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D&D 4E How have PCs died in your 4e games?


I hear a lot about how 4e characters are so hard to kill. Aside from the mishaps like the TPK of Irontooth et al, the attitude seems to be you can't kill 'em.

This month I saw two PCs die. One of which I, the DM, just killed. The first PC I ever killed, too.

The first fatality was an 8th level barbarian who took several CDGes by gricks. That barbarian was hard to kill, but he finally ate it.

The second, however... a 2nd level Warlord was butchered. An Elite attacked him, brought him down to 2 HP, then popped an AP and used another attack. And did 24 points of damage. He did not pass go, did not make death saves, just went straight to death.

How about you?

P.S. Amusingly the SAME PLAYER played both characters in different campaigns. He's very amused that he's lost two characters in the last month.

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First Post
After playing in and running a number of brutally lethal 3E campaigns (in 10 levels of play of Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, I had 18 PC deaths) I have yet to witness a single 4E PC death.

The closest I've seen was when my character was blind, invisible, flying randomly (save ends all), at -6 HP, and suffering ongoing 15 damage (save ends) He had about 100 hp max, so it was a real race between the ongoing damage and the death saves to kill him, and no-one knew where he was to aid him. Still, he didn't die.

Other than that, 4E PCs just don't seem to actually quite die in my experience. The deep negative hp well, the advice to DMs not to attack downed PCS, and the (somewhat unfortunate and metagamey) death save management of the party means that its just too easy for another PC to stand up a fallen comrade.

I'm actually curious to see what else people have seen, because I want to know what it takes to kill a PC.



First Post
In our current game:

Invoker repeatedly blasted by area attacks and aura attacks dies. The leader is repeatedly dazed, stunned or dominated, so intervention couldn't come in time (one other character had a healing power, but forgot about it :( ).

One PC caught alone was killed. Then, since we were down a man, our attempt to avenge him didn't go so smoothly. So our cleric died too, because a Night Hag kept him knocked out.

In previous games:

A rogue at low HP was dropped by an attack, and then took lethal falling damage from the attached Push.

And our (different) rogue was repeatedly stunned by a grell while we fought the boss beholder eye of flame. I prioritized healing the archer instead of her, since everything in the encounter flew.

Having leader powers disabled by conditions seems to be a recurring thread in our PC deaths, especially in the higher level game.


First Post
I've killed five players. One in Pyramid of Shadows, two in a low level Eberron campaign and one in a paragon tier solo fight. Most of these to being down already and some creature getting a critical on a limited damage expression burst power. Though the one in pyramid of shadows was in the fleshy "acid" room if you know the one. The PC was killed by one of the monsters in there, then the others finished off that monster. He was then unceremoniously stuffed into the wound in the wall to stop the trap and they ran off while they had the chance.


In my last in-person campaign my third-level wizard (poor Zod) was killed by slimes. Our party had just finished a battle (the first of the day) against what we knew was the big boss of the area, a cave troll (who was in a lake, no less!). We expended most of our dailies, but still had lots of surges left so pressed on a little farther.

We encountered a room full of a wide variety of slimes, including about 15 minions and some bigger ones that could engulf. The minions had the annoying ability to slide the target of their attack a couple of squares on a hit. They soon slid our Warden to the opposite side of the chamber by herself and then brought my Wizard over for good measure. Zod was knocked unconscious, then coup de graced by one of the big slimes, and that was all she wrote. The rest of the party made it out only thanks to our ranger rolling a 20 on a death save, followed by some more good luck.

We wrapped up the campaign after that to kick off a new one. It was just an encounter that got out of hand before we knew what hit us, and retreat became very, very difficult due to the sliding power of the minions. Oops.


Over 50 characters dead since the start of 4e. I've got a list of all of the casualties (race / class / cause of death), but not on hand at the moment.

I'm hardly a "killer DM". All dice are rolled in the open, so no fudging. No encounters higher than level + 4 (and most are level + 1 or 2). Players are all 10+ year veterans. Very few encounters designed to specifically challenge the party's strengths. However, raise dead is rarely if ever available, and there are no magic item shops. Nor can the PCs craft any magic items other than the basic "plussed" items with no special abilities.

Here are some recent deaths, as a representative sample:

Dwarf runepriest ate a forbidden fruit in the Undertemple of the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (...you'll know what I mean if you've read the module). Rather than requiring a 1e System Shock Survival roll, I treated it as rolling on the remove affliction table vs a 15th level effect, using the PC's Endurance skill. Dwarf had +14 Endurance (so rolled on the table at net -1 modifier). Rolled a natural 1. Instant Death.

Eladrin fighter got caught in the death blast of two oblivion wraiths [Open Grave]... with no surges left. Negative Bloodied.

Eladrin fighter (yeah, same one) on bloodied value, mobbed by minions. Cleric "forgot" to heal him, despite a mind flayer in the vicinity. Mind flayer tagged him once, action-pointed, and then tagged him attack with bore into brain. Instant Death.

Human bard got on the wrong side of a giant crayfish [Village of Hommlet DM reward], with just-over-bloodied-hp. Crayfish hit him twice in the same round, with one hit being a crit. Negative Bloodied.

