Ethics & Ettiquette: Deceased player, living character(s)

A few weeks ago, my friend Damon, who has been playing TTRPGs since the mid-1970s, found himself with a quandary. His former girlfriend from the 1980s and 1990s. Jill, had passed on. While they were together she'd been an enthusiastic and skilful player (one of the most entertaining I've gamed with), and some of her characters had become significant NPCs in Damon's long-running D&D setting. They had parted company, but remained friends, and Jill was happy with Damon continuing to use the characters. Damon was not sure if he should continue this after her death; the Monday night group where I play with him reckoned he should. Jill was not routinely around for his games, those of us who'd seen the characters played by both parties reckoned he did a good job, and they were memories of Jill.

Then he had a more interesting question: what if he gives the setting to someone else, when he passes on? We batted that around a little, and concluded that the characters could continue to be played by people who had memories of Jill, but when living memory of her was lost, the characters should be retired.

Opinions? This may seem strange or morbid to newer players, but first-generation players are now mostly in their sixties or seventies, and we're fond of our long-running settings and characters.

log in or register to remove this ad


Guest 7034872

Tough one. Something we all run into eventually (if not in D&D), but still a tough one for sure.

First Question: From what you wrote, it looks to me like the people around the table regard her characters as sorts of testaments to her, in which case keeping them strikes me as not only good but best. Why? Well, grieving goes better the more we remember, celebrate, crack jokes about, and talk about the departed. Grieving alone in silence is the worst way of doing it, right? So I'd say the more she shows up in the games, the better.

Second Question: I think your friends have this right: so long as the people at the table remember her and play these characters accordingly, that looks to me like a kind of living monument to her, but once no one there remembers her, that should be the end. Ditto for your friend's setting.

Boy--what a reminder that I need to write up a living will.


Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Interesting question, thanks for asking it.

I think that if Jill was okay with the characters being NPCs while not there, as long as everyone at the table is okay with it I would continue. I'd push for that, but I can see how someone might think it's disrespectful, and I easily can see how someone could find it a painful reminder. But for myself, erasing her history from the world would be a travesty.

As for passing the campaign along. I've played and run in shared worlds, and I would leave the NPCs there. Again, they have earned their right to be in the world. But also as a shared-world GM I don't touch beloved NPCs from other GMs as I'm not sure I could do them justice. So they may stay, but just be legendary and not actively used.

Teo Twawki

Coffee ruminator
My own perspective is to continue on to the benefit of the living, so long as the deceased did not suggest something to the contrary. I have a unique relationship with so-called "real life" and rpgs, since I began my longterm relationship with gaming at the same point in time and space I met some whacknutjob person who I now call The Husband, and that time place was a military siege of my hometown where friends and neighbors from daily life could live or die each day. Our--my--rpg worlds are not some hobby I engage in, they are imprinted upon my survival psyche and something I psychologically feel as a basic function of who I am and what I do. Once I go back to the eternity of darkness that is after and before who I am dances in an too brief warm brightness, I'd hope that anything I left behind of moderate value would be cared and tended for, be it my house plants, my furbabies, my dozens of short stories, or my fragments of personality called player characters in some wondrous fictional world. Isn't that one reason we all love gaming? To play in life or death situations from the relatively safe distance of being both audience and author? If my character is going to die, it has to mean something. Which is not at all true in the life that happens in us and around us. Without stories we tell ourselves about ourselves (even if those selves are fictional characters who may not be at all similar to us), there often is no meaning.

The aforementioned Husband has a dear Friend that was another himself. They lived together at various points in their tens and twenties, and gamed almost daily when they did. Friend took his homecoming by his own hand, and among the many things he left in this world, were some boxes of of gaming materials. Characters, drawings, and campaign notes for an epic adaptation of Blue Öyster Cult's greater Imaginos song cycle. Friend's wife kept that for a handful of years before handing it over to The Husband. We talked about piecing it together and playing it, because The Husband thought that's what Friend probably wanted, and we've dipped into the campaign a few times here and there to play this scenario or add that scene to whatever we were currently playing. But the chemistry isn't there to run it. Friend isn't there and, more than the blank spaces he left on the proverbial campaign map, the interplay of The Husband and his Friend isn't there to fully create the intended fictional universe. So the full campaign will probably never be played, but Friend's presence is never absent when we game. From an NPC that was his or an outrageously unexpected decision made because that's what he woulda done to some subtle vivisection of game or setting that shouldn't work, but does.

As we all have probably heard in some form or fashion, some cultures hold the belief that if someone's life is relived in stories they tell, that person is never fully gone. I like to focus on tiny remaining life that struggles against the encroaching darkness forever. Amen.

Eh. That might have been too deep even for the topic of death of a loved one and fellow gamer. Trick of the light and too much caffeine.

Or maybe not enough.

Seeding the night at the inker's parlor
Flash permabrand, pricked for a dollar
Her wrist, surreal; a heart and flying skull
Lettered: "Life and love pass swiftly"

—"Tattoo Vampire"
Albert Bouchard & Helen Wheels Robbins

Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition Starter Box

An Advertisement