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New PCs Joining Established Party


Gamer Talk


Here is a post from a recent Character Death thread.

Gendo wrote:
In my games, when character's die, the typical method that is employed by the group is to loot the body and then bury or cremate it...regardless of whether or not the group has access to raise dead or resurrection. The new character comes in one or two levels below the average party level. As for equipment, the understood rule by everyone is that the GM chooses what starting equipment - mundane and magical with which the new character begins play. Player input is taken into account, however the GM determines what is appropriate for the campaign at hand NOT the player. We've been doing things this way since 1989 and have no plans to change it. Die at your own risk.

I have no issues with PC death being real, meaning no Raise Dead, Resurrection, etc. Where I do have an issue is the whole negative level thing being applied to new characters. For me, I fail to see the advantage of starting a new PC at any level other than that of the party. What is the advantage? I mean, you've denied the group access to all the raise dead stuff, now it just seems like you're adding insult to injury.

So there is it is; character death sucks, why make it even harder? I'm not saying that the Gendo Method is wrong, I'm just not understanding how this is advantageous to the players and the campaign.


loaba wrote:
So there is it is; character death sucks, why make it even harder?

Well, I think there are a lot of people here who would argue that player death doesn't suck enough- most people seem to think death is supposed to be a big horrible thing, with earth-shattering repurcussions throughout the entire campaign mythos. While I understand that can work for some groups, and in lots of popular fiction character death is a big deal, these people are also forgetting that D&D isn't most popular fiction. If Batman died the first time a robber pulled a gun on him, nobody would be reading Batman comics anymore- but at the same time, Batman beats all of his enemies because the writer decided it, not because it was up to random chance. Every time I put half a dozen hours into crafting a good character (and then another hundred hours playing that character into the higher levels) I'd abhor the idea of losing all of that hard work because of an unlucky die roll.

So, anyway, everyone deals with character death differently. Some people think it's too big of a deal already, other people think it's too easy to overcome. YMMV.


loaba wrote:

I have no issues with PC death being real, meaning no Raise Dead, Resurrection, etc. Where I do have an issue is the whole negative level thing being applied to new characters. For me, I fail to see the advantage of starting a new PC at any level other than that of the party. What is the advantage? I mean, you've denied the group access to all the raise dead stuff, now it just seems like you're adding insult to injury.

So there is it is; character death sucks, why make it even harder? I'm not saying that the Gendo Method is wrong, I'm just not understanding how this is advantageous to the players and the campaign.

I agree with you for the most part, I've had characters die and was "punished" for the death, when it was a bad roll or something I was not directly responsible for. realized I was better off if i had not shown up to play that day, quit the game and have never played with a DM with that sort of attitude again. Don't make me regret coming to a game. If I'm not having fun why in the hell am I doing this? "Die at your own risk" my ass.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
UltimaGabe wrote:
...Every time I put half a dozen hours into crafting a good character (and then another hundred hours playing that character into the higher levels) I'd abhor the idea of losing all of that hard work because of an unlucky die roll.

I generally agree with you wrt hating the thought of dying randomly, but why do you think of the time as lost? Does the previous game play become retroactively less fun if your character dies? The way I think of it is that I'm losing the character's potential for further growth/the potential fun I could have had with that character, not what they/I already did/had. If that makes sense.


Eric The Pipe wrote:
Don't make me regret coming to a game. If I'm not having fun why in the hell am I doing this? "Die at your own risk" my ass.

That was the one part of Gendo's post that really caught my attention. It was almost like he was challenging people to take issue with his play-style.

You're absolutely right when you say that the game is supposed to be fun. I think it would be fun to play a game where death wasn't a revolving door. I get where that could effect players and the choice they make. What I don't get it is, if you've removed the resurrection options why would you make the player's new character join the group at a lower level? Can someone give me a reason for this? I mean if it's just a DM call type-thing, well, I think you kinda need a better reason than that.

Andoran

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
loaba wrote:
<....>What I don't get it is, if you've removed the resurrection options why would you make the player's new character join the group at a lower level? Can someone give me a reason for this? I mean if it's just a DM call type-thing, well, I think you kinda need a better reason than that.

