Have you, as a GM, killed a PC? Have you, as a Player, had a PC killed? What happened next?
By - LeVentNoir
I had a PC die in the second session of what turned out to be a lvl 1-17 campaign.
Around lvl 10 we had a PC sacrifice themselves so that we could escape.
Near the end of the campaign we had a near TPK. 4/5 of the party members died to a dragon breath attack.
Every time aside from the first was pretty somber and the GM definitely felt bad about it, but as players we rallied and simply discussed what our new characters were and worked with the GM on how to bring them in on the next session.
Personally, if my character dies and it was simply something that happens in the course of the game, I'm okay with that. I hate when it feels like the GM is coming at us with kid gloves on.
Typically the session ended at the nearest viable stopping point and next session the GM awkwardly crowbarred in a new character.
> The sorcerer of the group took my emergency Spell Storing ring which holds a revivify and brought me back.
DM ruled that particular ring didn't require attunement? Given the 1 minute rule of revivify.
I was playing an Artificer and made a bomb to use on the enemy camp and the samurai said I'll sneak in and plant it. Now we all thought this was a bad idea but at the time he had the best stealth modifier and was the only one using armor that didn't give disadvantage on stealth so we thought worst case scenario we charge in and creat a distraction while he plants it. Our samurai however pulled a death before dishonor when he got caught and just lit the damn thing. Granted his mission was a success but we were down a guy when the boss came charging in after surviving the blast. In truth it wasn't all that bad and in retrospect is a cool way to have a character die but at the time we all facepalmed because it wasn't necessary.
Title Questions: Not Yet, and comically often.
I have not yet killed a PC, at least not permanently. I had one player die and be brought back in my current campaign, but I have not managed a proper character death yet. Though I might kill their favorite NPC soon, so that might count.
I got 3 different PCs killed in Lost Mines of Phandelver, one of which was on purpose to keep up the meme, and not long after I had to dip out of a campaign, and while the DM intended to give my PC a cool death, some rolls went funky and they instead ignobly fell off of a rope they were climbing to their death, which was on-brand enough that I absolutely count it as one of my character deaths, even if I wasn't there for the session.
In a campaign before any of this (not 5e, it was a Star Wars system), I am also the person who introduced to my party the tradition of rhythmically chanting "T-P-K, T-P-K" in fights that seem to not be going our way, which I then had to inform the DM that it's not funny when *they chant it*, only when the players do sarcastically.
For your questions in the post:
1) Yes, though the threat of PCs dying and the way it makes players play cautiously and deliberately, knowing their actions have consequences, is the goal, not the actual character deaths. Character Deaths are the Sword of Damocles hanging over the party that gets them to play smarter and not be murderhobos.
2) Eh, not really. At least not how I play it.
If a character dies, I want it to be because the party made mistakes. If the party does everything right, and or at least close enough to everything that failure and character death feels like it's not a good story beat to face here, I'm more willing to fudge a dice roll or soften the encounter on the fly to save them.
But if the players make mistakes, rushing into a fight they shouldn't, or have the opportunity to get out and don't for whatever reason, *then* I'm willing to kill PCs. Killing PCs is about *consequences*, and if the players can't look back and build some sort of narrative about *why* the character died when they did, then it just doesn't feel satisfying.
Though if the PC has high enough odds of being successfully resurrected, I'm willing to kill them just because the party is capable of dealing with it, so you tend to naturally get more lethal as the party gets stronger, simply because they have the necessary tools to respond.
3) Yes, and if they die trying to *accomplish* that plot, so much the better. That's a good, sad story. If they die somewhere else, I'll probably use that character's plotline to give the rest of the party a chance to RP getting closure for their death, if possible. If not, well, a plot can fall by the wayside. That's fine, it happens.
4) The party has to work together a little to help introduce the new character or characters to the group, but pretty much: You gotta keep the *players* playing, so when someone dies, that player makes a new character to replace them. See me going through 4 different characters and 3 deaths in Lost Mines of Phandelver (1 character was retired after half a session because I wasn't into playing Bard, and the last one died at the very end of the campaign).
5) Yup. Only if the party screws up *bad*, but they're absolutely on the table. You try to avoid it as a DM, unless it feels like it has a good in-story reason, like the party dying fighting for a cause, and might even consider ways that what would otherwise be a TPK leaves the party in a bad spot, but alive and able to recover, like all trapped in jail, or being rescued from a Shipwreck by Davy Jones, who ominously proclaims that he will have his due from them when the time is right.
6) Depends. If the party has an angle to introduce new characters into the campaign to try and pick up where their dead party left off, I might consider it, but I'm also willing to call a TPK the end of the line- without our intrepid and dysfunctional heroes, the villains won, and the setting is now going to be shaped into the future by that fact.
In my last four campaigns, a PC died in the first 3 sessions. Some out of sheer bad luck, some out of poor decisions. And not only in DnD, where low level PCs are really fragile: two of these campaigns used the Year Zero engine, and still got an early death.
Obviously, dying sucks. But it has some positive side effects too. Usually, players tend to take in-game threats more seriously once they see a comrade fall. And I would argue this is probably a reason why I've never done a TPK. I think my players got trained to recognize situations where they could get wiped out, because they know it's a possibility.
Depends what you mean by "killed a PC".
PCs have died in games I've run but it's not like I personally wanted to kill them. Sometimes the dice just don't go their way.
Pretty much all the PC deaths in my games were in ToA, where they cant usually be resurrected, so we had probably more than 10 PC deaths in that campaign.
The campaign ended with a TPK, though after they managed to save the world from the Death Curse (At least temporarily) so it was a pretty good way to go.
I ask the player offline if they hope to be raised or do they want to roll a new PC. If the party is transporting the body to a temple or a cleric, the action can happen there.
One time, I knew a player was going to reroll, and I had the body stolen by powerful undead. This was a terrible idea, the party almost TPK’d to prevent it. I pretty much had to break character and tell them to let it go. Do not reccommend.
TPK’s can happen, party captures can happen, Gods can reset stuff, but the players usually know in these cases that they lost. They get the Bad Ending, and maybe the next campaign can deal with that.
Combat is deadly; unlucky and unwise characters can die anytime. Otherwise, what is the incentive to be wise or lucky? Why cheer a 20 if a 2 works as well?
Not 5e but 1e AD&D. My first session ever, in fact.
I found a magic sword, my friend found a magic crossbow. He wanted the sword, I wouldn't trade for the crossbow. Later, after a bad fight, he took matters into his own hands and shot me with the crossbow. I died.
My first thought was "Holy crap! You can do that?"
Been rolling ever since.
The first time a PC died with me as DM was CoS. A lvl1 PC was frightened and started running towards a spooky animated scarecrow. I said that he could try to save again against fear if he was hit or at the end of his turn. The fighter used an axe to wake him up. Crit, Max damage with brutal critical from Half-Orc. The fighter player didn't knew he could do non-lethal damage, or that you can just not use brutal critical. Neither did I, as it was my first time as DM for 5e. So the Bard died. Came back with a rogue next day, zero problems.
The second time was in LMoP. Again, at level 1. They went into a cave full of goblins. After 3 encounters, they tried to face the boss that they knew was there without resting and without the ranger, who was trying to calm down some wolfs after a goblin escaped and tried to free them to fight the party. The warlock died. Came back next day with a barbarian.
I've been DM for RoTF for 5 sessions now. 4 PCs have died, and I've only killed one of them who sacrificed himself to save the others. The other 3 died fighting each other in the second session without any imput on my part because they're dumb and like to argue about dumb things. We still play without problem and they all have made new characters they love. This is already the game with the highest number of casualties I've ever DM for, and were not even in chapter 2. It was concerning when it happened, but it wasn't the end of the world.
In a game that I was a player for I had my cleric die in an underwater encounter. I was dumb, went into the frontline, got focused by a Sea Hag and drowned. I liked my cleric, but I still came back with a paladin the next day. Because it's a game, and that's how it works.
PCs die, it's normal. If they couldn't, there wouldn't be any risk and combat would be meaningless. Never had a TPK before, but I don't see why we couldn't keep playing if it happened.
I’ve died twice, and a third part of a non-lethal TPK that ended the campaign.
When killing players, it’s generally best to have it be in climactic moments. It’s fine if the Wizard goes down to goblins, but dying from that is a narrative pain in the ass. Now your character needs to be replaced, some rando gets all chummy with the established party, and finally you can get back onto the story.
Killing PCs can be okay if you also supply them with the means to undo it (such as have diamonds in their loot for Revivify), or if you establish that your table is cool with that. I personally don’t like it; why care about a story if there’s a real chance you’re gonna shift thru 3 characters to see the conclusion? But to each their own.
The “TPK” in my game essentially had us captured shortly after escaping our previous “TPK” imprisonment, and our DM couldn’t write his way out of it without essentially rehashing the previous 6-8 sessions.
But to answer your questions straight up: Yes to all of them. A TPK is actually a great time for people to switch up party dynamics and hear “rumors” of an adventuring party that went to tackle a great foe for grand treasures and presumably perished. That’s the plothook to get people back into the adventure.
As for PCs with important backstories that have large implications, I’d avoid that trope of at all possible. Killing the Chosen One is probably a bad omen for the world, but if it rips the world asunder then they probably should be part of a much larger group than the standard strike teams that adventuring parties usually are.
> TPKs happen and the story can continue?
I don't think this is the case, unless the players are extremely invested in the story or really want to finish a particular module.
In my experience as a DM, a TPK ends the game. You take the rest of the night off, come back fresh next week with a new adventure and a new party.
A TPK is a good way to seed new adventures. So the BBEG had his plan go off and now rules the land. The new party comes along to gain power and stop them.
That's certainly one option, sure. I'm certainly not knocking anyone else's games, just saying what has been the case in mine.
I've had TPKs, then re-wound the timeline so a different, weaker group of adventurers rises, and has to deal with a stronger, more advanced BBEG without it simply being a smash cut to different costumes.
Yea we tpked pretty early in campaign and just started over with a completely unrelated party
> Unless the players are extremely invested in the story or really want to finish a particular module
I think this is the kicker here. I mean, either you were all enjoying but maybe a little tired of your game so you want to try something new. Or you were REALLY loving it and want to find a way to slot back into the story. It's just up to your story, your players, and your DM.
I, for one, would rather the story keep going usually, but there have been times where I had another idea for a campaign where I wouldn't have complained if the players wanted to start fresh.
I as the GM have never killed anyone; but the monsters I control are trying to kill the PCs. It's a subtle distinction, but it's also important to keep in mind that the DM/Player relationship isn't and should never become adversarial.
That said, I've had PCs die in almost every campaign I've ever run, or been a part of. I have never actually had a TPK, but have come damn close.
