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Author Topic: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?  (Read 1712 times)

LiferGamer

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #75 on: September 16, 2020, 11:25:04 PM »

Heroic?  It's mostly graverobbers, barbarians and thieves.

Maybe in the games you play. But D&D has always set out its default assumptions at the PCs being heroic protagonists.

D&D can be played as a wargame. But that is not its default mode. And it never has been.


Bullshit.  D&D hasn't always done anything.  The early stuff was just as inspired by Moorcock and Howard as Le Morte de Arthur.


My games aren't tabletop wargames either. 
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.

Darrin Kelley

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #76 on: September 17, 2020, 01:15:28 AM »

Heroic?  It's mostly graverobbers, barbarians and thieves.

Maybe in the games you play. But D&D has always set out its default assumptions at the PCs being heroic protagonists.

D&D can be played as a wargame. But that is not its default mode. And it never has been.


Bullshit.  D&D hasn't always done anything.  The early stuff was just as inspired by Moorcock and Howard as Le Morte de Arthur.


Then your reading comprehension is null. Here! Have a dessert! 💩

(Thank you Pundit for enabling emoji's!)

The D&D rulebooks always set out the intent of the authors regarding how it was to be played. It described the purpose and the intent. I know this, because I owned most of the editions of D&D that were put out.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2020, 01:22:34 AM by Darrin Kelley »
 

LiferGamer

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #77 on: September 17, 2020, 01:32:42 AM »

Heroic?  It's mostly graverobbers, barbarians and thieves.

Maybe in the games you play. But D&D has always set out its default assumptions at the PCs being heroic protagonists.

D&D can be played as a wargame. But that is not its default mode. And it never has been.


Bullshit.  D&D hasn't always done anything.  The early stuff was just as inspired by Moorcock and Howard as Le Morte de Arthur.


Then your reading comprehension is null. Here! Have a dessert! 💩

(Thank you Pundit for enabling emoji's!)

The D&D rulebooks always set out the intent of the authors regarding how it was to be played. It described the purpose and the intent. I know this, because I owned most of the editions of D&D that were put out.


I've been gaming since the Red Box myself, chief.  I also know that you got experience for loot, got loot for getting treasure out of dungeons by killing the shit that lived there.  You could have Chaotic alignment, and play rogues.   Later, Assassins and outright evil characters.  Maybe you also need to read between the lines? 



This is ALSO the period where character death was expected and had more tools for easy replacement...  So which is it?  Are we playing as intended by reaching back to a prior time or not?
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.

S'mon

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #78 on: September 17, 2020, 02:05:07 AM »
This came up today with the latest D&D 5e adventure, Rime of the Frost Maiden. There was a lot of criticism about how the beginning level 1 encounters were basically TPKs and the level 1s couldn't face the enemies up front.


This is a very common problem with published 5e adventures; the authors rarely take account of how much more deadly 5e goblins, orcs, hobgoblins et al are than in 1e-3e, nor the extreme vulnerability of level 1 5e PCs. OTOH at higher levels they are rarely challenging. If a published adventure says for 1-15 you're better off running it for 3-10. Which can usually be achieved simply by starting at 3rd & using the official XP system, rather than the 'milestone' power levelling assumed by the hardbacks.


For my Tier 1 5e game I came up with a bunch of weakened monster stats - goblin minions, pig orcs, decreipt skeletons etc - more suitable for 1st level PCs. It's still been a fluke that no PCs dead yet; they lost their second sidekick NPC last night.  :(
« Last Edit: September 17, 2020, 02:25:25 AM by S'mon »

S'mon

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #79 on: September 17, 2020, 02:07:54 AM »
Random character death I balieve is a holdover from the wargaming days of the hobby. Where characters were treated as playing pieces and viewed as expendable as an extra life in classic video games. It's something that came from a forerunner of the medium, but never truly suited it.


Try reading some of the foundational literature, especially Jack Vance's The Dying Earth. Random demise of protagonists is within the genre norms of some of the material that informed D&D.

