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

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
You don’t have a plot without a beginning, middle, and end. That’s… what makes up a plot.
Recognizing the red text (glad I scrolled up!) I would like to respond to this in a constructive fashion, focusing on the positives of a "zero-death game."

Specifically: There is a difference between knowing that a story should have an end, and picking one specific option for what that end should be. Further, there is a difference between excluding one specific option from the list (or spectrum/space) of possible endings, as opposed to excluding all other options except for one specific possible ending.

A well-constructed "zero death" or "low death" game is doing the former thing in both of these comparisons, not the latter: we know that each arc and story must eventually end, but that knowledge does not mean we must set a fixed endpoint, and further, we choose to eliminate one specific destination only, rather than all possible destinations bar one. We may analogize it as a journey. For some, the preference is to journey without map or destination, to go where the wind takes them: a "sandbox," more or less. For others, a rigid, guided tour is all they really want: a "railroad." But there is something between the two, where you do have a map (though it may be incomplete!), and you can do orienteering, and you can declare in advance, "I just don't want to go to the Mystery Flesh Pit National Park, thanks." That doesn't mean you know where precisely your journey will take you when you start out, only that you know where it won't take you.

That's a vital distinction for anyone wanting to engage in this kind of play. Recognizing that there can be certain points or plots or concepts that are no-go. In that sense, it's not dramatically different from stuff like the X-card, at least in principle (certainly the execution is different.)

I’m honestly jealous. Any game where the players knew their characters couldn’t die would immediately turn into Blade of the Immortal combined with Jackass.
My condolences. I would find it blindingly infuriating to run a game for folks who feel compelled to exploit something offered as a genuine "you can feel safe doing stunts and taking risks" gesture, despite having a mature conversation about it in advance. That would have ended my DMing career very quickly if that's how my players behaved.

Then we agree. But that’s exactly how my players would treat it. So character death stays in the game.
Well then...isn't that exactly what I was saying before? I refuse to run games for players who behave abusively--that is, exploitation or coercion, rather than pure, genuine enthusiasm. Since I'm (pretty much) the DM for my group, my players have a choice, to be team players who are respectful of the other people at the table (that is, including me), and thus getting to play a game, or being disrespectful, and thus not getting to play a game. Even if they were ruthlessly pragmatic, the choice would be clear. Fortunately, they are absolutely not homo economicus, and do in fact show respect and humanity toward their fellow players (including me.)

If your players are legitimately so disrespectful that they cannot restrain themselves, and must exploit absolutely every opportunity no matter how inane or hurtful it might be to anyone else, then yes, this style of play is absolutely not for you. Frankly, I am somewhat surprised that there are any styles of play that are compatible with such a group, since literally all games ever are predicated at least partially on the idea that players play along and embrace conventions of some kind.
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Recognizing the red text (glad I scrolled up!) I would like to respond to this in a constructive fashion, focusing on the positives of a "zero-death game."

Specifically: There is a difference between knowing that a story should have an end, and picking one specific option for what that end should be. Further, there is a difference between excluding one specific option from the list (or spectrum/space) of possible endings, as opposed to excluding all other options except for one specific possible ending.

A well-constructed "zero death" or "low death" game is doing the former thing in both of these comparisons, not the latter: we know that each arc and story must eventually end, but that knowledge does not mean we must set a fixed endpoint, and further, we choose to eliminate one specific destination only, rather than all possible destinations bar one. We may analogize it as a journey. For some, the preference is to journey without map or destination, to go where the wind takes them: a "sandbox," more or less. For others, a rigid, guided tour is all they really want: a "railroad." But there is something between the two, where you do have a map (though it may be incomplete!), and you can do orienteering, and you can declare in advance, "I just don't want to go to the Mystery Flesh Pit National Park, thanks." That doesn't mean you know where precisely your journey will take you when you start out, only that you know where it won't take you.

That's a vital distinction for anyone wanting to engage in this kind of play. Recognizing that there can be certain points or plots or concepts that are no-go. In that sense, it's not dramatically different from stuff like the X-card, at least in principle (certainly the execution is different.)
I appreciate the benefits of a no-death or low-death game. I have played in and run them, and enjoyed both. I just happen to enjoy… err… full death(?) games more. But both are good. Different approaches for different campaigns.
 

