Should Players Suffer When PCs Die?

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on November 13, 2009

Death. Until this week, I’d never witnessed the death of a PC. It can have serious short-term and long-term ramifications on your campaign. In a world without easily accessible magic to raise a dead PC, death is final. Your guy dies and it’s time to create a new PC. But in most D&D campaigns magic is readily available (for a price) and you can revive a fallen comrade easily enough. Chances are if a PC dies as part of a long-term campaign you’ll bring him back from the dead, but what about a one-off game?

In a recent Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) game I played at my friendly local gaming shop I sat down with six complete strangers to play a level 4-7 adventure. During the first combat encounter one of the PCs was killed. Dead, dead. We had to decide what was more important, making the best in-game, role-playing choice or making the best out-of-game, real life choice.

Here’s the context of the adventure. Our party was traveling with a merchant caravan from one town to the next. We were one day away from our destination when we came across an ambush in progress. Another caravan had been overrun by monsters. Some people were dead, others were being carried off as captives and a few were still fighting. We immediately joined the fight. It was during this combat that a PC was killed.

The following out-of-game exchanged followed when the encounter was over.

PCs – What are our options?

DM – You can a) continue on to the town, purchase a raise dead ritual and revive your fallen comrade, or b) you can track down the monsters and try to free the captives.

PCs – If we head to town is that it, game over?

DM – No. There are three encounters left. If you return to town and come back, you’ll miss one of the encounters.

PCs – If we press on and pursue the monsters now, is there any chance for reviving the dead PC before the end of the game?

DM – No. If you don’t bring him back now, you won’t have another opportunity until after the adventure is over. If he isn’t brought back now, his night is done.

The in-game, role-playing solution was simple, rescue the captives and revive our comrade later. That’s what the dead character would have wanted. Letting innocent people die because we took two days to get him raised from the dead was not what he’d want us to do. It didn’t make sense to do it any other way.

But the out-of-game decision wasn’t nearly as straight forward. Sure the characters might have done things one way, but how much would that suck for the poor guy who died? We weren’t even an hour into the game and a PC was dead. Considering that this was just a one-off game anyway, did we really want in-game decisions to determine if one guy got to play the rest of the adventure or not?

There we were. Six strangers faced with a tough choice. The player running the PC who died said he’d be good with either decision. I applaud him for that declaration. Had it been my PC that died I’d be asking the party to bring me back as soon as possible.

After a little bit of debating we all decided that reviving the dead PC was the best course of action. It meant that in-game some people would die, but it also meant that out-of-game a player got to participate for another two hours. We all agreed that the real life fun of playing D&D outweighed the in-game consequences that would play out after we brought our dead comrade back to life.

I think one of the reasons we all agreed to the raise dead option so quickly was that his death was not entirely his fault. Yes he ran into combat recklessly, but he was playing a tough, burly, Dwarven Fighter. It’s his job to draw fire and mark foes, which he did. His death at the hands of the party’s Wizard was unforeseen and unexpected. The benefits of hitting six monsters seemed like a fair trade if it meant possibly getting the Fighter too. The Wizard just happened to roll a 20 to hit the Fighter.

Now that we’d reached a decision to bring back the dead PC, we looked to the DM for advice. I was a little bit disappointed with the way the DM handled the situation. Now I want to be perfectly clear that the DM didn’t do anything wrong. He followed the rules. He didn’t pull punches or fudge numbers. Although I might have done things differently, what he did wasn’t wrong. It was just his choice to hold fast to the rules and not throw the PCs a bone given this unlikely turn of events.

We had to figure out the best, fastest way to do revive our comrade. We started brainstorming for any way to raise dead now and push on immediately. Our imaginations went into overdrive.

PCs – Is there any chance that a raise dead scroll is among the goods being transported in the caravan we’re accompanying?

DM – No.

PCs – We search the remains of the other destroyed wagons. Do we find a ritual scroll in there?

DM – No. It was picked clean by the monsters before you arrived.

PCs – Even the secret compartment just big enough for a scroll case?

DM – No secret compartments, sorry.

PCs – We probably knew that this was a dangerous route before we took the job. Could we say that someone bought a raise dead scroll before we left?

DM – No.

PCs – How about this? We load our friend’s corpse on the caravan. We give the merchant enough gold to cover the cost of the raise dead ritual and ask him to go to the church when he arrives in town.

