Your GM Kill Rate


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This came up in the last game. We are level 5's and we fought a hodag.

There was absolutely no way to get the hodag out of the cave, so someone had to go in. The hodag got to make a full attack and that were no valid targets. The first 3 put the PC at negative hit points.

We agreed that the 4th attack needed to be aimed at the dying body, and kill him fully.

What are your thoughts?


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Haven't played Paranoia. Wish I did so I could put out some obscene number.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

This is beginning to become a sore spot for me in the game I'm running. My players (well, one in particular) seem to very opposed to PC death, which is frustrating because no one seems to mind when we're playing an adventure path. It's as if they take it more personally if their characters were to die in the homebrew game I'm running; like if they die while playing an adventure path or module that's just the difficultly of the encounter, but if they die in my homebrew game it's like I was personally out to get them.


Once the party has enough resources for a resurrection fund then it's a bit less of an issue.


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I run a big overarching campaign that has seen a total of four GMs over its lifetime. It's had its quirks in terms of deaths. One particular GM tried to make tough encounters but they always ended up being really easy, while it's the opposite for me. I design encounters that look difficult, but somehow in most sessions my players have a hard time and I have no idea how. I even throw single enemies at their party of six and somehow they walk away from the fights limping.

My players have told me that they like the challenge though and find it boring if it's too easy.

I also have a track record of killing former GMs' PCs with their own villains by accident. We joke that the most recent GM that stepped down was wise because she killed off all her villains so that I can't accidentally kill her character using them.


I probably get one kill per adventure in a path or so. We roll out in the open because it is far more fun for us.

I have ran the first three Legacy of Fire adventures and the first three Rise Of The Runelords Adventures so far. I don't remember LoF as we left it after book 3 to move to Runelords but for Runelords deaths I have:

Book1: Cleric put to sleep by Erilyum then CDG while seperated from the party. Later on the Mage was with 10 str was murdered by shadows below the goblin fort, came back as a shadow and almost killed the ranger but not quite.

A couple near deaths (-10hp or so) against the barghast (they retreated and went back to deal with him after book 2 lol---smart)

Book2: They unleashed the revenant, followed it to the end guys door and for whatever reason they decided to attack it at the last minute and try to destroy it before it could have it's revenge.

Well lol that thing beat them freakin senseless. It ripped the mage apart and sent his body into the drink below (they fought it in the underground circular chamber with the pool in the middle) and it beat another two members unconcious before they just barely managed to take it down. That revenant was a beast! Far more scary then the end guy in the manor.

Book3: Lucrecia killed the magus in combat (she is just as badass as her sister honestly) but at this point they have breath of life so it's all good.

Saves them a lot of money on temple trips :P

I know I am going to get some kills with Mokmurian in book 4, and I expect the Lamia sisters plus the surviving Lucrecia encounter will kill someone too.


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My games have a fair amount of character death. Since I started keeping track about eight years ago or so, I've had over 60 character deaths and there probably would be another 30 or so if not for hero points.

In my current RotRL game we are 18 sessions in. There have been 6 PC deaths and 4 that were averted by hero points.

In my current AoW campaign we are 46 sessions in and there have been 11 character deaths and 7 that were averted by hero points.

There have been plenty other really close calls as well. Almost every session there seems to be at least one PC that comes pretty close to getting killed.

I wouldn't say that I go out of my way to kill PCs, but I also don't usually go out of my way not to kill them, though I do pull punches here and there- not by fudging outcomes, but by sometimes using suboptimal battle tactics.

However, in other game systems I don't have high PC death rates. I've run plenty of shadowrun and never killed a PC (which is surprising given how dangerous that system can be). I've run several other systems here and there as well and rarely had any deaths.

I believe in making rolls out in the open, and I believe that a PC death every now and then is good for keeping players on their toes and from becoming complacent. Making a new PC can be a fair amount of work, but it hardly compares to the amount of work that GMs tend to put into prepping for sessions each week. I do like to keep raise dead options open for players who wish to keep playing their character, but more often than not they tend to leave their PCs dead and bring in something new.

Scarab Sages

My first real campaign I played in (first one I joined in for the last 4 sessions) was a 21 month, ~5 hours a session, weekly, campaign where the DM averaged a 1.2 PC deaths per session (with no TPKs). Magic didn't restore itself naturally. Only two characters ever got raised, one of which was a NPC (long story).

