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Alas, poor Keelie. I knew her.

Alas, poor Keelie. I knew her. published on 12 Comments on Alas, poor Keelie. I knew her.

Player Death Culture

The way D&D deals with death is a lot different from when I was wee. Death was given out for the slightest mistake. Deadly traps plagued hallways, and new characters sprouted up like graveweeds. It was a different kind of fun, but it was fun.

This attitude toward death is still around, I think, but I’m not so certain people who hold it play 5e.

At least in my experience, in 4e and 5e both, death has been seen as something that needs earned. I’ve killed exactly two player characters in those editions. One was a valiant Dragonborn Paladin, who died hurling a wounded princess to safety through an open portal as the last volley of arrows sank into his back. The other was a Rogue who stepped into an ooze.

There’s a much more JRPG feel to the D&D groups I’ve found over the past few years, and player death isn’t a huge part of that vibe.

What’s PC death like at your table? I’d be interested to hear, so please, sound off in the comments.

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Rolling a new character is fun the first, maybe second time. If you’re constantly dying and making new characters…thats just tedious.

It’s EXTREMELY rare for my party. We’ve been playing for two years on the same characters and only now because we’re in possibly the worst situation possible is the DM requiring us to think about back up characters. With the level of thought and depth and character growth (and, admittedly, using them to process our own complicated traumas and reactions to them), it’d be hard to just drop them after the first 12 sessions.

When I’m DMing it’s kinda the same thing. I haven’t run a campaign nearly that long yet, but I do want my players’ characters to stay alive so we can do the story instead of catching up new PCs all the time. Does it come real close to death sometimes? Do players forget thanks to what they go through that I said I’ll do what I can so they don’t die? Sure, so there’s an element of loss and risk and weight to the game, but them not dying is a firm thing for me.

Late to the party, but in my group, we houseruled out pretty much all sources if instant-death, and enemies won’t intentionally kill a downed party-member while there’s still other threats to them nearby. Which effectively means if I don’t screw up combat balance massively (which so far I haven’t), deaths only happen due to player stupidity. We had one bard die so far.

My groups are usually playing the more narrative focused, more death averse modern style, and deaths are rare. Either they are a big part of a character arc, or they’re indicative of max level stupidity from a player.

But I myself also like the “classic” dice game way to play. I’d just like to know this in session 0, because there’s no point to put much effort into background and character development for a goon who’ll be dead in a dank dungeon in five sessions, anyway.

In my current game (4 years and going strong) I’ve only had 3 player deaths. One player died twice, once at low level to a giant frog that swallowed her, but she got ressurected later (hard earned process) but then the same character got disintegrated by a big bad in later levels. My other player that died, drank a god-tier strength potion and battled a titan creature (Think sand worm from Dune) by himself, for a few rounds before he died from the aftereffects. The titan died as well though, so it got to be dramatic and fun 🙂

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