I’m happy to announce that RPGames was accepted into the RPG Blog Alliance. A very cool feature of the alliance is their monthly blog carnival in which a specific blog hosts the blog carnival and proposes a certain topic which everyone will then blog about. This has been going on since 2008 so it seems I have some catching up to do. The current carnival’s theme is The icy embrace of winter but I need to think about that one a bit more. The very first blog carnival Character death, Resurrection, and the Undead was hosted by The Core Mechanic and provided me with some interesting ideas immediately so I will tackle that one first. We’ll see if I can move my way up the chain and participate in the current blog carnival as well.
Character death in gaming
As a dungeon master I’ve never killed a player’s character in the twelve years that I’ve been running roleplaying games. Have I gotten close ? Oh yeah. There have been several moments where players went into negative hitpoints but they’ve always found a way to get out of a tough bind. So I guess the lack of death in my games is more to the credit of my players than anything else. Can they die ? Sure. Will I kill their characters off at random or put them in sure-death situations ? Not very likely.
I was very lucky to be introduced to roleplaying games by two friends who have a very story driven approach to roleplaying games. Dice and rules are used but to a bare minimum. It has always been about the story and creative solutions are rewarded with success most of the time. I’ve grown accustomed to that style of play and it has transferred into my running of games as well.
So character death in my games would be a story in itself. Knowing my players, a lot of several hour sessions would go into the whole preparations of a funeral, contacting relatives and friends, mourning, executing the will, and so on and adventuring would be out of the window for quite a while. And when there would be adventuring afterwards, for sure there would be remarks about the deceased character once in a while, or a toast to his memory at the inn. In this fashion I find a character’s death acceptable as it has a huge impact on the story, and even becomes the story.
A lot depends of course on which game you’re playing. The above is valid for all the fantasy campaigns I’ve run. In a game like Godlike however, where the setting is World War II, and death is around every corner, I have no issue killing off characters and players have been warned in advance about the deadliness of the setting. But again, even here, death is part of the setting’s story.
Where I don’t follow, is dungeon masters known for and proud of their TPK history. I’m sure it’s fun once in a while to play a game and have the dungeon master go all creative on death scenes, but I don’t like it as a general thing.
Another thing to consider is what kind of game you’re playing. There’s a notable difference between campaigns with the regular group at home or a one-shot convention game. I was at the Kraken 2012, played Call of Cthulhu all week long and died. A lot. But again, in a Call of Cthulhu game at a convention, everyone is kind of expecting to be either dead or insane at the end of the session. Or has run away at the first sight of danger.
In the end for me it comes down to this : I want to create stories that players will still be talking about 3, 5, 10 years from now. And so far making the games really difficult but with rewards for creative solutions has done the job. I think the experience for the player is so much more rewarding when they’ve been able to come out on top after a hard struggle. Should the day come a character’s death will provide for great stories at the local gaming store, then I have no problem going down that path.
Check out the other posts I made for this blog carnival:
- Blog Carnival – Character Death, Resurrection, and Undead Part 2 : Encountering death
- Blog Carnival – Character Death, Resurrection, and Undead Part 3 : When death goes superhero on you