Tuesday, February 4, 2014

On Player Character Mortality

So, I played in a game with a new GM last night. Not new as in his first time, but rather that we switched campaigns finally. Not sure how much fun this campaign is going to be, however, as a bunch of players died. Now, don't get me wrong, I've never been the type of GM to spare the rod myself, but I always felt like an RPG session should feel like a movie. The PCs are protagonists. They are largely immune from mortal peril except in situations where it would enhance the story. If a PC can die doing something dramatic, or even failing in a dramatic way to spur on the rest of the group, then sure, good times, I'm all for it.
Then on the other hand, having PCs killed in rockfalls getting in to the dungeon. Seriously, no dramatic story element there, the guy just slipped and got crushed entering the tomb of whoever-it-was-khamun. It's definitely a different style, and I can even admit it's more realistic, as certainly not everyone who perishes in grand real life historical explorations does so in dramatic fashion. Still, if realism was my thing, would I be playing a game that has elves, and dwarves, and mind flayers?
Ii'm curious to know what other players and GM's stance is on this. Maybe I'm being narrow minded? I just think the fun of an RPG is in developing the character you are playing and having them respond to situations in a fashion ture to the character rather than yourself. If you have to react to situations like; "Grupthar gurgles as the life is crushed out of him by the ceiling trap," or constantly needing to come up with new characters, you don't really do much of that. Maybe I should plot my peaceful protest of this by just rolling up the same character and adding a suffix.
"I am Grupthar III, and I shall avange my father and grandfather's deaths!"


Dave Bone said...

It really depends on the sort of game, but in most D&D type scenarios I see the adventure as sort of an obstacle course that the adventurers must attempt. I don't "spare the rod" but I'm just a referee - not God, and not a director.

We played some old school 1e with RaW as much as possible - and the death toll was greater than any other campaign we ever played.

One PC had spent a long time coming up with a background for a Magic User, complete with photoshop art. Guess what?

In the Ghost Tower of Inverness, he used a lightning bolt inside against a manticore - the first monster encountered.

Rocks fall, 2 PC's died.

That's written into the adventure.

I would not alter the outcome.

After more than 50 character deaths over the course of a year (the death rate was about .95 per session)and my players stuck with me - because of the wanton lethality!

I don't run all my games this way. My investigative games last about 20 sessions, with an average of 1 player death.

However, D&D requires swords and big monsters everywhere.

Crank up that death rate. Don't be discouraged when your PC eats it.

You won't be disappointed with the amount of fun you can have, the sorrow of so many deaths, and the triumph of beating a real scenario that you know is hard.

You shouldn't expect your GM won't put a soft hand on your junk and start to stroke it so you don't have a bad time in his game.

Make another character and try again.

Skim said...

I am one of the players Mr. Bone refers to in his epic struggle to have players survive through his D&D RaW 1e campaign.

So with that said, I say this: I love all the characters I create. I try and think about where they came from, how they grew up and how their relationship with their parents influenced them. Among other small things to make them unique. Anyway, with as much death and misfortune (and mistakes) that took place we all still had a great time.

Yes, sometimes it was terrible... terrible when one or some of our characters died I feel it just made us more appreciative of the whole gaming experience. Its hard to watch a character you spent a while thinking about die. But, without the risk it just doesn't feel real to me.

I know I never want to play a game and feel like I've been coddled through the story just so everything was nice and tidy at the end. I want to experience it like it was a true adventure. I can honestly say that during our game play through the 1e RaW I felt the fear of "character" death. It made me really think about my actions, although some could say not hard enough! (We died a bunch).

I say embrace the fear of character death. If you really want your character to feel alive then play a game where he/she might die easily. You start making decisions like a real person not an almost immortal hero.