Monday, June 6, 2011

Character death = Fun!

I'm not sure if the difference between old and new rpgs can ever be rammed home (if you'll forgive the pun) as effectively as when characters die.

Last Friday's game saw a new bunch of 1st level characters spend about 3 hours of a five hour session rambling around the frontier town of Hullford trying to find rumors about, and directions to, the Tomb of the Iron God. Once they finally got there, exploration began.

Which was fun, but really only moderately so. They investigated a couple of rooms, kicked a talking goblin head around, started mapping the place. Then the thief fell in a pit and died.

Suddenly everyone was laughing, cheering, nervous, engaged. While they were greedily divvying up the thief's possessions, a small group of goblins came to see what the fuss was, and attacked. One of them ripped the dwarf from neck to groin with a rusty shortsword, killing him instantly.

We played an hour longer than we planned on.

The players of the dead characters? Well, they had new characters rolled up in five minutes (this helps character creation time stay short, btw) and were back in game shortly, as the adventure was a site-based dungeon in a sandbox setting, another old-school icon, which means there can be lots of adventurers wandering around at any given time.

I still haven't forgotten what a miserable thing it was to have a PC die in a linear, "story based", 3.x game. Spending half the session building a new PC; waiting for time the story allows a new character appear.

So thank you, you poor crushed, mangled, looted, old-school thief.


  1. How did the new characters get introduced to the adventuring party? Did they just appear, or were they wandering through the dungeon, or something else?

  2. Kudos on the character deaths and then rolled up new characters! The most important part of (any) rpg is the opportunity for character death. Without it, what's the point? Then it's just encounter after encounter with no real threat, just extended breaks within the 'storyline'. Boring. Death needs to be staring the PCs in the face at all times. All the character deaths in my sandbox campaign have left a mark on the campaign and are still talked about and have repercussions within the campaign this very day!

    It's great when the game goes overtime because everyone is having a great time.

  3. the game I've been playing in has a ridiculous PC body count (thanks, JB). Rolling the characters is certainly easy, but the closeted realist in me always has a bit of a hard time with having the replacements just "show up". It certainly keeps things moving at the table and avoids all those awkward "okay, now role play your character meeting the group" moments, but it still kind of kills the suspension of disbelief for me.

  4. @Stuart - in this case, they were surviving members of another group that was wiped out in another area of the dungeon. It was made clear from the beginning of the session that there would be competing bands of adventurers in the area (the downfall of the Iron God's temple was not exactly subtle, lol) looking to loot the place.

    I try to always leave "doors" like this open for replacement characters, like captives, vaguely described hirelings that can "step up", signs of other travelers in the area, etc, so it never has to be a stretch when new PCs show up.

  5. As I have recounted before, my first character ever was a fighter in a local D&D-knockoff game. He died on his first adventure, second or third fight, while fighting orcs in an underground mine passage. From that point, I was hooked.

  6. If the character can't die, I don't play it's that simple. Save my character with Dm fudging and you won't ever see me as a player at that table again. Period.
    They can save other characters this way if they like. Just keep your interfering DM mitts off mine.

  7. Great post. It's the ones that survive that are worth remembering years later.

  8. Its an insightful comparison between games where death is fun, and death is not fun. I've enjoyed both kinds of games, but for our regular game we prefer death is not fun. That does not make one kind of game right or wrong.

    Just to let you know I reference your post in a blog post.


  9. I'm a B/X D&D fan, but I've had the same experiences you describe here in many other "new school" games. Including 3.x games.

  10. I'm just wondering if dieing as a consequence is a consequence if you "respawn" so easily. Saying why play if there is no chance of death only makes sense if death means something. Something other than a 15 min break to re-roll a character that only took 15 min to roll up in the first place. I don't think I would get into a character if I was to loose them constantly.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...