The way I'd justify it, if I were the DM, is that I'm giving the player a chance to grow into the character. Then I'd give the new character more experience per adventure until it caught up with the party. Doing the first w/o the second seems like a dick move, though.


John Woodford wrote:

The way I'd justify it, if I were the DM, is that I'm giving the player a chance to grow into the character. Then I'd give the new character more experience per adventure until it caught up with the party. Doing the first w/o the second seems like a dick move, though.

Okay - I could probably buy that angle, for one level maybe. It's at least easier to swallow then "die at your own risk..." Still, I think most players can work the kinks out and jump right in at the lower levels. At higher levels, say 9 or 10 on up, a new character does take some getting used to.


Having stopped the use of xp and instead leveling by fiat, I give the replacement PC an extra level up between the next two official levelups. They get this to offset the -1 level they start with. It works great and others in my group have adopted this when they DM.


loaba wrote:
Eric The Pipe wrote:
Don't make me regret coming to a game. If I'm not having fun why in the hell am I doing this? "Die at your own risk" my ass.

That was the one part of Gendo's post that really caught my attention. It was almost like he was challenging people to take issue with his play-style.

You're absolutely right when you say that the game is supposed to be fun. I think it would be fun to play a game where death wasn't a revolving door. I get where that could effect players and the choice they make. What I don't get it is, if you've removed the resurrection options why would you make the player's new character join the group at a lower level? Can someone give me a reason for this? I mean if it's just a DM call type-thing, well, I think you kinda need a better reason than that.

The last time the DM took xp/levels away from a new character, I stood up, told him no, I'm dead. Unless they can resurrect me I can't come back. That was the end of my time with that DM. His game fell apart soon after, because all the other players in the game held the same stance, no players no game. (Which is something that all full time DM's often forget.)

Andoran

When I first started playing, we did 2 levels when you died, then it decreased to 1. Since ive taken over as GM, Ive lowered it to the new character comes in with 90% of the experience that the current character with the least experience has. Not as big of a deal at loower levels, but if die at higher levels, itll cost you a bit more. We dont keep people from Raise Dead/Resurrect/whatever, though they obviously have to pay for it.

Anyway, I understand not wanting a penalty cause you died, but we use it as a deterant to keep players from constantly changing what they are playing cause the mechanics arent working out how they want all of the sudden. We've had issue with it before in the past, and the penalty is generally enough to get players to stick it out unless they are just REALLY not enjoying a character.So, swap characters in my game all you want, but it wont be free.

I mostly game with close friends (everything except PFS), so we dont have to deal with alot of GM/player melodrama, though I understand not everyone is going to agree with me. If you arent having fun in the game, dont make yourself miserable, just stop playing. You wont hurt my feelings. Heck, Ive got players in my current game who have stopped playing, and they are still invited over on game day to hang out while the rest of the group games. Works for us.


We employed the "new PC at 2 levels lower" concept back when we first started playing 3.0, but I think it was more of a shut-off valve to keep players from just making up new characters every other week, and to play their character smart, avoiding death when possible. I heard talk of older games where some players would just ignore all danger and do as they pleased, "if my character dies, so what? My new one will be even meaner..."

Over the years though, it really did seem like more and more of a punishment for losing than preventative measure for character continuity. Now, when I DM a game, I've removed the level loss from death/new PC altogether. To balance this out, I've made it much more difficult to be brought back from the dead; not outright banning Raise Dead spells, but making the magics much more difficult to find and use without some divine permission. The deities of the setting take a much more active role when someone wants to take a justly judged soul and bring them back amongst the living...


    New Character Shock v1: player has more time to learn about and get used to lower level character's abilities.
    New Character Shock v2: chronic player/character unhappiness causes player to constantly introduce new characters to existing party.

I can't say I agree to much with the first reason for gimping a new character in an older party, but I see how it could be advantageous. Now the second version of NCS, well I get that completely. If you have a player who is consistently dissatisfied with his character, you need to do something about it. I might not implement negative levels, but I see why you'd want to.


godsDMit wrote:
Anyway, I understand not wanting a penalty cause you died, but we use it as a deterant to keep players from constantly changing what they are playing cause the mechanics arent working out how they want all of the sudden. We've had issue with it before in the past, and the penalty is generally enough to get players to stick it out unless they are just REALLY not enjoying a character.So, swap characters in my game all you want, but it wont be free.

