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Unexpected Deaths

The worse has happened. You've just gotten ten minutes into a session and a PC has died. Maybe the dice were against them from the get go. Maybe the consequences of their actions finally caught up to them. And to top it off, they've crossed a point of no return and can't just hop back to town for a quick raise dead. How do you handle that in your games? Do you let them take over a henchman/cohort if there's one available? Do you let them survive but they gain some sort of flaw, curse or other drawback? Find a way to introduce a new character mid dungeon? Or do you let the dice fall where they are and just assure them that the dungeon crawl won't take that long and they should just sit back and wait?
 

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Reynard

Legend
The context of what's happening in game is certainly a big deal, but assuming the character is not likely to be brought back from the dead soon, usually the player starts working on a new character and once reasonably complete it's my job as GM to find a way to bring them into play. Maybe they were independently involved in an aspect of the same quest as the other PCs. Maybe they have been trying to catch up with the PCs for days with an important piece of news. Maybe they are lost or prisoners in the place the PCs are exploring or active. I even had a new PC be the victim of a trap in the dungeon that turned them to stone centuries earlier and the other PCs inadvertently release the new character on disabling the trap. I find that there is usually a reasonably quick way to get the new PC into play, even if it is a bit messy.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
The decision is going to partly rest on the shoulders of the other players. Do they leave the dungeon and head back? Maybe a quick raise dead is out of the picture, but recruiting a replacement may not be. Either way, forge ahead of head back, will depend on the players.
Then, if they forge ahead, we'll have to talk with the dead PC's player on what they want to do. Meanwhile, as GM, my gears would be working to think of options if none are immediately available. Is there a convenient way to introduce a new character ahead? Can I add one?
And if there isn't one, well, how interested is the player in running monsters? How much fun can they have trying to kill the other PCs who didn't want to head back to have his PC raised (this being the RBDM option)?
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Situationally dependent, as others have said.

If the PCs have access to revival effects in the field, no problem. Carry on. It's then on the remaining players/PCs as to how long it'll be before good ol' Deadly Dooright is upright again.

But if they don't:

If there's a reasonable means of introducing or having the party find a new PC in what the DM knows (or guesses) might be coming next in the adventure, get the dead PC's player started on rolling up a new PC ASAP. Lob an extra prisoner into the castle dungeon, for example, or modify one already there, and let the PCs run on to it. Or have the new PC be found blundering around in the woods with no idea how it got there. Etc. (note that if you place the new PC in a static location there's a slight but non-zero risk the other PCs never find it, or take ages to do so; I was once in this situation and it took the party five sessions to find me!)

If the party can relatively easily return to town, simply pointing out that now Deadly is gone the party is missing or short on whatever class/abilities he had should be enough to turn 'em around. Once back in town either revival or meeting a new PC should be easy.

If, as in the example, the party have passed a point of no return then options become fewer; and down to near zero if where they've gone is a place where nothing alive normally goes. Here Deadly's player might just have to wait it out, or you-as-DM could have the party stumble over the new PC and say it somehow wound up here by accident.
 

Legatus_Legionis

< BLAH HA Ha ha >
Tis the main reason I have all my players create/have two PC's available.

They get to choice which one will be adventuring. The other is the backup in case of unforeseen death.

That way they can still RP in the game, by bring in the backup PC.

After the session (and before the start of the next one), a new backup PC is created.

Or, depending on when the group decides to have a break (order pizza, slurpee/junk food break), we could create the backup during that time.

Only twice in over a dozen years has one player lost TWO PC's in one session. Depending on how close to the end of the session the last one happened, the player will be without or with the other players permission and the DM's, allow a PC from another campaign to permanently join this campaign. That player would have to create a replacement PC for the other campaign.

Yay, we sometimes had two campaigns running at the same time. Creation rules/methods where the same. Usually there was a difference in average PC levels of 3-5.
 

I try to build in a way to introduce new characters into the party when one dies at session zero. Usually if a players character dies they don't want to jump right back in in my experience anyhow. They usually just watch the rest of the game, think about what they are going to play next, and start working on a new character. We generally don't play for long stretches, 3-4 hours at most. Worst case scenario they are out of the game for the remainder of the session and will be brought in at the beginning of the next. At best they roll up another PC and join the party at an appropriate time in the same session. In all my years of playing I don't ever remember this approach being a problem.
 

TarionzCousin

Second Most Angelic Devil Ever
I would be more worried if my character died and the other players and DM considered it an "Expected Death." o_O
 

In general, we just let it ride. The player can take up an NPC (if available) or start making a new character. If the character is expected to be revived, then usually the player sits out until the party gets back to town (usually the player leaves, or might read/play on phone if expected to happen quickly).

If a player makes a new character, the DM should try to find a good spot to introduce them, but it doesn't always end well. In one adventure, a PC died early on, and we were too low level to revive them. The player worked on their new character while we continued. Once done, the DM started looking for spots for him to appear. We were investigating the dungeon of a castle, where we ran across the prison cells. The first one was already written in as a werewolf, who attacked us a soon as we freed him. The next cell, our fighter decided "screw this" and stabbed the sleeping prisoner... who was the new PC. It didn't make for good party relationships.

I would be more worried if my character died and the other players and DM considered it an "Expected Death." o_O
I've know a few players that would make some increadibly stupid characters. We'd often bet how many sessions they'd survive. The best was the wild mage (2E AD&D) who got magically trapped in a suit of platemail in the second session. He couldn't cast spells, and with no proficiency, he was completely useless. Later that adventure he charged a dragon alone (the rest of us were blocked by a magic barrier), who tail slapped him across the cavern into the wall, then stomped the corpse into goo.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Only twice in over a dozen years has one player lost TWO PC's in one session.
It's rare, but I've had players lose two PCs simultaneously!

