Sunday, April 12, 2009


Welcome to another week of the Game Dork's Gaming Corner! Today is Easter, so I thought I'd talk about the "revolving door afterlife."

Specifically, I am thinking of games (most notably Dungeons and Dragons) in which a dead character can be brought back to life to continue adventuring. Often, this takes all the meaning out of death, since you just come right back again mere moments later and pick up as if nothing had ever happened.

I am particularly amused by a tiny detail (many people may even fail to notice it) in the book On the Origin of PCs, which is a prequel volume for The Order of the Stick. At one point, Roy is standing in a graveyard speaking to the tomb of his father. Off to the side is a plain tombstone labelled "Leeron the Unlucky: 1014-1041, 1041-1041, 1041-1041, 1041-1041."

But it just proves my point: What's the point of death if you just come right back? Oops, a minor inconvenience, the cleric must use on of his spell slots (and if your group is keeping track of these things, enough gold to cover the material components). Now, on with the game!I suspect that for a lot of people, especially the Power Gamers, it's just another form of video game. "I lost a life! I hope I get another 1-up soon!" Or, as someone in one of my gaming groups once said, "Can we save so we can reset if we screw up?"

I was in a game once in which my character died. It was totally my fault; I knew I was taking a major risk, and I rolled poorly, and so I died. I was all set to make a new character, when suddenly the GM started talking about how the character found himself in some sort of demonic underworld where some fiends were talking about how I was going to be their agent in the mortal world, and I was suddenly sent back with some nasty new flaws. I was particularly upset that my control over my character had been usurped, especially in such an unpleasant manner. The game session ended then, and we never returned to that story, else I would have had my character commit suicide.

Again, I think this is probably a result of the fact that I am a Storyteller/Method Actor, but I think that death, when it happens, should be a serious deal. I was GMing a Changeling game in which one of the characters died. I took the player aside and offered her two options: we could translate her character to Wraith, or we could write up a new character. She chose to play a wraith. She talked on occasion about finding a new body, but it never happened. For the rest of the story, she was a wraith.

But that's my theory. If a character dies, let them stay dead.

And with that, we conclude another week of gaming essays. Until next week, 

Game on!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I try to avoid scenarios where a PC ends up dead through sheer bad luck. In my games it can really only happen for one of three reasons: the player asked me to kill off the character (happens more often than you would think) or the player does something completely and utterly stupid and has been warned that it is completely and utterly stupid. That said, I try to prevent the death from occurring, rather than making it meaningless after the death. In terms of bringing a character back to life, I think I would always try to tie it into the overall plot and have their be major negative results, preferably ones linked into the overall plot.