Advice for killing off a PC?


Advice


One of my players wants to switch to a new PC, which I'm fine with. Since it's the start of a new adventure arc, I'm going to have the new BBEG's minion encounter the party and slay his old character (the player is in on this, but the rest of the players don't know about it). The player and I both think it's a cooler way for the PC to leave the world (rather than just retiring), and it gives the party bonus incentive to defeat BBEG.

Any advice for this? Should I just do it cinematically, or is that railroading too much? If I don't do it cinematically, how do I actually ensure that he died (all my dice are rolled in front of the players). The players are all level 4, and have a paladin who could try to save the character with lay on hands.


Planning out the death of a PC because it's "cooler" is unquestionably "railroading". It's also potentially risky to try to do if the party contains one or more heroically desperate martyrs who will literally do anything to stop a fellow party member from dying.

I personally would not commit to this, but I would potentially throw a very difficult encounter at the party and allow the player at a key moment to sacrifice himself to save the rest of the party, but, again, it's a risky maneuver and some parties would make this very hard to pull off without losing another character or exposing the plot, which can have GM/player trust consequences.


give them a fight where its a good idea for them to split up, and purposely focus on the other players, then when it comes to the character in questions turn, have the other players find his character already dead


Some special death effect on the weapon that also turns his soul into a soul gem?


Rynjin wrote:
Some special death effect on the weapon that also turns his soul into a soul gem?

Been playing Skirim? Got me thinking of a Soul Trap spell.

Also, Rynjin...:
Check your free-form thread once in a while. Waiting on answers to my burning questions. I may have one of my players play-test it with a group of normal PCs. I'll let you know if it flies with them.

It's probably better for him to simply retire. You can still incorporate it later - two sessions or so down the road, have the party come across a ruined village. They find the body of their friend. He leaves a final note for whomever comes by - the BBEG had this done purposefully. The villagers talk about how he saved dozens of lives with his valor and bravery. The PC gets his great death (heroic sacrifice and all), the PCs hate the BBEG even more, and there's no reason to suspect any of your players will be in the know.

The only possible downside is that your players may think "If I ever retire my character, the DM will kill him off". But that depends on the players and you.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

Holding off a swarm or some monstrosity so the rest can escape is a good way to go. As long as they actually run when he tells them to (the fools!)


Surprise round with true strike and one of these.. Hell, make it two greaters and use Multishot for double the slaying


Without knowing the party composition and the BBEG it's difficult to be specific but rather than a straight up fight. Why not attempt a kidnapping instead.

The BBEG's minion could ambush the party with an overpowered group, but rather than stand and fight they snatch and grab the victim and disable the party's ability to pursue. The motivation for the kidnapping is to interrogate the party member, which will ultimately lead to his death. It also provides a valid reason for not taking the Paladin. It also leaves you, the GM, with a valid pretext for having the BBEG know something about the party. You could play up the rest of the adventure by having the party carefully consider where they rest etc.


Wouldn't it be more interesting if the PC got kidnapped? That would put the party under some time pressure. (Even though they shall ultimately fail in their rescue attempt of course.)


TheRedArmy wrote:
Rynjin wrote:
Some special death effect on the weapon that also turns his soul into a soul gem?
Been playing Skirim? Got me thinking of a Soul Trap spell.

Heh, figured somone would say it.

But no, actually, I was thinking of the Pathfinder version, Trap the Soul. High powered spell, yes, but he did ask for plothooks and a BBEG link, and what's a better plothook than "The BBEG captured our friend's soul, let's get it back!"?

TheRedArmy wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
Funnily enough, I went to check it IMMEDIATELY after typing that first post in this thread. Hope those answers help a bit.

I've had a similar situation with one of my players. We just arranged for his character to be conveniently taken in the middle of the night during a visit in his home village. Lucky for him, the characters brother was more than willing to avenge the capture. [Enter new character.] It's whatever best fits into your story.


This came up in my campaign as well, also with the player's complicity. The player in question became frustrated quickly when he felt he was underperforming, and kept wanting to try something new. I just told him to 'fail a saving throw' at an appropriate time in the next fight, and he could bring his new character in right after. His character got shot with a poisoned arrow, and he tumbled off a cliff-side into a river.

What players fail to realize is that a body off-screen is the GM's to play with. Cultists that had it in for the party found the body, mummified it, tortured the mummy, and forced it to become their assassin. When the party had to investigate a series of gruesome killings, they wound up facing their own party member, now in new-and-improved undead flavor.

He hasn't changed his character since. He's afraid of what I'll do with it.