That was a well-fed Dragon... :)

TarionzCousin said:
I would be more worried if my character died and the other players and DM considered it an "Expected Death." o_O
Oh, I dunno about that - many's the time I've seen a character come in and quietly laid bets with myself as to which had the longer life expectancy: the character, or the beer in my hand.

And some of these were my own characters! :)
 

The next cell, our fighter decided "screw this" and stabbed the sleeping prisoner... who was the new PC. It didn't make for good party relationships.
Thats great. I may have told this story before but its worth repeating. In 2E a player was introducing a replacement for his dead PC. The DM tells us we see a lone figure approaching from a distance, gets within 10'-20' of us then cordially introduces himself. The parties Fighter/Berserker decides he's cutting this interlopers head off. He gets surprise on the stranger, rolls a natural 20 in his called shot and lops the guys head clean off. It was hilarious, at least for us who werent playing the abruptly deceased character. The whole encounter took maybe a minute or two of actual game time. Probably the shortest amount of time Ive even seen a character "in play", Before 3E this stuff was common place, PVP crime, DMs who made players sit out for long periods after after their PC died. There was a whole different paradigm once 3E came along, which I sometimes dont think was necessarily a good thing.
 


DMMike

Game Masticator
My PCs travel with a huge wagon. Look in the back, and you'll find this. Just in case.




The worse has happened. You've just gotten ten minutes into a session and a PC has died. . .
I'd call that grounds for a toast. But maybe that's just me...

How do you handle that in your games?

Do you let them survive but they gain some sort of flaw, curse or other drawback?

Or do you let the dice fall where they are and just assure them that the dungeon crawl won't take that long and they should just sit back and wait?
Gaining a flaw is standard operating procedure for me. But the player can opt for a new character if she'd like. Rolling up a new character is a decent way to keep a player busy while the rest of the party goes on to glorious victory.

Since "sit and wait" is pretty lame, a player could take on an extra player job (like mapper and treasurer), play an NPC (including enemies), or just play on her phone for a while. That last one is pretty popular these days.

The parties Fighter/Berserker decides he's cutting this interlopers head off. He gets surprise on the stranger, rolls a natural 20 in his called shot and lops the guys head clean off.
Murder-hoboing at its best. And a very good argument for a bounty/warrant system in the rules.
 

Murder-hoboing at its best. And a very good argument for a bounty/warrant system in the rules.
It happened so quick that it was so funny, but they guy ended up quitting for the night. Cant say I blame him. If I was DMing I most likely would not have let this happen without some repercussions to the offending player. Then again it was a different game back then.
 

aramis erak

Adventurer
The worse has happened. You've just gotten ten minutes into a session and a PC has died. Maybe the dice were against them from the get go. Maybe the consequences of their actions finally caught up to them. And to top it off, they've crossed a point of no return and can't just hop back to town for a quick raise dead. How do you handle that in your games?
Generally, if there is an NPC suitable for becoming a PC, they get to take over that one for the session, and maybe as a long term. Or they can generate a new PC before next session, or even during, and get in at a suitable point this session.
 

Catulle

Explorer
Last Tuesday, the first round of combat saw our Rogue get flat-out aced by a Finger of Death (so far so good, our Oracle was packing Breath of Life, we can do this...). Then our Sorcerer whacked said Oracle's (possessed) mother with AoE. Some... awkwardness... ensued as we all saw the rapid realignment of the triage calculus working it's way through our healer's thought processes. Mother was saved; shame about our murderscout.

Fortunately our DM was kind enough to get that wayward party member back on their feet... as a Dread Zombie. Who then occupied themselves for the rest of the session by gleefully playing for the other team.

Situation as yet unresolved.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
It won't work for everyone's table, but this is what happened at ours once.

It was early in a long-term, two-year campaign...I think it might have been our third or fourth gaming session? We were just getting started. The party of five, 2nd level characters were investigating some strange goings-on in a mysterious forest, and ran afoul of an ogre. What should have been an "Easy" encounter turned into a massacre: the party's cleric was knocked unconscious by a lucky dice roll, and then a combination of bad death saves and careless friendly fire finished her off. (But by golly, the wizard got to kill that ogre I tell you what.)

After the battle, I called a break. Everyone got up to get some snacks, stretch their legs, etc., and I chatted with the player. I asked her if she would like to keep playing her cleric, or if she would like to roll up something else. She said she wanted to keep playing her cleric, if possible, because she had spent so much time on her backstory and portrait and stuff (she even had a family tree). So we brainstormed for a few minutes, and I bounced a few ideas off of her. She picked her favorite idea and I ran with it.

So when we got back from break, we had the funeral scene. The party set camp, and as they were digging a grave, an old crone entered the clearing. She saw the body of the cleric on the ground and exclaimed. Such a pity, she said, for that particular cleric was destined for greatness and would have gone on to save many lives from a terrible fate. But now, alas, those lives would now be lost. She offered to raise their fallen friend, in exchange for a favor...but wouldn't give any further details about what that favor might be or when she might call it in. They agreed, and the crone raised the cleric from the dead. Then the crone (actually a powerful hag) vanished. From that day forward, every character in the party except the cleric noticed that their own shadows had been replaced with the shadow of the crone.

I never ended up calling in that favor; the campaign ended after about a year when I moved away. And honestly, I didn't really have anything planned for it. I just wanted a way to bring the cleric back in a way that would be memorable, and wouldn't be abused in the future. (And yes, I wanted to toy with them a little, make them paranoid, and remind them every now and then of the debt that would someday come due.)
 
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