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D&D 5E Do PCs at your table have script immunity?

Do player characters have script immunity at your table?

  • Yes. PCs only die if the player agrees to it.

  • Yes (mostly). PCs won't die due to bad luck, but foolish actions will kill ya.

  • No (mostly). PCs can die, even if it is just bad luck, but they have chances to reverse it.

  • No. PCs can die for any reason. I am not there to hold players' hands.

  • Other (please explain).

Results are only viewable after voting.


I was recently reading an older RPG and came to a part about "script immunity". Basically, the PCs aren't supposed to die unless it is necessary for the story being told. It got me thinking about something that has bothered me with D&D for a while now (particularly in 5E). I feel like the PCs aren't supposed to die, and I have heard how several groups now house-rule TPKs turn into captures, or the "it was all a dream" fake-out when PCs die, etc. Many DMs don't like bad luck killing off a PC unless they were doing something foolish (I've been in this position before as DM).

I know D&D is not about "winning" or "losing", but about the adventure, challenge, and story being told. However, lately I feel like a story that is already meant to be "successful" or "won" is not worth the telling. I have no interest in running a game where the players actually expect things to be ok. Where is the excitement if they believe the PCs will be ok--somehow...? Even if you have other goals where the PCs fail--it might not be heroic--but they are still there to try again.

I also understand most players don't want to invest a lot of time and energy into a PC who can die at any time. There are several reasons why it can be disruptive to the game, as well. But I have found IME that this leads to players taking chances which border on foolhardy, valiantly going forth instead of taking the time to plan, investigate, etc. a situation.

I once was part of a team developing a RPG called Mortality, because it was very lethal--combat should be avoided whenever possible. But D&D is so very combat-oriented at most tables a very lethal version wouldn't be well accepted IMO.

Anyway, these are just some thoughts and I was wondering in anyone else is experiencing similar things. Thanks for your time and any responses.

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Savage Wombat

Despite what some gamers claim, not all players want to be challenged. Sometimes they just want to tell the story of their cool character. I've sometimes felt I should try harder to make my players work for a win, but they get really tense and unhappy-looking if they think their characters might die here.

Fortunately, I reminded the sorcerer that her mind whip spell would probably protect her from AoOs, or the three tomb tappers might have been too much for them. I thought it was a nice, tense fight.


Foggy Bottom Campaign Setting Fan
I voted one, but it's not a set-in-stone choice. The player must agree to having its character definitively retired. At low level, it means script immunity against death. When raise dead becomes something the party can cast, death becomes a mild inconvenience and I start killing them off. In terms of foolish actions, they will be warned against to prevent misconception ("I jump" "Your character realizes that jumping off the flying ship will certainly be lethal, you know?" "ah, I thought we were like 10m in the air, dangerous but manageable... I don't jump, then").


Magic Wordsmith
It depends on the type of game I'm running. In my zero-to-hero swamp hexcrawl, the PCs die when the game mechanics indicate they are dead. Life is cheap in this game and the rules reflect that (though not as much as a game where death saves have a higher DC, for example). In my serial hero style pulp action Eberron game, PCs don't die - they're taken out of the scene. Incapacitated, unconscious, routed, or whatever else makes sense. They can't participate in this challenge anymore, but can in subsequent challenges. That's because it makes sense for this theme. The characters might look like they died, but wow, look at that, Indiana Jones survived that fall off the cliff after all!

Nothing needs to be all one way. I think it's best to consider what kind of adventure or campaign you're going for and adjust things accordingly.

Baron Opal II

In my games death or loss "can come at any time", but it won't be trivial or truly random. If you are trying to cross the rickety bridge across the chasm and goblins are shooting at you it might be your time. If the cleric is knifed in the night, then there was probably a reason why they died right then.


B/X Known World
If the fiction or the mechanics say your character’s dead, then your character’s dead. Period. There’s no such thing as plot armor or script immunity in my games. There are no scripts and no pre-planned plots. Whatever story there is emerges from play. If you do something dumb in the game, then your character will suffer the logical consequences of that action.
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Title? I don't need no stinkin' title.
I discuss it with my players and we go from there. I never take death off the table, but a high body count can also be detrimental to the continuity of the campaign. A TPK pretty much ends it. I don't go out of my way to save players, but I don't go out of my way to kill them either. I generally don't double tap, I'll give people clues know when they're headed into something over their head while allowing chances to escape and so on.

But 100% immunity? Nope, doesn't happen. Oh, and getting raised from the dead in my campaign world is an ordeal. It's not as simple as casting a spell.

P.S. This is pretty much how I've always handled it in every edition. D&D is as lethal as you want.


He / Him
Both running and playing, I love it when death can come from anywhere anytime. In fact, I've found that most character deaths come from random encounters!

However, when I kill a character, I always check with the player on how they want to move forward. If they want to stick with that character, we will build in an opportunity for a rescue or resurrection. Most times they are fine moving on to a new character though.

As for me, I heavily invest in my characters, building backstory, developing a voice, and working on friendships and rivalries with other PCs. But when death comes, I accept it!


Morkus from Orkus
I voted other. PCs can die to a little bad luck or bad decisions, but I won't let super duper bad luck kill them. Death is mostly permanent in my game. Raises are rare.


Victoria Rules
As revival magic is available in my game (provided your character or the party can afford it) your character is free to die whenever it likes. Some have become very good at it. :)

Death-revival cycles do have a lingering cost, however, in that (with rare exceptions usually involving Wish) you come back permanently down a point of Con.

Edit to add: not sure why this thread is tagged as 5e-specific when the question is equally applicable to all editions.


Registered Ninja
I voted for number one assuming, "die" means permadeath. They are high enough level to use resurrection magic, so characters occasionally die, but can always be brought back.

The games I've run for the last decade or two don't have a script. So there is no such thing as script immunity. So I voted other.

As for PC death, sure it happens, but it really only happens if their are multiple bad choices and/or rolls. I absolutely refuse save or die, or any other single choice/roll resulting in character death.

As a player I definitely have more fun when script immunity isn't in play. This can vary depending on the system and style of play. Generally speaking though, I like the thrill of combat with the threat of death by the dice. When I am GMing I prefer no script immunity. But I am flexible on that based on the group. If I am running for players who just aren't into it, I can adapt; I just find it much more engaging and more fitting for my GMing style to have no script immunity). We had a character death last night actually (life force drained by a giant supernatural snake).


It always seems to me the people enthusiastiac about death possibility in these discussions aren’t the people doing the dying. Or aren’t the people that spent months working on a backstory For a promised year plus campaign. The answer is never what the dm wants their Game to be like really I think, it’s what the players want, the majority wants, everyone gets a vote but the dm just has one.

I feel like TPKs or player deaths should be allowed to happen, but then the players determine what’s next. Is resurrection a possibility or not? Is the TPK the end or do you want something to follow? I get how revealing that the end may not be the end if the players/s don’t want it to be removes the scariness of death For future deaths, but again, it’s what the players want. Take some time with the death, what do we all think this should mean, what kind of game are we playing…all that. Some DMs want these to be hard rules set ahead of time cause they believe it makes things matter. I don’t think it does. Feel like every death is a discussion, what does this one mean, and how are we gonna handle it.

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