My current group has only had 1 death in 24 sessions, but they've had 5 close calls in total and had they not been quite lucky on 2 of those occasions, they would have suffered 3 deaths.
While I appreciate that from a human perspective this matters (and should matter), from a mathematical perspective it does not. You should
have several close calls and moments where a lucky break made the difference. One death in 24 sessions is, in fact, exactly the same as TheSword's original stated expectation for the extra deaths (chance of one character dropped to 0 HP = 1/4, previously-stated chance of character instantly dying from exhaustion = 1/6; since these are independent events, chance of instant death from dropping to 0 is the product of these values.) Hence, for a typical case, we would expect a lot of (as you say) close brushes. And that doesn't account for the accumulation factor; if you get Exhaustion from dropping to 0 and don't
instantly die, you're at extreme risk both because another "Exhaustion roll" is very likely to kill you instantly, and because Exhaustion has such massively punitive penalties that you basically can't fight
with more than one or two levels of Exhaustion.
The character that died had his own "side quest" based on his backstory, but the rest of the party is still pursuing it as they are invested in seeing it through.
Honest question: why? Character is dead. The dead do not feel. They are no more. Why are they invested? Because, as I said, there is no greater investment-killer for me than frequent character death (which, yes, I consider even "just" 2-3 deaths a year "frequent.") It no longer matters to anyone other than as a symbol, and symbols have no instrumental value, the only kind of value incentivized by these proposed house rules. When the lethality rises too high, all the stakes pursued by these house-rules rapidly drain away because nothing matters, you'll lose it all in a few months anyway.
It becomes too bleak to be worth caring about; better to just disengage rather than invest and be repeatedly hurt. Better to see things as tools to be used for the brief time you can (whether because they get taken away...or because you
do) than to actually care
But even if they weren't, introducing a new character into the main adventure is easy.
Your experience so vastly differs from mine I struggle to understand it. IME, it's "easy" to introduce a new character only in the extremely sense that one can perform the action of entering data into a new character sheet and showing up for a session easily. Actually introducing
—as in, writing
a new character into an ongoing story in a way that is satisfying and effective—is hard. Extremely hard. Because you are haunted by the specter of what could have been and constantly comparing the incomplete, partial thing you have to the far more developed thing you had. It's like picking up the pieces after a breakup. "Rebound" relationships are notorious for their flaws, and many people wisely choose not to get into relationships until they have properly grieved for their previous one.
I haven't quite figured out what to do with Paladin lay on hands (considering making it 2 hp/level healing), but then again
Have you considered the possibility that your incentives teach your players not to? Because that's one of my claims here. Lanefan appears to be perfectly happy with such incentives. TheSword I am less sure of; as I said, they seem to want both teamwork and selfishness, and as presented that's a contradiction. Either one or the other wins, or we re-define the terms so they don't mean their usual meanings, or there's something more going on than the proposed rule changes which allows such conflicting goals to become compatible.
As 5e by both RAW and RAI really isn't all that lethal, doubling the lethality - while sounding grim - might not mean very much in practice.
This has not been my experience.
Well, I posit you can incentivize both by having a system where characters have serious weaknesses along with their strengths, thus soft-requiring the presence of other characters such that they fill in each other's gaps. Due to this interdependence, the whole becomes more than the sum of the parts, meaning teamwork is often a better path to survival - both of the party and of each character in it - than individualism.
This would be the candyfloss "teamwork" I spoke of (to use the term from across the pond.) The instant this "teamwork" encounters a threat of sufficient magnitude, it not only can but will
break. Because the whole incentive structure is selfish survival.
(Of course, I agree that characters should have strengths and weaknesses and benefit from working together. D&D in general is extremely bad at actually designing characters so that that is true and even worse at doing so in a way that is productive game design. Consider that this thread has literally spoken—purely positively!—of training players not
to use healing spells so they can use their "interesting" spells instead. Even in this very conversation, teamwork is treated as a dull, boring exercise, contrasted against the exciting and productive selfishness!)
Yeah, we're very different: I got bored with the heroes always winning when I was about ten.
Wow. That's an impressive jab; simultaneously calling me immature and
straight-up contradicting my lived experience by telling me that "the heroes always win."
This isn't a matter of maturity, and the heroes don't
always win. They've suffered and lost, had friends die or at least be effectively dead for an unknown amount of time (what I would call irrevocable but not permanent death: "character can't come back yet
" sort of thing.)
It is deeply infuriating whenever I discuss this, because half the time folks do exactly what you have done here. Pretending that because death is rare, victory is guaranteed and thus the story is boring. Victory emphatically is not
guaranteed. My players work hard for and earn their victories, and I always
let the dice fall where they may, in the open. We have our understanding on these matters specifically so the dice can
fall where they may and the players will roll with it (pun intended.)
if the players/PCs decide to turn their backs on such a story or to join the enemy or whatever then so be it: that's what I'll run.