I have no idea how he managed to make it fun, but it was the most fun campaign I've played in so far, and it certainly taught me a lot of lessons (I got a lot better at building characters, "protect those who protect you", and "there are some things that you're supposed to run from")


I don't have much GM experience and haven't had any deaths. That being said, I've never considered death to be inherently bad. I've had quite a few characters die over my experience gaming, and I don't sour over any of them. As long as it's dramatic and dealt with right, I've found my characters' deaths add to the story, and in some regards, rewarding. When playing a fearless warrior, dying gloriously in combat for the benefit of your team can be a better way to conclude their story than them surviving to the end, retiring to the country and dying of old age.


I don't avoid character deaths, but I may or may not fudge things a bit depending on the potential cause of death....

For example, I don't like to see a good character, that the player is enjoying die...simply because of a bad roll of the dice.

Or even a string of bad roles.

A player that constantly makes silly choices and sticks their neck in the line of fire all the time.....no mercy.


As a GM I've.... wait, what's an original gaming party?
Honestly, the player's get their own PCs killed with their failed rolls.

Skull and Shackles: The players went through 2 to 3 characters each in the first book of the AP.

IF you haven't played the AP, do not look:
The sea and swarms be cruel mistresses. Each one became a ghoul, we restarted the AP twice at the island to save time.

As a player, the GM tries to kill my character but succeeds only after I retire them or by killing the game. I feel sorry for the other players since their characters die in the traps meant for my character.

Liberty's Edge

If I get joy from killing PCs and thus ruining the players' fun, I am a bad GM.

If I do not even get joy from it and just kill them anyway to obey rules and rolls, why keep on GMing ?


The black raven wrote:

If I get joy from killing PCs and thus ruining the players' fun, I am a bad GM.

If I do not even get joy from it and just kill them anyway to obey rules and rolls, why keep on GMing ?

If as a player I don't ever even come close to the risk of dying, why don't I just have the GM read me the story?

If my fun is completely blown by a temporary setback, I am a bad player.

Silver Crusade

Grooven wrote:
I am posting here to start a conversation. I would like to share my philosophy when it comes to sitting behind the GM screen and character deaths. I would like to hear what other people’s philosophies are and what other peoples kill rates are.

I agree that the GM's job is to make sure everyone is having a good time. I like to challenge the players but I also like to let the players glory in a plan well executed. If they find a way to make an encounter a pushover I don't punish them for it. I let them kick ass and be heroes. If it turns out that that their builds are just that powerful I'll up the next encounter.

As for optimization I make sure that all of the characters are on the same level. If I have players making optimized characters I have them help the other players tweak their characters. I always pull the weaker players up cuz it's not fair to the stronger players and the weaker players learn a little bit more about the rules.

As for player death I really haven't had it happen too often. With the CON rounds after 0HP most combat will end before they actually die. I do let players get KOed generally I find it ups the danger level if players are getting taken out and I don't fudge it. I usually don't fudge die rolls. I'll usually drop a villain or two from the pack if I think the party is weak or have them come back in with reinforcements if the party seems to be really pushing over the encounter. )


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I just let the dice fall where they fall. My players seem to enjoy that. Unfortunately for me, my players are all terrible. Sincerely, sincerely terrible. I've been running Rise of the Runelords for awhile now.

I, uhh. I had about nine or so PC deaths in Burnt Offerings. They managed to sneak three PC deaths into the filler arc. Ended up with ten deaths in The Skinsaw Murders (two full TPK's) plus they failed to stop the villain's plot. I gave up and asked for a drink at that point.

Where's my big old beer?


Well I ran the numbers from my last campaign (4 players), and in just barely 13 levels there were 12 player deaths, although that might miss some level 1 deaths before I got character sheets.

#1 COD (Cause Of Death) with 6 kills: GM got hot dice. Not much the player can do when the GM gets back to back crits and the player goes from 34HP to -14.

#2 COD with 3 kills: Players got cold dice. A player can miss 3 saves at 8+ in a row and die, and that battle when the players hit 3 times out of 27 attack rolls before their dice picked up enough so they could hit more than once a round. They weren't even tough rolls, one of them had 3 attacks/round needing 6+/6+/11+ and didn't hit at all for 3 rounds.

#3 COD with 2 kills: Player stupidity, if something radiates a "palpable aura of evil" it is not a good idea to pick it up, 'nuff said.

