Sunday, September 6, 2009

Reaching the Gates of Valhalla: Giving closure to the death of favoured PC's

This is more of a piece of general gaming advice for dealing with a common problem. When a long time , cherished PC dies an inglorious death. This causes a split into two camps.

1.) avoid killing PC's in inglorious ways. This I dislike, in robbing the threat of a PC dying in an inglorious way there is no sweet taste of victory. Why roll a die if you don't want to accept the outcome?

2.) Tell people to suck it up buttercup. This I also dislike, its something someone worked on for several hours a week for sometimes several years (at least several months). If I had been working on anything else that long (like building a wardrobe from scratch) I'd be pissed if it just got heaped into the garbage with no pomp or circumstance.

So this brings me to my personal solution (which I think I may need to formalize in Piecemeal).

The post death session: When a PC dies, the next session (which I try and make mandatory attendance) deals with the spirit of the PC trying to reach their afterlife..being beset by infernal press gangs and lost souls trying to keep him from reaching his paradise-ever after.

The nature of his burial dictates much of his starting gear. Left to rot in the battlefield (or eaten etc) might make him start this journey naked. Being buried in an elaborate ceremony with many treasures may make his journey that much easier (at least give him two copper to pay the ferryman!) . Spirit versions of any "personal items" will accompany the hero. If culture appropriate it may be a good idea to bury the hero with his servants entombed with him...

The hero should also be accompanied by some faith specific spirits, ancestor spirits or the spirits of already slain friends and allies, to be played by the other PC's. This is also a good spot to have the Cameo's of already dead PC's from ages past show up.

The adventure path I use is usually very linear. Death takes you, if you are high level you may get a chance to beat death somehow and return to life (once, maybe) but I wouldn't count on it. Then its a travel to the realm of the dead, travelling until you reach the gates to your final paradise (guided by internal compass or your companions), beset by those who would try and steal your soul, aided by those you can bribe or who want you to get to where you belong. Perhaps you can avoid being sent to hell and make it to another unaffiliated plane if you are a truly resourceful villain.

This one-shot game gives you a good sense of closure to the character with the knowledge that death is not the end of a character in a fantasy realm where the afterlife is real. Enterprising PC's could even go find their comrades for a visit or as a helpful guide in the appropriate outer plane.

But either way, your ending is automatically more glorious than "I rolled a 1 for an agility check on a ledge in the middle of nowhere", without taking the risk out of travelling on shaking ledges in the middle of nowhere out of the equation.



  1. The issues surrounding character death are complicated. But if a character does die, your idea sounds like a lot of fun.

    I just thought of an optional enhancement you could add to this. If the character is successful in his quest for the afterlife, his spirit could return to help out his living friends at some future point, offering a vision of guidance or some other one time benefit.

  2. So you're Dead is my take on how to handle character death. Styled for a simpler/more hackish/more old school (PC death is common) game.