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Patrick Zoch
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How do you handle player character death in your games? How do your players react to such events?


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Peter Robben
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It's always a significant affair. They handle it with dignity. Bury the deceased with his items, inform next of kin,...

No "Loot the Body!" in our games.
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Benj Davis
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With a lot of sadness.
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Clark Timmins
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Over the years I've seen a lot of change and a lot of reactions. For sure in the early days it was divide the stuff and move on. I don't even think there was any discussion whatsoever about the corpse, etc., so I suppose we left the trusted party member's body lying in the dungeon, stripped of valuables. Now we're much more sophisticated and transport it back to town, etc.

Some players have Last Will and Testament type arrangements. Others get outraged. Mostly there's the slow shock of "ugh... no...". I mean, obviously it's no fun when a character dies. Then there's the long process of seeking out a cure for death...
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Chuck Dee
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It really depends on the game/context, the length of play of the character, and the player.

In some cases, it's an expected event. In other cases, it's a big deal.
And in at least one case, it crossed from in-game to out-of-game.

A character that someone had bragged about all the time and was his go-to for proclaiming how much better his character was than others had a 'Be Not' spell cast on him, and failed to resist. It was an epic battle with epic risks and epic possible rewards and we knew going in that there were risks and many didn't take their primary characters for this reason, so it's not as heartless as it sounds.

From then on, whenever he'd talk about him, we'd razz him with "Who"?
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Geoffrey Burrell
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If it happens it happens. Sometimes PCs are mad and sometimes sad when there is a PC death. What usually happens is another character is created and the PC starts from where the death occurred.
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chuckdee68 wrote:
had a 'Be Not' spell cast on him

I quite like that. Is that a house spell or from a system I've not heard of?
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For two of my players (and myself when I play), the reaction is equivalent to the time and effort that went into the character.

Character death is always "on the table", but it's pretty rare for us. So when it happens, it's a moment.

Our other current player is very casual about things. Even if he played a character for a long time, it would be a blip. Create a new one. Toward the end of our D&D4e campaign, I was the only one who knew his character was a Half-Elf. The GM had no idea, and he had forgotten.
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We know when it's coming and why. Death is part of the bargain. If we weren't willing to play with those stakes we'd never step across the threshold.

We're usually more surprised we made it out alive.
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Jamie Hardy
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It really depends on the system. Some games have death as a less likely option than others. As such, death in those games becomes more significant. It also depends on if I am the player or the GM.

If I am the player, often the GM is one that avoids death. As such, I know this and take a lot of chances. Death doesn't occur. It ruins much of the game for me because there is no longer the challenge/fear of death.

If I am a player with a good GM so that death is on the table, I am fine with it. I just roll up another PC.

If I am the GM, then death is always on the table. The probability depends on the system. Some games are easier than others to die in. With people who I game with frequently, they usually just accept it and make a new PC. If they are not a frequent player, then they sometimes get upset.

Honestly, when playing with more random people I see them fear death and act to keep from dying more than I have ever seen PC death. It isn't just that they are taking the game seriously, it is almost like watching PTSD. Like in some past, they had GMs constantly kill their PCs so now they think every minor thing will kill them.

It is just a game. You can make a new PC. You will always have the memories and stories. So death is not a big deal.
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Usually with pointing and laughing. What? Just me?
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Generally we adjust things so that PCs only die if the player wants their character to. So, generally we don't handle it.

Except when the answer is...

E Decker wrote:
Just activate another clone.
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If it has to happen, I make sure the player in question really thinks the deal is cool and right, and we replace the character immediately, ideally with one they prepared in advance and have worked into the game.

Generally, though, I avoid character death by not making it a primary goal of the opposition. I try to give the opposition goals they can achieve without killing the PCs, or capturing them or knocking them out, or even forcing them to retreat. I try to give the opposition goals that they can and will complete even if it means their personal destruction.