S'mon

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #80 on: September 17, 2020, 02:18:56 AM »
D&D has always set out its default assumptions at the PCs being heroic protagonists.


This simply is not true of OD&D or 1e AD&D. In BX to a very limited extent. You do see this assumption beginning with BECMI then 2e AD&D.

Ghostmaker

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #81 on: September 17, 2020, 08:10:59 AM »
I've been gaming since the Red Box myself, chief.  I also know that you got experience for loot, got loot for getting treasure out of dungeons by killing the shit that lived there.  You could have Chaotic alignment, and play rogues.   Later, Assassins and outright evil characters.  Maybe you also need to read between the lines? 
That's nice. So have I.


Doesn't mean every campaign is the Darkest Dungeon.


This came up today with the latest D&D 5e adventure, Rime of the Frost Maiden. There was a lot of criticism about how the beginning level 1 encounters were basically TPKs and the level 1s couldn't face the enemies up front.
Check the party number and loadout versus what the module recommends. I was running the 5E conversion of B1, and the first encounter thrashed the initial three-person party -- they survived but it was a near thing. After that I let them go back to town to heal up and hire some extra help (additional PCs) and things started going a lot more smoothly. Still dangerous, but less chance of TPK.

Armchair Gamer

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #82 on: September 17, 2020, 08:34:28 AM »
This thread is reminding me that IMO, a major and largely unacknowledged problem with the hobby is how 'D&D' has become the default, while at the same time shifting dramatically in both mechanics and tone over the past fifty years.

BedrockBrendan

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #83 on: September 17, 2020, 03:14:46 PM »
Death free has been a thing, maybe a bit off and on, for a while. I remember in that by the early 90s (maybe the mid-90s) there emerged this assumption that the GM should never kill PCs unless they do something genuinely stupid. I have seen various forms of that come in and out of fashion over the years. For me personally, I just realized that this kind of advice produced a game I didn't enjoy playing that much (there are some exceptions of course depending on the core concept of the RPG or setting). But I think for your typical rpg, nothing is more exciting than death being on the table.


Lately I have seen an uptick in this assumption that you shouldn't kill PCs. At the same time, I have not had a problem in my own campaigns with characters dying. Once in a while you meet a player who reacts more strongly than others, but I think as long as you are a fair and impartial GM, most of the time, it won't create issues. Usually if I get a player who comes from a different style campaign, where maybe death isn't on the table, I just explain to them that my campaign may be different from what they are used to.


mAcular Chaotic

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #84 on: September 17, 2020, 03:56:00 PM »
Death free has been a thing, maybe a bit off and on, for a while. I remember in that by the early 90s (maybe the mid-90s) there emerged this assumption that the GM should never kill PCs unless they do something genuinely stupid. I have seen various forms of that come in and out of fashion over the years. For me personally, I just realized that this kind of advice produced a game I didn't enjoy playing that much (there are some exceptions of course depending on the core concept of the RPG or setting). But I think for your typical rpg, nothing is more exciting than death being on the table.


Lately I have seen an uptick in this assumption that you shouldn't kill PCs. At the same time, I have not had a problem in my own campaigns with characters dying. Once in a while you meet a player who reacts more strongly than others, but I think as long as you are a fair and impartial GM, most of the time, it won't create issues. Usually if I get a player who comes from a different style campaign, where maybe death isn't on the table, I just explain to them that my campaign may be different from what they are used to.


There is also a line of thought, where dying is LESS interesting than surviving with some sort of failure or setback.
Battle doesn't need a purpose; the battle is its own purpose. You don't ask why a plague spreads or a field burns. Don't ask why I fight.

Lurkndog

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #85 on: September 17, 2020, 07:11:09 PM »
And then there's Traveller, in which your character can die during character generation. (That's a balancing mechanism to discourage minmaxing your career paths, btw. The ones with the most pluses are also the ones most likely to kill your character off, and it's enough of a PITA to keep people from trying to roll up Rambo over and over.)

I've played in games where character death was common (1st level D&D) and in games where character death was impossible. I think what is important is that your characters believe that they can die, and act accordingly.