DM– This merchant has never seen 500 gp in one place before. He’s more likely to dump the body, keep your gold and just ride past the town.

PCs – What if we provide a promissory note to the church instead of giving this guy cash?

DM – No, that won’t be good enough.

PCs – Is there any chance that in place of our next treasure bundle we find a coincidentally well-placed raise dead scroll?

DM – No.

I’ll admit that some of these suggestions were a bit of a stretch, but a couple were somewhat reasonable. For a game that encourages the DM to say yes, this DM said no a lot. Considering that this was just a one-off game what would it hurt to just bring the dead PC back to life right there?

In the end we travelled to the town, had the Fighter raised from the dead and returned to the ambush site to try and rescue any surviving captives. When we got back to the scene of the ambush and tracked the monsters to their lair the NPCs were dead. We killed the monsters and then found the person responsible for hiring them in the first place. So in the end we got two more exciting combat encounters out of it and everyone got to participate throughout the whole adventure.

Looking back on the adventure I realized that no mater how appropriate in-game actions may be, it’s more important to have fun playing the game. If in-game consequences mean that one or more players can’t participate then it’s time to reassess the situation. After all, D&D is a game and everyone playing should enjoy the experience. Sitting on the sidelines for hours because your PC died isn’t fun for anybody. In-game death should carry some consequences, but making a player sit out for an extended period of time isn’t the best way to handle it. This is especially true if the game is just a one-off adventure.

Have you experienced character death since the release of 4e? Did you bring the dead PC back to life or just create a new character? Do you agree with the way the DM handled this situation? If you were the DM what might you have done differently?

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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 newbiedm November 13, 2009 at 9:47 am

If I were running a game for a one night thing with a bunch of strangers, and one guy dies… I’d have a scroll sitting around waiting to get picked up. That’s just not fun for a guy who left his house to go play some D&D and a dicky Dm is willing to ruin his night because of some bad rolling.

Having said that, now you know that next time you play one of these one shots, you have to go prepared with raise dead scrolls, to avoid dealing with a dm like this guy.
.-= newbiedm´s last blog ..Winner of the signed copy of “The Ghost King” =-.

2 David Wright November 13, 2009 at 9:56 am

Whoa, this is an excellent article. There is an absolute (and perhaps necessary) disconnect between realism and pragmatism when it comes to character death, since it probably wouldn’t play to have any of the other characters emotionally devastated for the span of the game.

On the one hand, both the player and the DM in me wants death to have some impact in the game, as opposed to a casual, “Yeah, sure, you raise him, he’s fine, let’s move on,” or, “All right, you’re dead, roll up a new character, let’s move on.”

On the other hand, it. is. just. a. game. How much would it suck to be eliminated from the fun by one lousy roll? The players in your game proposed out some perfectly reasonable let’s-get-this-back-on-track solutions, and it’s a pity that the DM didn’t just latch onto one of them.

Still, there is that impact issue. O death, where is thy sting?

3 Neuroglyph November 13, 2009 at 10:04 am

I agree with DW. The DM sounds like he was being a bit bull-headed that night – and I agree with the whole death being a detriment (“sting”) – I would have probably had the Characters press on with their dead friend and after another encounter, introduced a mysterious character who would revive the dead guy for a price. The party will have experienced a combat without their comrade and possibly realize they need him back desperately. Have the wandering npc ritualist exact a high price – perhaps a magic item – for the cost of a raise dead, then bring the guy back. It would sting a little, but at least one Player would not have had his entire experience ruined… and it makes a better story.

4 Joshua November 13, 2009 at 10:11 am

The DM was being a dick. There is no reason in the world that he should have hesitated to introduce a new character for the player of the deceased PC. If he didn’t have a back-up character ready to go or an NPC for the player to take over, at the very least given that it was the first combat he could have had the player just change the name on the dead character’s sheet and introduced him by having him be a survivor of the initial attack just regaining consciousness, a passerby happening across the site just as the original party did, or any of a number of options. It’s not even stretching game-world reality the way having a valuable raise-dead scroll among the cheap merchant goods would be. I would have told the player he could use my character, and walked.
.-= Joshua´s last blog ..Out-RAGE-e-ous Accents =-.