Typically when a PC dies, I work with the player to bring in a new one. The exact details of how that happens depend on the player and the current situation the party is in. (e.g., I've had PCs take over NPCs, show up back in town with a message for them, and locked in a prison cell in the next room in the dungeon they were still in at the end of last session).
If a TPK happens, there are usually a few options.
A) You can deus ex machina it into a non-TPK. If they were fighting intelligent monsters, it's entirely possible that they would much rather take the party alive. Afterall, bunch of adventurers in high-end equipment and magic items carrying thousands of gold pieces? *Somebody* will pay big bucks. It's also entirely possible that some outside force (that you now owe a favor to) intervenes - anything from the guards to an order of knights to a devil that's been watching you (warlock patrons make a great choice here), and so on and so on.
B) Tie the party's death into the narrative. This usually happens when the world and the events happening are bigger than the PCs. Build a new party in the same world, and switch perspective over to them. They wouldn't pick up where the PCs left off -but would be following their own independent story somewhere else in the world. Eventually, they would pick up where the current PCs left off - or somewhere along the same path they were traveling. Maybe the BBEG wins, and they now live in a world ruled by her - and make it their mission to take her down. Maybe they were another group working towards ending the curse, and 5 sessions from now (after you level up the new group), you find the remains of an adventuring party lost in the woods, and pick up an important clue that the old party was carrying around. Maybe the original party's goals are done, but the new party with their own goals eventually takes a different route and pick up the story that the DM wanted to tell in the long run anyway. Could be any number of ways to approach this one.
C) End the campaign. The BBEG wins. Usually this happens only if you aren't really invested in the campaign itself and it's too personal a campaign to carry on without the particular group (e.g., one of the PCs is at the center of the narrative). Close up, reroll, and start a new game with a totally new story next time.
I tend to prefer method B unless it's impossible or impractical to do so, although I'd use Method A if it's near the start of a campaign and the party RNGs into a TPK at level 2 or something - people tend to accept deus ex machina a lot more readily when it's in the 1st act.
Death adds some threat which is helpful, but rarely is a big deal unless homebrewing res rules or playing a no res campaign.
My current character dies around 1 per story arc due to the ramped up difficulty of my current campaign, but we have a cleric and druid and are level 16 so its just a minor inconvenience. Most recently I blew myself up with the equivalent of a self targeted meteor swarm due to absorbing unstable energy. Our druid put me inside a stone box our druid using wall of stone to contain the blast, saving the party and our ship, but i was very much dead. A revivify later and with some help from our paladin I was back up past 50% and perfectly good to go a SR later. Overall it was pretty funny and enjoyable, but death is not very permanent at higher levels.
By Contrast, when my group ran ToA, death meant a new character. It made us far more careful, though it still felt hard to die outside a few key situations.
I also think death is very important for establishing threat, even with easy access to resurrections at all level ranges and improves combat. Unconsciousness and Death are a big deal mid combat, and both represent consequences of game decisions.
Letting someone drop unconscious due to tactical error, poor luck or any other reason is a bit of an "oh shit" moment depending on who is dropped and turn order. It means if no one still standing can heal them, they are out for the fight baring a nat 20 death save. IF you have healing its someone's action or BA to get them back in the fight, an the downed person may have lost a turn depending on initiative order.
Death is a far bigger threat, at best its a 3rd level spell, 300 gp an action and most likely a player's movement. The potential for your character with the ability to res to be killed also brings huge tactical implications. It leads teamwork, strategy and the potential for to sacrifice their PC for another.
I mean, there can be some problems with the points 4 and 6. The mechanics behind bringing in a new character are relatively straightforward, but it can be a bit tough if the player really cared for the character and it drastically changes the group dynamic. Like, if this is our antihero campaign and the only good antihero character concept that I had died, what do I do for the rest of the campaign? Play some mediocre character I don't actually feel invested in?
As a DM I think I've actually only killed one PC in my entire time playing 5E, and that was after they crit failed a death saving throw after being thrown through 8 combats back to back with 2 short rests in between.
As a player, I think I only died once in a 5E campaign, during a TPK. I wasn't a very good day because it honestly felt like the DM at the time (we rotated every adventure arc) just put us in an untested kill house. It killed the campaign because we had no desire to continue the campaign with different characters. The concept of continuing after a TPK seems odd to me. The PCs all lost. There is nothing really connecting the new from the old besides the DM's desire to continue the story. From a player's perspective, we've got to roleplay all this information again and play in the same story but with a different cast and it all just seems wrong. I want to move on from my old character and having nothing actually there to necessarily connect the plot threads makes hitting the reset button the only logical option for me. Playing on in a campaign after a total party kill is like rerolling the character that justed died, but with a hooded clock instead of a wide-brimmed hat.
I've killed a few PCs at this point. I rarely have fights that are unwinnable for the players but some are definitely designed so that cascading failures can get someone(s) killed.
I had a party of four attacked by two assassin vines. Two PCs got grabbed and they other two ran around unsure what the plan was, so the two who were grabbed died before the assassin vines were taken down.
Another moment the party got into a fight, was downed, being dragged away, one player got a nat 20 save, went to 1hp, and instead of playing dead, he tried to start the fight back up and was killed.
A third example was when a party helped a group of students at a majic academy summon a demon (though nobody knows demons exist in my world so they were trying to summon "something"). The students got twisted by the magic instead and became demons based on their original race. One PC died because of a mix of a failed save against poison, being downed, and the party mostly staying in place to duke it out instead of leaving the room.
Each of these were different campaigns, but each were player decisions in tough, but winnable, fights. I try to use player deaths as story moments to expound upon. In the first one, the party was presented with an option to bring the two people back, but now are marked by some powerful creature who talks to them in their dreams. The second, the party used a relic they were retrieving to take the life of an opponent and give it to the dead paladin, cursing him on return. The third was supposed to be used to delve deeper into other character backgrounds while they search for a way to bring their friend back.
To me, death is always an option. If it wasn't, what would be the point of any fight? I'd just remove all the fighting and really, just play a different system designed around social encounters instead of combat. However, death is more like a status in dnd. There's a plethora of ways bring people back, so I see it more as a storytelling option that just happens sometimes.
That's not saying I don't feel anything when it happens. I feel absolutely horrible every time a PC dies.
Your group needs to discuss how y'all want to handle it.
In my games when a character dies, that player's backup character rolls initiative and shows up to keep fighting.
> backup character rolls initiative and shows up to keep fighting
So is it impossible to lose combat?
D&D fights are designed that the players basically always win the fight. It’s why the players are given basically no retreat mechanics, unlike other systems where retreat is considered a solid option more regularly.
However, this doesn’t have to lead to removing all tension. Just because the players won the fight doesn’t mean they didn’t lose something else. Maybe they didn’t win in tune to prevent someone else dying, or stop a ritual, or maybe the baddie got away. Or even just spent more resources (eg spell slots) than they should have, which will cause problems later.
But you just said there's a endless supply of adventurers, ready to jump in.
I most certainly didn't say that.
>In my games when a character dies *(x = party. x-1 character = x-1)*, that player's backup character rolls initiative and shows up *(x-1 +1 character = x)* to keep fighting.
Ie: x can't be 0 = x is endless.
Yes, you did. That's literally what you explained.
If that's not what you mean, then explain yourself further instead of 2-3 word replies.
"A" is singular. Just once. If more die during the battle their backup characters don't join until the battle is over.
But really how often do 2 players die in a single battle? Yeah, it happens, but handling a single PC death is much more common.
Wow. Lots of textwalls. Yes to everything. Just chiol and talk about how you will handle death in your game. It all depends on what you and your players are looking for
As a player, I've had a total of 31 character deaths thus far, but only one TPK, I'd sure say the story and life can go on.
And (outside of solo games) almost each time I rolled up another character and joined the party again.
In the case of the TPK it was a Ravnica sample game, we were at the final fight and they got the mech instead of us, then wiped us. I then excaimed we grab all the characters we didn't use and have them be the reinforcements that arrived too late.
Player died at lvl 5 versus the giant scorpion enemy, that poisen is too heavy.
It was his first character ever, so he was excited to build something new, since he now knew what he really wanted to play.
Never had hard feelings in my session and we joke about the scorpions and his shallow grave in the dunes alle the time. They are at lvl 7 now and we still play.
I had TPK in the first encounter in Lost Mines of Phandelver with a new group. Those goblins were brutal.
The party did not detect them until Grunk the barbarian suddenly spouted a new wooden limb...from his eyesocket. Crit! Grunk goes down in the surprise round. Cue a salvo of wood coming from the direction of the forest, piercing PC flesh and causing both cursing and panic both in game and out. When the dust had settled, no PC was left alive.
We make new characters. The party is escorting a wagon down a dusty trail when they come upon an overturned wagon with corpses strewn about, with obvious arrow-wounds.......roll initiative.
I've killed a few PCs. Depending on the circumstance of their death I will usually try to work something out with the player and if they want to be raised I will give them an NPC to play while that happens.
I've had 2 TPKs. Both times I've gone with "the party is captured" but there are a lot of options if you're feeling creative: Deal with a devil, divine boon, make a new party whos goal is to find the missing party and bring them back, etc. If there was a PC that died during the fight due to death saves then there isn't much I can offer for them but if there's a body there is always a chance to be brought back.
It's a bit unfortunate that I am DMing Descent right now because I would really like to offer someone to come back as Van Richten's revived.
I've had a few PC deaths:
* Shadow Monk got eaten by a psychic kraken, moments before she would have been saved by her best friend (fellow party member) and boyfriend (NPC). Brutal and heartbreaking. Last session of that campaign, so story concluded normally.
* Vengeance Paladin, full TPK at the hands of a *way* overtuned Vampire. DM later admitted that quadrupling it's health mid-combat because we were killing it too fast might have been "an overreaction". Campaign ended after that one, nobody felt good abt that.
* Sorcerer got immediately and unavoidably killed by Shadows after getting an obtuse puzzle wrong (we were supposed to find the "fake" part of the room, which was the Shadows). I call full b.s. on this one, b/c we had multiple abilities that should have indicated the answer to us (my Detect Thoughts would have revealed the 6 Int Shadows, Paladin's Divine Sense would have pinged off their Undead nature, etc). I'm still mad about it. The Campaign is currently still going on.
* Wizard made a sketchy Pact with an Eldritch Horror. Died slowly and painfully as all his other stats were drained, point by point, and added to his Intelligence. Got to say his last goodbyes to the party as they lost their shit trying to keep him alive. Campaign ended next session for unrelated reasons.