#4 COD with 1 kill: Monster too strong for party. Let's all bow our heads in memory of the brave halfling bard Fluffy who dutifully charged 3 swarms of flesh-devouring cockroaches in order to allow the party to escape and buy up some alchemist fire. This could qualify as player stupidity, but they had brought flasks for swarms and used it earlier on a non-swarm monster.


Berinor wrote:
Lincoln Hills wrote:
As others have pointed out, it doesn't help that death is cheap (really, really cheap - seriously, raise dead costs less than a longsword +1?!?)
Isn't it 5450 (5000 to do it yourself) for the raise dead and 2320 for the sword? Not to mention the price of the restorations?

And don't forget that restoration can only be used once a week on a character so unless High level resurrections take place the raised PC is at least a week at -1 level.

I tend to let high-level PC's have powerfull items that let them handle most fights quite fast.
But I usually put them in a situation that requires heavy recource management and/or choices that they want resolved at the same time.
And then I make it impossible to resolve both issues and force them to commit for either issue or lose them both.
Sometimes the players do something brilliant and actually manage the impossible and I think that's the challenge for them.

I like using high level PC's so I can play monsters smart and not dumb or random. Because high level players do not go down that easily, I do not need to pull punches and can easily use the most vicious tricks against them.


I have only one death on my hands, but the player was going for it. He made a deal with a chaotic evil demigod, who possessed his mind, and ultimately killed him. I even told him that he can have a will save, but he denied my offer.

Shadow Lodge

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My GM Kill Rate is 0%.

I've never killed my GM. Frustrated, sure, but never killed.


Do you count characters that die and come back? If so, quite a bit higher than perma-deaths.
Perma-deaths, probably a little less than 20 in about 13 years of full-time GMing (about once a week). With raising, probably about two or three times that.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

I think I can count my number of perm-deaths on one hand. Lots of raising, and breath of life saves thanks to first aid gloves being published.


In 27 years I have TPKs my party 3 times.

1) I was a teenager and a girl I liked showed up to hang out. I TPK'd the two players so the game would be finished. Ah, youthful desperation. It was a one-off anyways. I don't remember much detail from those days. (2e)

2) The party managed to get themselved killed during the final session of Expedition to the Demonweb Pits. Who enters the hall of a demon prince as an ambassador and immediately starts attacking everything in sight? Jeez... Prior to that four PCs had been killed, which is very high for me. (3.5e)

3) In a homebrew I had been running for a dozen sessions or so, the party got themselves killed by a huge carniverous plant that was designed to simply drain resources. It was a tough fight, but they did not use a magic item I had given them specifically for the purpose of defeating the plant, and they did not use many of their most powerful abilities. I hadn't killed anyone up until that point, and the DM I took the campaign over from killed a couple PCs every character level.(4e)

However, I have mostly played in the last ten years, and my most frequent DM/GM almost never kills players. That is, until we began S&S and on average one PC dies per character level.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
The black raven wrote:

If I get joy from killing PCs and thus ruining the players' fun, I am a bad GM.

If I do not even get joy from it and just kill them anyway to obey rules and rolls, why keep on GMing ?

My GM gets great joy from talking about the times he has tried and failed to kill the PCs -- as do we PCs. The GM presented us with a worthy challenge, and we met it. What could be better than that?

Liberty's Edge

I am very much a proponent of 'let the dice fall where they may', but for my home brew game I pay very close attention to the balance and lethality of encounters when I set them up.

I have GM'd 8 or 9 low-level PFS games during which one player died. He got snagged by a nasty trap that took all his hit points in one fell swoop (critical hit).

I have also GM'd a home game for about a year. Only one character has died, although there were several close calls. The character that died was a sorcerer who cast feather fall and then blindly jumped down a 60 foot deep chute. He forgot he was at 3 hit points. The insect swarm at the bottom of the chute thought he was quite tasty. :)


RedDogMT wrote:
I am very much a proponent of 'let the dice fall where they may', but for my home brew game, I also pay very close attention to the balance and lethality of encounters when I set them up.

This is a critical point.

"Let the dice fall where they may" is one thing, but setting up the encounters has a far greater effect on lethality than some proponents acknowledge. As does running them.


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Even thread death is not permanent . . . .