5 mthomas768 November 13, 2009 at 10:46 am

Sounds like a bit of poor GMing there. At the very least having a competent NPC in the caravan that the player of the dead PC could pick up would have been prudent. Had I been running it I would have definitely run with one of the player-proposed fixes.

As for the ‘sting of death’, eh, in a longer campaign I might worry about consequences, but in a one shot at the FLGS? Play on!

6 Sean Holland November 13, 2009 at 10:53 am

While no one really expects PCs to die, for a one shot adventure like this you need to have a backup plan in place in case someone does. Be it as simple as each player has one “Cheat Death” card which save them but places them at a minor penalty for the rest of the adventure or back up characters (in the game above, a guard from the other caravan who had been knocked unconscious would have worked) or even a ‘mysterious stranger’ who will raise the PC in exchange for a favor later.

There is no excuse for forcing a player to not have fun because of crazy die rolls.
.-= Sean Holland´s last blog ..Through the Lens of History 6 – Alexander the Great, Part I =-.

7 Kensan_Oni November 13, 2009 at 11:10 am

The DM was doing it right, but he needed to have stressed the issue better. The Ritual for Raising Dead takes serious time. The players have a choice. Forge on without him, or wait for him to be raised. There should be no short cut for this, and the DM should make it clear that the consequences on the scenario are time based, not event based. It doesn’t matter if the ritual scroll was right there, you still would have a failed encounter right afterwords.

In any case, it’s not like I don’t feel sorry for the Fighter. Friendly fire is never a nice way to fall in battle, and I am sure that they were thinking law of averages and that if he fell he would be in negs, but not dead-dead. In my experience, it almost never fails that you roll that critical when you don’t want to see it, though.

In all technicalities, the DM was being incredibly generous by allowing the raise in the middle of the game anyway. If I recall correctly, RPGA ground rules don’t allow for them till the end of an adventure…

8 anarkeith November 13, 2009 at 11:19 am

I’ve gotta go with the folks who suggested picking an NPC from the caravan. It should have been fairly easy to morph one of those into a useable PC from a template, albeit gimped (there is a penalty for getting your character killed.)

9 Caduceus November 13, 2009 at 12:23 pm

In the context of the RPGA, the DM made the only call he could. While the DM is given a wide latitude in what he can change in a LFR adventure (such as altering combats and tweaking skill challenges) he cannot change the rewards of an adventure such as XP or treasure, which would include any Raise Dead scrolls. Also, it is expressly against the rules to allow someone to run a second character after their first one dies. If you are wanting the kind of flexibility you call for you really need to be running games outside of the RPGA.

Here is the relevant part of the LFR rules:

Character Death
Adventuring can be dangerous business. Your character
might succumb to those dangers and die. However, death for
your character is usually a temporary situation. If your
character dies during the course of the adventure, you and
the rest of your group have two options, provided that the
groups has access to the Raise Dead ritual (either a PC has it
and can use it or the characters return back to civilization),
they have access to the body, and it is possible to return your
character to life.
• Pay the component cost for the ritual. If the group
chooses this option, the cost should be divided evenly
amongst the group (500 gp for heroic tier, 5,000 gp for
paragon tier, and 50,000 gp for epic tier). Using a source
outside the group to cast the ritual costs 20% more than
the component cost. Total cost when using an outside
source is 600 gp for heroic tier, 6,000 gp for paragon tier,
and 60,000 gp for epic tier. A PC that dies and chooses
this method of return gains full (or half, if the party was
defeated) experience points from the encounter in which
the character died, but no experience points for any
encounters that were missed while the character was
dead. If there’s still more of the adventure remaining, the
PC continues to earn experience as normal, and receives a
normal cut of the rewards at the end of the adventure.
• Invoke the Death Charity clause. If the group cannot
afford to pay for the ritual, doesn’t desire to pay for it, or
doesn’t have access to the body, the PC can choose to
return back to life at the end of the adventure. Doing so
forfeits all rewards (including treasure and story rewards)
earned for the adventure except experience points gained
prior to the character’s death (the character receives the
experience point award for the encounter in which they
died). The PC cannot participate in the same adventure a
second time.

Everyone needs to follow the rules for the RPGA to work.

10 Tyson J. Hayes November 13, 2009 at 12:30 pm

While I’m inclined to disagree with @Kensan_Oni I do agree with a bit of what he is saying. Death should sting a little. However I myself would have made an exception of giving the PC an out of playing one of the survivors. If the ritual of raise dead would have taken to long even if found then give them the easy out of playing another character readily available. It’ll keep it within the confines of the game without being to heavy handed on the enjoyment of the player.