I told my players that if they wished to sail for the horizon, they were free to do so. I was honest about it and said I would feel disappointed in myself, for having framed scenes and provided context and stakes they found so uninteresting, but I would
give them the story they were actually looking for. I'm not going to force them. Fortunately, they (a) said they knew I wouldn't do that and that that is something they highly value about my game, and (b) were quite clear that they're happy where they're at and, while they may feel wanderlust from time to time, that's a "variety is the spice of life" response, not an effort to escape to a story they actually care about. As I have said many times, my players are troopers and I very much appreciate their patience and support (though I do wish they would give more critical feedback.)
Whcih strikes me as odd, because IMO in-party teamwork's biggest enemy is do-it-all-themselves characters who have no weaknesses (and thus don't need to inter-depend with anyone else)
Given I 100% agree with this statement, it is odd that you should mention it. Characters should not be so. Most versions of D&D incentivize and permit building such characters. The selfishness encouraged by the rules is specifically all about that. Never rely on healing, you should heal yourself. Never expect buffs because spells should be used efficiently. Optimize your own performance, that is how you will survive longest. Compete for the most and/or best loot, conceal discovered treasure from your (so-called) allies, break promises if it is advantageous to you, etc. These things generate something that isn't a team
; it is a collection of individual adventurers who merely happen to adventure in the same places at the same times.
The TSR editions, where niche protection was considerably stronger,
It wasn't. Especially as these editions wore on. Niche protection requires that the niches actually have value and not be so thoroughly "draftable" that one character can fill nearly all roles. And guess what? Clerics can. Wizards often could do everything but heal. Fighters? Pshaw, they get niche enforcement,
not allowed to move beyond it.
But when you actually make niche protection that matters, that has teeth,
people riot over (allegedly) being told what kind of character to play. I've seen it on this very forum.
far better at promoting teamwork at the design level - even if it didn't always come off that way at the table level.
These two statements are contradictory. If the game is well designed for the purpose of teamwork, then by definition
it should be producing teamwork at the table. Being well designed means
accomplishing the goals set by the designer. There is no more important test for game design than looking at actual play and confirming that, within reasonable statistical limits, the design actually does what you want it to do. To say that the rules somehow do what they're supposed to at the "design" level but fail to do so at the "table" level is a contradiction in terms. One might as well speak of cars that have good fuel economy at the design level and terrible fuel economy when actually driven.
Which in many ways is fairly realistic. Parties are usually (I hope!) made up of independent free-thinking people, they don't have a coach or a sergeant-major standing over them preaching team unity or regimental honour and telling them to play/fight till they drop; and absent this, when real danger appears self-preservation becomes a primary motivator.
Firstly, I hadn't realized we were playing a Realistic Roleplaying Game. I had thought I read that D&D was a Fantasy
Roleplaying Game, as in, one where we set aside many of the often grim and depressing details of the reality we live in so that we may experience entertaining fictions (among other ends, some of them actually productive in addition to being entertaining.)
Second, again, humans are not homo economicus.
Rules that get people to act that way are in fact unrealistic,
not realistic. Real people care about their social context, and (more importantly) almost always recognize that survival value is only one form of value, and in fact often a rather weak one in comparison to other things (like the virtues and social dynamics you disregard here.) Amoral, purely self-interested, perfectly rational and consistent people are mostly fictive, only useful as an abstraction, something most economists have known for a long time, though it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking real people act this way.
Also, you're forgetting that in a game where revival effects exist, those six deaths might only mean actual turnover of one or two characters; with the rest being revived.
Why throw good money after bad? We're already talking about selfish characters here. Why revive the dead? That's extra
investment! Especially early on, when such things are not at all guaranteed. As people are so keen to note, raise dead
doesn't come online until very late, relatively speaking, and others have noted the kinds of people who want combat to "matter" usually restrict and/or punish resurrection anyway!
Only if the deceased isn't revived; and even then, there's still the investment in the story as a whole, and in the party's part in it.
What investment? What story? There is no investment in the party for the dead characters! That's my whole point! The dead don't care about anything. They're dead.
And didn't you just say you don't do
"story as a whole"?
I think that if this is the fundamental issue that you are trying to address, a chat with your players is going to to do much more good than just trying to kill more of their characters.
If your players are behaving like this it is far more to do with them deciding to play murderhobo characters than the combat rules.
Outside of "Evil" games, that sort of behaviour seems to be more a symptom of lack of investment in a character, where they view advancement more as just getting loot rather than in-game character advancement.
Changing the rules so you get to take the player's characters away more often is not going to encourage them to emotionally invest into those characters more.
Thank you! You have made my point far better than I could.