I like the idea of converting a total party kill into a total party capture, especially if the GM realizes that it isn't the party's fault. Obviously won't work in all cases, but in some cases it could provide a way to recover gracefully and maybe even have everybody (including the GM) learn something that they can actually use going forward. This would be particularly beneficial in cases where the GM or the AP/module/whatever writers erred on the high side in setting up the encounter difficulty level.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Tally of character deaths:

-Way of the Wicked (first run): 4
-Way of the Wicked (2nd run): 7
-Way of the wicked (3rd run): 3
-Underdark campaign: 6
-Urban campaign: 4
-First Mythic campaign: 1
-canceled campaign: 2
-current regular campaign: 0

did run 2 or 3 more games with no character deaths in them, so right now as a gm...let see:

roughly 27 deaths out of the 10 games or so I was the dm.


I just have my players keep track of two other characters and level them up as their characters level in the event that their character dies (so they can quickly bring in a backup character ready to use without lose of game time).

Just started this practice with Iron Gods, and we're at the end of book 1 with two dead characters and four near deaths. My players have appreciate the extra work outside of game that makes it so they don't have to sit and watch everyone else have fun during game.


I used to be very skittish about killing PCs, but after a while I realized I had more fun if I wasn't constantly worrying about killing PCs and just ran the monsters as made sense to me.

Since then I've had 6 character deaths.

-Two deaths in Skull and Shackles against Gortus Svard and his lean, mean, 17-20/x3 critting machine (he struck with that motherf*+*ing thing 3 times, and got 3 criticals, one of which took the Soulknife to the negatives in a single hit, the second of which dropped the Alchemist from full HP to -24 in a swipe, and the 3rd of which took the Barbarian to -Dead after he'd eaten a pair of shield bashes last round.). The Orc Barbarian I took pity on and had Sandra Quinn pull a scroll of Breath of Life out of nowhere (with a reduction in their party fund to compensate), and the Goblin Vivisectionist stayeddead.

-4 deaths in Carrion Crown.

For Book 1 and 2 of Carrion Crown:

-The Elf Wizard was Coup de Graced by a skeleton after he failed a save versus the Pied Piper's Hold Person.

-The Kitsune Bard died after an INCREDIBLE string of low rolls on his saves against Father Charatan's head games. I don't think teh poor bastard rolled above a in about 15 rolls.

-The Human Cleric of Pharasma was eaten by a hungry Ghast after he failed his save versus paralysis (same player as the Elf Wizard, I felt kinda bad about this one).

-The Tiefling Barbarian triggered the Huge Air Elemental trap on the door of Schloss Caromarc, and was picked up by its Whirlwind, then dropped 200 feet into the river below. I allowed him a last act of defiance in throwing his hammer as he fell, probably preventing it from killing the Investigator and Oracle as well.

Coincidentally those four were the original party...nobody now remains of the original 6 (two whose players dropped out), but thankfully the former and latter two deaths were spaced far enough apart that new members of the group were able to be brought in and become invested in what was going on, so they actually have a reason to continue.

Liberty's Edge

thejeff wrote:
RedDogMT wrote:
I am very much a proponent of 'let the dice fall where they may', but for my home brew game, I also pay very close attention to the balance and lethality of encounters when I set them up.

This is a critical point.

"Let the dice fall where they may" is one thing, but setting up the encounters has a far greater effect on lethality than some proponents acknowledge. As does running them.

Very true, however I should have added that, of course, players also have a great deal of influence. I set the stage and story. Their actions (and the dice) steer the story in various directions.

I told my players from the beginning that encounter difficulty will vary greatly from easy to deadly combat or role-play, but they will always have a choice on how they would like to approach it. If they choose to walk into the dragon's den at level 1, they are probably going to be kibble; If they choose to insult the town priest, they may not get healing; if they are kind to the same priest, he may return the kindnessl; if they come upon a lone goblin, they can squash it, capture it, talk to it, or let it go. Most choices have consequences...but sometimes fate (ie the dice) has other outcomes in mind that can make things interesting.

I do not relish killing player characters, but I will not shy away from it. I have had wishy washy GMs before and while they have all been wonderful people to have as friends, the games they run fall flat when they start pulling punches.


In my games I seldom pull punches and have killed of a few players.
I have fudged a few rolls over the years but only when the players are doing everything right but the dice gods have been against them but I won't make it easy for them and they have to work for every xp


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I always come back to the same thing when talking about PC deaths: did they really die?

Once a game session someone drops into negative HPs and has the Dying condition. The couple of times someone's actually reached Dead I've offered alternatives. Could be that the PC was devout to some god that offers a save... with a catch; perhaps the character is dragged out of the scene by a villain and awakens on an operating table with a new limb and lack of personal control. There are really very few ways in my game for a PC to really die.