I disagree with how the DM handled it because he was putting the rules of the game above the players enjoyment. Which to me, is unacceptable. Have fun with the rules but disregard them when needed.
.-= Tyson J. Hayes´s last blog ..Weekly Question: Why do you roleplay? =-.

11 pseckler November 13, 2009 at 12:43 pm

Death happens in LFR.

Caduceus has it right. There is a “keep the game going option” which is the raise dead ritual (unfortunately the Charity Clause takes place at the end of the adventure).

The component cost for the Raise Dead ritual was only 500gp or 600gp at this tier, and the players probably could have afforded that, even if they took it out as an IOU on the expected reward at the end of the adventure. (I guess not every DM would allow that, but I probably would have).

12 Ameron November 13, 2009 at 12:56 pm

@everyone
Before I reply to the individual comments (thanks to everyone who’s posted so far), I don’t want this to turn into a situation where everyone is bashing the DM. I think many of us would have done things differently, but I stand by my original comment that the DM didn’t do anything wrong. He chose to stick to the RPGA guidelines and as such the players had to deal with the repercussions of an unfortunate situation.

@newbiedm
Had I been the DM, I too would have tried to find a way to let the player who’s character died get back in the game. I think your suggestion to have a raise dead scroll on hand is sound advice moving forward.

@David Wright
I agree that in-game death should carry consequences. I think I would have handled things much like you suggest. “You’re magically brought back from the dead, but you have to take ‘more gold’ as your treasure bundle at the end of the adventure.” Or something along these lines.

@Neuroglyph
The DM always has it within his power to be flexible and in this situation the DM choose not to bend. His call. I like the idea of having the dead PC sit out one encounter and then have him “magically” brought back. That would have worked too.

@Joshua
I think the DM’s real reason for saying no was that the RPGA has very clear and specific guidelines. After all, it’s important in these kinds of sanctioned events that everyone plays by the same rules. So as much as I might not agree with the way it was handled, I can understand why he did things this way. Although I don’t think much harm would be done if the DM modified a treasure bundle to have a raise dead scroll appear. The dead PC ends up burning a treasure slot and gets to join the game again.

@mthomas768
Having a suitable NPC to run is also a great idea. The dead PC wouldn’t earn his LFR XP or treasure but the player could still enjoy the night of gaming.

@Sean Holland
Cheat death cards are a good idea, but I fear that it may send the wrong message to players. Don’t worry about consequences like dying as long as you’ve got a cheat death card in you pocket. But the rationale for having this type of mechanic is solid.

@Kensan_Oni
The DM actually did stress the importance and the impact of time, I didn’t really cover that in the article (my mistake). So you’re right that even if we had the scroll on hand it takes 8 hours to cast, which still meant that some NPC would be killed.

We actually joked about the odds of the attack killing the Fighter before the die was rolled. Perhaps joking about the odds provoked some bad karma.

The DM was indeed being generous in letting the PC come back at all. But if he was willing to bend that far, why not go a bit further. I’m just saying.

@anarkeith
Any solution that let the player keep playing was acceptable. Even playing a 1st level caravan guard in a 4-7 adventure is better than watching the game from the sidelines.

@Caduceus
As I mentioned in the article, the DM didn’t do anything wrong. He followed the rules as they are written (thanks for providing the specific guidelines from the RPGA). I think your point is a good one. The rules are a lot more flexible and open to interpretation in a home game than in a game where information is recorded and reported. I suppose if this DM made too many exceptions then it wouldn’t be fair for others who died and didn’t have those same concessions made for them. Thanks for representing the “other side” of this debate.

13 Joshua November 13, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Ah. Well, if it’s against the rules of the organization to allow the player to run another character, then the players deserve what they get.
.-= Joshua´s last blog ..Out-RAGE-e-ous Accents =-.

14 satyre November 13, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Hat tip to the players for wanting to keep the player involved, that’s good of them, particularly with the time component. I sympathise with the DM who had to abide by those rules. A passing ritualist would be the best option IMHO given the event constraints er, rules.
.-= satyre´s last blog ..inns and taverns: the summer swan =-.

