportunity to run away. The most commonly used one in published adventures was to have a potion in the monster's horde, but I never much cared for that one.

    In my game if they ended up irreversibly turned to stone, then they were either unlucky (which happens even in vanilla combat) or they ignored at least one, and usually several, ways to avoid it.

    In the early days (and probably still) DMs that inescapably killed PCs were called "killer DMs" and for the most part weren't highly regarded. There's a big difference between death being a real possibility and inescapable death.
    Last edited by Mishihari Lord; Friday, 12th October, 2012 at 10:07 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Emerikol View Post
    Now all that said. Roleplaying is too broad a name. I'm hoping the name can be retained by the games that originated it. I think we need to add story game and dramatic game as additional types. Games that take into account the sensibilities of which you speak.
    I agree the distinction would be useful, but unfortunately the folks who like those variations IME get upset when you tell them they're playing a storytelling game and not a "normal RPG." Also, "story games" and "story telling game" gets used both for games with a strong story content and for games in author stance, which can get confusing since they're not at all the same thing.
    "Enough screwing around. It's time to kill."

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    My point is, if the player really wants to keep playing a character that died, they can. As the DM I can make it happen, however I wish. I usually do it through high level NPC church leaders. I don't run games in a vacuum. My world is usually filled with millions of people and creatures. So there is always some way to bring a character back if that is the players wish. A in story plausible way.

    This is a game world of fantasy, so the limit is your imagination.
    It is the spirit of the game, not the letter of the rules, which is important. NEVER hold to the letter written, nor allow some barracks room lawyer to force quotations from the rule book upon you, IF it goes against the obvious intent of the game. As you hew the line with respect to conformity to major systems and uniformity of play in general, also be certain the game is mastered by you and not by your players. Within the broad parameters give in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Volumes, YOU are creator and final arbiter. By ordering things as they should be, the game as a WHOLE first, your CAMPAIGN next, and your participants thereafter, you will be playing Advanced Dungeons and Dragons as it was meant to be. May you find as much pleasure in so doing as the rest of us do.

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  • #19
    Quote Originally Posted by Emerikol View Post
    Now all that said. Roleplaying is too broad a name. I'm hoping the name can be retained by the games that originated it. I think we need to add story game and dramatic game as additional types. Games that take into account the sensibilities of which you speak.
    I think it would be odd to seek out a new name for roleplaying games that involve more *roleplaying*. If anything, I'd think the argument would be for renaming games that are combat heavy to, I don't know, strategic combat simulations or something like that.

    (That said, I think the idea of saying this is an RPG and this isn't is bound to get folks upset or one side or another, so it's probably sensible to keep with the big tent definition we have now.)
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  • #20
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    Yes, its quite a sweeping essay.

    You could spend some time on your CoC character, and (earlier) WHFRP has very interesting chardev options. And then there is GURPS or Champion/Hero, where you could spend more time making a character then playing one.

    Back to D&D. The mechanics of character death didn't really change from 1E to 3E. In some ways, 3E is deadlier. And 3E seemed to coincide with a push to let the dice fall as they may, making it potentially very deadly.

    But Treebore is right, a DM could always run a harsh game, or a more forgiving one, and all sorts in between. Largely independent of mechanics.

    But lets set aside things like complexity (tangentially related), story (somewhat related), and balance (less related then you might think).

    Lets look at 4E. 4E was designed to take out any fudging by making characters very robust. What happened? An arms race. Even in the first module, some super tough encounters that could lead to a TPK. All sorts of house rules, and eventually an official escalation of monster capabilities, especially damage.

    Gamers wanted the deadly back.

    People like to pretend to risk death. Thats why it permeates drama, and not just action-adventure. Its a core part of the RPG experience: risking death without actually dying yourself.

    You don't have that, you have just got candy-land.
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