Trap the Soul combined with Instant Summons. This takes a high-powered caster (either the BBEG or his pet wizard), but have a minion present the gem to the PC -- perhaps as payment for a task? Perhaps they want the PC to appraise it? Whatever. Anyway, because PC voluntarily takes it he doesn't get a save. BBEG has a telepathic link with the minion, or is scrying on the minion, or on the gem, or something -- and he casts Instant Summons right away, teleporting the gem straight into his hand.

Kind of a high-powered investment; he must have something impressive in mind for the PC's soul (trading it to a particular outsider who really wants it, maybe?)


This sorta happened to me once actually. I had a spellthief back in 3.5 days, and I really loved the character, but because we rarely encountered any spellcasting enemies, his core abilities were virtually never used, and without spells to steal, he was just a weak version of a rogue.

So the GM and I had a few conversations offline about the character and the difficulty of keeping him viable in the game, so we both knew that he wasn't really working out. But we didn't "plan" any sort of PC death.

But, in a tough fight against a group of trolls, our party was in dire straits, and my character wasn't really contributing much to the fight, but when one of the trolls moved to coup de grace our cleric on the very edge of a cliff, I winked at the GM, bullrushed the troll and as he went over the edge, he grappled me and we both went off together. That was enough to swing the fight to save the party and my little spellthief went from party joke to party legend with one move.

To this day the GM won't tell me what happened after they fell off the cliff. He keeps saying he has "plans"...


What? Nobody ever just retires? Unless you're pretty low level you're probably wearing or wielding enough money to live comfortably for years if you're a martial and can look forward to a lucrative career as a magician for hire if you're a caster.


Atarlost, most of my PCs retire. Comfortably. Some are even lords or dukes. One is a sultan.


You should proceed with the player's wishes. A well placed (fudged) crit would do the trick.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Introduce the new PC, then have the BBEG's minion turn up, threaten the whole party, then eat the new PC - no one will see that coming!

In seriousness though, I rarely cinematic anything for purposes other than saving time. As the person running the game, you can weight the odds so preposterously against the PC intended to die that it's all but certain to happen. And if the PCs do manage to turn the situation around somehow - they'll feel great about having had an effect on the storyline, and where is the harm in having an extra PC for a session or so?


Most higher level PCs in my campaign semi-retire. They're too busy running the world to go adventuring; but the campaign continues with their lower level henchmen.

Silver Crusade

The PC's will be facing the killer later in the campaign, right?

Once had a devil petrify a PC's ally and use various types of magic and diabolic craftsmanship to turn his petrified head as the spiked head of a mace. Made sure to make it clear that the ally was aware the entire time too.

The PCs really wanted to give that devil a beatdown.

Anything that inflicts a fate worse than death coupled with weaponizing them in some way to use against their surviving allies seems to get the righteous/vengeful rage flowing. :)


I'd make everything appear to be safe and give them reasons to split up temporarily to do their own thing, but force a confrontation between BBEG's overpowered minion and the PC in question... and then roll it out for everyone to see and let nature go its course. Perhaps have another PC arrive in time to witness the coup de grace in character.

Once everything is said and done and your players are wondering if that seriously just happened, let them know the guy wanted to switch and even has a new character written up.


I don't see how making the character's death cinematic would be railroading.

IF the player and the GM are both in agreement about what happens, who's decisions are being overridden? The player has the right to play the character and the GM has the right to interpret outcomes for purposes of story. This isn't a case of a GM fudging dice or overriding a player decision, this is a case of a GM helping their player be awesome and have a moment to shine. Where's the harm in that?


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The character needs to announce - moments before his death - that he is thinking about settling down and starting a family.


The party goes to a tavern.

Server walks by, trips, and dumps scorching hot stew all over the pc, dealing 10d6 charisma damage and killing them instantly.

Lantern Lodge

Midnight Guard duty. When they go to sleep on the road tailing an enemy that did some thing worth them following have him take 1st shift. They get attacked at night and since he is the only1 alive he gets captured in a futile struggle. The characters have a goal to rescue there ally and new character is introduced. Have remnants of the character's mutilated body around as a taunt to the players and really drive there blood lust by taking some of there gear in that midnight raid.


master_marshmallow wrote:
give them a fight where its a good idea for them to split up, and purposely focus on the other players, then when it comes to the character in questions turn, have the other players find his character already dead

Something like this. Just isolate the character from the group...in a city or town is probably the easiest. Include a highly insulting note on the corspe and you should be good.

Or you could just have the character have a unknow heart condition till now and sie of a heart attack.

Dark Archive

Use Flesh to Stone.