As a Player, I do my best to not die. I make characters with decent Defenses and use tactics to stay alive. But if I do something dumb, or mess up, or make a purposeful decision, I'm fine dying. I'd prefer to, really- if it's because of my own folly, I'll take the L. I don't like A) dying for no reason/without being able to do anything, B) dying in a lame way, and C) *not* dying when I definitely should be super dead. C really grinds my gears, because it feels patronizing- I didn't live because I worked hard and made smart decisions, I lived because the DM said so.
Okay so I'm really old-school and I'm very comfortable with points 1-4
At point 5 I think as a DM I've probably goofed if we get a TPK. Point 6 has never worked for me so I try to not go there with point 5.
But also I'm aware that the newer generation of players in are heavily influenced by character-heavy stuff like Critical Roll so killing characters off too easily or too often cheapens it and cuts short interesting character arcs. So there is a balance. If nobody ever dies its hard to maintain high stakes in the game, if characters die too often the players may end up not caring about their characters which diminishes the stakes in a different way.
We were going along with a PC's backstory quest as our DM does. And for some reason, he fireballs the party! So, my temperamental juggernaut of a Warforged fighter walks up and kills him on the spot. The whole party said they were going to if I didn't, because he almost killed 2 of us. It was good times
I've had two individual player deaths, and one TPK.
The TPK was at the end of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. The party was slightly undersized (3 PCs and a sidekick), and went up against Glazhael. I'd nerfed him a tiny bit to account for the reduced party size, but it wasn't enough. He insta-KO's two people with his breath weapon early on and then made mincemeat of the sole remaining Bard.
What I decided to do was give the party another try. They'd actually gotten pretty close to killing him, down to ~20% HP remaining. So, next session, I rolled the party back to entering Glazhael's chamber and they had a second go at the fight. They won the second time.
Regarding individual PC deaths;
First, I killed our barbarian with Thousand Tooth, the mega-croc from Ghosts of Saltmarsh. For those who don't know, TT is an optional boss in an early Saltmarsh module. He has legendary actions, unusual for a monster with such low CR.
The Barbarian had been behaving pretty recklessly all campaign, playing up the "mindless rage beast" angle a bit. He went in to smash the crocodile and got summarily crit for a large amount of damage. He was already on low HP. He went *crunch* and his body dropped into the swamp face-down, where he rapidly began to drown. On TT's next turn, the only player who was in easy range was the downed Barb. While I don't usually go for enemies attacking downed players, this was a mindless, hungry crocodile. Barb went *crunch*, making him fail two death saves. He'd already failed his first one.
The final PC death happened really recently. Party of 5 had just gotten started investigating the first chapter of my newest campaign. They'd traced some shady happenings back to an Orc gang boss and went to confront him. After fighting through the hideout they confronted the boss. Another creature covered the room in a Darkness spell, and once the orc escaped out of it, he could only see two players; the fighter and the ranger. Ranger was lightly armoured, so went for them.
The players and I watched in dumbfounded amazement as the Orc rolled nat 20s on both of his multiattacks. Double crit. That's more than the Ranger's entire health bar in overflow, the party are still level 1. I get a quiet approving nod from the player, then narrate that the Ranger is decapitated, dying instantly. The party are shocked, but they successfully finish the fight while the Ranger's player starts rolling up another PC.
The biggest irony is that defeating the orc was the lvl 2 milestone, so they all level up afterwards. That level might have saved him if it came a fraction sooner. I don't think anyone minded, though; this was pretty early in the campaign, and the Ranger had personal ties to a few of the party members. Everyone roleplayed this as the "turning point" that made them get serious about their newly picked occupation, whereas everyone had treated it as a hobby up until now. The next session opened with the new PC joining up, followed by a funeral.
I've been on both sides of this too many times to count.
You roll up a new character and join back in whenever it makes sense to do so. Sometimes I'll have a player use an NPC for a while if it makes sense, sometimes not.
Just happens sometimes.
Beholder death ray in Tomb of Annihilation.
Medusa stone gaze (later recovered and turned back to flesh).
Fell in a trap while fighting a wolf.
Ate a poisoned apple.
Torn to shreds by ghouls after taking off all armour (White Plume Mountain ghoul trap).
In all cases, the party was quickly joined by a new character, often one imprisoned in the dungeon. The death ray hurt the most, that was a high level character with a lot going on. Those plot lines died with him.
Having ran into the sewers to avoid getting caught up in a cult war, we navigated to find a portal the hell out of there. This sewer was filled with mutated crocodiles. The party was as divided as possible and as the rogue ran off, my beastmaster ranger followed him so he wouldn't get lost as the rogue doesn't have darkvision. Naturally, we run into a big fucking crocodile. The rogue ran into a dead end, my ranger decides to draw the croc's attention and defend his friend from this fire-breathing (yes) freak of nature.
That croc crits.
My ranger goes down, now his wolf is staring rows of razorsharp death down while the rogue... Hides. The party manages to catch up before the wolf goes down and the rogue eventually comes out of hiding and they defeat the crocodile, but by then it is too late. Even as the doggo presses his nose against his master's face, he doesn't wake up anymore.
Moral of the story: don't tank when you're at half health and also the only member of the party with cure wounds.
I had one PC die and one "die".
During Curse of Strahd, while trying to save an npc from the notorious >!coffin shop!< the bard attempted to brute force their way through a group of multiple vampire spawn, got drained multiple times and then mauled to death.
They resolved that situation through a somewhat botched revival ritual that cost them a few favors and left the bard partially insane.
The second "death" was in Dragon Heist by the Intellect Devourer at level 2. Drained a PC to 0 Int but didn't get to inhabit them before the other PCs killed them. I had the other PCs take care of the vegetative PC for a bit until they recovered.
I don't think death has to be permanent or outright ruin a character, but it should have meaningful consequences in some ways.
For my tomb of annihilation campaign I have every player introduce their back up as an NPC before a death can occur, so I can bring them in more smoothly.
I also don't think TPKs have to end campaigns, you just have to find a way to continue without invalidating the loss.
The wizard in my ToA campaign has been in regular sending-contact with their family so I plan on having their father be the employer of the follow-up group.
I did however talk to each of my groups about potential TPKs early in the campaign and they all agreed that leaving the story unfinished would be less enjoyable - your group might be of the opposite opinion so it's worth talking about before the TPK happens
It’s happened a few times by now. My first kill was in Star Wars, and it was pretty ironic. A Jedi Pc received a premonition warning them of a coming threat by being vaporized, but they wanted to try to ascend to the force with it. Blah blah, new character, but the whole threat never actually got communicated to the party. His next character was that Jedi’s sister... who got a very unlucky crit and instantly died in the same manner as the vision. Did not feel bad about that, because that was a culmination of bad luck and a LOT of stupid decisions, especially the fact that said character had decided she didn’t need to heal after withstanding grievous injuries.
Second was a true combat kill in 5e, they were fighting an Ullitharid and it was a rough go. A PC got downed and the party didn’t bother reviving him until he had two death saves... and then the monster got its mind blast back. I felt a little bad because he didn’t do anything wrong, but it was ultimately on the other players. He didn’t mind because he got to come in with a bird-man (SKRAW!).
The most recent kill was in Pathfinder 2e, and it simultaneously was a short-lived death, but has had a LOT of plot significance. The party was split up due to adventure stuff, and two PCs (the third was gone from the session, hence her being “split” from the party) were running away from some guards. Once they got in tight hallways, the sorcerer made short work of their pursuers, and the other way into that patch of hallway they could protect with a ballista trap! There was one odd door, but the sorcerer had looked in and found an illithid munching on a brain, who politely asked her to leave, which she did. The fighter decides to get some XP, against the sorcerer’s wishes, and turns the ballista trap so he can target the illithid... and breaks its meal. Polite Squidward is now pissed and proceeds to chase after them, successfully dominating the sorcerer (who doesn’t get to do much because she is slow) and chasing the fighter down until he is cornered. And munchies.
This was pretty dark, but fortunately the party had an NPC traveling with them well-versed in death! She guides them through a ritual to bring him back. It just involved killing a bunch of people (over fifty), most of whom were just working in a nearby factory, and then the two remaining PCs had to ritually sacrifice two more people to take the place of the PC. Now the sorcerer thinks she is a monster with blood on her hands, the dead PC keeps getting harassed as an undead abomination by various groups, and the Ranger has been foretold to become a villain, all while straining their relationship with the NPC. It was a great example of how death can be really important, even in a game with access to resurrection magic.
I’ve never had a character permanently die. There’s always someone around with revivify….. which I’m starting to not like. It takes the stakes away a bit.
We had a PC die right at the end of the session before last, it was impactful, everyone was talking about it and how their characters would react etc. start of the next session, Druid casts revivify….. oh ok, guess they are back then.
At least in this campaign my Barbarian is wearing a cursed item that disintegrates him if he fails his death saves
I'm playing in a campaign right now in which I died few times, from murder, suicide, devoured, squashed down and executed.Frankly adventuring is a dangerous life and it's normal to have a few causalities, and beside that I never surrender and I tend to play recklessly which is are the two biggest cause for my downfall haha.
As a dm I hate to kill my pc, the dead are the lucky one they have no problem anymore.
Why kill someone when you can corrupt them, turning them specially into what they have bear suck hatred toward ?
Oh ho ho ho so many!
Thokk the half orc died while causing a distraction because our team Minotaur spent three (3!) rounds failing to kick down a door.
Thokk’s goblin squire, Splig, died in that same fight for the same reason.
Shaazgai, a pixie, died during a fighting tournament our team entered when a drow sharpshooter struck him with an arrow.
Courage, the friendly tiefling, founder of the local orphanage, died from a random encounter with vampires just before kicking off his plan to usurp the kingdom and install a devil as dictator.
Courage got four of my other characters killed when he accidentally triggered a trap while they were stood in the middle of it.
Characters who have died in my games:
A halfling bled out in an alley behind a hospital while surrounded by stolen medical supplies.
A guy hit his head on a table corner during a bar fight.
A gnome, which had been experimented on by mind flayers (which is how he became a wild magic barbarian - side effects are wild) had his brain eaten by a mind flayer as he tried to get revenge on it.
A young lad, captured by orcs, made an escape attempt. Backed into a corner, he had a choice of surrendering or attempting to fling his STR8 ass over a 30 foot chasm. He chose… poorly.
I have had 4 characters die. All of them were in Adventure League so it was easy to drop in a new character.
I had a character bitten by a wererat. He turned, attacked the guards, and the guards killed him. (The whole fight played out. The party tried to subdue him but the guards got the last hit. Pure luck)
I felt sad, then grabbed a sheet and started making another character.
The party won’t be the same without Epic and his shenanigans, but themes the breaks
Nah. Unless the player agrees the character will die, and it’s discussed beforehand.
