Monday, May 30, 2011

In Memorial...

Are players really traumatized by the deaths of their characters?

I mean, I never really thought they were...but then, perhaps, I've spent a little too much time in the DM's chair to have an adequate perspective on the subject.

For example, it appears Gratuitous Saxon Violence still thinks about the death (and eating) of his fighter at the paws of a grizzly (judging by the comments he makes every time I post something about bears)...and that happened more than a year ago! And every time things start looking grim in our Baranof game, Randy is apt to say, "here comes the manticores," an obvious reference to the death of his first character, Sweet Tito. And, of course, everyone seems to hate goblins (which have been responsible for more character deaths in my games than any other monster...except maybe owlbears).

Ah, well...I suppose it doesn't matter all that much. I mean, if they keep coming to play, any RPG-induced PTSD must be minor right?

In honor of Memorial Day, I hereby commemorate this post to all the poor player characters that have died at the Baranof gaming table. Unfortunately, there are far too many NPC henchmen, hirelings, and random adventurers to list them, too...but those we can bother to remember (on occasion) will be thought of with fondness.

[the list includes only B/X player characters]

AB: Meaty, Shmutzy, Caindong, Lando, Gene, Unnamed Character, Pope, Clownman
Steve-O: Thundarr, Joachim, Jacques
Luke: Hensvik, the Elder Muir, Allster, Kvarkel
Matthew: Gustav, Stump Ryewater, Younger Brother Ryewater
Matt: Unnamed Elf #1
Randy: Sweet Tito (x3), Sexy Kevin, Hickory, Borf the Dwarf, Clem
Josh: Borgnine, Fletcher Jr.
Vince: Sly, Sly Jr.
Heron: Terril, Unnamed Elf #2
Dave: Frezlie, Warwick the bugbear, Milby
Greg: Murillo, Thane, Bono, Edge, Hexmann
Ben: Thwunk

[all "unnamed" characters will killed in a single session during the Goblin Wars campaign when a delve into a goblin warren turned into a total clusterf**k, killing seven of eight PCs. Most of the players erased their old character sheets to make new PCs, preventing me from recording their characters' names for posterity]

Happy Memorial Day, folks!

: )


  1. Far from being traumatized, I am a little proud of that death. I stayed true to character in thinking that the bear was a pet and Jaxson was being tested. Even though Pat switched to combat rounds to let me know I was wrong, I didn't see how Jaxson could know that. So, it was a triumph of roleplaying!

    Since you were in that game, I do think of it every time I read this blog. I suppose I could stop reading your blog. But for all I know, you were cackling evilly, when you decided to armor bears. Especially as you've pointed out how truly vicious claw/claw/bite creatures are in B/X.

    I am more traumatized by a death that didn't happen to a character I played in a Pathfinder campaign last summer. I was playing an annoying, troublesome, goblin. the bane of the party. I got into HP trouble at one point during a fight, and the DM, let me repeat, The DM told the other players I was low. And they went to ridiculous lengths to heal me. Which struck me as completely wrong for the characters, and the low point of that campaign for me. It was just so wrong.

    The bigger question is what happened to Jeff's Gameblog?

  2. I made a hall of fame for my campaign, which sits on the player side of the screen... together with Dungeons & Disgressions quote about how two things kill players: stupidity and bad luck...
    3 so far. We just started.

  3. As you can't edit comments:
    Ah, first, not players, characters (D'oh!) and second, it is a pathfinder game. ;)

  4. have i ever been traumatized by a character death? not really. although it does happen with some players.

    did i care a lot about most of my characters? i sure did. to be quite honest, if a dm killed off several characters every session i wouldn't want to play in his game. but that's just my personal preference.

    how two things kill "characters" ;) : stupidity and bad luck...

    dm's should certainly be added to that list. in my experience dm's kill more players than bad luck. stupidity is still #1 though. :D

  5. @ shlominus: That's what I get for just citing half of the quote and even misquoting the source:
    "Players need to understand that DMs don't kill PCs, players kill PCs - and PCs die by two means: 1) stupid or reckless play, 2) Fate (dice)."
    Discourse & Dragons, not Dungeons & Disgressions, but hey...

    Of course, that's with the perfect dm, who adjucates the campaign world as a living entity, that doesn't care about the pcs. This means it isn't out to actively hunt them down, too, even if it feels sometimes like this. Oh, the joy of random rolls... Anyway, in a perfect world at least, dms don't kill pcs. And of course I try to achieve that in my campaign.

    @GSV: I hope it's just a glitch in blogger again... Jeff Rients absence from blogging would be felt.

  6. "I got into HP trouble at one point during a fight, and the DM, let me repeat, The DM told the other players I was low. And they went to ridiculous lengths to heal me. Which struck me as completely wrong for the characters, and the low point of that campaign for me. It was just so wrong."

    As a DM, I wouldn't have an issue with telling the other players that they noticed your character was in serious trouble. So long as it was something they would realistically have a chance of perceiving.

    Nor do I take issue with the kind of meta-gaming that would lead the players to try and save a character their PC's dislike. I'm all for "playing in character" but I also think the group needs to make concessions to the overall needs of the campaign. Of course, it's perhaps preferable to create characters that can at least work together, in the first place.

  7. @ Grat: I, too, agree that it was a triumph of was the rest of us hiding in the cabin (my usual impetuousness and good will was outweighed by me wanting to "play like a thief"). I do have to confess, I enjoy it whenever a PC is eaten by a bear in a game (mine or someone else's)...they're one of the most under-appreciated monsters in the book. I will remember Jaxson's death for a loooooong time.
    : )

    @ rorsh: Glad you're only killing characters!
    ; )

    @ Shlom: DMs kill characters. A character can only die if a DM allows it to happen.

    @ James: As a DM I hardly even pay attention to PC's hit points. I roll damage and allocate it, and the players tell me when they hit zero. It's on the players to yell, "hey, I need healing!" or whatever...and generally they do a good job of it (or trying to maneuver in combat to save themselves). But then, these days I'm playing with adults...when I was DMing for more kids/teens I DID do a bit more "hand-holding."

  8. I think I've only ever been attached to my first two original characters, who may have died a few times, but were raised and are still alive today.

    I have seen my players shred character sheets when their character's die though. Some of them get really attached.

  9. @ Simon: But "being attached" is exactly WHY one shouldn't shred the character D&D, it is always possible to raise your character back to life!

  10. "Unnamed Dwarf!"
    His Name Was Stump Ryewater.
    His Name Was Stump Ryewater.
    His Name Was Robert Paul- I mean, Stump Ryewater.

    I think his "brother" may actually not have gotten a name, though.

  11. @ Matt: Ah, yes! How could I have forgotten good ol' Stump?
    ; )

    I think his brother might have been named Thump or something...