1st level human ranger on max hp steps into a cellar. Three poisonscale slitherer lizardfolk [MM2] lurk in the shadows. They win initiative and throw three javelins, two at the ranger and one at the PC behind him. Both javelins hit the ranger, and both poison attacks also hit. No crits, but 6d6+12 damage... Negative Bloodied.

PC is slowly reduced in hp by [creatures] and eventually collapses unconscious. The [leader] (if there is one in the group) has used his minor action healing spells. Other PCs are fighting for their lives, and ask the player if he needs urgent help. He says "no worries; I've got no death boxes yet". He also knows if they take a round to trigger his Second Wind, he may just get ganked again as soon as he gets up. 1-2 rounds later, he fails a death save. He begins to grow slightly concerned, but another PC is also on the ground now, and the survivors are now fighting at least 8 squares away (or behind enemies, or in difficult terrain). Another 1-2 rounds pass, and he fails another death save. Suddenly, everyone knows they have to stabilize him. Half of the party is too far away or in no condition to try. One of the PCs won't do it (perhaps because the player is "roleplaying" / being a jerk). Which leaves one guy who runs over to the body, takes at least one opportunity attack, and then fails their Heal check (untrained). Approximately a third of all our PC deaths occur this way... with another third being a TPK variation on the above (i.e. one PC dies in this fashion, and then the rest quickly follow).

Good times, good times.


Hmm.. some 4e deaths that I have seen (and I've seen a lot, several of them my own PCs)

Massive damage when already low on hp (thus resulting in negative bloodied value after getting critted).

Falling off an airship (which could be the same as massive damage upon impact)

Being stuck in eaten in the gullet of something that continued to deal damage as it had the victim grabbed (i.e. digesting). The PC went unconcious but the ongoing damage to whose who were in it just eventually wore them down to negative bloodied (ongoing damage on unconcious PCs is especially deadly at heroic teir that way)

failing three death saves before an ally can get to you (blocked on the other side of the room, or busy being chased by their own problem, etc).

a lurker grabbing a PC and dragging him away and unconcious, none of the other PCs really were able to react in time or able to find the unconcious PC after he was gone, thus, basically eaten/damage below negative bloodied value

A PC walking off with a bunch of hostile enemies thinking, he would talk his way out of it. But once they got him alone, they just surrounded and beat him to death.

several have been repeats of the above.. and i'm sure i'm forgetting some of the others.

but the moral of the story: once you get separated from the other PCs (be it physically, or they just get too occupied to move to you, etc), you're mortality rate goes up exponentially.

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
The game I played in from 1-21 no players died (though two were petrified by basilisks).

The game I've run from 1-14, there have been 6 PC deaths, though once the group got to its current configuration (Warden, Cleric, Assassin, Barbarian) there haven't been any deaths for half the campaign (though there was a petrification last session).


First Post
I haven't seen very many deaths, but I don't like to kill PC's, and in our group, even in previous editions, death toll has been pretty low.

1. Level 1 Paladin dies to getting caught in a hobgoblin war mage's blast, after he went unconscious. My first 4e kill.

2. Level 3 rogue charges first into the room to attack a solo ice demon, while he has 1 remaining surge and is barely above bloodied. Ice demon tears him up, cleric's healing is at half effectiveness due to a magic blood pool, she chooses to spend a turn neutralizing that, ice demon uses a cold blast catching a number of people including the unconscious rogue, dead rogue.

3. Level 6 Wizard after failing two death saves runs into melee with a Manticore. Manticore takes him down, his turn comes immediately after, before anyone can even attempt to stabilize him, he fails third death save and dies.

4. Level 7 Battlerager Fighter keeps a black dragon and an ettin busy while the rest of the party runs away.


First Post
While 4E has without a doubt made characters tougher than ever out of the gate I think the mortality rates are still determined largely by the same factors that they always were: the players; the DM; the style of the game.

I'm playing in two games driven by story - one at 9th level and the other at 7th - and neither of them have seen a single PC death. There have been a couple of close calls but the DMs usually ease off to keep things rolling.

The third game, however, has a more old school feel to it. The DM of this game, currently at 4th-5th level, builds difficult encounters and for the most part has the enemies use their abilities effectively, but pulls punches on occasion. From memory there have been about half-a-dozen PC deaths in that campaign - two of them mine - and a number of close calls. Even though the combats in this campaign are often difficult I'd still say most of the deaths were avoidable and the majority came down to the players making poor choices or taking too long to realise a fight was too difficult for the party.

This last point is one subtle way that I feel 4E can be more deadly than previous editions in and of itself. Because just about everything has buckets of hit points and both players and enemies tend to hit more often than not it can take the players too long to realise that their PCs are outmatched - at which point the PCs either go all in and start spamming dailies or attempt to withdraw.


First Post
I had a foolish human wizard wander off in KoTSF, and get ganked, from 2 criticals!, by a halfling and his triple sling-stone ability. Humiliation!

Same character, post resurrection, got cleaved in half by one of his companions after stealing some party treasure. That led to an all in party brawl.

3 out of 7 players survived. That was fun.