We lost the final battle vs zariel in DiA. Although, technically, my character is MiA.
In Toa I lost 4 character, my rogue to the tomb of shagambi, my wizard to a beholder (yes, that one), my fighter died because of a momentary lapse of concentration of me, the player. And another but I forget.
In my first game half the party died in the first adventure (session 2 or 3), we'd all died at least once by the time we reached level 4 one of my current players died in the first 5 minutes of the first game. I've always understood it to be the way the game is.
That said there are a lot of people who like "always win" games where the players implicitly won't be at actual risk. Very few people will ever say that's what they want but it's a common attitude. I think though people who want that type of game should probably play the Cortex Drama/Smallville RPG which was perfectly designed for running games based on CW shows.
I’ve never had a character of mine die, but I have had a party wipe before. It just so happened that our opponent didn’t actually want us dead, just to be taught a lesson. Though two PCs did end up dying later in the same in game day because of a plan we were very obviously not equipped to pull off and I couldn’t even come with because I had my max hp reduced to 10, no spell slots, and no wild shape uses.
I have had a few times where my character should have by all means died, but the DM took mercy because either they completely misevaluated how strong a creature was (I got instant killed by a star spawn because it had 8 attacks, hit on 7 of them, and only took 4 or 5 to down me, which means the remaining attacks would have forced three failed death saves. The DM rules that it stopped attacking after I was knocked down because I fell behind cover or something) or in one instant because the only reason we were about to TPK is because our tank’s player ghosted us and left the campaign before that session.
It depends on the player; talk to them, see ho they feel about the potential death of their characters. one player with protag syndrome didn't want to die; at best I had him knocked out and robbed unconscious just to wake up or be found by the other characters later.
personally I had a warforged of celestial pact and shadow sorcery; spoke with the DM at the death point and we concluded that the conflicting forces that made the machine split apart. the celestial half split away and became a villain to the party, and I continued playing as a good-aligned shadow sorcerer "reborn" from what's left.
in a different campaign, it as a near tpk; half the party died in an encounter but we spoke beforehand and knew death could happen. hat remained of the party met up with another adventuring group (killed players, new characters) that was after the same treasure in the area and decided to team up after suffering losses of their on as well.
death is a part of D&D but can be included or circumvented depending on the kind of collective story the table wants to tell. Just needs some communication and consent before killing somebody off. So,
2: sure but like, DMs can fudge dice rolls or follow rule of cool if preferable. (0 hp is unconscious, not dead. not every pub brawl ends in murder, not every robbery ends in murder, and not every massacre makes sure all the bodies are dead before leaving)
3: yes. again, within reason. another character can pick up their torch, or their death becomes more tragic this way.
4: yeah, but speak with players on ho this happens. encounter with a lone-wolf adventurer, maybe free a captured prisoner-PC, maybe meet the party at the tavern asking to join the group, after hearing about their successful adventures.
5: they do. usually as a result of REALLY bad decision making, like refusing to run from a losing fight. Not every encounter needs to be a beatable opponent; sometimes the players need to be reminded that they're not the strongest thing in this universe, and that running away is an option..
6: yes. I'd imagine a new party can be sent out to "rescue" or find out hat happened to the previous expedition.
we were running lost laboratory of kwalish and the party decided to tick up the pixies and stirges in the forest. and then killed a pixie. big mistake. half the party got floored by invisible enemies in greater numbers than they could keep up with. the rogue grabbed the downed cleric and fled with the river current, bard survived by binding himself to a lightning javelin with a chain and shot himself 300 feet away. severe impact damage but he survived and met up with the others. artificer, monk, and fighter: finished off by REALLY ticked off pixies. three players had to re-roll characters for the second party that met up with the survivors in the next week's session. it as hectic, and it was a lesson for all of us: never underestimate the danger of swarming numbers, and never underestimate of large area of effect spells (which the party had none to use at the time)
I DM CoS and the first player I killed was in the Death House. Gurdis, the female dwarf fighter, was >!engulfed by the Shambling Mound.!<
I also remember one character death, although in Pathfinder. My character was a young male human barbarian who was a big fan of the rest of the party. He wanted to look strong and never asked for healing. Thus, in an encounter against some undead creature (can't remember what it was), he got his spine ripped out from his body. That was the end of Sigbjoern. The party dreaded having to tell his family about his demise.
Another time (also Pathfinder), the all-human party was ambushed by elves in the middle of the night. My character went out from the tent to protect the rest, who tried to flee through the back. She didn't have her armor on and almost instantly went down. The rest of the party did not do well and it ended up with one of the PC's ripping his Bag of Holding, which resulted in an explosion that killed everyone. It was a hilarious TPK.
In one of the groups i'm playing on Discord in a Midgard/Spelljammer campaign.
We had a near TPK, partially due to my decisions as a party leader, and due to the Recklessness of the party's Kobold Rogue who used Void MAgic (Wild Magic Cthulhu style with even worse consequences)
AFter our few succesfull operations( where we accumulated a fortune, 125k gold in total), we went ouf of town for a while to wait that things calms down.
Amongst the loot we had there was a Not Cursed but Evil looking armor set that would have been a great upgrade, but required a special kind of Forge to modify, that the Dwarven Smith pointed us to, so we organized an expedition into the mountaisn to this ancient Dwarven Hold, that was supposedly abbandoned, so that he could change and reforge the Armor...
End result is that we fell in a Kobold/Dragonborns ambush, got the party splitt, the Fort was now the Operation BAse for these Scallies and a Young Flame Dragon was going through the preparations for a ritual that would turn him into an Ancient Flame Dragon( Flame dragons in Midgard setting IGNORES Fire resistance, something that my Tiefling character did Not appreciate)
Ended up Killing the Dragon, but everyone else was Dead, my character was the only survivor by a Hair's breadth and due to Rp reasons, cause mechanicly, i was unconcious, due to the environemental effetcs going on( some where from the Dragon, some where from the Void magic unleashed by the Rogue according to the Dm, thats what really fucked us Over, cause the Dragon in itself while been a HArd fight, should have been witting our capabilities).
Good thing is that my Character survived, cause he messed with the Ascension Ceremony of the Dragon, absorbing half of the rituals energies and the even the Dragon's Heart( turned out that the Dwarf smith was a Follower of Mammon and used this occasion to complet the ritual and trying to turn my character into a Demonic Slave, shit din't go his ways due to our Beer Domain Priest Blessing protecting me) Now i can 2x day Transform into a Devil/Man Hybride (thing Devil Trigger mode from DMC games, a bit like Tasha's Otherworldy Guise, but with different mechanics), but the Dragon is also still alive, due to his Hearth still beating inside my Chest, he still turned into a Adult Dragon and is now actively sending assassins and Bounty hunters after me and the new Party.
Now even tho the PArty died, there still where ways to ressurect them, my character was Alive, all the enemies in the fort where Dead and we had a fortune in bank, so i could have bougth Raise Dead scrolls or hired a Cleric to ressurect them all.
But the party decided that they din't want to be indebted to the Back stabbing Devil Worhsipper Dwarf, and they wanted to try new characters.
So Dm decided that their bodies turned to Ashes, and when the ritual was going on, the Darn dragon opened up a Portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire wich transported me and Him right in the middle of a Noble's and Merchant party in the City of Brass, (where i met the party's new character)
Death is a part of the game, but it doesn't mean the end of the adventure.
First his character died in a mass combat, early in the session. He made a new one that was quickly introduced so he wouldn't have to sit out the session. Then that character died.
He then introduced the same (second) character again, with a new name. Then that character died.
So I killed the same players characters three times in one session, which is like four years worth of combined character deaths in one session 😊
Yes, many of my own characters have died and as a DM I have killed many player characters. But after all of that, I am now at the point where I do think permanent death is bad for 5e D&D in most circumstances.
Mechanically, death doesn't have a whole lot of impact as you just create a new character of the same level as the rest of the party. You don't have to start back at level 1 like you did in old school D&D. So you don't really lose anything mechanically - you're just forced to start using a different set of character abilities going forwards.
Narratively, death can occasionally affect the plot in interesting ways but more often than not it just causes a headache. The adventure grinds to a halt while the party says farewell to their dead companion and divvies up their equipment. Then everyone has to work out why the new character joins the party and why everyone else accepts them. Plot threads relating to the old character either need to be reworked or abandoned completely, and the DM may also need to work in a bunch of extra stuff for the new character. Most frustratingly of all, if the dead character had any kind of story ark, it probably gets left unresolved in a very unsatisfying way.
So while I like character death in other TTRPG systems, I don't really think it has a place in the long-form narrative campaigns that most people play with 5e.
I had my Druid circle of the stars which I was really excited to play get one shot by an ice breath from some frost wolf on the second session and my bladesinger/artificer get oneshot by a deathknight hellfire orb a few sessions further. Sucks but part of the story.
OK, had this convo with my party the other day. (2of them are dms in thier own campaign). the last two points are my only disagreements, and only if you are the type of DM who regularly enjoys TPKs. For me, TPKs are boring. I can engineer a TPK any time I want. I literally control everything in the world other than dice rolls. If I want you to die, you're dead. It's boring
I've permanently killed 4 or 5 PCs in my time as a DM. There have been other casualties which were resurrected.
One "permadeath" was when the PC was possessed by a Lich's spirit, but the end result is largely the same. He had been coerced by it for months, being edged to do evil things, until finally the party were forced to give him an ultimatum; repent or be turned in. The Lich manipulated the PC into believing the party betrayed him etc. that he would surely die, but letting the Lich take control would mean escape. It was very dramatic.
Another sacrificed themselves to let the rest of the party proceed. That was particularly great, as the character was pretty selfish, but finally realised his selfless sacrifice was needed for the good of the party, and the world, and to save those close to him.
Most recently (by which I mean a year ago) the weakened Paladin PC broke rank to engage with his personal nemesis in a battle. He did a lot of dsmage, but died before the rest of the party could reach him.
He returned next session as the mentor Paladin he had been searching for, which made some poetically tragic narrative sense. The player wasn't happy with the original Paladin build and kind of wanted to redo it, so it worked out from a meta point of view too.
I find the PC deaths can heighten a story, and more often than not the player was kind of ready to let that character go, hence they end up in vulnerable positions, or choose to sacrifice themselves. I can't recall a time when a PC death ruined somebody's fun for the campaign.
Killed a brand new players PC at level 1 two weeks ago, whoops; made the first session memorable at the very least
I don't remember how many time I died in our campaign. We have been playing for 4 or 5 years now.
Dm would reset xp at beginning of level when you die, which was fair and allowed a much longer campaign.
My favorite PC, a soul collector halfling warlock died to the hand of is bestfriend, a duaegar turning into an aboleth.
