Challenge - Character Death - Game Enjoyment


Advice


This topic came up in the Optimizatin post I started, and it is one I am interested in hearing opinions on. I think it is worthy of a thread all its own.

How many of you play in games where characters have died and had their campaign end?

If yes, does this add to the excitement or drama of the game, because you know there is more at stake?

If the answer is no, do you think this makes your battles and adventures less exciting?

As an add on - How many of you play in games where you had to flee an encounter because you were not ready for it? Does this add to the excitement?


Quote:
How many of you play in games where characters have died and had their campaign end?

We had this happen once, but the campaign was at 14th level anyway.

Quote:

If yes, does this add to the excitement or drama of the game, because you know there is more at stake?

If the answer is no, do you think this makes your battles and adventures less exciting?

No. "campaign is over if one of you dies" is too much pressure..everyone at the table looses their character if one knucklehead decides to wrestle a dragon? I think its too much pressure, and death really isn't avoidable after the BBGED starts throwing around save or dies. They make resurrection scrolls for a reason.

Quote:
As an add on - How many of you play in games where you had to flee an encounter because you were not ready for it? Does this add to the excitement?

I don't think it adds to the excitement of THAT encounter (D&D's pursuit rolls aren't very dramatic) But the idea that you could be defeated adds to the spice of all the other combats.


noblejohn wrote:

This topic came up in the Optimizatin post I started, and it is one I am interested in hearing opinions on. I think it is worthy of a thread all its own.

How many of you play in games where characters have died and had their campaign end?

If yes, does this add to the excitement or drama of the game, because you know there is more at stake?

If the answer is no, do you think this makes your battles and adventures less exciting?

As an add on - How many of you play in games where you had to flee an encounter because you were not ready for it? Does this add to the excitement?

I have had characters die, but I have never had a campaign die because everyone died. I like it. The games is not really fun to me if I know I will succeed.

I hate running away, but I am willing to do it. Every time I ran away I learned something new about the game though. I can't really complain about becoming a better player.


I've personally not had a character die... but I've come really really really close on occasion and had party members die in my adventuring group. I also had a final battle of a campaign tagged by the DM saying "If you all die, you failed and the villain succeeds." Of course this last battle also involved my character betraying the party in the final battle (awesome plot point due to party choices). I do know the DM had two separate write-ups for the campaign ending though. That's my player experience.

As a DM... I've only once ever DM'd a TPK and it ended the campaign. The TPK occurred after watching the worst rolling by the players in the history of gaming. However I will admit that part of the reason this ended the game other than the PCs dying was the plot was not developing well with the party (it happens).

However in the current game I'm playing I've tagged it much like the campaign I played it. If the party dies, the campaign ends and events will unfold. This matters because I have a homebrew world which I DM from.

The chance of character death can add excitement and drama... but it can also kill a players enjoyment of a game. I've had a player with great and awful luck. He does really well in combat... but he also p/o's the BBEG or generic badguys and has ended up dead on occasion. I honestly avoided this when I could logically explain not attacking him. It got to the point that he no longer cared about his character or playing too much.

If there's nothing at stake it does take away from the game. I was recently in a game where 90% of battles were going through the motions and killing everything. Felt awesome at first. Then when it sank in that unless we pretty much tried we weren't going to die. My enjoyment dwindled and the campaign became somewhat a burden for me to enjoy playing it except in the rare RP situation.

As for your last question, I've not personally been in that situation in that sense. The only time I encountered a situation like that was fighting a BBEG way too early on top of a flying building. The fight was really exciting because while I knew we wouldn't win I wanted to see if I could get a good hit in on the BBEG before trying to escape. Just my luck though I critically passed a save to hold on to my weapon that was magically disarmed from me... passing the save threw me off the building. As the DM said "You held onto your weapon." Epic moment all around. In the end my teammate also 'abandoned ship,' but the entire experience was fun.

Really runaway situations I think depend upon what type of fight it is. Very situational.

EDIT: Honestly I can't wait to get killed in a campaign. Will I avoid it like the plague? Yes. Do I want to know what it's like to loose a character? Yes!

I think loosing a character is almost a 'rite of passage' amongst my gaming group though.


noblejohn wrote:


How many of you play in games where characters have died and had their campaign end?

If yes, does this add to the excitement or drama of the game, because you know there is more at stake?