PC death as a consequence is, to me, a really crappy punishment. People say all the time that they'll kill off a character if their player does something stupid. Firstly that's really subjective; what is stupid to the omniscient GM who knows EVERY monster/trap/hazard in the vicinity by stat-block may not seem stupid to the player just trying to get his John McClaine on.

Another reason to let a PC die is to teach the player a lesson. Frank is being a game-hog. You've talked to Frank and he refuses to change. You crank up the CR on the next fight and Frank takes the bait, only to have his bardbarian/vivisectionist completely incinerated. Ha ha, take THAT Frank; now I bet you learned your place am I right? Except... Frank didn't learn anything other than 1. you had to jack with everything to murder his PC, proving he WAS the center of attention and 2. you're kind of a jerk that doesn't acknowledge how good a PC builder he is so he doesn't really want to be around you anyway.

Action heroes weasel out of death all the time. Anyone in this thread from the US? If so, are you fans of the show Supernatural? If so you're a fan of a TV show whose whole premise for seasonal continuance is that one of the 2 main characters routinely comes back from the dead, so much so that they make fun of themselves for it.

Dying in a Pathfinder game is like getting a magic item. For the GM they want it to be an experience, a story element; something really EPIC! For the player it's a Condition that can be removed and is as arbitrary as the +1 to hit and damage that the magic sword adds.

This is why I offer alternatives to my players. Their characters rarely die in my game and so far none of them have taken me up on my offers. This is probably because it's easier to just die and make up a new character than to have me mess with their character in some way. However the next time you as a GM are facing a dead PC scenario, consider the alternatives:

Spontaneous resurrection by a patron with an agenda

Undeath - potentially negative like a skeletal champion or maybe divine like an angelic ghost

Your new boss, the villain, has brought you back to lead those foolish heroes into a final deathtrap

Feel free to concoct your own. These I feel would teach your players so much more of a lesson about roleplaying and add more to your game than if the character was just a corpse to loot.


Really it depends on the group and the game being played.

- Does the group like to optimize?
Alot of players (Myself Included) like the challenge of getting the most out of a character. Now that comes with a few considerations...
1. How optimized is the rest of the group.
2. How much optimization does the DM like.
3. Does the optimization make any sense when it comes to my character's background

In a game of high optimization there is an expectation that the DM wont play nice. He should attempt to stress the party. Give them real challenges with horrible consequences if they fail. If however your playing with an unoptimized party... that will just lead to frustration.

- Does the group want to be handled with kid gloves or are they into a more gritty game?
Here is the big question and it ranges in scale. Some get attached to a character and dont want to see PC deaths. Others want a real grind house of a game where death is around every corner. I tend to enjoy games that treat character deaths like a spice in food. A bit here and there can really liven up a game and make it feel more real.

- What type of game are you in (Running)?
If its a standard heroic campaign then PC deaths should probably be at a minimum. If however your playing the latest Dungeon of dread death and doom and the whole party has 3 back up character just in case... then no deaths would be kinda deflating.

There is no black or white answer.


Dragonamedrake wrote:

Really it depends on the group and the game being played.

- Does the group like to optimize?
Alot of players (Myself Included) like the challenge of getting the most out of a character. Now that comes with a few considerations...
1. How optimized is the rest of the group.
2. How much optimization does the DM like.
3. Does the optimization make any sense when it comes to my character's background

In a game of high optimization there is an expectation that the DM wont play nice. He should attempt to stress the party. Give them real challenges with horrible consequences if they fail. If however your playing with an unoptimized party... that will just lead to frustration.

Sometimes it's the opposite. The GM runs a more dangerous game than the players actually want, so they optimize to boost their chances of survival. That makes the GM feel like the game is too easy, so he boosts the opposition and the players are now more at risk than they want again. The cycle continues.


You sit down to your first adventure with this new GM. The first encounter is between your party of 1st level, mildly optimized PCs and, say, a bunch of goblins. You're like "awesome; let's unleash the hurt!" and wade into the fight.

The goblins turn out to be tactical geniuses. They use the terrain, hit-and-run tactics and their leader is a battlefield control type spellcaster that seems to know your party's every weakness. The fight is over before it began. After it wraps and your party limps off the battlemap down one PC who got killed you can either

1. Amp up your optimization

2. Talk to your GM

If you take option one you begin an arms race. Suddenly you're a primed group of military commandos but the GM strikes back with more diverse monsters. Now you're golf-bagging weaponry to deal with DR, Flying and other defenses. Your GM puts in some deadly puzzles, social encounters with demigod level forces and what not and suddenly its a player-versus-GM game.