We were supposed to fight one on one to settle our differents,
However, in the process we got into an aquatic fight with sea creature and I manage to get injured a lot. So while fighting I got close to the duaegar in hope of protection but he backstabbed me and insta killed my Pc
It was the best fucking rollplay I ever witnessed in this game
Had a PC die right at the climax of his story arc. It was really powerful and the party was actually able to resurrect him in exchange for a debt. This character was very young and naive, so it actually gave a great opportunity for character growth and made the party a lot stronger. I think death and the threat of it can be very powerful in the game, but at the same time its always important to remember that it is a game, and we play to have fun (:
people play the game in all kinds of different ways, and they all enjoy the game differently.
And some people make wide, sweeping generalizations from their own experiences (and they need to be called out, lest we risk making this hobby and the community less diverse). So if a poster claims "People have only fun if you play the game this and that way", they most likely have only a limited idea of what they are talking about.
PCs can die. It happened twice in my game. There are mechanics for it, so it can totally happen. If the group and the DM are overall happier if that doesn't happen, that is okay too. In any case, PCs dying doesn't have to be anyone's fault (except the dice's, maybe).
What is important is that people have fun. For me, fun is very much lowered if I get the feeling that there are no stakes, both as a DM and a player, but to each their own.
Oh yeah, killed a few up to a point where one of my players jokingly joins my campaigns or one-shots with "extra characters just in case". I usually go for a hard battle encounter, meaning that foes get their max health at least. Sometimes, I'll up the level of enemy spellcasters, or adjust their spell list to provide extra challenge. My players know this, and gladly accept the challenge. This doesn't mean that their characters are throwaway in any sense, we still develop backstories and tie-ins for the setting we are playing in, and try do use/reuse some elements in case they need to roll a new character (within reason, ofcourse). Unfortunately, deaths do happen, and sometimes all that hard work remains just an unfulfilled potential on a character sheet.
When it does happen, PC death can provide a catalyst for the rest of the party, a boost of sorts - if handled correctly.
Over the years I've had five characters fully dead in my games. At 3rd, 5th, 9th, and two at 10th level. Two of them were *raised* or *revivified*, two were *reincarnated*. One of them could have been *raised* but decided to bring a new character instead.
I don't pull the punch if a fight goes against them. Most of the deaths were fights gone bad, and most of those fights were either avoidable or poorly handled, tactically. I've never had a TPK, but there have been close scrapes and I've always thought I'd advance the villain's agenda and have the next group start with things being Much Worse. More of an uphill battle. More lost by civilization.
There's only one death that I really feel like I handled poorly, and it's the one who decided not to be *raised*. I think the player was feeling kind of listless with that character already, being kind of reckless and devil-may-care. Probably should have addressed it directly. They were in a weird split-loyalty position between their background heritage, primary class' worship, and a new warlock Pact. I don't think the player really wanted that kind of tension, wanted to roleplay Patron stuff, or wanted their background explored, they just wanted to do a multiclass and have that mix of features. On top of that, they signed up for elective surgery in a sketchy bazaar in the Underdark to get a couple of monster grafts of undead creature parts--an idea I lifted from the *Book of Vile Darkness* but offered mostly as set dressing for how much of a bad place this was.
While they were unconscious in recovery from the surgery--which was itself buoyed by copious bonuses and spell buffs--I put him through a solo side adventure as a sort of spiritual dream quest to kind of... *pick an allegiance*. Sort out what parts of himself he owes what. He bulldozed through, didn't champion either his goddess Sune or patron Khirad, and thus didn't have their protection when he snubbed the dream-aspect of Orcus that showed up because of his new bodak eye.
There are a lot of points where I could have paused and said flat out, "This is what we're doing. You need to make peace with at least one of these powers or you won't recover from the surgery." but more than that I should have asked him weeks prior if he was still into the character and if he was interested at all in that internal tension.
From my experience:
PC rarely die, especially if there're few encounters per day and they're well balanced.
PC more often than not die or leave in PvP situations.
When i was the DM (1 year campaign) i really risked only one TPK (3 lv8 PCs against 2 young remhorazes waiting in ambush). I never experienced a TPK as a player either.
I believe that the story can continue after a TPK if the party want to continue. It depends on the setting but imho 90% of the time it can be done. Usually is better to come up with ideas on how to continue if the party TPK before it happens. This is the same and even easier if its only 1 PC that dies.
---- story time ---
In one out of the two groups i play with, only 1 PC died since the first session i've made with them (2.5 years, 1session/week).
Of course it was because of me. I was playing a wild magic sorcerer, which triggered a surge into "vulnerability to piercing damage". Enemy boss get a crit with his spear at lv3 iirc, bard player get insta killed for massive damage. Unknown to us (we discovered it later) the bard was choosen by the DM as a sort of "main charachter". By killing him the campaign basically turned into a completely different direction.
Killed a PC? Twice
First in session 2 or 3 of my first campaign my Cleric Dragonborn player got bit in half by an Ankheg. Second in my second most recent campaign, I accidentally killed the Aspect of his Patron therefore Semi-Immortal Warlock with 1 shot session 1 with what was supposed to be a set dressing Fireball. Learned a valuable lesson: don't set dressing a fireball. His reformed body then walked out from an alley like it didn't happen and the party was very confused.
Had a PC die? Only once, tho it did get retconned bc this death would have caused an international incident and derailed the entire campaign we'd been working on for years. Basically, this town called Scrapyard, independent of the Empire of Songbird, got attacked by a horde of demons and the mayor, a high level Bard, got KOed round one and didn't get healed for a few rounds. When she came to, she told everyone to cover their ears. My Orc Ranger, who was having a mental breakdown, didn't. The mayor cast Power Word Kill. My Ranger had exactly 99 hp.
This would have caused a war since this Orc is the gf of a princess of the Empire, and Scrapyard is only allowed to be sovereign bc of their good reputation with the Empire. Also the princess is a Warlock powerful enough to be considered a force of nature so even if the Empire didn't stand behind her she would do some serious damage. Since, again, we'd been working on this plot for years we decided this couldn't happen without ending the campaign and since we rather liked playing this game it got reverted.
We had a TPK in Tomb of Annihilation and I think everyone, including the DM, was so shell-shocked by the outcome that we just moved onto the next (and different) campaign.
What about: Have you, as a player, killed a GM?
2. Yes, if they took that risk. No random rolls for a meteor strike each morning, but walking into any semblance of even theoretical danger makes them fair game.
3. Yes. Other PCs might want to honor their memory, or, at least, will be reminded of the loss, as to not make the now-dead character feel like a temp.
4. Yes, we'll work together on how to insert that character into the narrative. Sometimes it stretches the suspension of disbelief, but usually it works out surprisingly well, as the character is made with existing party dynamics in mind.
5. They might, hopefully only if the party as a whole makes a string of damning mistakes. The only one I've had yet fits that bill.
6. Depends on the campaign. My current one is pretty localized and heavily relies on the party investigating the Big Plot Problem. If they die, their knowledge dies with them, and the campaign will be pretty much unsalvageable in a satisfying way, but those are fitting stakes for "late Act 2", I think.
As for stories:
- My current campaign has seen two character deaths as well as a couple of close calls. They're level 7, about three fifths through the campaign narratively and maybe around the middle time-wise (hard to judge, it's quite sandboxy). Both characters belonged to the same player, first one dying from personally foolishly antagonizing an Ancient White Dragon (and not running away when given the chance). Second one caught a Madness effect that the player roleplayed a bit too well - the party ended up electing him as a danger to themselves, and murdered him in cold blood. Their characters aren't exactly good people. The third one is holding up quite a bit better, though.
The TPK I mentioned was in a Mass Effect hack of 5e. The party simply made some stupid calls, their sniper walked into a room, got swarmed by enemies, was taken out, and it snowballed into a full-on TPK.
And as a point illustrating the other side - as a player, I made an extremely stupid call during one of the games. While investigating an abandoned mansion that we knew was a gang hideout, my blaster Warlock moved into the middle of a seemingly empty dining-turned-war-room. Of course it was an ambush. Yet the DM decided to go easy on me, and once my character was down (and promptly stabilized at range by our Grave Cleric), the criminals who very much wanted us all *dead* started stealing my character's stuff instead of either making sure he was dead, or, you know, fighting the rest of the party. It was extremely unsatisfying, and not a session went by after that without me thinking "yeah, this character *should* be dead". It absolutely ruined all of the stakes built up before that.
I killed a PC because he was a deranged rapist. I allowed some dark themes but there are still consequences for every action, so one of her victims became a revenge priest and killed him. We ended the session 10 minutes later because the mystery of that session was solved.
He took a session off and came back with a monk.
I killed another character in the finale of the season. He kept standing on a bridge that was about to break and when it did he fell into the Themse. Still gave him 3 „Death Saves“ but he didn’t roll above 5 even once. The problem was that he wore the armor of the bad guys and the good guys with water breathing didn’t know he only wore it for the resistances. So they froze him to the bottom of the river and let him die.
He was fine with it and eagerly awaits the new campaign.
I mean, I've had games end due to scheduling/Drama/Lack of Interest way more than I've ever had TPK's or significant PC deaths ruin the game.
In many ways, a TPK is more satisfying than a game just slowly dying. It provides closure and a definitive ending at least.
Yeah, PCs can die. But it is fairly difficult to pull off, especially if your DM pulls their punches, which most I have played with do out of pity if you get low. I personally kinda hate it, if my character is going to die, let it happen, don't cheat me out of the risk.
5e is made to have lots of second chances. If you go down, the only way you die is if the DM leaves the enemy to sit there and attack you while you are down, or if you get really unlucky 3 times. So it either becomes a bad lottery, or the DM is "a jerk" for leaving monsters to beat you while you are down and other PCs are still up.
It can be done, but it doesn't happen very often from what I've seen.
I've TPK'd my players both in my own 5e homebrews, and in Curse of Strahd.
I've killed off singular players in COS, Lost Mines, and Rise of Tiamat.
When I TPK'd my players last (COS) I started wondering if it was my fault, and I haven't felt right running anything since.
I've killed a couple thus far in Rime recently, stopped at the next viable break, and helped them brew and bring in a new character in a good way.
I had a level 3 wizard die to a green dragon who got to breath weapon twice in a row because that DM used surprise round and it rolled highest with a recharge... his plot line was pretty conducive to random character joining and leaving though so I joined in with a random character I already had in a folder, leveled it up once to match the party, and ended up with one of my most memorable characters.
I've had my character die about once a campaign on average (long-running campaigns anyway, ignoring one-shots and the like). Personally, I enjoy when it happens. Character deaths are the most dramatic and memorable events, and I always push hard and take risks during big climactic encounters to ride that line.
