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Author Topic: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?  (Read 1953 times)

Omega

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #45 on: September 15, 2020, 06:34:29 PM »
Basically, add %u201Ccreate henchmen/hireling assets%u201D to the initial character creation process so they start out with the mindset that their %u201Ccharacter%u201D is actually the whole team rather than just %u201Cthe fighter%u201D or %u201Cthe cleric%u201D (though as your elite unit that will be the one you spend the most time directing).
At this point, you are playing a tactical miniatures game, not an RPG.


All this talk about quickly generating new characters and having backup characters misses the point. A player that doesn't want his character to die doesn't want his character to die. The fact that his character can be easily replaced doesn't address this.
Exactly. There are just players that get really attached to their characters and can and will go to whatever lengths to make sure they dont permanently shuffle off the mortal coil. And that as said, goes all the way back to the early play with the original crew.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2020, 07:13:34 PM by Omega »

Shasarak

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #46 on: September 15, 2020, 07:40:39 PM »
Pathfinder 2e is good for bringing the fear back to the PCs.
I have found that PCs get Crit often when fighting high level creatures and we almost had a TPK fighting a Lich saved only by a nat 20 save vs Chain Lightning.
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LiferGamer

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #47 on: September 15, 2020, 08:26:37 PM »
I can't speak for D&D campaigns in general - I don't really know. But on the general topic, I think that high PC fatality games have been less common for a long time now. Since the mid-1980s, the overall trend has been towards more involved character creation and less frequent PC death. In terms of D&D editions, I think 5E is a notable exception to that - with slightly easier character creation than the previous two editions, and it's at least as lethal as those.

Mechanically, it mostly comes down to the GM and the group. I'm used to PC death from Call of Cthulhu play (among others), but I think Call of Cthulhu is on the fringe among games. I've played a number of D&D convention games, as well as others, and PC death and getting a replacement character sheet has always been rare.

I think that 5e's lack of death threat for characters due to the hit point recovery results for short rests and long rests was brought up on this board back during the playtest. Death free DnD should not be a surprise for people.
My experience with 5E is that it is easy to kill PCs with a crowd of small creatures, but difficult to kill them with a big tough opponent. Throwing out big attacks, there's usually enough time for another PC to get in a heal or a Medicine check to move a downed PC out of dying before they're hit again. But with a stream of small attacks, it's easy to force 3 death check fails on a character after they drop. One of my more difficult decisions as a GM was trying to decide when opponents would take shots at a downed PC, since that was life or death.

I found that mildly annoying, and I've been considering house rules to modify the pattern so it is more consistent.


If the PCS are fighting intelligent evil Critters then the right time for them to take shots at a downed player is anytime it doesn't put them at greater risk.  If it's a low intelligence Critter it might assume that they handled it and stop, and if it's someone who's not necessarily bloodthirsty, they may even stabilize the PC with an eye towards taking them prisoner.


When your opponent drops is not when the fight is over it's when the kicking starts.
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Anthony Pacheco

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #48 on: September 15, 2020, 09:50:50 PM »
Rule of thumb on down 5E PCs at my table:

Beast: imma gonna bite the last person who poked me. If nobody pokes me imma gonna bite this here body until I'm full.

People who have never been in combat: May or may not shift targets

Experienced Combatants: If the PCs go down, they will continue to wail on the PC until they are satisfied with no Healing Word or other monkey business will bring them back. One of these shots is automatic two failed death saves. Another one is a PC death. This includes other bad guys, not just the one that dropped the PC to 0.

These rough rules dramatically change gameplay and 5E lethality, especially with the prevalence of multiattack.
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Razor 007

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #49 on: September 15, 2020, 11:18:27 PM »
Unfortunately, pretty much.
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S'mon

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #50 on: September 15, 2020, 11:58:00 PM »
My experience with 5E is that it is easy to kill PCs with a crowd of small creatures, but difficult to kill them with a big tough opponent.


I agree, but it's more about number of attacks. Above the lowest levels, creatures need multiple attacks to be able to kill a PC. With 3 attacks you can drop a PC then finish them off.
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Shrieking Banshee

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #51 on: September 16, 2020, 12:00:19 AM »
Then he should retire the fucking thing and open a bar.   They're in the wrong line of work if they want a risk-free life.
"Realistically" and "Grittily" speaking, this sort of work would be done over a period of time by trained professionals. None of this is very realistic, so I can't really fault players for wanting a more involved thing.


I find if I want a rougelike dungeon puzzler experience, a videogame it massively beats out tabletop RPGs at this sort of thing. Where I can have a new character made in seconds and have it be brutal and engaging without slowing down the party. I can see why they shifted niches.