If you go option 2 though a lot of things can go wrong. Maybe the GM was new too and didn't know how to run the encounter; maybe now they're embarrassed for being called out on the carpet or the GM expresses frustration with your level of skill as players; maybe the game collapses right then and there.

But here's the light at the end of the tunnel. If you have that conversation with your GM about their game things might get fixed. It doesn't HAVE to turn into a body count comparison unless that's the game you all want. If you pick option one and never have the conversation then no one really learns anything. If you have an open and honest dialogue about it however then you at least have the chance of fixing things.

Think about some of your first games as kids. Unless you were at a convention did anyone ever sit down with a total stranger and just go "ok lets play!" I'm guessing not many of us. Rather we sat with friends we trusted; we called out our friends when they were being jerks, whether they were other players or the GM. We said things like "wouldn't it be cool if..." or "remember in that movie where that one guy..." In those conversations we began the dialogue that led to everyone at the table knowing what they all considered cool and epic.

Embrace conversation. Get to know your fellow gamers. Feel the confidence to make the game what YOU want to play.


Mark Hoover wrote:

You sit down to your first adventure with this new GM. The first encounter is between your party of 1st level, mildly optimized PCs and, say, a bunch of goblins. You're like "awesome; let's unleash the hurt!" and wade into the fight.

The goblins turn out to be tactical geniuses. They use the terrain, hit-and-run tactics and their leader is a battlefield control type spellcaster that seems to know your party's every weakness. The fight is over before it began. After it wraps and your party limps off the battlemap down one PC who got killed you can either

1. Amp up your optimization

2. Talk to your GM

Communication usually is the answer. It's usually only applied as the last resort, strangely enough.


The overall goal of the game is fun.

I once played in a game as a kid where all the players realized the GM would never kill a character. The game lost all sense of danger and thus, for us, fun. There was no tension or excitement.

I don't aim to kill PCs. With new players, I don't fudge, but I do give LOTS of advice - often in the form of NPCs making suggestions before the fight. I will also use non-optimal tactics with new players. I DO work hard to make the new players feel tension and danger, and I look for the cheer at the table as the terrifying big bad finally goes down under the blades and spells of the mighty young heroes.

That being said, characters die at my tables, both in PFS and in my home game. Often, they are of a level that they can be raised. With more experienced players, to keep that sense of danger and accomplishment a GM needs to up their tactics (within reason - intelligent monsters act like intelligent monsters and animals like animals) and make encounters challenging. Not murderous - challenging.

In PFS, we need to follow the boxed tactics within reason, and find the general theme of the behavior of the opponent.

The problem comes when there is a disconnect between the GMs understanding of party abilities and the reality. I had an issue where a group that should have had adamantine arrows and weapons, and a very powerful archer, did not have the gear, and were slaughtered roundly by flanking gearsmen. I am in part responsible, (along with 3 natural 20s), for I did not realize that the group lacked the ability to deal with the encounter at the level of difficulty at which I ran it.


Lava Child wrote:

The overall goal of the game is fun.

I once played in a game as a kid where all the players realized the GM would never kill a character. The game lost all sense of danger and thus, for us, fun. There was no tension or excitement.

I don't aim to kill PCs. With new players, I don't fudge, but I do give LOTS of advice - often in the form of NPCs making suggestions before the fight. I will also use non-optimal tactics with new players. I DO work hard to make the new players feel tension and danger, and I look for the cheer at the table as the terrifying big bad finally goes down under the blades and spells of the mighty young heroes.

That being said, characters die at my tables, both in PFS and in my home game. Often, they are of a level that they can be raised. With more experienced players, to keep that sense of danger and accomplishment a GM needs to up their tactics (within reason - intelligent monsters act like intelligent monsters and animals like animals) and make encounters challenging. Not murderous - challenging.

In PFS, we need to follow the boxed tactics within reason, and find the general theme of the behavior of the opponent.

The problem comes when there is a disconnect between the GMs understanding of party abilities and the reality. I had an issue where a group that should have had adamantine arrows and weapons, and a very powerful archer, did not have the gear, and were slaughtered roundly by flanking gearsmen. I am in part responsible, (along with 3 natural 20s), for I did not realize that the group lacked the ability to deal with the encounter at the level of difficulty at which I ran it.