Sometimes I've been resurrected, but honestly I much prefer when a death is permanent. 5e is a little too "comic booky" for my tastes tier 2 and up: the death of heroes is meaningless when they just reappear in the next issue. We usually meet lots of cool NPCs over the course of our adventures, and taking control of one of them is my preferred way to go if I lose my original PC.
Me personally I have had 4 PCs die in the course of my "career" as a player, which might not sound like a lot, but I became a forever DM fairly quick. What happened is I gave a sigh, gave a quick eulogy on the character, made a new one and kept playing.
As a DM I've had countless PCs die. I never actively try and murder my players, but I am not going to hold back because they are players. Consequences are real. What happened next varies. Some of them did what I do, some of them where kinda excited to try something new, and a couple of them threw fits and went into a tantrum like a child because they assumed their character was unkillable due to being a part of the plot. Those tend to get kicked out the group
Party was racing a fleet of pirate ships to get to a forbidden island and recover a valuable weapon before the pirates to sell it off to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, none of them knew how to sail and they all rolled crappily to ad lib it, so a pirate schooner caught up to them, pulled alongside, threw grappling hooks, and tried to board the PC's ship. (At this point, I whip out the cool models of ships I built ahead of time)
The party splits up; two PCs stay on their own ship to fend off attackers and keep the ship seaworthy, two PCs (including a dragonborn and a halfling) leap to the pirate schooner to stem the flow of boarders and disentangle the grappling hooks. They only need to hold out for a few turns, the objective isn't to slaughter every pirate but just to get away in their own ship. (I love combats where the objective is something **other** than "kill everyone on the other side")
Unfortunately, it goes sideways. The pirate captain, staying on his own boat, puts a harpoon through the dragonborn (an unlucky crit). A series of perhaps not great decisions by the two PCs on the pirate boat eventually result in the dragonborn PC at 0 HP, bleeding out but barely hanging to life, but the halfling managed to cut the grappling hooks. They can escape! ...
But for some reason (great RP) halfing still standing decides to fight on, so the pirate captain grabs the dragonborn and threatens to slit his throat right there if the PCs doesn't surrender. (Very piratical behavior; historical pirates were very rarely "take no prisoners!") Well, the halfling doesn't surrender, so the pirate captain slaughters the downed dragonborn right then and there, and the surviving one takes a hint and leaps off the schooner.
Anyway, the player who lost the dragonborn had so much fun with this whole interaction, we decided to make the dragonborn come back later; the pirates didn't actually kill him, just maim him (nice) and remove his vocal chords/breath weapon to make him docile. Eventually he gets healed, rejoins the party, and is very heroic. A good time was had by all
2) No, strong disagree. In some games, players want death limited to big moments, epic fights, etc. People are allowed to play how they want.
3) Again, people are allowed to play how they want. Some tables like the coherent stories and only want deaths if they're part of the big plot or story.
4) As opposed to what? I mean you can bring a new PC, get resurrected, or I mean you could leave the game, I guess?
5) Again, totally depends. Many DMs and PCs would not have fun if there was a TPK. It's totally fine to play a game where there's not really a threat of the entire party getting murked or an understanding that there will be some other occurrence (a devil saves them but they owe them a favor, they get taken captive instead of killed, etc.)
6) Sure, I mean you can bring in related characters to the story, you could play an afterlife campaign with them trying to get to their corporeal forms, etc.
I don't actually have a story to add, I've only ever killed one PC and they got resurrected so it wasn't all that interesting. I just had to point out that your points aren't universally true for every table.
Oh, in my current Curse of Strahd campaign we've had two PC deaths. One got slammed by Baba Lysaga's Walking Kaiju. The other was trying to be invisible after Strahd captured the rest of the party. Strahd looks into the middle distance over his dread domain, and says, in an even tone of voice...
"Did you really think invisibility would work on me, Rudolph?"
Naturally Rudolph (Rictavio, we made him a PC after the Baba Lysaga incident) thinks Strahd saw thought his disguise (made a poor Insight check), so he drops invisibility, ignites the sunblade, and takes up a fighting stance. He says...
"No, but I've waited too many years for this to be spoiled by sharing my revenge with anyone else. Draw your sword demon!"
Strahd gets a funny look in his eyes, and says.
"I'm amazed. I didn't actually expect that to work. Oldest trick in the book."
And proceeds to slaughter Rudolph van Richten, turning him into a vampire spawn to serve him forever.
Strahd hadn't actually managed to see Rudolph. He was just trying the old "If the FBI is listening..." trick because no one else was around and he had a nagging suspicion that Rudolph was traveling with the party.
>PCs can die?
As it would appear you are discovering, many people play games in which death basically only ever happens with prior agreement. That's fine, its just important a DM clarifies what sort of game they're looking to run at the start and players sign up for that. Yay session 0.
>PCs can die to pretty much anything if the dice say so?
I mean...I think I'd want some caveats in there. Can I die from trying to eat dinner if I roll 12 1's in a row?
But yes following on from the above, some people are OK with death but only in plot critical ways. My stance is that a combat is intrinsically plot critical if it might kill someone but if you think that a combat isn't interesting enough to die in, why is it interesting enough to play out? But opinions differ.
>PCs can die even when they've got big plots / stories riding on them?
I've had a DM give a PC of mine plot armour before because I was involved in a large plot twist. I'd originally expected it to emerge 1/3-1/2 way into the campaign (not a big deal if it didn't come off) and reroll a new character but it became apparent they had it planned as a climatic part of the final element of the campaign so...I just couldn't die. Killed a lot of my investment in that game.
>Players can just bring in new PCs if their PCs die?
Sometimes they don't even need to die! If you're fed up with a PC, talk to your DM about swapping characters. DMs, if a player talks to you about swapping characters because they're not having fun, don't insist them commit suicide by NPC to do so.
>Total Party Kills happen?
I've only been in one once and the DM/players were very definitely looking for an excuse to end that campaign. I've been in several incidents where a TPK was only averted by DM fiat (bleh) or stepping out of game briefly to discuss how the table wanted to handle it when things are looking dicey (do this DMs!).
>TPKs happen and the story can continue?
A lot would depend how invested I was in the particular story here. I think I'd usually prefer to do something else but I could see wanting to pick up the threads of the old plot with a new cast of PCs from a different standpoint.
As a player, I have yet to to survive an encounter with a hydra. From my first 3.5 campaigns anytime our party has encountered a hydra I invariably die, I think I'm 0-12 and at this point it has become a running gag. On the plus side I haven't died to anything else.
As a DM I have TPK'd a party, it was a bit of poor planning on my parties part, a bit of unbalanced encounter build on my part, and a lot of bad luck with the dice. The party was about level 12 at that point and their quest was on a clock, so they just woke up in hell and had to find a way back.
Most important is to remember
"I didn't kill your PC. That Bugbear did".
TPKs can happen, but unless a DM forces it, typically someone can escape. Continuing a campaign as-is after a TPK doesn't really work unless there's some reason a totally new group of people would pick up where the last left off.
When I ran ToA, there were like 6 PC deaths and almost twice as many NPC deaths. I had the players prepare backup characters day one, it helps get over the loss if you're itching to play a new character, though I don't recommend that in a campaign where death is less permanent as it may cause people to get less into character hoping they'll get to play the new one. When ToA finished one player who didn't have a PC death was a little upset they didn't get to use their backup.
I like to run what I call prequel short stories for before I start up a main game. This gives the players the chance to shape and mold the world around them that they're about to play in, gives them a part in the creation process, and also lets me test the general vibe of the setting and how it feels. I am still running the main game now, over a year later. In the short story, of the 6 players there, 4 of them were playing the parents of the characters they would be playing on the main game, and their parents were known as the Heroes of the Viking Age, as they were accomplished fighters who did a lot of cool stuff.
On the first session of the last of their short story adventures, after having played about 7 sessions beforehand with these characters and telling the story of these heroes, the son of one of the people they killed on their first ever mission came for revenge and formally challenged the group to combat, along with the mother dragon of a young dragon that had been killed.
The fight was definitely possible. A level 9 sorcerer / level 2 paladin with some dope magic items to help with their quest to come, and a Young red dragon vs 6 level 8 characters with awesome magical items. But the dice had a story they wanted to tell, and with some tactical decisions that didn't work out as well as expected, it ended on a rough TPK with the dragon and the sorcerer each within 20hp of death.
It was a tough, somber moment. The sorcerer said to the children of the Heroes, who watched this fight, that if they still felt sore about this when they were adults, they could find him at (location).
It was a powerful moment. It changed the entirety of the long form campaign, which was initially going to be about the Vikings going back to retake england after the Danelaw was retaken by the English on a crusade. I had planned for the heroes of the Viking Age to be quest giving NPCs and show up in the main game. But ultimately, it was a moment where the players really felt important to the story.
We've played for nearly a year now since then, and while the game is not anything like I initially expected, I wouldn't change a single thing. Without the risk of failure or death, what's the point of the story? Why are we here of there is no chance to lose? The stakes need not be sky high, but they must exist, and as a player I straight up cannot enjoy a game if I know my DM is pulling punches with me.
Playing tomb of annihilation (so no resurrection possible), in the hidden city, I was invisible and explored a little too close to a statue which turned out to be a monster lying in wait. It rolled two nat 20's with disadvantage, crit me down to 0 and swallowed me so I was out of sight for healing.
We also got our asses handed to us on the last boss, would have been a TPK if our rogue hadn't fled the field, being the only one to survive.
For two of us - me and the guy whose character died - this was the pinnacle of D&D. Powerful story - the man obsessed with battle fury and giving his life for a worthy fight, died fighting a dragon. For the other two players... it was... the worst thing that could happen. Idk, some excuses were said but ultimately the two players went silent for two weeks (this was a play by post we had been posting basically daily). Maybe IRL stuff happened at the same time, maybe this was just not what they expected (yes - session zero included a "hey guys there's permadeath") but it really sapped the life out of the campaign for a long while. At least for me. Not the death of a character, but the player's response to the death and their response to the introduction of a new character. Both were abysmal and made it a chore to run for me.
I stand by my decision as the right one, and would not do it another way. IMO, players who enjoy this sort of thing are the players who you want to play with. I'm not saying you can't be sad, upset, defeated, whatever - but if you can pull out a new character idea and honour the memory of your deceased character, you're definitely worth playing with.
I mean, I'm always chatting with my player if we should get a stupid expensive commission done for that final fight. I'm sure we will one day.
As for 1-6, Yes. IMO without these risks, every decision becomes bland.
I had a PC die in a particularly permanent way when I ran Tomb of Annihilation, and as a DM I generally don't kill players, so it was a big shock to the group but made for some good roleplaying. I find that if modules are run PC death is a lot more likely, but if it is the DM's homemade game it tends to happen less.