My penalty for death is a drop by 2 levels and using a NPC class until the hire-ups can arrange for a replacement.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 12:02:26 AM by Shrieking Banshee »

Shrieking Banshee

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #52 on: September 16, 2020, 12:01:10 AM »
doublepost

Stephen Tannhauser

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #53 on: September 16, 2020, 12:09:28 AM »
I may be the exception here, but I personally lean towards minimal PC death. Not necessarily that it should be impossible, but just rare and meaningful. I prefer a campaign where characters become immersed into some ongoing plot and, in fact, where the character's personality and how they change over time and achieve or fail to achieve their goals causes that character and their relationship to the world to change. A PC dying substantially hinders that and while the new character may have both some interesting backstory and some well reasoned justification for joining the party, it still undermines the continuation of that shared plot.

Not a lone exception; this is pretty much how I approach it too.

It's all about creating tension and excitement, both in old-school and story-focused gaming; the Eight Deadly Words ("I don't care any more what happens next" or "I don't care what happens to these people") kill games as much as they do books or movies. It's just a question of where you set the stakes.
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Chris24601

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #54 on: September 16, 2020, 10:07:34 AM »
It's all about creating tension and excitement, both in old-school and story-focused gaming; the Eight Deadly Words ("I don't care any more what happens next" or "I don't care what happens to these people") kill games as much as they do books or movies. It's just a question of where you set the stakes.
In WotC-era D&D I generally found a much better place to set stakes than "life-or-death" was "magic items."


Nothing ever instilled more terror in PCs in all my years of playing/running 3e than the dreaded words "Mordenkeinen's Disjunction." Death was trivially easy to come back from with little penalty, but losing your weapons, armor and stat boosters could be the equivalent of losing 5+ levels that could take tens to hundreds of thousands of gp to recover from... per character.


One of my favorites in lower-lethality games in general is ambushing lower level PCs with bandits who, if they defeat the PCs, take all their stuff but leave them alive (even binding their wounds) because "you can only rob a dead man once." Not only did it provide a consequence for failure, it also gave the PCs a mission to hunt down the bandits and get revenge/their stuff back.




sureshot

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #55 on: September 16, 2020, 10:20:05 AM »
Death from because of a stupid decision, not listening to the other players advice or because of bad dice rolls I am fine with. The "rocks fall you are all dead" especially when it comes to killer DMs not so much.


No one likes character death. Even those who bullshit and lie about liking don't like it they just refuse to be honest about. Character die it is part of the game. All that many players ask including myself is to try and make it a meaningful death.


Any edition of D&D with the right DM can be deadly imo. I rather not make a character with a backstory and have him die within two minutes of the start of the campaign. It happens I get past it yet the new replacement looks alot like the character that died with a new name.

LiferGamer

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #56 on: September 16, 2020, 11:06:55 AM »
Rocks fall, everyone dies is bullshit.  Save-or-die spells and poisons I grudgingly admit were bullshit also.

In 5e, after a certain level, if a character dies -permanently- 99% likely its the players fault for pushing their luck too hard.  There are SO many fail safes, second chances and stacked healing.  My players realized their main healer was unreliable (player's a bit of a flake) so quickly started figuring out how to spread healing duties around the party, and got chummy with the local alchemist.

It varies by edition, but IF you allow resurrection/raise dead in your campaign (different rant, don't get me started), there's always extra chances.

Early levels?  Meat grinder.  You have to be intelligent AND lucky.  Just like surviving in a war zone.  One of my players lost two characters in a single session.  It sucks, but green troops always have the highest mortality rate. (this is why I'm so interested in DCC and Funnels in general, but haven't gotten buy-in.)  The players need to figure their shit out, get the right combo of characters and tactics, and have each others back.

Why aren't there an assload of high level NPCs running around in my campaign?  Because lower levels are DEADLY.

BUT if your players aren't idiots, and you apply the rules fairly, over the long haul, there IS minimal PC death.  My current campaign has been running mostly weekly (figure 40 sessions a year) for a year-and-a-half with three PC deaths.
Your Forgotten Realms was my first The Last Jedi.

If the party is gonna die, they want to be riding and blasting/hacking away at a separate one of Tiamat's heads as she plummets towards earth with broken wings while Solars and Planars sing.

Steven Mitchell

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #57 on: September 16, 2020, 11:47:26 AM »
I don't even mind "save or die" in some contexts. It's fine for situations where, "You, the player really screwed up. But maybe your character manages to get lucky or is so twitchy or stubborn that they survive despite the screw up.  Or maybe not."  After all, players have their off days.  Though I do think in those cases saving throws should really reflect that dynamic in their math.  They mostly do in earlier editions and mostly don't in the later ones.   As a character gains levels, the player should have a better sense of how to play it AND the character should get lucky or twitchy or stubborn more often to escape the infrequent screw ups.  Those effects magnify each other.