This makes it easier and more enjoyable for the PCs to lose, since losing doesn't have to mean their character has died. Ideally it means that something they care for has been destroyed or damaged or otherwise changed, in an irreparable way. At any rate, it should mean that it takes more than a few spells to repair the effects of the loss.
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Phil Dutré
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In one of my fantasy campaigns, that ran for several years, there was one very significant character death. He was the norse/dwarf/fighter of the party. The character died near the end of a major combat. After the combat, I stopped the session, since I wanted to work out how to respond.

The next session, and in conjunction with the player controller the character, I ran a little mini-adventure, with Valkyries descending from the skies, coming to get the body. He had to appear before a tribunal of the gods to see whether he was worthy of inclusion in Walhalla, and the other players had to testify on his behalf. It was a very fitting conclusion, and felt meaningful to end the character’s career this way. But I have to admit ‘the stars were right’, and it fitted the style and tone of the campaign very well.

The player started with a new character the next session, but it always felt like a cheap substitute ...
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2) GM ~ "Your PC was weak"
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4) GM ~ "New character. Do not roll weakly".
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Ok,X died. Start putting together ideas for the next. Here's a fresh CS.
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In all my years of being a GM/DM, I've only had to deal with PC death a handful of times. 3 in Feng Shui, 2 in BSG.

In Feng Shui, if a player shuffles off their mortal coil, they are allowed a "flashback montage" featuring high points and low points of that character's life. I let the player do the montage, with very minimal input from me, other than help them remember certain things.

I've had more GMC deaths than player deaths, so much so we made parody songs about our group.

(sung to Mexican Radio by Wall of Voodoo)

I'm on at IKTV!

I'm on at I K TEEEEeeee VEEEeeee!

Smythe Jacobsen, she's a Thief!
Got her boyfriend killed, caused her grief!

The Jade Carver, Jin Da Jian,
It's too bad that he's dead and gone (Note: GMC was boyfriend to Jacobsen)

Sara Kwan, she's a Witch!
But deep down she's a MMM MMMM!

She doesn't like me, at any rate,
If I don' watch it, I'll be a cupcake! (Note: the player's Blast schtick would transmute whatever it hit into the consistency of cake. Not fire, electricity, or disintegration. Nope, cake.)

I'm on at IKTV!

I'm on at I K TEEEEeeee VEEEeeee!

As for players handling the deaths of their characters, it's usually fine. Though only one got pissed that they died, despite the fact that I warned them beforehand that their character would be retired.
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Chris Abbott
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Our first GM killed every one of us, multiple times, and always took pleasure in doing so. One player gave up assigning names to his characters after numerous deaths. He was up to "Mr. X the 9th" by the time he finally made it to second level. Some people simply stopped coming to games. Dark times.

Once we'd freed ourselves from The Killer, characters started to live long enough to become attached to. We still died from time to time, but it was typically because we'd mis-judged the situation rather than an arbitrary decision by the GM. I have no recollection of any of us taking exception/arguing about a death, die rolls were (almost always) out in the open.

I do recall the DEX check failure of my 7th lvl Dwarven fighter that sent him plummeting to his sad ending from a chain as he tried to cross a deep chasm. Everyone was quiet for a moment. No foul, it was a fair failure, but I was disappointed that I hadn't thought of a better way for him to approach the traversing problem, knowing full-well that his DEX was sub-optimal. It was the 2nd last scheduled game before I was to move to a new city anyway, but it was an anti-climactic departure for him.

The new group I became involved with were OK with characters dying as long as it meant something within the game, or happened in a cinematic or epic manner. Again, I have no recollection of anyone getting upset about a character death. I think most of them enjoyed the creation process as much as playing.

