Monday, February 25, 2019

Death vs. Permanent Injury

A conversation with some friends the other day hovered around what I felt to be an interesting topic: which is a kinder 'bad' result in an RPG, death or permanent injury.

In specific, is it crueler to kill a character, or to maim them in some way - loss of sight, an arm, a leg, etc. The topic is interesting because not only are there a lot of posts and stories online of epic times where a GM removed a limb and their character went through an amazing journey because of it. This, coupled with the fact that we tend to naturally think "at least you're still alive" makes almost anything shy of death a kinder result.

The problem is, while I agree with the sentiment that death tends to be worth than dismemberment in most cases I mean that in real life. An amazing story coming from a character losing a limb, their sight, or something else is kind of like a character on their personal story, fighting their personal nemesis, getting a clutch double critical strike to save a fight right as all seemed lost. Yeah, it happens and when it does it is an amazing experience....but it's not going to happen often or even enough you should ever count on it or expect it to happen.

Add that rarity on the payoff with the fact that a lot of characters end up with severe penalties for losing a limb/sight/etc and I think that character death is often the kinder result. Why? Because in my experience most people retire the character when they get maimed in such a way - barring the world/game allowing the issue to be fixed easily like in Cyberpunk - the character may as well be dead because it is leaving the game.

Worse though, if the player doesn't realize immediately what the difficulties could be with the injury for play, they could end up being very frustrated and stop having fun in the game before they call it quits and just drop the character.

A character losing their sword hand and having to learn their off hand can make for an interesting story bit in a novel. It's a lot less fun when your fighter can no longer do their job properly because of massive penalties applied for off hand fighting and only having one hand.

Which doesn't mean you can't do it. Just make sure it's something the players are ok with. And if someone does lose a limb, maybe give the player a chance to swap out the character or to function without the limb until it can be resolved.

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