Riding Off Into the Sunset: How to Retire a PC

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on July 28, 2009

There comes a time in every campaign when a player is ready to retire his character. Whether because of boredom, the release of a new Player’s Handbook or character death sooner or later every character retires.

There are many different ways to retire a PC. The method that works best for you is determined by the campaign you’re playing in and the conversation you have with your DM. In a 3.5e campaign I played, my character was a Fighter who specialized with the Spiked Chain. He was designed to disarm and trip his opponents. As the campaign unfolded I learned that 90% of our opponents had multiple legs and attacked with natural weapons. All my feat selections and expertise was wasted. I retired the character and brought a new one to life that fit the campaign much better.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why you might retire your PC.

The Campaign Ends

It might seem obvious but the top reason you retire your PC is because the campaign itself has drawn to a close or is being put on the back burner for a new game. This represents a logical time to retire the PC and try something new. Should the campaign be resurrected you can either bring the character out of retirement or develop a new hero for the world.

An Honourable Death

Death and danger are the hallmarks of all PCs. With every new adventure PCs risk life and limb to save king and country or maybe they do it for the loot. Eventually, flirting with danger catches up to them. While D&D is fairly forgiving when it comes to character death, this can be a good time to retire the character permanently.

The Character Concept Just Doesn’t Work

Sometimes the character concept you’ve dreamt up just doesn’t work with what the DM has in mind for the overall campaign. This is what happened in my example above. In cases like this having a private word with the DM about your character and your desire to play something else is highly recommended. We play D&D to have fun, not to be stuck with a character concept that doesn’t work.

In other instances you may find that your player just doesn’t line up with what the rest of the party has created. Either you’ve got too much overlap and you aren’t enjoying things or the personality you’ve created doesn’t work. Retiring the character can be a quick way to avoid dreading your weekly gaming sessions.

The DM Has Spoken

Sometimes the DM needs to speak with a particular player about their character. This often happens if one player’s style of role-playing is too disruptive to the group as a whole. While often this is more related to the player and not the character, it could be that the character is just too out there for the DMs vision of the world. While you as the player could adjust the way the character is being role-played you may also opt to retire the character. This always gives you the option to resurrect this PC for another game when your concept might fit in better.

Player’s Handbook 5 Just Released!

As Wizards of the Coast continues to release new products to the 4e lineup new character classes will inevitably continue to be released. You might find that the Fighter you’ve been playing since day one is just boring you. You’d rather play a Warden as a defender as it fits your character concept better. Perhaps you’ve been waiting for the Monk class since the release of 4e or that psionics are really your thing. Either way as new classes and races are released there will be a desire to role up a new character. I know I get the new character bug every once in a while. Which is why playing the occasional Dungeon Delve or LFR module instead of your usual game is a great way to mix things up.

Sheer Boredom

Sometimes the character you are playing just bores you. It isn’t what you thought. One of our regular players started off as a Ranger and after a few levels wanted to do more than just fire his bow. He spoke with the DM and came back as a Wizard. He’s loving his job as the groups controller. Boredom can very easily creep up on us, especially if we’ve been playing the same character during a prolonged campaign or if the pace of levelling is too slow.

There are many reasons for wanting to retire a character. In most cases it’s vital to speak to the DM about this decision. I’m a firm believer that retiring any PC should should be accompanied with a good-role playing foundation. The introduction of a new character should have an even stronger rational. I recall in the movie The Gamers when the Wizard dies and comes back as the Wizard. He’s welcomed into the party as if he was the old character. While we certainly don’t want to punish players for retiring characters it should have a compelling role-playing story. After all the character being retired had a reputation and a connection to the campaign.

What are your experiences in retiring characters?

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Suddry July 28, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Can’t say I have ever really retired a character aside from having a campaign end. I CAN say that if I ever decide to take out a character with pizazz it will be similar to the way Matthew McConaughey goes out near the end of Reign of Fire. Badass!

2 Rook July 29, 2009 at 9:02 pm

I guess it really has to do with your definition of retire. To me, when you retire a PC, that character is still alive, well and probably an active part of the gaming world. He/she just isn’t adventuring anymore. They have settled down, but are still available to get back into it later on if/when the right situation arises. In other words, for playing purposes the character is saved on hold.

In the case of your spiked chain fighter, I would call that character scrapped. Should a PC concept become obsolete, ineffective or you’re bored and/or got the bug to try something new, I would work with the DM to “kill off” or find some reason within the story to excuse the character from play. But unless you really like the character and want to save it for some other campaign, you scrap it.

I’ve had my fair share of scrapped characters. I’ve also had many that I had played a lot and really developed, both in personality and history. Those cherished characters have always found a home somewhere in my homebrew world. So while they may be retired, they will never be scrapped.
(Call me sentimental)
.-= Rook´s last blog ..My Foray into 4E: My Iconic Character(s) =-.

3 Suddry July 30, 2009 at 7:28 pm

I guess that is one of the perks about 4E. You can retrain to help some of the issues like the ones you mentioned with the Chain Fighter.

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