Dealing With Death In An Adventure Path


Advice

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

Hello All,
I need to advice, I am running the adventure path 'Ruins Of Azlant', and in the first book it stated that if a character dies, players can create a new character and that character will arrive on the supply ship when it comes in.
Here is the issue I am having, do the players get to create another character at the same level that they died, or at a lower level, I don't know how to handle this, I think there should be some sort of penalty to death, but I also don't want to come off as a mean GM.
I would like for them to choose a different class, so they don't just create the same character and just change the name.
Any help would be great, thank you!


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It's not covered anywhere in the rules to my knowledge. But you should know that Pathfinder has no mechanic to ever recover being down XP (unlike 3.5 where you earned additional XP if you were lower level than the party APL, IIRC) so if you penalize a new character they will always be behind.

Personally I keep everyone at the same level at all times, even if players can't make it to some game sessions.

I quarreled with this same problem before, and never came to a conclusion, except XP/level penalties definitely are not the way to go IMO. It promotes munchknism because player's don't want to lose their character. If you want to penalize character death, give players a reason to love their characters in game that they will be sad to no longer play them.


Here is the thread where I discussed this very topic before.

As I said, it never really reached a satisfying conclusion.


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Death is already enough of a penalty--the character into which they invested their time, heart, and imagination has perished, their potential cut off forever.* An XP penalty just encourages repeated deaths and leaves the player in an unfun situation.

Case in point: My favorite character ever was an ex-Sczarni bard/paladin. I spent a great deal of time writing a backstory for him, including his family (and "family") ties and the story of how he came to follow Sarenrae. I practiced his personality in the mirror, did thought experiments as to how he would react in certain situations, and adopted a ridiculous (and probably offensive) accent. He got one-shot at 3rd level to a cheap crit from an axe-wielding horror (protip: Carrion Crown is brutal). I was devastated, but them's the breaks. Getting an XP penalty on my next character would have been like dumping lye on my wounds and the rest of the party would likely have suffered as a result.

Most players (I hope!) are mature enough to avoid the cheap "I create Blackstar the 47th, exactly like Blackstars 1-46" scenario. If a player does attempt this, discuss it with them. I wouldn't, however, ban the class entirely--if the party fighter falls in battle, it's only rational that they'd look for another fighter to fill the missing role.

*Well, there's always resurrection later down the line.


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Yeah, in general, same level is best. The campaign balance breaks down if players are underlevelled.

Requiring a non-identical character is fine. But if they want to make a new Cleric so the party doesn't have to be without a Cleric, then I'd let them. They can still be differentiated through domains, race, gender, archetype, etc.

You can 'punish' them for death if you feel the need by giving them less than the usual WBL for a character of that level. (Especially if the rest of the party intends to loot the body of the previous character.)


This biggest problem in our game is that death, especially at low and mid levels can be beneficial. With wealth-by-level returning PC's can cherry-pick their hardware, where as the surviving PC's have live with what's found in treasure hoards/player created/purchased in the campaign world.

My group doesn't have any real solution to this but as a GM and Player I don't like it. Next time I'm in the DM chair I think I will have a house nerfing this


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For almost every player, PC death itself if punishment enough. As blahpers said, players often put their heart and soul into PCs, and seeing one die is really tough. No need to add insult to injury - just let them bring in a full-leveled character with standard WBL (or at least wealth equivalent to the rest of the party.)

Now, if you do have a player that doesn't care anything about backstory or character development and just wants to roll dice, and they repeatedly let their characters die either recklessly or intentionally to the point where it's disrupting the game, at that point I might warn them, "Next time you bring in a new character they are coming in one level below the party, so make sure the character you're building right now is the one you want to stick with."

I would be very hesitant to institute an across-the-board rule where new PCs come in at a lower level, as in my mind that is just a recipe for paranoid and defensive play, which can get old fast. I'd rather encourage an action-packed campaign where players move quickly (and perhaps a touch recklessly,) rather than setting up for a game where 25% of the gametime is looking for traps, buffing, listening at doors, scrying, deciding to rest, etc.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Superscriber
walter mcwilliams wrote:

This biggest problem in our game is that death, especially at low and mid levels can be beneficial. With wealth-by-level returning PC's can cherry-pick their hardware, where as the surviving PC's have live with what's found in treasure hoards/player created/purchased in the campaign world.

My group doesn't have any real solution to this but as a GM and Player I don't like it. Next time I'm in the DM chair I think I will have a house nerfing this

Agree this can be an issue but it quickly disappears once the new PC has to live with whatever is found / created / bought.

On the OP's issue, the story-minded part of me thinks a new PC should be at level with a well-developed backstory to explain how they got from 1st level to level x while the simulationist in me leans towards the Order of the Amber Die approach where death means rolling up a new 1st level PC. On balance, the story side of me wins but it's a tricky problem.