15 Kameron November 13, 2009 at 5:25 pm

I think the real lesson here is not that DMs need to learn how to bend the rules to allow for players to have their “fun,” but players need to do a better job of coordinating their efforts, especially in an “event” game. I think the wizard player was selfish for not taking into account that his actions could result in a negative outcome for another player. Would the party not have been able to defeat the remaining X enemies if he’d chosen a suboptimal target that would avoid friendly fire? If you’re going to play a controller, be responsible in your actions.
.-= Kameron´s last blog ..Anatomy of a play-by-post game =-.

16 Stuart November 13, 2009 at 6:05 pm

The removal of the ability of a DM to be flexible is one of the reasons that I’m not interested in LFR.

17 Rook November 13, 2009 at 10:55 pm

I think everyone has debated the “stick to the rules or not” aspect pretty throughly. To me, it’s about keeping the player in the game. If all other options of him playing a character in the party are out, then I would have recruited him as DM assistant. Let him play the monsters. He gets to stay involved and the DM gets to concentrate more on all the other aspects of the game. It’s a Win-Win!

(although I’m sure there is a rule against that too) :)
.-= Rook´s last blog ..A Runt Rant Revisited =-.

18 Caduceus November 14, 2009 at 12:28 am

Stuart: The LFR encourages flexibility in the modules. They all contain text suggesting the DM tweak the game for the group playing and even dial up and down the difficulty based on what you feel the players are suited for and offers wide latitude in how encounters play out. Where it does not permit flexibility is in awards for players and penalties for a character dying. Without a few restrictions I just can’t see organized play (with the same characters going through the games of multiple DMs) being feasible. And keep in my that the DM suggested a completely valid avenue for resurrecting the character in question, which the group took at the cost of total success in the module. I like that they had to make a hard decision and there were repercussions for their actions. That’s something I look for in a game.

I will say that the RPGA isn’t to my taste (I’ve stopped doing the RPGA thing) but I can’t see how it’s going to work without a fair amount of structure.

19 Ameron November 16, 2009 at 11:21 am

@Tyson J. Hayes
“Have fun with the rules but disregard them when needed.”
Amen, brother!

@pseckler
Coming up with the gp was certainly not an issue. The biggest issues were time and whether or not the LFR guidelines allowed for this kind of flexibility. In the end the DM stuck to the RPGA rules and it played out as described above.

@Joshua
Sometimes that’s just the way it works out and we have to live with it (or stay dead with it as the case may be).

@Kameron
In all fairness the Wizard did say that he was playing the odds and no one objected, including the already unconscious Fighter. Had it not been a crit the damage wouldn’t have caused absolute death. But you’re right that we should have and could have used better tactics.

@Stuart
I’m hearing this more and more. Unfortunately LFR is the only way some people get to play D&D. Not playing RPGA isn’t really their best option if they want to keep playing D&D. Perhaps some of the RPGA guidelines need to be re-examined.

@Rook
I’ve had off-screen players run monsters before and it’s worked really well. It lets the party split up from time to time without boring those not in the thick of if it. I think that would have been a good option in the scenario as the monsters had a lot of cool powers.

@Caduceus
Again thank you for providing these points of clarification regarding RPGA rules and guidelines. As I’ve stated above the DM didn’t do anything wrong, and given the circumstances may not have been able to do anything differently because of the RPGA guidelines. I think the lesson here is that outside of organized events there are plenty of other good options and we should keep them in mind if we face this kind of situation moving forward.

20 Solarius Tempi November 16, 2009 at 11:32 am

My current gaming group includes a bard who was generated as a group effort by the players. He serves as a back up in case another PC dies, is captured or is not present for some other reason.

21 Breten November 16, 2009 at 11:13 pm

As the DM involved in the actual situation mentioned in here I guess I have a couple things to say in my defense.

1) As several of you noted the RPGA environment is different from running my own campaign. Several of the options there were mentioned by others are ones I have used in my own ongoing campaign, but were not allowable. You can’t make a new character to play with mid adventure, you can’t find treasure not listed, and the characters were too low level to use the ritual had they found it anyways. (Raise dead is a level 8 ritual and the highest level character was level 6) You can say “I think RPGA is stupid” but we were there to play RPGA and everyone understood that.