Had a player roll double nat 1's on death saves when the party decided to wait a turn to get them up, as the enemy was a pretty good threat at that moment. One of the characters, who was the brother of the dead character, had been toying with religion a little bit and ended up praying to a god and offering to sacrifice himself in exchange for his brother, and actually did enough damage to himself to go unconscious as proof of his determination.
I paused the game for a moment to talk to both players and see what they wanted to do and tossed out an idea for the sacrificing character to take a level in cleric in exchange for his brother returning. (They were going to level up after this battle.)
They both thought the idea was awesome and it has totally changed both characters arks and the entire campaign really. I ended up rewarding that player the fate touched ability for the unplanned multiclass. (1/ day luck point) He hasn't take a level in the original class sense and loves the character 2 years later.
One of characters has died twice and it triggered massive growth for her and the party. Death matters.
As a DM I’ve killed three characters and I’ve killed a character’s soul as well. Death matters a ton. You should play with it. It sucks but it makes things much more real and it adds dimension to the game.
My only PC death was during a boss fight. It was in the second phase, when he was polymorphed into a young red dragon, and I had ducked my sorcerer behind a statue to heal up. We were pretty sure things were wrapping up, so I just wanted to have a bit more insurance against death, as I was at 4 hp. I got 7 hp from the potion, putting me at 11, and then fire breath hit me from an unexpected angle, perfectly dropping me into instant death. No spells to help reduce the damage, and no cleric, so thhere was no chance of revival.
But it was also the end of that campaign's story arc, and the story was going to continue from a new region with a new party, so my DM was nice enough to soften the blow by letting me use up my hit dice for a heal, and if they could bring me up to 1 or more, I would get 1 turn before dying. I got up to 3, and empowered a lightning bolt to get as much damage as I could, killing it and retuning the boss to human form. The DM then had me dying slowly as the party argued over taking revenge for me, or arresting him. The rogue cut the argument short with a dagger to his throat, and they carried my character's body home, giving his staff to his younger brother, who ended up as an NPC in the next segment of the story.
We used that Homebrew rule again in the future: if you would be killed outright, or would fail your last saving throw, use your hit dice and roll them without CON bonus, adding up the total. If the total exceeds your maximum hp, thus being enough to bring you from negative max to 1 or more, you get 1 turn immediately but then fall over dead, and revivify won't work on you, but other revival magics will. If it doesn't, your hit dice are refunded, but no extra turns.
I've had a number of characters die in my games over the many years I've played. If there are not stakes, then the game has no purpose in my opinion. I've also had characters die, sometimes heroically, sometimes comically stupidly.
These are not necessarily true.
Especially for longer running campaigns, the newer PC's are often not held in the same regard.
Additionally, TPW's can be campaign, or even group busters.
Now, with that said. If there is not an element of danger where PC's can die... I don't see any point in playing at all. There must be risk, there must be challenge, and along the way characters may die.
If a campaign is going to be particularly lethal, the DM needs to be upfront about that. Have replacement PC's ready to roll quickly, and set expectations as the DM.
Now, TPW's? Often this means the party lost. It's ok to have the campaign fail, BUT the DM needs to have a good contingency plan, or the group itself may dissolve as a TPW is a logical, and depressing, end point. The bad guys won...
So maybe the character's family or children take up the mantle. Maybe the world plunges into darkness and the players start a new campaign in that shadow of darkness and observe the consequences of their failure. Or, have the characters resurrected by a band of adventurers 200 years in the future - perhaps they're actually evil adventurers, but times have gotten so dark they turned to resurrecting the renowned goody-two-shoes who almost saved the world a couple centuries earlier.
In the end, communication and creativity should be enough to keep the band playing on.
Playing in a warhammer-themed 5e campaign. My character had recently gained control of a reasonably large demiplane inhabited by various sentient undead. One specific undead was an armorer that was unquestionably loyal to me.
So the party is on a mission to kill a vampire that had taken up residence in an abandoned dwarf hold. We get there and fight through a few helmed horrors before engaging with a Gorgon. Gorgons turn came up and the party Fighter, Cleric and Barbarian are targeted by the Gorgons Petrifying Breath. First two pass, Barbarian fails. Barbs turn comes up, fails second save. Uses dm inspiration, another fail. She's petrified. We kill the Gorgon and retreat to my pocket dimension. After a bit of arguing we ended up transferring the barbs soul out of her statue and into an empty construct built by my blacksmith friend. She's now a Warforged Conquest Paladin.
Ha in our 3.5 game every member of the party has died and come back. I took it the hardest because. I took the longest to be brought back, since I'm the cleric with a wizard and a fighter
I play in/DM for very RP heavy groups where a lot of love, attention and commitment goes into our characters. The death of a character when players have put this much work into them and when I’m DMimg, put a ton of attention and work into personal quest lines and integration with the main plot/world could basically derail everything/kill investment in the campaign.
With that in mind, I play by my main house rule and that is “no character is permanently dead unless the player decides it but death does not come without a price”. That does not mean there are no stakes to death. Revivify and Raise Dead come with points of exhaustion. If a character dies and there is no one to resurrect them in time, then the path to bringing them back will either be pricey to pay for the services of a high level cleric or lengthy to complete a quest, get an item, etc. to bring their party member back, usually with the dead character’s player playing a temporary character.
My cleric died and his body was taken by the monster that killed him. This led to a mini arc where I played a temporary character who assisted the party in tracking the monster, killing it and recovering my cleric’s body. Then his cleric mentor performed Raise Dead in a very powerful and meaningful RP moment. In that same game, the druid temporarily left and sort of died (long story) and his player had an alternate character for a few months until the party got an item that had one use of Wish to bring him back.
It allowed us to keep characters past death but not without stakes/prices to pay to bring them back. For me and my players, this is what works for us so no one loses a character they’ve worked on for months/years to a few bad rolls but doesn’t completely negate the risks and tension of possibly dying in battle.
And all that being said, if a player is done with their character and want to roll a new one, that is absolutely on the table. A character will be given a proper send off and another will be brought in but I find it takes some of the general anxiety of my players to know that death isn’t the absolute end of their character’s story if they don’t want it to be. That means I get some really wonderfully developed characters and committed players rather than a string of replacement characters thrown together for the sake of moving on.
Yes and Yes. Now what happened? I’m a big backstory writer so when I have a character coming in in the middle of a campaign I write what happened right up until the moment the party arrives. In the case of Tassos O’Caoihm my Fairy (HB) Cleric/Wizard he died to a lighting arrow chaining from an enemy and then a misfire from a HB magic item from a player that sucked and we don’t play with anymore. So he died to friendly fire, (my second character in this campaign already) I already had a backup character so I really quickly came up with how this back up is somehow in the place we are in currently. I decided that he had attempted to raid the place by hiding within his genie vessel as it was taken inside and he’d pop out and kill everything. But the party got there right as they brought the ring back and the party loots the ring (being his genie vessel) they get back to an inn and he jumps out of the ring axe swinging, stopping it right before hitting a party member realizing they aren’t the enemy. Caused a funny moment and made things a little less awkward to introduce the character. Of you can figure out a way to tie your new character to the party it really helps the narrative of introducing a new character to the party.
As a DM I’ve had 2 PCs die *at the same time* due to one PC being dumb and the players all insisting that something must have happened. They were in a swamp, the two PCs in question were a Ranger and a Cleric. The Ranger just purchased 20 explosive arrows. They got into a fight and the cleric’s foot was chopped off. (They were level 2 and we were playing with lingering injuries) so they tried to treat the wound without magic for some reason. The Ranger lights a torch and shoves it into the water towards the Cleric’s foot trying to cauterize the wound. Everyone insisted that there’s probably swamp gas. And I realized that they’re probably right, I didn’t write it into my notes but they all seemed like it’s gotta happen. And this was the first time they used fire so I said their was. I rolled an explosion from the swamp gas with a 20ft radius I rolled 2d6 and I got a 1 and 4, so I said they both took 5 points of fire damage. The Ranger then proceeds to say “wait I have 20 explosive arrows in my quiver, those should explode too right?” So I said “yeah they should” so 10ft Radius this time and they all deal 1d10 and 20 of them went off dealing 20d10 damage and I rolled really high, so the other two party members just watch as the Ranger sparks a torch and one explosion goes off and then 20 smaller explosions go off splattering bits of Cleric and Ranger all over the place. That one I just had their replacement characters be forced into the party by their group patron after noticing that two are missing.
No one read this, format your post.
I don't quite agree in 2 and 4.
Two is true but i would never kill my PC with a bunch of goblins in 99% of the situations.
DnD to me is about telling a story and if the death is going to provide nothing to our story and it's going to be insatisfactory as fuck for my player they i see absolutely no reason why I should let the goblin kill my character because I rolled 5 Crits in a row after the second coming of Christ blessed my dies.
In 4 i would remove the word 'just'.
I've killed several PCs.
The best/worst was with sewer plague. They were level 3, and no one had *lesser restoration*. To make matters worse, the player had a monk with a +2 Constitution modifier. The poor guy suffered *for days* before dying.
My character in Tomb of Annihilation died in the first session, together with a few guards who tried to save him from a group of undead. It basically created the backstory for my next character, the girlfriend of a guard who shouted "Tell Rikka I love her!". The DM just threw that line in there and I used it for my next character.
In my Curse of Strahd game the elf of the ToA DM died twice. Both times to a door trap. The first time he got a hole through his chest and I allowed the artificer to build some lungs for him before the cleric could reanimate the body (the time needed to make the lungs wasn't a problem 'cause the body-spirit connection was kept with Gentle Repose). The second time he was pulverized, so that was it.
My monk died grappling a creature that was so cold that starting your turn within 10 ft of it caused cold damage. every turn I would auto get a failed death save from the cold damage Cause I went down holding it. Was great fight
My players die constantly. I am a fair DM and I want to challenge my players. Each combat has a purpose and a lesson - and so does each trap, puzzle and so on. Win or lose, they will learn something. If they don't learn, then unfortunatelly they will keep dying.
I do not enjoy nor do I run davvy chappy games. I run cooperative story telling team based strategy combat games aka D&D 5E. There are other games out there a lot less punishing or suited for participation prize trophies.
Most recently the group was ambushed in a swamp while traveling by two crocodiles. Nobody was on 'watch for monsters' - while travelling, each player has a thing they are doing. So they got surprised, the fighter got grabbed and dragged into the water. So we learned all about underwater combat, grapple, restrained and how/which spells work better underwater. For example, my sorcerer learned that his crossbow at level 1 with 16 dex is actually pretty good and so was fighting with two daggers while my cleric learned that save vs cantrips are not very good if your wisdom/dc is not high enough as well as ranged healing is better than touch healing, even if the latter does 0-4 more healing, bonus action spells are better than action spells and so on and so forth. Actually I think my cleric had the chance to learn a lot, now wether they actually learned we'll find next session.