Personally I hand out one "get out of jail" card for every character that has a written backstory, which grants one free resurrection (or rather miraculous instance of survival). So far this has been enough to ensure there are no permanent deaths until the party could effort raise dead with some effort.

I also trust my players not to game the system too hard, so I wouldn't penalize a new character. If I wanted to, I guess WBL would be the most sensible option.


blahpers wrote:

Death is already enough of a penalty--the character into which they invested their time, heart, and imagination has perished, their potential cut off forever.* An XP penalty just encourages repeated deaths and leaves the player in an unfun situation.

Case in point: My favorite character ever was an ex-Sczarni bard/paladin. I spent a great deal of time writing a backstory for him, including his family (and "family") ties and the story of how he came to follow Sarenrae. I practiced his personality in the mirror, did thought experiments as to how he would react in certain situations, and adopted a ridiculous (and probably offensive) accent. He got one-shot at 3rd level to a cheap crit from an axe-wielding horror (protip: Carrion Crown is brutal). I was devastated, but them's the breaks. Getting an XP penalty on my next character would have been like dumping lye on my wounds and the rest of the party would likely have suffered as a result.

Most players (I hope!) are mature enough to avoid the cheap "I create Blackstar the 47th, exactly like Blackstars 1-46" scenario. If a player does attempt this, discuss it with them. I wouldn't, however, ban the class entirely--if the party fighter falls in battle, it's only rational that they'd look for another fighter to fill the missing role.

*Well, there's always resurrection later down the line.

Ooh, I'd like to hear this Bard/Paladin, former Sczarni story.


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walter mcwilliams wrote:

This biggest problem in our game is that death, especially at low and mid levels can be beneficial. With wealth-by-level returning PC's can cherry-pick their hardware, where as the surviving PC's have live with what's found in treasure hoards/player created/purchased in the campaign world.

My group doesn't have any real solution to this but as a GM and Player I don't like it. Next time I'm in the DM chair I think I will have a house nerfing this

The solution to this is MagicMart™. Players should have WBL in goods and gold. If everyone is allowed to buy whatever they want then the new player has no special advantage.

If your group is very opposed to MagicMart™ then you should consider switching the whole party over to Automatic Bonus Progression. At no one can buy any of the "traditional" items that the party would normally buy and instead money is spent on other magical items instead of the "big six".

Silver Crusade

Non death penalty is standard. But if you want to be punisher just give the new character the same wealth what was buried the dead one (and the group don't will win gold with death)...


I just have the new character join at party level. I dont need a death penalty because my players mostly avoid it. For the uncontrollable instances of swingy crit play, I use hero points as an additional resource for the players to manage. If the player wants to be risky they can spend their points on cool things, if they want to be conservative and protect their invested character, they also can do that.

When a new character is introduced, I have a house rule that no single piece of their equipment can be of more than 50% their WBL.


Starbuck_II wrote:
blahpers wrote:

Death is already enough of a penalty--the character into which they invested their time, heart, and imagination has perished, their potential cut off forever.* An XP penalty just encourages repeated deaths and leaves the player in an unfun situation.

Case in point: My favorite character ever was an ex-Sczarni bard/paladin. I spent a great deal of time writing a backstory for him, including his family (and "family") ties and the story of how he came to follow Sarenrae. I practiced his personality in the mirror, did thought experiments as to how he would react in certain situations, and adopted a ridiculous (and probably offensive) accent. He got one-shot at 3rd level to a cheap crit from an axe-wielding horror (protip: Carrion Crown is brutal). I was devastated, but them's the breaks. Getting an XP penalty on my next character would have been like dumping lye on my wounds and the rest of the party would likely have suffered as a result.

Most players (I hope!) are mature enough to avoid the cheap "I create Blackstar the 47th, exactly like Blackstars 1-46" scenario. If a player does attempt this, discuss it with them. I wouldn't, however, ban the class entirely--if the party fighter falls in battle, it's only rational that they'd look for another fighter to fill the missing role.

*Well, there's always resurrection later down the line.

Ooh, I'd like to hear this Bard/Paladin, former Sczarni story.

At some point, I should really put up a memorial to my fallen heroes. : D

</threadjack>


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Claxon wrote:
Personally I keep everyone at the same level at all times, even if players can't make it to some game sessions.
Blaphers wrote:
Death is already enough of a penalty--the character into which they invested their time, heart, and imagination has perished, their potential cut off forever.

These sentiments exactly.

The reason why Claxon is doing it all the right way (and see my further follow-ups down that thread).

Keep the players at the same level. XP (and "losing it") is an obsolete 1st-edition concept which Pathfinder retains but which is ultimately unnecessary; ditch it, and your games will run much more smoothly.


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I do recommend using half the wealth by level for replacement characters, especially if you have a party size greater than 4, where the wealth gets more watered down.