Hussar

Legend
I appreciate the benefits of a no-death or low-death game. I have played in and run them, and enjoyed both. I just happen to enjoy… err… full death(?) games more. But both are good. Different approaches for different campaigns.
Now, if we're talking D&D, the rate of death becomes much, much lower (barring house rules and some situation specific stuff) the higher level you get. I can't be the only one where a Rod of Resurrection "randomly" showed up in treasure at about 6th-8th level every time I played 1e or 2e. And, even without that, raise dead wasn't exactly a hard thing to find. Any decent sized town could be expected to have a 9th level cleric.

I remember that my 1e paladin that I played for years died repeatedly and got raised. To the point where my HP kept changing because I lost so much Con. :D

Again, I don't think I was alone in that. Sure, in the very low levels, you died and didn't come back - but an AD&D group by about 4th or 5th level certainly had enough cash to raise a character without too much difficulty and by 6th or 7th, that was pretty much guaranteed.

To me, taking death off the table is just a recognition of how the game is typically played anyway. Death in D&D is a speed bump if you play by RAW. It's a GP tax by and large. By 9th level (or so) in any edition, death was something that just slowed you down for a couple of days.

Level drain was MUCH scarier than death. :D

But, again, like I said, taking death off the table doesn't actually change the game all that much. In 5e, you have Revivify by 5th level, meaning that it's extremely hard to permanently kill a PC, unless you happen to gank the cleric. Killing a PC isn't too hard. That's true. Lots of things can do that. But kill it all the way dead, no take backs? Yeah, that's a lot more difficult. But, if death is a 4 day nap time (the time it takes to fully recover from Raise Dead) and a bit of gold that the group doesn't really need anyway, it's not really adding a whole lot of depth to the game anyway.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
Now, if we're talking D&D, the rate of death becomes much, much lower (barring house rules and some situation specific stuff) the higher level you get. I can't be the only one where a Rod of Resurrection "randomly" showed up in treasure at about 6th-8th level every time I played 1e or 2e. And, even without that, raise dead wasn't exactly a hard thing to find. Any decent sized town could be expected to have a 9th level cleric.

I remember that my 1e paladin that I played for years died repeatedly and got raised. To the point where my HP kept changing because I lost so much Con. :D

Again, I don't think I was alone in that. Sure, in the very low levels, you died and didn't come back - but an AD&D group by about 4th or 5th level certainly had enough cash to raise a character without too much difficulty and by 6th or 7th, that was pretty much guaranteed.

To me, taking death off the table is just a recognition of how the game is typically played anyway. Death in D&D is a speed bump if you play by RAW. It's a GP tax by and large. By 9th level (or so) in any edition, death was something that just slowed you down for a couple of days.

Level drain was MUCH scarier than death. :D

But, again, like I said, taking death off the table doesn't actually change the game all that much. In 5e, you have Revivify by 5th level, meaning that it's extremely hard to permanently kill a PC, unless you happen to gank the cleric. Killing a PC isn't too hard. That's true. Lots of things can do that. But kill it all the way dead, no take backs? Yeah, that's a lot more difficult. But, if death is a 4 day nap time (the time it takes to fully recover from Raise Dead) and a bit of gold that the group doesn't really need anyway, it's not really adding a whole lot of depth to the game anyway.
Yeah, that’s true. In my experience death tends only to be permanent at early levels, or if the player wants to try a new character.
 

Hussar

Legend
Yeah, that’s true. In my experience death tends only to be permanent at early levels, or if the player wants to try a new character.

Right. So really,taking death off the table isn’t much of a stretch. It’s not going to radically change the game.

Realistically, how often would it actually come up? If death is on the table, how many permanent deaths do you typically have in a campaign? Two? Three? Probably not more than that. And, IME, less, particularly in 5e where it’s not easy to kill a pc. As a dm you pretty much have to start ganking downed pcs to do it.

Although there are exceptions. :). The dice gods absolutely demanded a sacrifice in my last game where a beholder paralyzed a pc then hit him with two death rays. The pc had to fail (twice because of inspiration) saves vs the paralysis then I had a 1 in 100 chance of rolling those two death rays. And the I had to roll enough damage to kill a 9th level cleric with a decent Con.

Yikes!
 

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