Character death

The last player character I had die during a gaming session was shot in the back by another PC.

It was too bad, because I had successfully navigated the character across a post-apocalyptic wasteland, survived pirates and psychotic robots and watery deathtraps.  I had even, while hanging onto the side of a tossing raft, uttered the cool tough-guy phrase “gun me” before having a pistol slid over to him by another PC.

But, we were using pre-generated characters, and apparently in my PC’s past he had shot and killed another PC’s father, and the punk kid shot me in the back at the very end of the adventure.  So it goes.

I didn’t mind, not just because he was basically a one-off character not of my own creation, but also because it was a death that worked for the story.  He was a self-destructive gunslinger looking for death, and he got it.  In the matter of PC death, I don’t mind when PC’s die because they are unbelievably stupid (“yes, I will try to disable the bomb even though I lack the appropriate skill”) or take on overwhelming challenges, either heroically or foolishly.  I’m not a fan of the “oops–you stepped on a trap.  You die” where it just comes out of nowhere, but I get that it happens too.

Long story on PC death after the break.

I was talking by IM to a friend yesterday whose PC, having been carefully nurtured in D&D 4E up to 11th level, died Saturday, and he was ticked.  The group had gone up against a “very challenging” opponent (read: higher level encounter) and two of the players had, at the last minute, decided to cut and run.  We had a “cut and runner” in my own 4E campaign, and he never came back after that session.  When the group decides to stick it out, you stick it out.  Either than or all run together; it is a social event after all.  In any case, the remaining PC’s were actually holding their own and looking like they might squeak out a victory when his character, a defender type, dropped down to zero hit points.  He had a ongoing effect that cost his ten hit points/turn unless you made a saving throw.  He rolled an eight, and the DM ruled that he then lost another ten hit points and died.

But wait, my friend countered, I have a magic item that gives me a +2 against that particular effect (for those who don’t know, in 4E you have to roll a ten or higher to make a saving throw).  But the DM was holding firm that the PC had died, the ruling on the field was upheld.  Pissed, my friend packed up his stuff and left.

It’s worth noting that in addition to this, other players had been annoying the bejeezus out of him all night, and that he was already on edge to begin with.  That element can not be underestimated.

I’m kind of torn about this situation. On one hand, I’m of the camp that the DM’s ruling is final.  I’m one who is willing to be told that I’ve botched a rule and give people a “do-over” and admit my mistake.  But after having been corrected and I still say he’s dead, then he’s dead.  For all he knows the attack might have been an illusion or there’s something else amiss (like a penalty to saving throws that he is unaware of) that the DM doesn’t want to share with the others.  But I’d have pulled the player aside and explained that in quiet.  On the other hand if the DM is just being stubborn, then that’s wrong.

But finally, last time I checked Raise Dead was ridiculously inexpensive, especially for 11th level PC’s.  In fact it is almost suggested that a PC will be killed and raised quite a few times as a general matter of course (something I’m opposed to as a matter of genre, but I didn’t write the game).  There are so many solutions to this problem that don’t end with the player leaving the group that I can’t help but suspect that there’s some other, underlying problem at work here.

Thoughts, comments welcome.

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