When a PC dies in one of my games the new one comes in at the same level as everyone else. Otherwise they may constantly feel inferior to everyone else and there's no way for them to catch up.
Also, if someone misses a session they get XP* anyways because, again, they'll fall behind and (typically) if someone is missing a session there's a legitimate reason for it. Why punish a player because life occasionally gets in the way?

If the new character has a slight advantage over the other players due to their new, hand-picked equipment limit what the player can buy (and enforce the rule that a 2+ level character can only buy something that's worth no more than half of their wealth per level.)

*I don't actually use XP because I run Paizo published adventures and level the characters up when appropriate as per what the adventure says. GMing is a lot of work. Why give yourself more by having to calculate XP every session?

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

I like all the ideas, but I think death in Pathfinder needs a revamp. If you can just re create a character starting at the same level you just died at, then what is the point? It's like playing a video game and beating the game while you are invincible, what is the point?
If the party knows you are just going to come back, they just hold all your gear and -- there you go, just like you never died.
There has to be some kind of penalty, level wise, mentally wise, financial does not work.
If you can just come back like nothing happened, then all characters should just go all out all the time, why play safe or tactically, where is the benefit (other then to level).


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GM Ryan wrote:

I like all the ideas, but I think death in Pathfinder needs a revamp. If you can just re create a character starting at the same level you just died at, then what is the point? It's like playing a video game and beating the game while you are invincible, what is the point?

If the party knows you are just going to come back, they just hold all your gear and -- there you go, just like you never died.
There has to be some kind of penalty, level wise, mentally wise, financial does not work.
If you can just come back like nothing happened, then all characters should just go all out all the time, why play safe or tactically, where is the benefit (other then to level).

I mean, you could just talk to your players and ask them not to treat it like a video game even though you're not going to punish them for death.

Keep in mind that once raise dead is available the "penalties" of death are:
1) Temporarily being unable to play
2) Slight cost of character wealth (which should be recouped by the next time you level, in theory)

So the penalties have never been particularly serious, once your party reaches a high enough level.

Like I said, I had this same conundrum.


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GM Ryan wrote:
If you can just come back like nothing happened, then all characters should just go all out all the time, why play safe or tactically, where is the benefit (other then to level).

As other posters have said, players often put their heart and soul into their characters. The last thing they want to do is die. My players are often so cautious that you'd think they'd never seen an action movie in their lives!

Yours seem to be cut from a different cloth so if you think they need some extra incentive to stay alive you could try introducing new characters as one level lower than existing ones, but it can create game balance problems, resulting in more work for the GM down the line.


Matthew Downie wrote:

Requiring a non-identical character is fine. But if they want to make a new Cleric so the party doesn't have to be without a Cleric, then I'd let them. They can still be differentiated through domains, race, gender, archetype, etc.

In my experience it's more likely that the player does not want to play another cleric, but does so because he feels that the party needs one.

Most players I've known over the years like to do something different each time. When Raise Dead isn't an option it's often best if the party loses more than one character at a time. It gives the "dead players" more choice as to their new characters.


Not all deaths are equal, character death isnt always players fault. If a character takes an unlucky crit attack during a surprise round and is killed, why should they be punished for it? What if the character death is the result of one of the teammates actions? Still need to be punished?

You can add penalties if you want, but in my experience they just lead to death spirals as players cant make up for them. If your players are walking face first into every buzzsaw they might want a kick the door in style game instead. Each group has to find their own way. If beating your players with penalties results in desired play knock yourself out.


If a character dies in the first book of an AP I wouldn’t penalize them at all. And I agree with other comments about keeping the party same level. I’d talk about it with your group and your concerns about it getting abused. I just think you could limit a players fun if they have an ineffective character because they are underpowered. I think having some kind of penalty for deaths after the first book is fine, but like I said talk about it as a group and obviously you have the final word.


I'd bring the first player death in at one level higher. Anyone who tries to suicide after that comes in one level lower. This will fairly immediately cause players to be cautious with their characters and not do anything stupid :)


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GM Ryan wrote:

I like all the ideas, but I think death in Pathfinder needs a revamp. If you can just re create a character starting at the same level you just died at, then what is the point? It's like playing a video game and beating the game while you are invincible, what is the point?

If the party knows you are just going to come back, they just hold all your gear and -- there you go, just like you never died.
There has to be some kind of penalty, level wise, mentally wise, financial does not work.
If you can just come back like nothing happened, then all characters should just go all out all the time, why play safe or tactically, where is the benefit (other then to level).

If the party knows--gah. Is this actually a problem at your table? If so, you got some metagamin' fools. Death penalties aren't going to solve that.


blahpers wrote:
Death penalties aren't going to solve that.

Death penalties solve all problems! Rocks fall! You die!

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