We killed half our party because we weren't happy with the plot we were creating for ourselves. I and another player brought in new characters, while another had his wake up from a coma as a newish, more traumatized person. This was more helpful to the dm than we thought because he secretly wanted to restart the campaign anyways.
Honestly killing a PC isn't the end of the world. Just because they're dead in this campaign doesn't mean they're dead in a different one!
The DM was planning a quest to get two dead PCs revived, but the rest of the party decided to cremate the bodies to prevent undead. So the players with the dead PCs just rolled new characters that were introduced in the next session.
Sure, lots of 'em. I used to run a B/X clone for my friends.
None of my PCs have died yet, though. My dungeon masters are soft.
6. Not sure
I've only ever experienced 1 TPK. It was in the 3rd edition adventure "[The Standing Stone](https://www.amazon.com/Standing-Stone-Adventure-7th-Level-Characters/dp/0786918381)". It resulted from a misunderstanding between our PCs and some NPCs. It was a great party, lots of memorable interactions, but it was also very sub-optimal in it's makeup. It was only our second campaign in 3e, but we decided to all make odd characters. Anyway, we made a new party, and started a new campaign the following week.
In 5e, we've done HotDQ/RoT, LMoP, PotA, OotA, CoS, ToA and RotFM. Deaths, we've had more than a few. Permanent deaths... we had 2 in ToA and 2 (so far) in RotFM. We've had a number of "close calls" for TPKs, including the end of ToA and the Cauldron Caves from RotFM.
Well, my character died. I rolled up a new one. We continued playing.
-An old player who likes combat.
I’ve killed off more than a few PCs. It never feels good, but as the trope goes, “the world is a dangerous place. I’m also thankful that in all of my campaigns, every PC death but one was due to individual players making reckless decisions or PCs sacrificing themselves for the good of the party. I’ve only felt responsible for a PC death once due to an exceptionally unbalanced encounter once….and yes, that’s a pretty shitty feeling.
I mean, my session that I am running tomorrow has my players potentially fighting in a major war. So...yeah, death is a major possibility. In all games I run, death *is* possible. Sure, I make it fair, no 5th level party would face a lich in a standard fight, but if you fireball your allies, they fall the save and take big damage? You could bring them down. And if the enemy is intelligent, then of course they will finish off a downed foe.
Homebrew campaign. Evil Cult. Dagger that bring back anyone who stabs themselves with it. Catch is the knife belongs to the cultists God. ALOT of Ketamine.
Basically 1 PC died from K, another PC(his twin) so distraught also died doing K. Aarakocra of the group starts doing weird shit. My character a Changeling Cleric who worships a Trickster God puts some shit together and discovers. the Aarakocra is evil now and has succumbed to using the dagger to much. We fight to the death. I die. Hobgoblin of the party eats the 2 who OD and has no idea of the death battle.
Aarakocra leads a massive assault with the cultista against our new PCs and the Hobgoblin. We destroy her. Entire party sans the Hobgoblin then decides to worship this Cultist God after destroying the cult.....why because we had no prior affiliation with that Hobgoblin scum and his party and we decided to hunt him till the end of our days.
GM was shook with that ending.
I had a PC die in my spelljammers campaign. They were boarding a wrecked neogi death spider (big battleship) and did quite well up until the point our battle smith walked up to a bunch of neogi hatchlings and got crit and downed in one hit. At level 4, by a CR 1/4? 1/2? Creature.
Couple months ago our party finished a 1-20 campaign. We only had one "true death". We were around level 15, maybe a level or two less. We planned to teleport into the BBEG's estate (which we did successfully) to get the jump on him. Long story short: we discovered somehow that the BBEG was trying to ascend as a god. At the climax of that fight he revealed his "progress" so to speak. It exhausted him, but he managed to throw out an 10th level spell: Mass Disintegration. Insta-killed 3 party members (which includes my PC), the Rogue/Ranger's panther companion, and the DMPC. One party member was brought back due to wild magic sorcerer/background shenanigans, and I was brought back after satisfying Kord in a duel. The panther companion was brought back at the very end of the campaign, but the DMPC and other party member were perma-dead.
Not perma-deaths, but my character has died 3 times. The perma-death was that PC's second death. Everyone else has died once. Except for the bard smh
A wild ride to be sure.
I agree with point #1 (sort of) but only as a last resort and that’s about it. I don’t think that our protagonists should die to a random encounter in the woods. I don’t think it’s fun for the players to have to leave behind unresolved plot points. Yes, you can bring in a new character, but there’s nothing “just” or casual about it. It’s a big deal. Also, are TPK’s really fun for anyone?
As a DM, I try everything I can (behind the screen) to keep my players alive. I like challenging encounters, don’t get me wrong, but I make sure they have options like revivify or escape teleportation if things go badly. I couldn’t imagine just letting a PC die unless the player wanted it to happen for story reasons, or I just couldn’t think of a realistic way for them to be brought back. I understand that some people really like the suspense of “you could die literally any second” but personally I feel like it’s more fun if players can just relax and be creative.
As a player, I have had a character die once and it was heartbreaking. I really loved that character and still miss playing them. It was frustrating and made for a tense session with other PC’s arguing and blaming one another. Yeah, in a way it was dramatic, but I still wish that it hadn’t happened. I guess maybe I agree with the other poster. I think you can have a fun game that still has high stake without the constant chance of permanently losing a beloved character.
>Have you, as a GM, killed a PC?
Many, many times
>Have you, as a Player, had a PC killed?
Also many times.
>What happened next?
Most commonly the game kept going
>1. PCs can die?
Definitely. It’s less fun when you can’t die.
>2. PCs can die to pretty much anything if the dice say so?
Definitely. See point 1
>3. PCs can die even when they've got big plots / stories riding on them?
Of course. If plot gave you plot armour then the first 2 points wouldn’t work.
>4. Players can just bring in new PCs if their PCs die?
That’s generally what we do yes.
>5. Total Party Kills happen?
Yup. Sometimes even in session 1.
>6. TPKs happen and the story can continue?
Sure? Sometimes a TPK is the end to a story and you start a new one and other times it’s just a midpoint in the story and everything just keeps going forward.
>This is based on another poster basically going: "People can't enjoy the game if their PC dies / party TPKs".
Different strokes for different folks. If that works for some people then I’m happy for them, but personally I don’t enjoy the game if I know we can’t die.
>We're playing D&D 5e here, and surely we all know death is a possibility? It gives the game stakes and tension?
Thus, I'd like to hear your stories about what happened, at your table, when PCs did die. For reals die, resurrection doesn't count.
9 times outa 10 the player just makes a new character.
Hmm… more interesting examples….
Oh ok so in an old Ravenloft campaign one of the party members got infected with lycanthropy. The party included a pretty militant lycanthropy hunter and the player thought the group would likely just kill him if they found out, since cures were very hard in those days (a not unreasonable guess).
But since he was turned on the last night of the full moon he had a month to plan. They were nowhere near civilisation so getting a cure for himself wasn’t on the cards, but he was the groups cook, so he just started bleeding into the stew every night, hoping that by next full moon several of the party would be wolves, so they’d have to go on a cure hunt rather than just offing him.
Secret rolls were made and on the next full moon half the party wolfed out. They were to say the least surprised, but unluckily for the player they managed to figure out where their infection came from, and since in those days the only option for controlling your curse was to eat raw humanoid flesh and they were two nights from the nearest church they killed him and used his meat to keep themself from killing any innocents.
Then the player made a wizard.
In a swashbucklers game I was playing a Druid, with a kind of Spanish farmer vibe. Had plenty of plots going on - I had declared love for the big bad because it seemed a very swashbuckler thing to do, was saving up to buy back the family farm, etc.
but a city demanded we surrender on some ridiculous charge and we refused. We did our best to fight them off non-lethally, but when one of the guards stabbed my horse (not fatally) I took that as a sign he was an honourless cur said as such and made an attack that wasn’t using non-lethal damage, which just so happened to be at the right time for him to die. Having just killed a guard the rest of the enemies changed tack, and I was eventually forced to flee but during the long, long chase through the city I was eventually brought down and killed.
Then I made a pirate.
We have had several TPKs in one of my groups. Its more because us player are the dumb more than the DM being harsh, but yeah.
Usually, it happens when the players do foolish things without giving the DM time to adjust. See, its usually frowned upon to *heavily* adjust encounters on the fly, mid combat. However, if the players fuck up, you might need to in order to save them. If you steadfastly refuse to do that (deus ex machina, or "rescue" DM hanwaving) its gonna be a TPK. So in simpler terms, like I said: try to give the DM time to adjust, or at LEAST to warn the players of what they're up against and how risky they're being.
There is a good healthy habit I try to follow now: always, ALWAYS end a session just at the start of a big battle if you didn't START the session expecting said battle. Nothing is worse than trying to pilot a major boss like Strahd for example with zero prep time.
As a DM, I've never had a PC die and not get brought back in some way, but it's definitely possible (only been DMing for a year and a half). I often keep options in a document for each player, short scenes or things that happen either when they are resurrected, when they perma-die, or something that gives them an option to keep the character at a cost. I like to keep the concept of death interesting so it's never feels bad.
I am very upfront with my players about this (I use a resurrection system where it's not guaranteed success, and the "keep at a cost" options often involve a character staying for a bit to finish something important to them, then fading into the afterlife). I tell my players all my systems, I tell them I have "keep at a cost" options, and I tell them to all have an idea for a backup character once they hit level 5 (as a general rule, I don't intentionally kill PCs before level 5). That's worked well so far for our group, and everyone is on the same page that when a character dies, there's a good chance the player will be rolling a new character.
My warforged eldritch Knight was swallowed and destroyed by a remorhaze
And my halfling thief got turned into a shadow after being drained to zero Str
2) PCs can die to pretty much anything if the DM says so. Dice are very rarely the cause of death.
3) Can? potentially. Should, no, not unless you want to cause yourself a hell of a lot of problems.
4) Generally not during the combat. Plus i think its a good idea to end sessions when characters die, can get emotional otherwise.
5) Not unless either the players or the DM chose one to happen.
6) If a TPK happens the story should change. Continuing the story not only causes problems but massively undermines the entire point of creating consequences and risk for the players.
I also disagree that Death gives the game stakes and tension. Close encounters or brushes with death give the game tension. Good storytelling gives the game stakes. In 90% of deaths i have seen as a player and DM, it only created a feeling of frustration and powerlessness.