Handling Death and Injury

“I’m a ranger, and I’m going to sleep in the cemetery.” The 2nd level character insisted.
“Okay,” the DM says, “Out of character, you already saw that the city is forced to wrap chains around the coffins of the deceased to bury them. There is no mystery that this cemetery is a haven for the undead, and your party is going to spend the night in the Inn. Quick suggestion . . . JOIN THEM!”
“No.” the player insists, “My character doesn’t stay in inns. He sleeps outdoors. I’m staying in the cemetery.”
“All by yourself?” the DM asks, shaking his head.

Yes, some characters just aren’t meant to survive. That one comes from when I was trying to teach a new player how to play. His ranger’s name was “Stone Cold Steve Austin”, so in a sense . . . I killed Stone Cold!

I’m such a bad ass.

I honestly do try not to kill PC’s, not with dice rolls. Whenever a character dies in my games, it is because the player did something stupid, or took a risk and was aware of the consequences of failure. Not that my games are cake! God no! But I don’t consider a DM with a high kill rate a very good DM either.

Death happens, it’s part of the game. Some heroes die like heroes, and some just die miserable deaths that can only be blamed on the players that made them that way. THERE ARE BOLD ADVENTURERS, AND THERE ARE OLD ADVENTURERS, BUT THERE ARE NO OLD, BOLD ADVENTURERS!

My fiancée and I got into a debate over Critical Hit’s the other day, and she told me her feelings towards hit points and their meanings, which I feel should be added to this journal.

In a nut shell, a character’s health always stays the same, regardless of level, however a more experienced, battle hardened character knows how to move and dodge, and when he gets hit, he is better at deciding where and how he is hit, thus minimizing the damage done to his body. It is in this way, a high level fighter can get hit 30 times with a two-handed long sword and keep fighting. BRILLIANT BABY!!!

That said, there is a few notes to make on Character Death, and how I personally handle it.

I really like how 2nd Edition deals with it. It needn’t go crazy, it works great if you’ve got a high magic world, or one that is suppressed. I do use the “hanging at deaths door” optional rule. At 0hp you fall and lose 1-2hp per round, with death taking you at -10hp. A character who is proficient in healing can wrap your wounds and stop the bleeding completely, or a none proficient character can try as well. In this way, we can make up for not being so realistic during combat, plus characters who are under the influence of Berserker Rage will fight until -10hp.

Becoming an injured person, before becoming an actual casualty does mean that it is safer for the well being of a party. Some characters think that they just have to kill everything that moves, regardless of the fact that they are incapable of bringing forth this outcome. The -10 rules gives those poor guys a chance to fight another day. (Not to mention that it works both ways, villains enjoy this rule as well)
Of course, not even this learning curve can save all of the heroes, all of the time. For them . . . Well, there is always paying a priest to resurrect your companion. There are limits to this, however. With each resurrection that you receive, you lose 1 point of CON, and no amount of wishing will ever change this. If you’re character started the game with a CON of 9, and you find some way of pushing your CON score up to 16 during the playing of the game, it doesn’t matter, you may only be resurrected 9 times.

A resurrected character also forfeits all of the experience points that he has earned, he must start over. He doesn’t lose a level! But he goes back to the minimum requirements to stay at that level. At the DM’s discretion, he (or I) can choose to put your experience points back further then this, this may cost you a level, or it may not. I account for this loss as the loss of esteem. It will take a while before your character will be back on a path where he can grow. He is going to use more caution in the future, and attempt to retrain at some levels to better prepare him for if he encounters a situation like it again.

Also depending on the type of game that I am running, if he died a horrible death, there may be a fear check in his future if he has to deal with situations like it again, of course good role-playing will always stop a fear check from happening.

DEATH WILL TAKE A TOLL ON A CHARACTER!!! He doesn’t just bounce right back up and feel fine and dandy. Death is a big deal!

Dead characters who can’t be brought back from the dead, leave no body, the body is lost, or fail their resurrection survival role, are gone. Players lose them forever. I will always take the character sheet, but the player has to roll a new character sheet, depending on where the adventure is, he may have equipment, and he may not. Regardless, as a rule, new characters rolled during an ongoing adventure are always figured at 2 levels lower then the character that they are replacing . . . Unless the character died at a low level, which then of course I wouldn’t make them play 0th level. So if you want to die, do it between 1 and 2 and you won’t get any penalties.

Again, I stress to DM’s out there, DON’T KILL CHARACTERS!!! Especially if you employ this system of handling death. You should never punish a character for something that YOU did. If the accident is your fault then correct it with relaxed penalties. Your honesty will gain you the respect of the players, and this system of handling death will earn the players respect for their characters.


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