I've played in death free games that were badly disrupted by players who abused the fact that their characters could never die. "I'm going to fly straight at that star destroyer with my antigrav belt and pistol." "I'm going to step on Superman's cape." "I'm going to experiment with explosive chemistry in my cabin on the ship." Eventually we had to kick the player out.

On the other hand, some death prone games were so lethal that you were actively discouraged from doing stuff (1st level wizard), and that was un-fun and counterproductive.

jhkim

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #86 on: September 17, 2020, 09:17:59 PM »
OK, a couple of things here on the general topic of characters death.

I think character death is fine - I enjoy it in my Call of Cthulhu games, for example. However, no character death is also fine -- and contrary to what LiferGamer suggests, it doesn't mean that the action is all scripted or that there is no failure. I've played a fair bit of Champions, for example, which usually had no PC death. It was just a given of the genre. PCs can still fail - in which case the villain gets away with their loot, or innocents get hurt or killed, or catastrophes happen. Maybe authorities and allies lose faith in the PCs, and abandon them.

If the only possible way to fail is to die, then I think that implies an extremely narrow view of adventures.

'Random' deaths also add some verisimilitude.  Shit happens, people die doing and for stupid reasons.  Richard the Lionhearted didn't die in battle, he died from an infection.  No glory.  Just death.  Death isn't meaningful, it just happens.  Make LIFE meaningful.  I've gotten more mileage out of a group coming together over the death of a companion than any Harry-Potter-plot-armor-chosen-one-bullshit.

DMs - is your story SO IMPORTANT that you remove player agency?  Most of you are shouting NO! OF COURSE NOT!  But if you're throwing softballs, you're basically guaranteeing victory, and rewarding failure.  Your PCs are just going to fail upwards.
Random character death flies in the face of a game where the players are playing heroic protagonists. It's against the spirit of the game for protagonists to die meaninglessly.

Heroic sacrifice is absolutely within the themes of the game. A character going out in a blaze of glory. Or offering themselves up to save the rest of the group? Absolutely within the perview of the genre and good play. Such is definitely the sort of in-genre thing a player should be congratulated for and look forward to doing. Because they make the game memorable. It an act supportive of good story.

Random character death I balieve is a holdover from the wargaming days of the hobby. Where characters were treated as playing pieces and viewed as expendable as an extra life in classic video games. It's something that came from a forerunner of the medium, but never truly suited it.

I think in principle a death can be both random and meaningful. A PC dying in deadly combat with monsters is not the same as Richard the Lion-hearted dying of an infection. They died fighting an enemy - which calls for mourning and possibly revenge, and so forth. In real life, when someone dies in war, people often ascribe great meaning to it - even though the death was presumably random.

That said, I do think there's a tendency in many campaigns for PC death to be not very meaningful. In part, by the nature of the role-playing, the player most involved has now been thrown out of character. Often, the other players' reactions are something like "Sorry, that sucks, Barb" or "Well, you should have been more careful, Joe." The player of that character is still there at the table, so it's natural to talk to that player out of character.

I do think that the character deaths that have been the most meaningful have been planned in some way - either in-game (as the PC choosing to sacrifice themselves) or out-of-game. But there is a spectrum, and some random death does have meaning.

LiferGamer

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #87 on: September 17, 2020, 09:35:58 PM »
I thought I'd been pretty clear from the get-go - some genres/campaigns are suited for no deaths.  Some people want the Saturday morning cartoon experience, cool.
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.

Darrin Kelley

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #88 on: September 17, 2020, 10:01:59 PM »
I wasn't arguing for a "death free" experience. I was arguing more for character death to be given more regard than it is in some corners of our hobby.


RPG characters do not usually have "extra lives".
 

LiferGamer

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Re: Have 'death free' PCs become the norm?
« Reply #89 on: September 17, 2020, 10:07:03 PM »
I wasn't arguing for a "death free" experience. I was arguing more for character death to be given more regard than it is in some corners of our hobby.

RPG characters do not usually have "extra lives".
If they have resurrection spells, sure they do.
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.