Character death

A lot has been said today on Google+ concerning character death in rpg’s. So, I thought I would put my two cents in.

I think a lot of it depends on three things. The game you are playing, the GM, ad your fellow gamers.

The game.  Dungeons and Dragons has always been a game that you could potentially die. It is a combat first game that has only gotten more so as time goes by. My very first D&D character(and first rpg experience) did not make it five minutes in the game. I have seen seriously bad ass characters bite it cuz the GM rolled a few 20’s and wiped them out. It has happened to me both as a player and a gm.

Then you have a game like Spirit of the Century. I am not saying you cannot die in this game, because you can. But I have always felt like it was a game that the pulp heroes are created to succeed. Oh and look awesome doing it. Swinging by a chandelier, defusing a bomb, escaping off of a airship that is on fire…those type of thing . But then you take the Dresden Files, which uses the same Fate system for the most part. All of a sudden, you can g.t taken out fairly easily (or concede). Is just how much more dangerous that game is.

 Last, you have Call of Cthulhu. Not only can your character die, but it is just a matter of time until you lose your mind. I love this fucking game and need to play it again. Sorry, I do tend to get distracted b all things Cthulhu.

Yes, there are other type of games out there, this was just a small example. 

The GM.   This can so many ways depending on whom is running the game. I used to game someone that was a marine, and it was damn duty to try to kill us…oh and quickly. But I have also ran with people that seem to shy away from trying to kill you. Make your life difficult, but not kill you

I am somewhere in the middle. I want there to be a threat of death, but I don’t want it to be all the game is about.

Oh, and don’t think that the GM isn’t affected by his mood. I once went into a situation just after fighting with my girlfriend at the time. I was in a pissed off mood and because of that wanted the players to die. It isn’t really cool when this happens, but it does.

Fellow gamers.   Again, not everyone has an opinion on this. But not knowing how they will react can bring an epic sized temper tantrum.

So a few tips about character death. Especially when it comes to new gamers.
  • If it there first time playing, you may not want to kill them. Remember the D&D character I mentioned earlier? It took me almost three hours to have people explain the game and make a character. It was D&D 2nd edition and I made a wizard. I had 3 hp, and I died in the first fight. I was so pissed I almost left and to this day have never played a wizard in any other game.
  • NO ONE likes to die their first time out. You want them to come back, not be pissed off that the DM killed you. Gaming should be fun and people want to do kick ass things. They cannot do that if you are killing them five minutes into the game. Give them time to enjoy it as much as you do…and then kick their ass. J
  • Don’t assume you know how they will react. In that same campaign of D&D (about 3 years later) another play had a seriously bad ass wizard. Powerful spells, magic items galore, etc. His character died by a dragon. He was so pissed off, he quit the game and never came back. Was a bit much really, but was a serious hissy fit.
  • Talk about it. It helps if you are on the same page. If you are running the game, ask your players how they feel about it. Hell, if it is that dangerous of a campaign, they may even make a spare character just in case. I have done that.
  • Don’t be a dick. If you do kill a character, try not to gloat about it. I have seen that and it is just such a douche move. I have been on both sides of this and when you realize just how much of a jerk you were….that is such a crappy moment. You can lose the respect of everyone at your table quickly this way.
Keep in mind that theseare just my opinions, and if you don’t agree with them…that is fine.


  1. I've been talking about death quite a bit, too. Most recently in the comments to this post.

    I'll sum up my position quickly:
    Death sucks. Not only does it suck in general, but it particularly sucks because it brings the story to an abrupt halt.
    Ignominious death particularly sucks. If I get a death like Spock in STII, or like Boromir, I'd be good with that. A random trap taking me out? Bleah.
    There are lots of ways to screw with characters that don't involve killing them. Knocking them all unconscious and taking them captive will likely be a fate worse than death. Long-term injuries, broken gear, et cetera. It's funny how most of these consequences are off the table in many campaigns, but everyone wants death to make things feel gritty.

    I don't like random, casual death in my campaigns. I do like meaningful, heroic death.

  2. I like death in games. I like knowing my character can die at any time. Is what initially appealed to me in D&D and I still get an adreneline rush from it.

    But I also like games like DFRPG where you can take consequences to hold it off...or concede if you need too.

    But to be fair, if I am playing a game where the GM has stated death was possible, i probably make a back up character. :)a