Unless the party is of a pretty high level it will be hard if not expensive to fix and can be used to permanently "store" a character in time, in the case the story has room for them to return in the future with less plot interruption than say, death and dismemberment or a soul trap.

The Creature, borrowed from The Slumbering Tsar CR 10:
ABYSSAL GREATER BASILISK CR 10
XP 9,600
Advanced fiendish basilisk (Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Bestiary“Basilisk”; “Fiendish Creature”)
CE Large outsider (augmented magical beast, extraplanar)
Init+3; Sensesdarkvision 60 ft., low-light vision; Perception
+28
AC 18, touch 8, flat-footed 18 (–1 Dex, +10 natural, –1 size)
hp 171 (18d10+72)
Fort +12; Ref +12; Will+14
DR 10/good; Resist cold 15, fire 15; SR17
Speed20 ft.
Melee bite +25 (2d8+10)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacksgaze, smite good
Str24, Dex8, Con19, Int3, Wis13, Cha15
Base Atk+18; CMB+26; CMD 35 (47 vs. trip)
FeatsBlind-Fight, Great Fortitude, Improved Initiative,
Improved Natural Attack (bite), Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes,
Skill Focus (Perception), Skill Focus (Stealth), Weapon Focus
(bite)
SkillsPerception +28, Stealth +26
Gaze (Ex)Turn to stone permanently (as flesh to stone),
range 30 feet, Fortitude DC 23 negates. A creature petrified
in this matter that is then coated (not just splashed) with
fresh basilisk blood (taken from a basilisk no more than 1
hour dead) is instantly restored to fl esh. A single basilisk
contains enough blood to coat 1d3 Medium creatures in this
manner. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Smite Good (Su)Once per day an abyssal greater basilisk
can make a melee attack with a +2 on the attack roll to
deal an extra 18 points of damage against a good foe. The
smite persists until the target is dead or the abyssal greater
basilisk rests.


Damn it John, now that you're talking about heart attacks killing people out of nowhere I want to run an adventure centered around stopping somebody who got their hands on a Death Note.


kyrt-ryder wrote:
Damn it John, now that you're talking about heart attacks killing people out of nowhere I want to run an adventure centered around stopping somebody who got their hands on a Death Note.

Sorry...I was more thinking about Flint from the Dragonlance seris.

Shadow Lodge

Mystically Inclined wrote:

I don't see how making the character's death cinematic would be railroading.

IF the player and the GM are both in agreement about what happens, who's decisions are being overridden?

The other players who might try to save the cinematically killed PC.

Though this isn't too hard to deal with if you use a cinematic beheading or similarly swift death rather than try to make him die in the paladin's arms.

Scarab Sages

Assuming you're not playing an Evil campaign or something, maybe you could get him turned into a Vampire or something and forced to become an NPC? In 3rd Edition, at least, becoming a Vampire made you Chaotic Evil regardless of what you were before. That could turn the character into one HELL of an enemy for several reasons, and might be damned cool.


I just love how there's such a binary assumption of 'Evil Campaign' or 'Evil PCs are forbidden'

Scarab Sages

Physician, heal thyself. I don't make that assumption, hence why I tacked on, "or something" - point is, my idea would be cool, but in a campaign where it were permissible to play a Vampire PC, it wouldn't work.


Ask him what glorious death best befits the cinematic moment you're going for.
Pushed off a cliff? Beheaded? Chomped by a summoned tyrannosaur?

Liberty's Edge

While in a town or city, a package is delivered to the PC in question. It contains a note on the outside which reads: " I have been following your exploits for some time and you have shown yourself worthy of this small gift, which you might consider as a down payment on a future endeavor I have in mind. Perhaps you and your associates can meet me at ( insert local tavern name ) tonight. Signed, Omnicience." Inside, an ornate giftbox contains a magical gemmed sword (or other type of weapon or wand the character normally would use). Two rounds after touching the sword, it explodes for xd6 damage (the gems are delayed fireballs ). This not only kills the character in question; but can set the stage for the next quest- to find and repay Omnicience, who might be a high level Wizard/Assassin heading an assassins guild.


Oh, I like that one!


I like something involving cliffs, or something involving (greater) human (or whatever his race is) slaying arrows. The second one will probably get you a reputation for the most lethal GM your players have ever played with, which is probably a bonus in my book.


Have the PC and a mysterious NPC get into an argument, then stage a dual. The dual is not supposed to be to the death, but when the PC is beaten and surrenders, the NPC does a deathblow, captures the PC's soul (to prevent resurrection) and makes his/her escape, most likely through magical means. The GM can add any amount of flourish to this.

