Monday, April 15, 2013

PC Death In My Campaign

My apologies for the lack of an update Thursday and Friday last week. Unsure what happened exactly, but posting to here definitely didn't. I don't like missing days without word, and while technically I said a long time ago I wasn't going to necessarily do 5 posts a week, the fact is I've been doing 5 posts a week and Friday was a day that not only I missed, but I didn't leave any word on. That said, Friday was also the day I ran my L5R game and managed to kill 2 of my players with "goblin with a rock' rolls. Today I wanted to talk about how we're handling that in my game.

How My Game Works
Before going into this there's something that should be shared about how my game works. This game is run with the idea being to take it kind of like a long running television drama. The two areas of focus on this are the PCs themselves, and the city setting itself.. Because of this I allow for certain protections for the PCs themselves, but at a price. This can mean that a death may not be a death unless the Player him/herself is ok with it. In that regards, it works kind of like FATE where the player has a say.

The Situation
A couple sessions ago one of my PCs stumbled on an old abandoned house full of bodies. The bodies were in pieces, and hidden along with them was a book full of recipes for how to prepare people. A bit sick and morbid, sure, but also a tie in to the previous generation where one of the NPCs attached to a PC went way off the deep end. This session, with the Kuni back with the group, they decided to investigate further and found the murderers new lair. The only problem with this being that with some thirty+ years of being a cannibal had fallen to blood magic, taint, and had made a deal with some oni or another.

So the PCs go into the lair and find themselves - and their NPC minions they brought with them - facing off against a demon and some animated dead champions. Now the danger here was meant to be in the Oni. The undead were mostly for the mooks and a bit of added threat to help keep the non-demon killing bad asses busy and feeling important. Hilariously, it was the undead mooks with their crappy attack rolls and even worse damage rolls that managed to drop two of the four PCs in the group.

What Now?
What happens now? Well, I've got two dead PCs and two weeks to work with the players on what is going on with their characters. One player had a particularly good death and is not super enthused about the originality and flexibility of the character. There is a chance that he may take the death and move forward with a new character. The other is embroiled in several stories that - happily - also give in world ways he could still be alive. More to the point, he really wants to keep the character. Going forward with both of these will be based on what me and the players can work out.

No Death?
If you've read this blog for a while, you'll know that I feel that death needs to be a presence in game for certain things to have tension. FATE handles this by letting you take yourself out of a fight. In this game death is still present, however it can be staved off when it happens. If both characters come back their lives will be darker, and harder, for cheating death. Also, the offer to revive only comes at certain times - i.e. when the death is unfair/random. In this case, they fell to something that wasn't meant to be lethal. Had the oni done it...stories get different. It may not be the best thing in the world. It is definitely not something I would do in my Shadowrun game, or that I do in other L5R games. But for this one it works. You die, and you die in a way that doesn't work, maybe you get a second shot. Provided you can shop to me that it is more interesting for the character to be alive than it is for them to die.

1 comment:

  1. Another solid post about a great topic for discussion A.L. - keep'em coming.

    Basing the decision on whether death was unfair/random & charging "resurrected" character a harder/darker life...interesting thoughts I hadn't considered.

    The game Dark Heresy I'm currently running is an intrinsically deadly world where the risk of character death is accepted (or should be). I like the DH system's built-in way to handle this in "Fate Points".

    Character generation provides from 1-3 Fate points. You can "spend" them for things like any reroll and these points are "refilled" for every gaming session. Then players can permanently "burn" these points to save their character's life, in which case the GM deems them, for example, to have been blown clear by the major explosion, and essentially on life support but alive.

    There's a decent in-game explanation for Fate Points in that the characters in DH always work for the most powerful human in the universe.

    This system, I find, gives the GM a better place from which to make the universe appropriately deadly and the characters a better place to appreciate what a character death adds to the game.

    These musings are all theoretical, at this point, as we're just coming up on our third session and no character has really been close to death yet....