Only "drawback", if you can call it that, is that such saving throws require the GM to run the game so that players can make informed decisions about risks and have some idea of when to be cautious.  If the GM isn't willing to do that--or maybe the tone of the game is supposed to be more bold and zany--then "save or die" doesn't work.




 

ShieldWife

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #58 on: September 16, 2020, 12:01:06 PM »
I may be the exception here, but I personally lean towards minimal PC death. Not necessarily that it should be impossible, but just rare and meaningful. I prefer a campaign where characters become immersed into some ongoing plot and, in fact, where the character's personality and how they change over time and achieve or fail to achieve their goals causes that character and their relationship to the world to change. A PC dying substantially hinders that and while the new character may have both some interesting backstory and some well reasoned justification for joining the party, it still undermines the continuation of that shared plot.

Not a lone exception; this is pretty much how I approach it too.

It's all about creating tension and excitement, both in old-school and story-focused gaming; the Eight Deadly Words ("I don't care any more what happens next" or "I don't care what happens to these people") kill games as much as they do books or movies. It's just a question of where you set the stakes.


I loved A Song of Ice and Fire, both the book series and as Game of Thrones on HBO, but I have to admit, after a certain set of events where good people died and lost, I became emotionally detached and it was never quite the same for me after that. I think something similar can happen in table top role playing, and can even get worse as lethality increases.


Long ago, when I was relatively new to gaming, I got involved in a D&D campaign in the back of a gaming store. Guy time running it was an old timer even then and still ran 1st edition AD&D. He ran us through dungeons, full of traps that continually reset, where we constantly encountered rectangular rooms with seemingly random monsters. In one room there would be a young dragon, who knows how it fit through the door or what it ate, and in a room across the hall was a vampire. A bit further down the hall way was a room with gnolls in it. How did these creatures live in this dungeon and coexist dozens of feet from each other, constantly having to face these traps that always reset themselves every day? Who knew. Why were we in the dungeon to start with? Who knew, we created a character with random die rolls and shazam, we're there in the dungeon with the rest of the party going from room to room checking for traps and preparing to fight. There was almost always at least one death every gaming session. When you died, your next character would just appear and seamlessly join the party, always at level 1 regardless of what level the rest of the party was at. Experience for monsters was only rewarded to the person who dealt the killing blow, or what ever the person dealing that blow wanted to share with those who helped.


As you might see, this setup was not at all conducive to creating attachment to either your character or any sort of overarching plot or narrative. Most people didn't feel any sadder over their character's failures or death than they would express sadness over their horseman who went bankrupt from staying in a Boardwalk hotel in Monopoly. Well, people wouldn't feel personal sadness over character death, but it could be very frustrating because a dead character meant not only that you would fall behind the surviving members of the party from starting back at level one, but that you would be much more likely to die in the future and less likely to gain experience.


This is probably an extreme example, I do acknowledge that, but it left a lasting impression on me of how both common death and harsh punishment for death can have a negative impact on the essence of what a role playing game is. At some point, it can become more of a war game or board game.


So now the group I play with, which is the same private group I have played with for 15 years or so, has a policy of very rare death. Death is rare, but defeat does happen from time to time and can be very emotional. Our party members have been captured and held for prolonged periods by enemies, have been permanently maimed, experienced terrible pain or terror, been emotionally scarred, lost all of our possessions including magical ones, seen close allies (NPC's) die, saw villains victorious as they rampaged through innocent populations, experienced our character's emotional turmoil as they failed at their lifelong goals or in some cases had to reexamine their deeply held convictions. No actual PC deaths involved in any of the above cases, but they were all much more emotionally significant than a character dying that you had only rolled up that night and where you had a backup sheet on standby. When you've had a character go through those things, including successes too, over the course of a year of play then all of their victories and defeats are going to matter to you more, because they are like a beloved fictional character in any good story, you're connected to them not just as a matter of how much damage they do each round, but as a person whose feelings are important too.

Libramarian

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #59 on: September 16, 2020, 12:04:43 PM »
As the game becomes more deadly, you will have more players rage-quitting, even if everyone else is having more fun.

This tradeoff is only worth it if players can be replaced. If the standard playgroup is a closed group of nerds who only play with each other, and therefore one where each participant has something close to veto power, then naturally the game will evolve towards being less deadly. As that was the norm for D&D for decades, the game evolved in that direction.

However, that seems to be changing. The enormous popularity of D&D now combined with the COVID-accelerated shift to playing online has made the player market much more liquid. Players have a broader choice of games, and DMs have a broader choice of players. This shift should cause a renaissance of sorts for deadly games (and more generally, any game or playstyle that is polarizing and not bland).

For my online OSR game (where I play with a mix of friends and strangers), I get one or two new player applications a week. Consequently, I have no fear of a random PC death imploding the whole campaign.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2020, 12:06:58 PM by Libramarian »