Thursday, July 08, 2010

Balancing Acts: Death and the Game

Death. Its something that most players come across in some point or another in most games. Some games handle it splendidly, some not so much. In effect, if your dying or even dead, you aren't really doing anything other than sitting out on the combat.

So how does one make even the death part of things fun? What are some things that you can do to continue your game?

Well it is my personal opinion that death or even a KO in a game should not lead to the end of that character. If anything it should be a journey for the character or even a plot device to get the character to another part of the game.

In the world of Eberron in one of my longest lasting games, Death was something that was very real, and there was no real known escape from it, unless you were blessed with immensive wealth and happened to know "the right people." But when the characters started their adventure, they always had tools to keep them alive, as the once warrior Sh'Caal once was very happy to have her companion Alexis handy with a wand of healing that was used every round to keep Sh'Caal alive while being assaulted by a kobold demolition squad.

As the game continued, the death provided me a chance to slow things down a bit, and even at one point, allowed the players to face a very dark dragon that seemingly slaughtered them, but instead teleported them to a hidden realm where they were able to train their bodies for even more dangerous perils that they had not yet known. They were provided information and a chance to reflect on the world around them.

Once one of the players did die, I provided a unique vision of their last moments, an image of a very playful dragon, that happened to be a small sprite of a Creator Dragon that had bigger plans for them, in effect preserving their bodies and spirit while the rest of the party brought her back to life.

In a game system like Mutants and Masterminds, death can also mean the end of a character, but the birth of something new all together. In other instances, death is simple a form of torture, and an evil villain may have the resouces available to bring them back to life, just to put them through another death trap or a chance to test their limits for future experiments that would lead to an even greater threat that the heroes then have to defeat, or even better, ally with the villain when the experiment goes out of control!

In another example, a player ends up leaving the party due to reasons beyond their control. Do you simply kill the player off? I have found that in most cases, the player has the opportunity to disappear or even have a very dramatic event occur that allows the player to return if necessary at a later time, or even live off a life that they truly dreamed of.

Death itself should not necessarily mean the end of your or anyone elses character, or your game. If you are unsure, always ask your game master how he feels he should handle such situations, as I assure you some game masters will have different views of such. Though in the games where I have found the players having the most fun, players always live or escape the clutches of death in an epic battle, and if they do die, its because the player has other plans for a new character or even the game.