D&D 5E [+] Questions for zero character death players and DMs…

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Thank you, but I’m not asking about what consequences to impose instead of death.
So, what some people are trying to explain, I think, (and your replies come across fairly rude, IMO, especially in a + thread wherein these folks are trying to engage with the OP) is that it isn’t necessary to change any rules to accommodate a lack of death as an option, and why.

This is a [+] thread.

I’m honestly curious about this style of play. It’s utterly alien to me but I’m naturally curious and want to understand.

So in a no death game…

What is the point of tracking hit points and death saves? I’m curious about how this is supposed to work, mechanically.
“Other consequences” answers are a direct answer to this specific question.
The point of those mechanics is to have mechanics for when someone is knocked out and when they cannot be brought back into the fight by simple healing.
A lot of referees don’t bother tracking things like weight carried, food and water, ammo, etc in the name of eliminating pointless bookkeeping. They don’t care about those aspects of play so don’t make players track those things. Essentially, you’re never going to run out of food and water, so don’t keep track. You have unlimited ammo, so don’t bother. Etc.
I think it’s important to note here that most folks I know, at least, who play this way don’t see the DM primarily as a referee.
So I’m curious if hit points and death saves are also ignored for similar reasons. Since nothing happens if you fail three death saves, do they stay in the game? Are they tracked? Do you make the roll? If your character can’t die, why bother rolling?
The roll is made because something still happens when a PC fails 3 death saves.
What about hit points? If the end result of hitting zero hit points is ultimately nothing, why track them? If you do track hit points, what happens at zero? Are characters unconscious until someone revives them at zero hit points? Are they out of the combat until it’s over? How does it work?
Not trying to be mean or anything, but again…these questions are what people are replying to and answering, that you’re them telling them you aren’t asking what they’re answering. You explicitly did ask. Repeatedly, in several different particular context.
Finally, what benefit is gained by having no character death?
For my friends who play this way:

  • Satisfying gameplay over the long term for people who see old school gameplay as “basically playing Dark Souls with permadeath” (to quote a friend) when they want to play Dragon Age.
  • More dramatically and emotionally impactful character deaths, when they do happen, because they only happen with the player’s consent.
  • Surprise character development based on what happens when a character drops and faces dire consequences like a loved one taking the arrow for you, or losing a limb, or having to spend long enough convalescing that you lose out on something important, or whatever. It opens up more avenues for the emergent story to develop along.
 

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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Also I can mess with the players by cutting forward in time to after a bit of action, and establishing aftermath that won’t make sense until later in the session, and then make the PCs establish how they got there.

If death is on the table, we can’t do that, because it turns very silly if you have to say “well ignore everything Cordek Son of Parn said in the tavern scene, I guess, bc he isn’t in that scene.”


A PC dying randomly because of an unfortunately timed crit is, for us, the boring kind of frustrating.

When my friend’s Jedi in a Star Wars game died holding a corridor against Sith troopers on a capital ship so his friends could escape, and a the Sith Lord who lead the enemy troops showed up to deal with him, the Jedi simply said, “There is no death. There is only the Force.” and then triggered the excessive amount of explosives hidden strategically to make the entire ship blow up…that was awesome.
 

JiffyPopTart

Bree-Yark
So, what some people are trying to explain, I think, (and your replies come across fairly rude, IMO, especially in a + thread wherein these folks are trying to engage with the OP) is that it isn’t necessary to change any rules to accommodate a lack of death as an option, and why.


“Other consequences” answers are a direct answer to this specific question.
The point of those mechanics is to have mechanics for when someone is knocked out and when they cannot be brought back into the fight by simple healing.

I think it’s important to note here that most folks I know, at least, who play this way don’t see the DM primarily as a referee.

The roll is made because something still happens when a PC fails 3 death saves.

Not trying to be mean or anything, but again…these questions are what people are replying to and answering, that you’re them telling them you aren’t asking what they’re answering. You explicitly did ask. Repeatedly, in several different particular context.

For my friends who play this way:

  • Satisfying gameplay over the long term for people who see old school gameplay as “basically playing Dark Souls with permadeath” (to quote a friend) when they want to play Dragon Age.
  • More dramatically and emotionally impactful character deaths, when they do happen, because they only happen with the player’s consent.
  • Surprise character development based on what happens when a character drops and faces dire consequences like a loved one taking the arrow for you, or losing a limb, or having to spend long enough convalescing that you lose out on something important, or whatever. It opens up more avenues for the emergent story to develop along.
Would LotR have been a better story if Pippin was killed by the barrow wight, Merry on Weathertop, Sam to the cave troll, and the Frodo dies to Shelob? Was it a better story that they were saved by interesting interactions with other people or items?

No or mostly no death probably doesn't work for a game where it's a contest of "See how much loot and power you can grab before you die" , naturally. But random death equally has no place in a campaign that is built as a story about the main characters of the PCs.
 

JiffyPopTart

Bree-Yark
Also I can mess with the players by cutting forward in time to after a bit of action, and establishing aftermath that won’t make sense until later in the session, and then make the PCs establish how they got there.