If the answer is no, do you think this makes your battles and adventures less exciting?

As an add on - How many of you play in games where you had to flee an encounter because you were not ready for it? Does this add to the excitement?

I'm pretty sure every campaign I have DMd has had at least 1 non-reversed PC death (usually several). I have also had high level PCs die in ways that make death reversal impossible (although this is rare in 3.x). I have not had a TPK that ended a campaign in many years. I think my players have become too experienced to allow an entire party to die and I think the CR system of 3.x makes this a rare situation.

I think the threat of permanent character death at any level is crucial to running a D&D game. Conversely, I do think TPKs can derail campaigns and sap player enthusiasm, so I actively try to avoid them as DM. I believe it is the DMs job to avoid potential TPK situations and is the players job to plan for the worst and always have some sort of escape route.

My players have fled battles as a last resort. They typically will flee only when things look very grim. Fleeing a battle is certainly a consideration for them but it is not a common strategy.


cibet44 wrote:


I think the threat of permanent character death at any level is crucial to running a D&D game. Conversely, I do think TPKs can derail campaigns and sap player enthusiasm, so I actively try to avoid them as DM. I believe it is the DMs job to avoid potential TPK situations and is the players job to plan for the worst and always have some sort of escape route.

+1

TPKs are bad and don't add to the enjoyment of a game. DMs should use careful balance when building encounters.

Silver Crusade

As a player, I have had my character die before and have had many more situations where such almost happened. Heck, for one character I've gotten diehard more or less out of necessity. I have to say that I honestly prefer that level of danger. For me, the game is at its best when the heroes (PC's perhaps may serve better) effect the campaign world but don't always win. After all, if the actions my character engaged in were easy then I don't feel like much of a hero on beating any major campaign villains. The heart of combat is that it's not easy and (for the character) in fact is not even fun but something they have to do in order to succeed. This is were the character gets to shine as a hero in the mythological sense. Flawed but capable and ultimately triumphant.

As a DM, I feel much the same way. I often have a hard time challenging my players and when they're all joking about out of game issues while the raging 30 ft. tall monstrosity dies before it gets a turn in, something just seems missing to me. It feels like in effect, they were never in any actual danger and really, just about anyone could have taken out the creature, they just happened to be the ones to claim its head. It all boils down to, I think people appreciate the deed more after a struggle. There is a greater sense of accomplishment.


I'm currently running XCrawl, so player death is kindof expected. The drawback to this is that you either lose players as their characters die, or you need to allow substitutes to join in. But if you allow as many substitutes as necessary, you might end up with the team walking out at the end having no connection to the team that entered in the first place. It'd be a bit like having every football player on a team replaced mid-game. To try and keep a little consistency, I said that the team forfited the crawl if more than half the team were replacement characters.

By the time they reached the end of the crawl, we'd had two character deaths, and one of the originals (a movement-based TWF) had mummy rot, so he was very hard to heal. In preparation for the final boss, the oracle had cast shield other on both the ranger and the one with mummy rot (the three originals remaining). During the fight, the boss (a pyrohydra) breathed in such a way that the three of them took all 10 heads worth of flame. The ranger made all her saves, so took half damage, and then half of that went to the oracle. The fighter and oracle both made 4/10 saves. That was just enough that the fighter still died, even taking half damage, and the oracle ended up with somewhere around -75 hp (from full health). The ranger's immediate response was to run towards the exit door. The wizard (all of whom's good spells were fire-based) was considering joining her. Only the monk was doing ok. If this hadn't been the final boss of the crawl, that module (and possibly the campaign) would have been over (since it was now 2/3 replacements), but since it was, any single surviving team member was enough to count as a victory.

In the end, the ranger stayed just inside the exit door, and between her and the monk, the hydra dropped, then the wizard finished it off with the 0th-level acid cantrip. But it was a very close thing.


I've had characters die, had characters die multiple times, lost multiple characters through the course of a campaign (in Arcana Evolved I had multiple characters die in a single session). As a DM I've killed players.

Without the possibility of defeat I don't see much point playing. I've been in campaigns where we had all new people, me, and the dm. He would go out of his way to keep everyone alive, but I specifically told him not to go easy on me. Normally I have five or six character ideas floating around in my head at any given time, so it's not much of a problem to write up another adventurer when one dropps.