2) Please note that I did not make a player sit out for the rest of the game, although that is technically what I SHOULD have done if I followed the module. Instead I allowed them to resurrect their party member (at the bargain price of 500 gp because I felt sorry for the guy getting killed on a fluke like that) but there was a cost: innocents died. This lent a feeling of impact to the situation. If a character dies, immediately starts replaying with no consequence, then it takes away from the fun of the game because part of the fun comes from the suspense generated by fear of consequences.

3) The group’s decision to go back an resurrect their party mate was made on several levels. One was the knowledge that if they didn’t there was a good chance they were going to all get killed in the battle ahead. The party had chosen to play an adventure difficulty above their level, and being a man down would make a already serious challenge likely lethal. Part of my bullheadedness in not dropping a solution into the parties lap was that going ahead while sending the fighter back to be resurrected would likely have meant the next encounter could have killed the group.

4) I care a great deal about all the players having fun. Our RPGA group uses rotating DM’s. The guys who I was DMing for were my fellow players the week before, and this week when we played again. I’m not being a
dick to them, and if I am they are likely to do the same thing back to me the next week. But after the session as I was packing up the mini’s two of the players took were chatting with my wife an mentioned how much they enjoy playing with me as DM specifically because they always feel like they might die, and the feeling of challenge and suspense is what makes things fun, and makes winning and surviving so exciting.

I guess a good comparison would be this weeks adventure, where our party never once felt like we were in danger, defeated the whole module in only 2.5 out of the suggested 4 hours, and then I had to sit around waiting for the other groups to finish. I mean there was a certain amount of fun to utterly destroying the bag guys in such spectacular fashion…but if I had my choice I would pick last weeks game every time. Danger and consequences = Fun.

So to sum it all up: I agree with the concept of do what it takes as a DM to make sure the players are having fun. I think the difference between the player and I was how we gauged the situation as what would result in the most fun.

22 fireinthedust November 17, 2009 at 8:30 pm

good point DM. RPGA is RPGA.

For the same reason as this article, I don’t split the party. Everyone needs to be in every scene. At a D&D event (where i ran into the site-makers here) I took too long with the event’s dragonborn rogue just scouting ahead, and I didn’t think about the other players; I don’t know if they cared, but it bothered me in terms of “gamer professionalism”. In hindsight, it’s informed how I play and run a game.

23 ryan November 23, 2009 at 12:26 am

yeah for ppl reading who don’t know what RPGA is, the original post prolly should have contained the death rules or at least the gist of them. over the course of reading the comments i went from “what a terrible DM!” to “wow why would anyone NOT carry a raise dead ritual in their pocket?” to “OMGWTFBBQ THE FIGHTER WAS ALREADY UNCONSCIOUS WHEN HE CAST IT??”

24 Alvin December 8, 2009 at 4:16 pm

I read the whole article waiting to find out what game LFR was. And then all of the comments. At first I thought maybe Legend of the Five Rings (which is usually L5R) but that’s not it.

Clearly it’s some D&D variant that the RPGA uses (this only became apparent from the comments, so I think those of you getting indignant for people suggesting RPGA rules breaking options need to consider that), but I thought that was against the whole point of the RPGA.

I think D&D is the only acronym you don’t have to explain when you write an article, unless your goal is to be exclusive.

I’m still puzzled how not giving the merchant 600gp or a promissory note for 600 gp (as long as the PCs had it) would be a rules violation. It fits both Death rule #2 quoted above and the DMG rule to “Say Yes”.

25 Bryant December 8, 2009 at 11:12 pm

Alvin, two points:

LFR is defined in the second paragraph of the article. “In a recent Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) game I played…”

Giving the merchant 600 GP to get the resurrection done wouldn’t have been a rules violation. Please note the GM’s comment, above: he didn’t want to encourage the party to go onward with one PC missing. That’s why he cut that option off.

If I’d been running this scenario, I would have gone with that option if desired — which still would have removed the player from some of the game, mind you — and scaled down encounters to the standard five person size while there was a PC missing. But that’s with the benefit of hindsight. I certainly can’t criticize someone for not thinking of that on the fly.

And unless I’m woefully misreading this, the DM did provide a solution that allowed the player in question to get back in the game immediately, no? Go back to town, get raised, fail at one objective but perhaps not a complete failure?
.-= Bryant´s last blog ..[4e] Not Your GM’s Keep on the Shadowfell: SWARM(s)! =-.