First Post
I see that I didn't quite answer the original question so here is an addendum to my last post.

For the game that has seen a few deaths here are the details:

1. At level 1, the rogue made a stealth check blunder and was quickly mauled by a pack of undead.

2. At level 2, while fighting a young black dragon, the paladin (my character) and bard fought valiantly in melee with ranged assistance from the wizard while the ranger ran around like a headless chicken after picking up a piece of loot from the dragon's meagre hoard. When the party began repositioning to withdraw the dragon responded by blocking the exit: the paladin and bard were unable to get out but the ranger and wizard made a run for it. The ranger was melting from ongoing acid damage and didn't make it far before starting a new career as a puddle, which left the wizard as the sole escapee to tell the tale. Frustratingly we found out after the battle that we had the dragon down to 30 something hit points - we likely would have been victorious if the ranger hadn't gone insane.

3. At level 3, while fighting a mixed group of gnolls (I think) that we had separated into two groups, the warlock (my character) was holding off some sort of witch doctor and a couple of his cronies on one front while the warden and barbarian tried to clear out a couple of gnolls on the other side before coming to the aid of my warlock. We were caught a little off guard as there were more gnolls than we had thought at first, but my warlock made a good show of it and probably would have pulled through if he could have held out another round. Having only three players for that session and a composition of one defender and two strikers made for tough going.

The other death happened in a session that I missed.

We actively try to kill our characters. Then again, we want to try other characters and roles instead of being the same thing for 20 levels. It's a fantasy game, being "attached" to a toon and having it die should not lead to depression or anger.

Pro Wrestling and DnD are scripted. It's entertainment.

Bodies have been battered, necks have been broken, careers ended in an instant. Please, don't try this at home.


First Post
PC durability is one of my favorite things about 4E. It gives you a chance to determine the style of how you want to play. If a DM is willing to pull punches and only punish outright stupidity, death can be fairly rare. If the group wants to go old school however, there's plenty of ways to make a party feel the pain. We like things a little more old school, so I DM with the gloves off, and we see PC death on a fairly regular basis, usually every two to four gaming session.

The most common cause is the fact that we have 8 PCs, that leaves me a lot of monsters to focus fire on a squishy when I get the chance. Not to many PCs can survive for long when 8 bad guys are taking turns pounding on them.

Poor tactics is another frequent cause. We're thinking of renaming "Come and Get It" to "the Tank Dies Again," because our great weapon fighter sometimes gets a little overzealous in how much fight he wants to pick, and a number of PCs hate a particular gnome wizard who gets a little too happy with his area of effect dailies.

As a DM, the simple fact that I'm willing to be mean every once and a while increases the game's lethality. The occasional coup de grace on an unconscious PC has ensured my players never leave someone on the ground making death saves, and clever use of terrain to split the party has allowed me to separate the party and then gank a PC out of reach of the others.

Last, the simple fact that we strictly enforce the only three death saves a day rule, and that I don't allow a five minute adventuring day ensures that any end of the day encounter will always feel pretty dangerous to at least one PC. This one's important, I honestly don't see how more PCs don't die from this rule in other people's games. It's claimed a lot of PCs in mine.

All in all though, I think 4E got it about right. Single PC death can be fairly easy to achieve, but a TPK usually only happens due to poor encounter design, horrible luck, or poor PC tactics. We only came close once, and the group was able to survive by stuffing bodies in a haversack and fleeing as the defenders held a choke point. That fight definitely had an old school feel to it.


First Post
The only PC death I've been around was based solely on storyline. The DM had a couple years pass in between a couple of our sessions and as the beginning of a new story-arc started the session off with a message being delivered to our characters telling them that our cleric had been killed. (It was his PC, so there were no hard feelings with any of the players). I've never actually seen a death in combat before, though we've come close enough to scare us.


TPK (6 players) by Irontooth, but not the normal way..they actually ran from the encounter..but did not flee all the way back to town. Instead, they decide to camp and try to ambush the pursuit that was bound to come. So, Irontooth gathered up some re-inforcements and defeated the party again..They almost had him down, but missed him the last 2 rounds of the fight completely, while he took two players out per turn at that point.

Later, in thunderspire, the Tiefling Warlock (probably level 5 or 6) finds himself in a room of mirrors and all his companinons have been teleported away. The Warlock closes his eyes and finds himself behind a curtain--with 2 undead waiting for him...he died relatively quickly..

Last death was the paladin in Pyramid of Shadows. Got grabbed by terrain (bones) near the end (so he must have been about 8 or 9th level) that did damage every turn..he could not escape (he's a CHA paladin) and the rest of the party was on the other side of the room.

Since then, no deaths. Tho I was nice this past weekend and did not try to kill the Cleric when I possibly could have (final battle of E2)...

Xris Robin

First Post
Last, the simple fact that we strictly enforce the only three death saves a day rule, and that I don't allow a five minute adventuring day ensures that any end of the day encounter will always feel pretty dangerous to at least one PC. This one's important, I honestly don't see how more PCs don't die from this rule in other people's games. It's claimed a lot of PCs in mine.

Because there is no such rule. It's three death saves before a rest, not before an extended rest. Short rests also reset it.

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