I've killed characters off, but try not to until at least 6th level (barring one exception where I was in a really bad mood and my player pissed me off... but that's a different story). By then, the group SHOULD be able to pool enough cash to bring you back to life. Other than that, I let the player deal with the consequences of their actions. So far, it's always gone in their favor (which really upsets me, since it always changes my game when they do it). I do try and make either the materials needed for a res, or the service, available at all times, though.

As for having a character die, it's only happened to me once. The character that died was the product of a 3 week long discussion with the GM, and a LOT of creative back story, and he died in the 1st encounter (why we were fighting 3rd level orc barbarians at level 1 was beyond me). Pretty much had no desire to go back to that game.

Ultimately, it depends on the players. Personally, I think reincarnate is the best option, if for no other reason than pure chaos (wait, my gnome wizard got turned into a WHAT!? [after bugbear was rolled]). Other than that, remember that the point is that the players are heroes in your story, and your job is to provide them with a challenging, but enjoyable and rewarding, story to play in.

Just my two cents.

Sczarni

Let's see here....

Homebrew games:

Fighter - High level, end of campaign fight against big old group of enemies. Died swinging (and took out his "counterpart" enemy Fighter)

"Wizard" - Died due to massively underestimating enemy spellcaster's creativity (homebrew game based around Magic: The Gathering magic)

Since then, I've been GM about 80-90% of the time.

Other memorable deaths:

Rise of the Runelords (3.5) Playing a Druid, had my animal companion chopped in half twice, later got trap/sneak attack/sneak attack and dropped in a surprise round. He was reincarnated.

Rise of the Runelords: (PF Conversion) TPK at Thistletop. Lesson learned: sometimes, "just one more encounter" is exactly one too many. New characters rolled, campaign still ongoing, sorta.

Legacy of Fire: Playing a Paladin, was cut in half exchanging blows with BBEG from book 5. A good death in everyone's eyes. Was reincarnated.

Kingmaker: Playing a Ranger, Enthralled by a mind-affecting Fey due to horrible rolls, then got his Con drained. Later reincarnated.

As a GM, I strive for "almost kill you all" encounters for BBEG's, with the likelihood for death very slim in almost all other encounters. Of course, bad luck strikes every once in a while, but hey, that's what Raise Dead, Reincarnate, and Resurrection are for, right?

Just as a tip: it's a bad idea to openly challenge a major deity in a temple hallowed (and Consecrated) to him. Odds are, he's gonna smite you, somehow.


I have had many characters die in the games I run, as well has had even more of my own characters die in other peoples games over the years. Sometimes they can be raised... sometimes you have to roll up a new one. In all cases the risk of character death adds fun to the game in my opinion. TPK's are rare but running away is something that happens about every six months or so.

We have NEVER had a character death end a campaign. We have never had a TPK end a campaign.

If either of the above happens the DM finds a way to bring a new character/party into the mix via some RP bit that has happened to the characters in game. There is no hard and fast rule for this. Maybe a group is hired by a player characters guild or family to find out what happened. Maybe it was someone the group interacted with in the past and they became friends. Either way if the group and DM give it a little thought and spend a session making new characters you can pick up where you left off and still finish a campaign and have fun with it.

A game with very little risk is not as much fun most of the time... you gotta get some skin in the game to really care about making that next die roll. :)


Our group has had a number of characters (particularly fighter and paladin types) whose image it is to be the indomitable tank and die. The first time it is weathered, but after that second the player wants to roll a new character. Same player however had a contest of sorts as to how many times our characters were killed. Mine pulled for an early lead but he beat me out as we hit double digits. The deaths weren't intentional, but still...
Same group had a player that said he could never fear a gnome. So as the DM I made one that caused one player to enact the group's first ever "desperate measure". He turned into a dragon and we all jumped on and fled. The gnome still appears in several (including one of the current) campaigns and we still use the desperate measure.

With our group you never know what will break the character so there is always that edge (when dealing with some players) as to "is this going to shatter the group's solidarity when we have to introduce yet another character". We have had to adapt the "you seem trustworthy" mentality in some cases.


Thazar wrote:

I have had many characters die in the games I run, as well has had even more of my own characters die in other peoples games over the years. Sometimes they can be raised... sometimes you have to roll up a new one. In all cases the risk of character death adds fun to the game in my opinion. TPK's are rare but running away is something that happens about every six months or so.

