Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dying, It's Okay

Game night has come and gone and I am dead.  Ashling was frozen by the breath of a shadow dragon doing nearly double the damage as he had hit points.  But it's okay.

The adventure developed after a good ally of the party was kidnapped.  This led the party to my elven homeland and to a section of the forest that had been corrupted by demons.  An ancient forest spirit call a taigh (pronounced tag) was at the center of this corruptedness (I know it's not a real word).  A demon had managed to possess it.  Bad news.  Cool adventure.

We spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to approach the taigh, how we would enter the forest.  I'd considered about flying right in, but we decided not to do that for some reason.  Instead we dove right in after some preparation, we were going to use limited teleport spells in case things got too ugly.  Much of what we encountered were shadows and shadow snakes. 

One encounter I used my cube of force power when a gigantic purple worm swallowed the party hole.  Luckily the digestive juices were kept out by the cube.  Then I think we unleashed three fireballs inside of the purple worm before we got out.  That could have gotten ugly really fast. 

Then Rob used the maps for the Vile Worm and the Eldritch Oak (from BHP S&W whitebox) as the frame of the final part of the adventure.  The map for that adventure is great.  Once inside the taigh (a giant tree) we discovered the demon intertwined with the tree.  I didn't get to do too much before I was hit by the Shadow Dragon's freezing breath.  I critically failed the saving throw.  So instead of halving the damage I took double the damage.  I guess I am sorta like Han Solo now in carbon freeze, but nowhere as cool. 

Oelander and Syrinvald finished off the demon and freed the taigh and that's where it ended.  With me dead.  But like I said, it's okay.  It was a very cool adventure and Ashling took all the as many precautions as he could to increase his survival, but one bad dice roll is sometimes all it takes. 

I guess this is where I disagree with others out there who argue over a death of a character because of a bad dice roll.  I think it made the Shadow Dragon much more significant.  It was a powerful creature that should be able to wipe out someone in a single blow.  It should be able to consume a party who comes ill prepared.  Why nerf it?  Why make it easy?  Step away from the fudge and let the dice add the excitement.  I would have been less enthusiastic about the adventure had the GM taken mercy on me.  I would rather get killed in a fun game than continue on in a game where there is little danger. 

If you roll bad and die, it's okay.  Maybe my party members, if I have treated them kindly and that has yet to be determined, will find a way to bring me back.  But even if they don't I am fine with rolling up a new character and exploring the world through the new guy's eyes. 


  1. It always sucks to lose a character, but I agree with your statement about dice rolls and how they affect a game, even so far as causing the death of a character. It's part of the randomness that makes these games so fun. I have seen my own fair share of botched dice rolls that completely changed the game. One time one of our assassins was perfectly setup for a surprise backstab on a doppleganger posing as a queen. He fumbled on his attack roll. Needless to say, that was a very memorable night and one that our group has talked and laughed about many times over the years.

  2. As an aside:

    One of the things I codified in Piecemeal was the After Death game. After a character dies, the next game is that character trying to make his way in the afterlife to the happy hunting grounds/ not get dragged to hell. In which the other players play past (dead) characters, allies, family, NPC's or what have you.

    Beat death at chess, or sneak past cerebrus, barter for entry into the grand treasurey to be with the Nagas of past eras. Also adds a sense of closure.

  3. That's rough, but hopefully there's no lasting hurt. I think you get it dead on (...) with "I would rather get killed in a fun game than continue on in a game where there is little danger."

    @ Zzarchov - That's a cool approach, fresh for the players, and maybe even a good influence on a campaign. Players might be bolder for knowing that kind of adventure could await, and it might help in the roleplaying of a character with a strong belief in the afterlife.

    Is Whisk okay too? It's been quiet and I can't be the only one missing the good cheer.

  4. Great post! I tend to be more about the game and the fun nowadays than an attachment to a particular character. That's not to say that I'm not going to play the hell out of a character, but if the character dies in the course of an adventure, well, that's the game.

  5. I only really object to the save or die mechanic in like a trap. You are walking along, bam dead, no good story, just an accident. You might as well have fallen and hit your head.

    In this case, the monster really should represent a powerful danger, so I see no issue with it.

    Sucks though. Next time, bring some frost-protection, dude! ;)

  6. Very interesting post! Purple Worms make everything better, imo.
    100% with you on character death. I feel it adds drama, and raises the stakes when there's no guarantee your character will survive day to day adventuring. Assuming, of course, you have players who enjoy roleplaying(whether Bob the Barbarian or Balrand the Forlorn, Scion of the Bleaklands etc...), rather than coldly manipulating avatars, trying to 'win'; or in a futile attempt to reproduce the effects of another medium(often involving armchair psychoanalysis, for some reason...).(Death is still an incentive for self-preservation with these player types, but the game seems less fun, imo.)
    Wraith Lite? :-)

    @Greg Christopher:
    Regardless of anyone's take on 'story' in RPGs, don't people die from deathtraps in stories? Fantasy novels and spy/techno thrillers seem to abound with this.

    Save-or-die does have its uses: it encourages alternate methods of problem solving, observance of the environment, and resource management.(It may even motivate outright running[level drain comes to mind, too]). It raises issues of wariness vs. overcaution, but there's generally a happy medium, I'd say. It definitely adds tension!

    'You might as well have fallen and hit your head.':
    That doesn't tend to happen in fantasy games unless you're playing
    Rolemaster! :-)

    Not to mention, the death could occur in a poignant and/or laughable manner, creating an oft-told tale shared among players for some time to come.

  7. @ Velaran

    I have found that players switch to over-caution at the drop of a hat. I actually think almost traps should kill you, constrain you in place, or simply serve as alarm. Traps that simply tick off a few hit points are just dumb and encourage over-caution.

    Traps that kill you should give you 3 chances to live; chance to detect, chance to avoid getting caught in it, and a chance to survive being caught in it. If you fail all three, I am fine with death.

    I wrote a big post about this on my blog about Synapse a few months back, if you are interested.

  8. I was just informed by my GM that was not double damage I suffered, but just the full damage. So either way I was a goner.

    RW> Gotta have some sort of risk. And I laugh more about the bad rolls than I will remember the good ones. And of course the other players are willing to give you shit about it later so you can't forget. I know I do it. hehe

    Zz> I remember that blog. That would be a cool end game scenario for a character.

    Porky> I like the risk and I like having a fight go down to the wire. The randomness of the dice is what makes it a blast. And thanks for asking about whisk, she is doing well just working a lot lately.

    Johnathan> Thanks, yeah I like 'playing the hell of of a character'. If my guy only lasts to the 2nd level by god I hope he will be remembered for something.

    Greg> I'm okay with the trap kills to. I know if I was a devious evil necromancer I want traps that kill. I want more walking zombies. And like you mentioned you there is a chance to detect them, disarm them and possibly avoid them. So if my guy falls into a 1000' pit I'll flap my arms hard and hope to fly.

    Velran> I never thought of it much, but I have to agree, purple worms do make everything better. I loved it.

    JB> :) back atcha

  9. Thanks for thinking of me, Porky. I'm headed over to your blog now.

  10. Some of the best gaming begins with a bad roll of the dice.

    Death is a hazard of adventuring. Those who fret about it should stay home.