26 Ameron December 9, 2009 at 8:50 am

@Solarius Tempi
I think a “shared character” is a great idea. I may actually suggest this to my PCs.

@Breten
Thank you so much for adding your comments. Although my goal with any article is to generate discussion, I tried very hard not to have this one turn into a piece where everyone (including me) just bashed the DM.

In hindsight I realize that what I might have perceived as resistance at the time was really just you trying to following the RGPA rules while giving us options. This was actually one of the best and most fun LFR adventured I’d played in a long time and I think that was very much due to the players at the table and you as the DM. I certainly hope that you don’t feel slighted or offended at my portrayal of the events.

@fireinthedust
When we realize that something in our D&D games isn’t working all we can do is try to learn from the experience and handle it differently next time.

@ryan
I think you’re right. Perhaps I should have been clearer about that when I wrote the original article.

@Alvin
I have spelled out the acronym LFR to Living Forgotten Realms in the article after reading your comment. I guess I forget that not everyone is as “hard core” as I am and may not be familiar with the less-common terms.

I agree with your take on getting the merchant to transport the body and have him raised from the dead. All I can say is that I might have handled it differently if I was the DM (while trying to stay within the RPGAs [Role-Playing Game Association] rules).

@Bryant
At the time Alvin posted his comment Living Forgotten Realms was still just posted as LFR. Based on his feedback I went back and edited the original article.

I think your assessment of the situation is quite accurate. The DM may not have been open to our crazy ideas for bringing back our dead companion immediately, but he did give us an option (which we took) to bring back our friend and let him keep playing for the rest of the adventure.

27 Bryant December 9, 2009 at 3:41 pm

Whoops, my bad! Sorry about that, Alvin — thanks for the clarification, Ameron.

I think it’s a really interesting and valuable discussion. I do tend to agree that the DM needs to stick to the treasure parcels as written — opening it beyond that is a fairly noticeable risk, particularly in 4e. Magic items are a key component of a 4e character. Shared campaigns need a shared baseline.

But it’s also good to make sure the game can keep going. I find myself suddenly thinking that I, on the occasions I get to play, could do my own part by keeping a Raise Dead scroll on me. Once I get to the proper level, anyhow…
.-= Bryant´s last blog ..[4e] Not Your GM’s Keep on the Shadowfell: SWARM(s)! =-.

28 Simon Newman January 16, 2010 at 12:55 pm

For a one-shot like this I’d think the best thing would be for the GM to hand the player another pregen PC, maybe 1 level lower if you want a slight penalty. That might even work for a continuing game.

The GM is aiming to both maintain versimilitude, and maximise table fun. Normally the two are complementary, but it can take a bit of thought.

29 Simon Newman January 16, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Joshua:
“at the very least given that it was the first combat he could have had the player just change the name on the dead character’s sheet and introduced him by having him be a survivor of the initial attack just regaining consciousness”

Agreed – I’ve done this when a player had his PC killed very early, before the character was really established. For a continuing game they will normally lose out of some XP, that’s adequate penalty.

30 Ameron January 21, 2010 at 12:51 pm

@Bryant
I’ve certainly learned from this situation. I’ve purchased a Raise Dead scroll for all LFR PCs I have who can afford it and are of suitable level. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

@Simon Newman
Let me clarify, I called this a one-shot game since I don’t play a lot of LFR at this venue. However, for some of the players this is their weekly game. I’ve since learned that the RPGA does have some pretty strict guidelines, so the DM actually had his hands tied (somewhat). Had this been a home game I would have done exactly what you suggested and handed the player a new PC to run until his main guy could be brought back to life.

31 Torcano December 13, 2010 at 4:43 pm

GM made the obviously correct decision, end of story.

Any other solution is laughable in comparison. The only question here is how could the living PCs actually be so selfish as to consider going on without the dead guy.

32 Ameron December 13, 2010 at 6:13 pm

@Torcano
The guys that play at that FLGS are pretty hard-core when it comes to the role-playing. They really wanted to do what they felt their characters would do, even though it was a pretty bad call for the real life gamers at the table. As noted in the article, by taking the time in-game to revive the fallen party member some of the captives were executed before we could rescue them. In the end we (the players) all agreed that the real life decisions had to trump the in-game decision. After all we were there to play and have fun, not be a bunch of hard-nosed jerks.

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