We have NEVER had a character death end a campaign. We have never had a TPK end a campaign.

If either of the above happens the DM finds a way to bring a new character/party into the mix via some RP bit that has happened to the characters in game. There is no hard and fast rule for this. Maybe a group is hired by a player characters guild or family to find out what happened. Maybe it was someone the group interacted with in the past and they became friends. Either way if the group and DM give it a little thought and spend a session making new characters you can pick up where you left off and still finish a campaign and have fun with it.

A game with very little risk is not as much fun most of the time... you gotta get some skin in the game to really care about making that next die roll. :)

I had players killed in a few games that I ran. I have had characters that died in games when I was a player. Some times dying is an awesome end in itself especially if it came at a really dramatic moment. Other times I wished I just fudged the die because it was a dumb moment, ie. damn I just critted 6 times on a level 7 PC with the equivalent of a CR1 creature.

Some of the most memorable moments in my roleplaying career is when characters died whether as GM or as a player. Now my philosophy is that I only player kill when it is dramatic or it makes sense to do so . The player jumps in front of the healer who is his lover and takes the save or die spell. Now that is an awesome way to kill a player. But if I start chain critting a player with monsters that are 7 levels apart from the PC that warrants fudging.

I also kill players for stupidity ie. swimming in the ocean in the middle of a storm while wearing full plate.


To echo a couple of others if there is no risk there is no reward.

Also a good character death can be a glorious thing - I still recall the death of Failes Wildly a fighter pilot who lost a grapple with a robot got thrown out of a window and landed in the path of an oncoming car.

Stunned all I could do was watch as when the robot held his foot above my head and threatened the rest of the party telling them to give up the girl.

The party did a look behind you and shot at him - They didn't kill him, but he got me. Then getting into a car they avenged me by getting in the car and hitting ramming speed and due to not wearing seatbelt almost finished themselves off as well.

We nearly had a total party kill that time and we've had a few close shaves in the group, most recently a cleric being reduced to 0hp as he flew off on a griffon after seeing the rest of the party fall.

This doesn't happen every week, but sometimes like Failes Wildly you do roll a natural 1 4 times in a row.

The difference though is player death vs party death. Okay, so in a fantasy game player death is usualy temporary (unless you're a racist Elf who refuses to come back for fear of coming back as a human) but sometimes it's not an option. None of our games have ended as a result of player death and the 1 survivor option has led to some interesting storylines.

The worst game I've experienced was where the players had no fear of death due to the GM, no one cared about their characters the way they have in other games and it meant the game ultimately didn't last and that's a true TPK and it's not the type you laugh and joke about years later.

Ultimately the players are the heroes, but you need to make them feel heroic and this is where the last game I mentioned went wrong - Unlike the last game I took part in where my character declared he'd fight a Linnorm and "become a king or become an hero".

I was proud that the fight between a Wiz8/Monk2 and a CR14 Linnorm lasted 14 rounds - Okay so I didn't cause a point of damage and I played dead by plummeting from the sky and stopping my fall inches above the ground and led to party ridiculing me for my lack of commitment to my earlier claim of become a king or die trying rather than being impressed that I'd survived as long as I had, but my character (and I as the player) felt he'd achieved something.

OOC I entered that fight expecting to die, but I survived even if I did little else - Shame he died fighting the BBEG at the end of the story, but I had fun with the whole character arc and the best thing about his death was I get to try a new character concept. :)


Personally? No death means.. no point.

We recently suffered a near total TPK. Part of it was our fault (we brought down a building.. meant to kill the boss- took out 2/3 of our team instead. oops). However the fight wasn't going well and wasn't likely too either. At the end of the day one guy survived to run away while everyone else bit the dust.

Soo. the rest of us made new characters and we're continuing on. It was my second death in the campaign and so now I'm on my 3rd character. I love it because I know if I, or we, do something stupid the DM will not save us. If he crits he crits. If the monster has some super ability- they will use it. I do not *want* to be coddled in D&D. To me, its like playing a computer game with the Godmode cheat enabled. Sure, you got all the loot and explored all the ruins, got all the whatsits and whatevers.. but whats the point?

Flee-ing.. hmmm.. Yep, need to look this word up. We're not too good at that yet :) We're far better at "bash it until its dead, or we are". Excepting one counter- it worked, too..

-S


noblejohn wrote:

This topic came up in the Optimizatin post I started, and it is one I am interested in hearing opinions on. I think it is worthy of a thread all its own.