At con games, one local GM has a giant, self-inking stamp that reads "DECEASED: Cause of Death ___________" which he will apply to your character sheet and fill in the terminal detail upon the mortal blow falling. It's done with good humour and mock ceremony, happening frequently during DCC funnels. The affected player simply focuses on another character from their set going forward.
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bobcatt wrote:
Our first GM killed every one of us, multiple times, and always took pleasure in doing so. One player gave up assigning names to his characters after numerous deaths. He was up to "Mr. X the 9th" by the time he finally made it to second level. Some people simply stopped coming to games. Dark times.


Brought back good memories of one player like that (it wasn't the GM's fault- the player never got the idea of anything slower that MAX in his character, and we were playing RoleMaster). He called his characters Teflon with a Roman number behind the name. I think the last time he played he was on Teflon XIX.
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Apologetically.

Depends on the game, and the (real time) age of the character. I don't like PCs dying, because I want them to create a story. Although if they have reached the end of their tale their death can be appropriate.

Should a killing blow land on a PC I discuss with the player what they want to happen. A mortal wound, loss of a limb, cybernetic repair. There are always options.
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philip.dutre wrote:
In one of my fantasy campaigns, that ran for several years, there was one very significant character death. He was the norse/dwarf/fighter of the party. The character died near the end of a major combat. After the combat, I stopped the session, since I wanted to work out how to respond.

The next session, and in conjunction with the player controller the character, I ran a little mini-adventure, with Valkyries descending from the skies, coming to get the body. He had to appear before a tribunal of the gods to see whether he was worthy of inclusion in Walhalla, and the other players had to testify on his behalf. It was a very fitting conclusion, and felt meaningful to end the character’s career this way. But I have to admit ‘the stars were right’, and it fitted the style and tone of the campaign very well.

The player started with a new character the next session, but it always felt like a cheap substitute ...

It's a shame that his new character felt like a cheap substitute. From that experience do you think you could've prevented that or help him adjust?
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Phil Dutré
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ooozan wrote:
philip.dutre wrote:
In one of my fantasy campaigns, that ran for several years, there was one very significant character death. He was the norse/dwarf/fighter of the party. The character died near the end of a major combat. After the combat, I stopped the session, since I wanted to work out how to respond.

The next session, and in conjunction with the player controller the character, I ran a little mini-adventure, with Valkyries descending from the skies, coming to get the body. He had to appear before a tribunal of the gods to see whether he was worthy of inclusion in Walhalla, and the other players had to testify on his behalf. It was a very fitting conclusion, and felt meaningful to end the character’s career this way. But I have to admit ‘the stars were right’, and it fitted the style and tone of the campaign very well.

The player started with a new character the next session, but it always felt like a cheap substitute ...

It's a shame that his new character felt like a cheap substitute. From that experience do you think you could've prevented that or help him adjust?


It had more to do with the progression of the campaign rather than with the player. The other players all had their initial character when the campaign finished, but this new character somehow never felt as ‘part of the group’. When we recount stories about that campaign, that new character barely gets a mention, it’s always the old one.

In hindsight, there are ways I could have solved it better, by having the new character being the brother or son of the old one, or something like that, such that there is clear lineage between a memorable charcater and the new one, rather than only the player being the lineage.
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It depends on player and circumstance. If the death has been coming (ie, you're wounded and out of healing but keep fighting) it tends to go better than something like "He hits, you take 200 points of damage" or "Sorry, you failed your save and you're dead". We used to have people in our group who would argue about any ruling where they took damage; the worst offenders are gone, but sometimes when a character dies, those old ways return.

Most players just accept their death. Plans are quickly discussed about whether or not resurrection is desired or possible. If it is, then we take the body and keep going. If it's not, then we split the gear and probably take the body (or mark where it is on the map to pick it up later).

We used to get a lot more angry reactions than we do now.
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pdzoch wrote:

A question suggested by

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How do you handle player character death in your games? How do your players react to such events?


PC death has yet to happen in any game I've run. For the record, the times PCs came very close to dying, they were saved by lucky dice rolls, not Deus Ex Gamemaster.
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