Depending on how loved the PC was, this NPC now becomes the most hated person in the party's universe, and all efforts will be made to discover who he/she is, and how to locate the villian. Almost any plot you have can be tied to this NPC in some way.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

You need the cooperation of the player for this, but I did the following when a player decided that he was tired of the character and wanted to play another.

The PCs had been assisting the town guard with an investigation of a serial killer. With this player's consent, he made a new character that was working as a city guard. I ran the guard as an NPC for a few sessions, so that he could work with the PCs... and that the PCs would trust him.

The PC in question was killed off-camera by a shapeshifting monster (during what the rest of the party thought was "down time"). The shapeshifter, who was the serial killer, then took the form of the PC and continued to work with the party. I gave the player a character sheet for the shapeshifter, and he ran the shapeshifter for three sessions. At the same time, the party had two town guards working with them as NPCs in the party-- one of which was that player's new PC.

With the player-run shapeshifter trying to convince the party to go in a different direction, the party discovered the corpse of their friend in a nearby dungeon. Confrontation, lies stated and detected, and then their friend shifted to a monster.

With a flourish, I handed the player his new PC's character sheet and ran the monster for the rest of the combat. (Its first action: killing the other NPC guard!)

The other players were floored, and we both got a lot of compliments on pulling off the deception!

(Gaming notes: The PC who died was a wizard; the shapeshifter was a faceless stalker with sorcerer levels.)


That's pretty cool, Haladir.

I'm read all the advice, and I'm going to end up killing him off-camera, after he gets separated from the group for 5-10 minutes. If the group doesn't let him get separated, then I'll have to wing it. None of the other suggestions really fit for this particular campaign (it's a pre-made module, not a homebrew).

But the rest of the PCs will get the chance to extract immediate revenge on BBEG's minions, is that's what they want to do, and will now things will be personal and they'll have more incentive to track down BBEG.


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
The character needs to announce - moments before his death - that he is thinking about settling down and starting a family.

After all, it's his last week before retirement.


In all seriousness, when someone at my table wants to start a new character (or has to leave the game), we don't kill them. They just split off to solve their own issues, and then later I write a little epilogue about what happened to them and post it on a doc where everyone can see.

Sovereign Court

I did something close to this with on of the PCs a few months ago.

Backstory: The player who was playing basically bowed out of my game and wasnt planning on returning due to life issues (she did eventually came back to the group). Her character was an integral part of the story (at that time) due to her being the Duchess of their new kingdom (Kingmaker AP). I did have grand designs for her, but needed the player about to make various decisions.

Campaign Story: The PC in question basically became an NPC. She seduced one of the PCs into marriage, and all was good for a while in game. The pcs went out adventuring when they met up with a small stronghold of Fey. Only a couple of PCs met the actual leader, and barely made it out alive. The rest of the Fey however were dealt with by the Pcs.

Two Fey survived and tracked the PCs down to their kingdom. One of them was able to pass off as elven, and spent about a month getting info on the PCs, where they learned that the PCs were the nobles of this country, and the wife (the stated PC turned NPC) was the Duchess. Since the "elven" Fey had the items to pass off as royalty she presented herself to the very very vain Duchess as a handmaiden from the elven nation (Kyronin I believe), and pledged her services to the Duchess as a handmaiden, as a show of friendship. The Duchess immediately accepted the Fey's service (she failed her Sense Motive: still a npc). Over a week the Fey used a poison to muddle the Duchess mind.

Upon the return of the PCs to their kingdom, the Fey launched their assassination on the Duchess. I had informed the PCs that whenever they return the gate guard blow their horns to signify the Duke of the Realm has returned. The PCs went about some business when the castle alarm bells went off with commotion. The PCs eventually heard that the Duchess was dead and rushed to the bed chambers to she the "Elven" Fey lady holding the slit throat of the Duchess, and dropping her body to the ground. Battle occurred shortly after. The PCs managed to defeat the Fey, but one got away...

Hopefully this will help. You can still place a dramatic event in and have the overall results that you desire, while giving the PCs actions and a focal point. If you are wanting this to be played out the only way I can recommend doing so would be to have an overtly powerful nemesis that you know the PCs cannot handle, but is not interested in the PCs deaths...at this time.


Big Lemon wrote:
Ciaran Barnes wrote:
The character needs to announce - moments before his death - that he is thinking about settling down and starting a family.
After all, it's his last week before retirement.

He was getting too old for this stuff.


Tirisfal wrote:
Big Lemon wrote:
Ciaran Barnes wrote:
The character needs to announce - moments before his death - that he is thinking about settling down and starting a family.
After all, it's his last week before retirement.
He was getting too old for this stuff.

And that old arrow injury...

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