There are different ways to keep the sense of danger and fun in the game. One of favorite GMs often ran Call of Cthulhu and very rarely killed characters in a system that is much deadlier than D&D ever was or will be. "Where's the fun in killing characters," she'd say, "I like to keep them alive to torture."

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

The last time I had players die, told them that they could take their time to rest. They decided to keep on moving forward with low hp, activated an unfortunate trap and ended up cornered, one made it out alive.

I wish that I didn't roll in front of them, as the creature rolling a natural 20, and confirming the crit on a greataxe, was more than enough to take down the front liner(low level). It was one of these times, that I could have used fudging some dice.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber

Generally, i put the difficulty at a level that the party should be able to deal with, so if someone does something stupid or is put in a bad place, the enemies take advantage of it. I killed a PC that charged the BBEG while over half teh rest of the party failed their will saves to be panicked, when the BBEG was using ranged attacks from behind a trap(thus the BBEG would not try to cross over to their side and limit his escape options)


Eltacolibre wrote:

The last time I had players die, told them that they could take their time to rest. They decided to keep on moving forward with low hp, activated an unfortunate trap and ended up cornered, one made it out alive.

I wish that I didn't roll in front of them, as the creature rolling a natural 20, and confirming the crit on a greataxe, was more than enough to take down the front liner(low level). It was one of these times, that I could have used fudging some dice.

I think that generally x4 crit attacks aren't a good idea at low levels. Too swingy. Most of the time they're not anything special. Once in a long while, they just kill a PC. Doesn't make for a good or interesting fight.


I've killed a couple PCs in a one-off, but none so far in the main campaign (I run a homebrew). That's not to say it hasn't come close; it has, and many times. Fortunately, they have hero points and a high system mastery, so they often pull it out at the last moment when every single action counts.

Sometimes, death just happens. When big numbers are getting thrown around at mid to high level, and the enemy has any modicum of sense, PCs are going to die. And that's ok, because at that level there is always Reincarnate or Raise Dead or various other means of coming back.

Sometimes the lethality of an encounter is not always subject to fine control. For example, tonight my players are going to encounter a recurring villain; an orc ranger who for story reasons has a deep enmity with the party's elf hunter. The orc has a pretty good chance of dropping the elf's HP to negatives within the first two rounds, especially if he wins initiative. Mid-high level rangers with maxed favored enemy are scary like that. Storywise, the orc has every reason to attack the elf first, not only because of the enmity but also tactically, as they're both archers, and the orc has positioned himself where it's difficult for melee to reach. There is a good chance the elf will die. Sometimes it happens.

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that from a GM's point of view, I don't actively pursue character death, in fact sometimes I will point out ways to avoid it. But sometimes character death (or the likelihood of it) is a result of story and circumstances, not because I am steepling my fingers and plotting against the PCs in a dark room.


Well under 1%, as I feel it should be. I've made house rules to ensure such. In genre fiction, the protagonists don't die in pointless battles; if they die, it's a great sacrifice for some higher purpose.

Further, frequent death takes all the sting out of it. If the PCs die one after another, death loses all emotion and gravitas. The death of a major character (which the PCs are) should be an EVENT, ripe for deep roleplaying and character development, not 'well, Bob lost another one'. In my experience, frequent death ruins RP in general; no point in taking a lot of effort to make up an interesting backstory or personality if they're probably going to die before they get a chance to explore or resolve any of it.

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I'm running a 2 year campaign. So far, no character deaths, but we had some close calls. Just like I prefer.

I'm honestly considering removing the material cost of raise dead based on arguments made by SKR.


^Greataxe is x3, but point stands.


The dice have a mind of their own. You roll some dice, the PC dies; everyone shrugs. Luck didn't go their way right?

Name me one story, movie, tv show, song or even a youtube video of a game session where the heroes of said media opened a door, a goblin got a lucky shot and one or more of the protagonists died and you went "Man! That was awesome!"

Yeah, I didn't think so. That's how your players feel.

Almost no player wants total PC immortality. Equally almost no player wants to die from a cheap shot. I say almost because there are always exceptions.

Most players I've asked say that if their PC has to go down they want it to be story-enhancing. They don't want to die; they want a death scene. There's a difference.

There are ways to threaten death without killing the PCs. Again, back to your favorite media. There are epic moments in stories where an NPC dies. Off the top of my head I can imagine a few TV shows where the heroes live at the very edge of death but their trusted NPCs are shredded like so much wheat.