How many of you play in games where characters have died and had their campaign end?

If yes, does this add to the excitement or drama of the game, because you know there is more at stake?

If the answer is no, do you think this makes your battles and adventures less exciting?

As an add on - How many of you play in games where you had to flee an encounter because you were not ready for it? Does this add to the excitement?

IN D&D 3.0 played Shade Cleric (Forgotten Realms) who got eaten by a Tendriculous (they STILL bother me). Then I played a kick-ass wood-elf monk for a while, who got ganked by botching a save against a Beholder. Then my Cleric returned as an Astral Deva (what can I say, it was a high-power game, and Savage Species was out) and accidentally killed half the party with a blade barrier Spell-like (in 3.0 it was not dismissible) because I didn't know there was a Yellow Musk Creeper in the fog beyond. The cleric, the ranger, and the rogue all failed their saves and walked into the blade barrier.

THEN the campaign died.

I still play with the same guys now 10 years later (give or take) and they STILL rib me for that.

The problem was that the campaign died because the other players just didn't see bringing in new PCs that late in the campaign... it sort of fizzled out, and it was my fault. Let me tell you, though, I now always check my abilities to make sure I can turn them off. That's not a mistake you make twice.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yes, but it wasn't Pathfinder, it was mutual decided, and somewhat unplanned. We ended up calling it the

Spoiler:
Blake's 7 ending
. In it there was what amounted to a TPK at the end of a session. I was running it, and I could see the fairly obvious turnabout. But as we talked about the game, we came to the mutual decision that no, from a story perspective, the party getting offed at that point was a spectacular ending. So we let it stand, and moved on.


noblejohn wrote:
How many of you play in games where characters have died and had their campaign end?

Never happened. Yes characters have died but the campaign did not end because of it. That is poor campaign design. I have seen a TPK end the campaign but I think that was more due to DM burn out...

noblejohn wrote:
If yes, does this add to the excitement or drama of the game, because you know there is more at stake?

It would I suppose...

noblejohn wrote:
If the answer is no, do you think this makes your battles and adventures less exciting?

No as personal character death is always a threat.

noblejohn wrote:
As an add on - How many of you play in games where you had to flee an encounter because you were not ready for it? Does this add to the excitement?

Yes we have fled encounters....surrender to the enemy. Heck in one game I play in half the time at lower levels my character surrendered to the enemy to save the party's life(either because they were down or had to flee...and my character surrendering gave them time to escape). And all of those times were exciteing because each time we were able to turn it into a voctory from the jaws of defeat.

But with out the actual threat( and it really has to be real because players can tell even when the most skilled DM is making it seem like there is a illusion of a threat of death) of death it becomes pointless and ego stroking.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

(off-topic mini-rant/) "Player" is _not_ a synonym for "player character"! Please use the word "character", or abbreviate it to PC - in this forum, no one should mistake it for any other meaning than "player character". Otherwise it sounds as though things are getting very bloody around the gaming table in real life. (/off-topic mini-rant)

I don't recall a TPK ending a campaign in which I've played. Edit: no, that's a lie - one Call of Cthulhu adventure did kill the party and end the campaign before it got off its feet. However, I think that RL also precluded the formation of a new CoC group in that particular case.

I have GM'd a near-TPK: there was one PC survivor, plus two NPCs (who'd been told to escort the freed captives to safety while all the PCs continued onwards and ended up biting off more than they could chew). The surviving PC decided to retire, thus allowing the entire group to create new characters. The new party is in the same campaign world, and will run into repercussions of the original party's deeds (and the same NPCs).

I enjoy the threat of character death in my games, both as a player and as a GM.

As a GM, I have no compunction about letting a party know that a big bad monster is in the neighbourhood (if appropriate to the setting, etc.), but I do let the initial sighting be at such a distance that the party has plenty of time to escape unless they do something completely stupid. Examples include disinterested dragons flying far overhead and the equivalent of Dune sandworms seen in the distance (and felt as faint tremors in the ground). Or the mummified kraken laying siege to the desert mesa on the other side of a world gate. (I did not make up this monster - look at Sandstorm!)

So yeah, I firmly believe in characters fleeing an encounter if necessary for survival. It adds to the story's realism if things occasionally happen that way. This applies to myself as both GM and player character.

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