If death is on the table, we can’t do that, because it turns very silly if you have to say “well ignore everything Cordek Son of Parn said in the tavern scene, I guess, bc he isn’t in that scene.”


A PC dying randomly because of an unfortunately timed crit is, for us, the boring kind of frustrating.

When my friend’s Jedi in a Star Wars game died holding a corridor against Sith troopers on a capital ship so his friends could escape, and a the Sith Lord who lead the enemy troops showed up to deal with him, the Jedi simply said, “There is no death. There is only the Force.” and then triggered the excessive amount of explosives hidden strategically to make the entire ship blow up…that was awesome.
Torg literally has a "Martyr" card that lets you kill off your character to achieve almost anything in return. The Jedi in your story was channeling that beautifully.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Haven't lost a player in a while because 5E isn't that hard and the resident powergamer likes clerics and keeping players alive.

Her last PC was a twilight cleric.

No not so much no death just hasn't happened since early 5E. I'm willing to kill then just not going out of my way to do it
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Would LotR have been a better story if Pippin was killed by the barrow wight, Merry on Weathertop, Sam to the cave troll, and the Frodo dies to Shelob? Was it a better story that they were saved by interesting interactions with other people or items?

No or mostly no death probably doesn't work for a game where it's a contest of "See how much loot and power you can grab before you die" , naturally. But random death equally has no place in a campaign that is built as a story about the main characters of the PCs.
Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say it has “no place.” The loss of all the potential stories that could have been told had the character survived is part of what makes character death impactful in campaigns built as stories about the PCs. But, I can certainly see why it can also be unappealing in that context as well.
 

JiffyPopTart

Bree-Yark
Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say it has “no place.” The loss of all the potential stories that could have been told had the character survived is part of what makes character death impactful in campaigns built as stories about the PCs. But, I can certainly see why it can also be unappealing in that context as well.
Death has a big place in stories about PCs, but not so much random death (unless the player wants it).

My example earlier was a shield being disintegrated. This was a thing that happened in my 3e campaign. A player, due to a string of bad luck, found his dwarven fighter sent from full health to Massive Damage dead due to a simple failed save vs a disintegration trap AND a preternaturally good roll on my part for the damage dealt. This wasnt on a grand adventure, just a side exploration of an otherwise fairly mundane ruin.

Rather than kill the character and loose the years of story involved in an essentially random death out of nowhere, I instead offered the player a choice to instead lose his shield. This was 3e, so that characte both by feats and stacking magical abilities was 80% shield focused. It was like asking Captain America to lose his shield permanently.

The player chose to keep playing the dwarf and made it interesting by roleplaying the very literal lamentations of how useless he was without his prescious.

Ultimately he was able to secure a new shield with some part gold, but we were able to keep the years of story with that party going without an abrupt introduction of a new character.

Contrast this with a character I made in 3e. All I remember about them is they were a 6ish level elf rogue with a human bane weapon. First adventure, first hallway in a dungeon. Failed to find the trap. Trap went off. Dead. Not 15 minutes of playtime. That's not a fun experience, especially in 3e where creating characters took some time.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Death has a big place in stories about PCs, but not so much random death (unless the player wants it).

My example earlier was a shield being disintegrated. This was a thing that happened in my 3e campaign. A player, due to a string of bad luck, found his dwarven fighter sent from full health to Massive Damage dead due to a simple failed save vs a disintegration trap AND a preternaturally good roll on my part for the damage dealt. This wasnt on a grand adventure, just a side exploration of an otherwise fairly mundane ruin.

Rather than kill the character and loose the years of story involved in an essentially random death out of nowhere, I instead offered the player a choice to instead lose his shield. This was 3e, so that characte both by feats and stacking magical abilities was 80% shield focused. It was like asking Captain America to lose his shield permanently.

The player chose to keep playing the dwarf and made it interesting by roleplaying the very literal lamentations of how useless he was without his prescious.

Ultimately he was able to secure a new shield with some part gold, but we were able to keep the years of story with that party going without an abrupt introduction of a new character.

Contrast this with a character I made in 3e. All I remember about them is they were a 6ish level elf rogue with a human bane weapon. First adventure, first hallway in a dungeon. Failed to find the trap. Trap went off. Dead. Not 15 minutes of playtime. That's not a fun experience, especially in 3e where creating characters took some time.
I suppose it depends what’s meant by “random.” I do strongly believe that unpredictable character death can have a place in character story focused play. It doesn’t have to, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with leaving it off the table. But I wouldn’t say it has no place. Sometimes a “pointless” death can actually make for a strong story moment. Probably not in the case of that 3e character of yours, but there are definitely cases where it can.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
Would LotR have been a better story if Pippin was killed by the barrow wight, Merry on Weathertop, Sam to the cave troll, and the Frodo dies to Shelob? Was it a better story that they were saved by interesting interactions with other people or items?

No or mostly no death probably doesn't work for a game where it's a contest of "See how much loot and power you can grab before you die" , naturally. But random death equally has no place in a campaign that is built as a story about the main characters of the PCs.
To be fair, LotR was written before the popular zeitgeist had poisoned writers and audiences to think death was both the only real stake and also how you show you're grown up and mature and also tell me I'm pretty and smart.
 

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