I guess my point is that PC death in my experience isn't fun. It doesn't always add anything to the story and it never serves as a "teachable moment" for the player whose character just died. Mostly it's just a negative: a stop in the action for at least one player, a break in the communal narrative, and ending of a sort and a loss on the part of the team.

So if you've got some dice that decide a PC is gonna die, prepare yourself. You all have some decisions to make. How will you pull the silver lining out of this? How will you turn this defeat into a victory?


Rynjin wrote:

I used to be very skittish about killing PCs, but after a while I realized I had more fun if I wasn't constantly worrying about killing PCs and just ran the monsters as made sense to me.

Since then I've had 6 character deaths.

-Two deaths in Skull and Shackles against Gortus Svard and his lean, mean, 17-20/x3 critting machine (he struck with that motherf*&!ing thing 3 times, and got 3 criticals, one of which took the Soulknife to the negatives in a single hit, the second of which dropped the Alchemist from full HP to -24 in a swipe, and the 3rd of which took the Barbarian to -Dead after he'd eaten a pair of shield bashes last round.). The Orc Barbarian I took pity on and had Sandra Quinn pull a scroll of Breath of Life out of nowhere (with a reduction in their party fund to compensate), and the Goblin Vivisectionist stayeddead.

-4 deaths in Carrion Crown.

** spoiler omitted **...

I should probably mention that of these 6 deaths, one was reversed and two others stayed dead voluntarily (the only thing they had to bring back theGoblin was a Salve of the Second Chance he had crafted, and the Goblin had a lot of racial pride, and the Cleric's player was tired of being the heal/buff bot).

Two of the Carrion Crown PCs died at level 1, so hard to resurrect, and the Barbarian fell into a river and flowed out to who knows where, so no recovering the body.


Mind you in this kind of high fantasy death isn't always death. In higher level games death is only a speed bump. Killing characters like that doesn't really count.


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Mark Hoover wrote:

The dice have a mind of their own. You roll some dice, the PC dies; everyone shrugs. Luck didn't go their way right?

Name me one story, movie, tv show, song or even a youtube video of a game session where the heroes of said media opened a door, a goblin got a lucky shot and one or more of the protagonists died and you went "Man! That was awesome!"

The Walking Dead, Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones, Malazan Book of the Fallen, et al are popular stories where death can strike any character at any time.

As a GM, I don't think my job is to help the PCs snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, nor vice versa. The players determine that with their tactic and choices, and the dice to a much, much lesser extent, because those only come into play once the choice to do something has already been made.

I've never really liked the GMing style many people on here advocate, which is providing the illusion of choice and consequence without actually following through.

The dice inject an element of potential failure into the game. If you're just going to provide the illusion of randomness and a scenario where the PCs always win in an awesome way, I think there are systems that do that game style much better than Pathfinder, the game with so many rules that despite my brother being quite excited at the idea of playing, took one look at the CRB and went "Aw HELL no" and now refuses to even entertain the idea of playing this particular game system any more.


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Rynjin wrote:
Mark Hoover wrote:

The dice have a mind of their own. You roll some dice, the PC dies; everyone shrugs. Luck didn't go their way right?

Name me one story, movie, tv show, song or even a youtube video of a game session where the heroes of said media opened a door, a goblin got a lucky shot and one or more of the protagonists died and you went "Man! That was awesome!"

The Walking Dead, Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones, Malazan Book of the Fallen, et al are popular stories where death can strike any character at any time.

As a GM, I don't think my job is to help the PCs snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, nor vice versa. The players determine that with their tactic and choices, and the dice to a much, much lesser extent, because those only come into play once the choice to do something has already been made.

I've never really liked the GMing style many people on here advocate, which is providing the illusion of choice and consequence without actually following through.

The dice inject an element of potential failure into the game. If you're just going to provide the illusion of randomness and a scenario where the PCs always win in an awesome way, I think there are systems that do that game style much better than Pathfinder, the game with so many rules that despite my brother being quite excited at the idea of playing, took one look at the CRB and went "Aw HELL no" and now refuses to even entertain the idea of playing this particular game system any more.

It is you're job. Whether you fudge or let the dice fall where they may or anywhere in between, you're still setting up the conflict, deciding on the opposition, what options they have and what they do. Even in the most sandboxy of games you're still setting up the details of what the PCs fight and laying out the clues so the players have an idea what they're getting into.

Pretending that it's all on the players doesn't really work.

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