I have played with characters that have been boring/caused problems. I just talked to the DM, that character left, new one came in, problem solved, no reason for an XP penalty. It made game play smoother in most cases. I guess I'm now used to playing with at least half-adults, killing your character to get a new one would be looked down on. Social shaming go.


I had one DM that force the character to fight death after the 2nd res, or not be able to come back.

Andoran

Eric The Pipe wrote:
I have played with characters that have been boring/caused problems. I just talked to the DM, that character left, new one came in, problem solved, no reason for an XP penalty. It made game play smoother in most cases. I guess I'm now used to playing with at least half-adults, killing your character to get a new one would be looked down on. Social shaming go.

I totally understand where your coming from, but I run a party of 7-8 players, and several of them get bored quite quickly. Sometimes I think the 10% exp penalty is the only thing keeping me from having to work a new character into the story and reasoning for why one left, every session, cause someone was kinda bored and wanted to try someting else.


godsDMit wrote:
I totally understand where your coming from, but I run a party of 7-8 players, and several of them get bored quite quickly. Sometimes I think the 10% exp penalty is the only thing keeping me from having to work a new character into the story and reasoning for why one left, every session, cause someone was kinda bored and wanted to try someting else.

I could see how that could be a problem that needed a house rule... Good Call.


loaba wrote:
Gendo wrote:

In one-shots, PC deaths are an annoyance.

In good campaigns, PC deaths are major events.

In great campaigns, PC deaths become the stuff of legends ... the defining moment in a heroic, larger than life existence.

So, how do you handle them?

I use the GMing Principles as a guide.

1. Stafford Principle: maintain a sense of wonder in the campaign.

PC deaths should create changes in the world. The fight should be epic and awesome that results in the PC death, and the death should shift the fight if at all reasonably possible toward a PC advantage.

The death itself should be described in heroic terms. What works in a book will not necessarily work in a game. For example ...

George R. R. Martin roundly violated this in his popular Ice and Fire series when he had the chief Lanister (sp?) shot with a cross-bow bolt to the groin whilst pooping.

Yeah, not a PC death. Sorry George! Looking forward to chatting at MisCon 2012.

2. Perrin Principle: be consistent. If you do something once, it becomes a precedence.

I always give the PCs a chance to re-think instinctive, bad choices. So, the players might hear something like, "OK, I heard you say [xyx]. You have a bit of a bad feeling about that. Are you sure that you want to do that?"

If you give the player a chance and he or she sticks with a bad choice then you really do have to follow-through on consequences, or your RPG becomes a bad version of table-top WOW.

3. Petersen Principle: make it fun. Don't be afraid to change a plot to go with player
enthusiasm.

Don't kill a PC based on pure bad luck or out of spite. Also, if the PC death is clearly "no fun" for anyone then find any of a thousand ways of not killing the PC. Think of "he's mostly dead" from the Princess Bride.

4. Staats Principle: reward the players as well as the characters.

Do something that the player will remember. Some games give out special death certificates, or the events surrounding a PC death are recorded in a special book that is treated with great reverence.

There are many ways of making things special.

That is enough to get the creative juices flowing.

Hope that helps!

in service,

Rich


godsDMit wrote:
Eric The Pipe wrote:
I have played with characters that have been boring/caused problems. I just talked to the DM, that character left, new one came in, problem solved, no reason for an XP penalty. It made game play smoother in most cases. I guess I'm now used to playing with at least half-adults, killing your character to get a new one would be looked down on. Social shaming go.

Right-o!

It depends on why the PC exchange occurs.

I've been blessed that there have only been a few flavor-of-the-session players over the years.

The point about social pressure is right on the money.

Player pressure is one of the best ways of dealing with choices that tend to disrupt other players' suspension of disbelief.

(I've never handed out bars of soap and socks, but it does have a certain, "earthy appeal" to it --- oh yeah, just kidding.)

In service,

Rich
www.drgames.org

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