DEBATE: Opinion on character deaths in RPs?

So, I have noticed that many people in the RP community are torn by this subject. Some players/GMs think that death is an inconvenience. They believe that characters should die on their owner’s terms, if at all. They want to be able to develop their characters to a certain point without death interrupting that storyline.

Meanwhile, other people claim that permanent and frequent character deaths make an RP more “realistic” and “professional”, and the quality of the writing and storytelling improves.
I wanted both sides to voice their opinions on the matter. That way, I (and other players) could be able to decide which option would provide a better RP experience as both a player and a GM.

So, what do you think of Characters getting killed off in RPs?

Death should be on terms of the player, but if a player decides that their character dies they need to stick to it.

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To be honest, I am somewhere in the middle. On one side, I do believe that death must happen in our rps just like in the real life, but on the other side, it’s hard for me not be on the side of the players that don’t want their character to go. Maybe they had plans for him/her. Maybe he/she was in the middle of a development. Who knows? The thing is that it is hard for me to chose a side and stick with it till the end.

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I feel that having death as a game feature introduces a level of risk and tension that you wouldn’t get from games without it. I feel like it also forces players to think more carefully about their character’s actions so as to avoid death if at all possible. But you also need a fair GM and fair players who won’t unfairly try to kill your character. I guess, if death is a mechanic, when it happens in-game it should be justified and make sense as to why it happened. No cheap deaths, unless the player wants that for some reason.

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As someone who’s never had a character killed off by someone other than myself, I’d say that if the character’s owner wants their character to be killed off, they should.

But when it’s up to the GM, I don’t mind. A lot of RPs I’ve been in that have had characters die outside of their owner’s control have had few or no characters die that didn’t need to. Obviously it’s subject to change sometimes, but my point is I don’t mind it.

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It depends on the situation, if the player wants to kill off their character then sure, however is they end up in a situation that would realistically end up with them dying it’s up to the gm to decide

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There is a fine line to walk between GMing like it’s D&D and GMing what is essentially a story that you’re guiding.

Character deaths are absolutely necessary - those players who need for their characters to be unrealistically tanky and invincible ruin the immersion and the game for those people who are there to help tell a story. That being said, I have never, ever, seen GM imposed deaths work well as anything other than a punishment.

Having no risk or possibility of death means that whatever awesome, crazy, mindblowing action that your character did and managed to survive means… nothing. Because there was no chance they wouldn’t.

Generally speaking you’re not playing the RPG to be a god, you’re playing to be part of the story. It takes a certain level of maturity and skill to both recognise that and accept that “hey, maybe this character needs to die.” Not to mention that some of my fondest RPG memories involved me willingly sacrificing my character.

Basically, if your game involves combat and “risk” of death, then there needs to be actual risk. It doesn’t necessarily need to be enforced by the GM, but if you’re running around the fight the GM has for you and murder everything in one hit in a single post, and are then surprised when you get shot in the head…

~Hawkeye

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What some see as an inconvenience, I see as potential.

While I understand that some people want their characters to stay around forever, adding risk to playing adds so much more emotion and thought into character actions. Along with that, if someone dies, think of it as a way of other characters getting added development as well. Think of the killer, who, if it was the first time they killed, might have to deal with that trauma. Or the friends, who will go through grieving and maybe even seek revenge. Think of the people who were right there when it happened, and the guilt they might feel for not doing anything to stop it.

Now, while I prefer planned out interactions for deaths like this, just because of the added cohesion they’d have upon looking back, even the spontaneous ones have their place.

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I mostly agree with @Kini_Hawkeye on this one.

Threat of death is something that adds dramatic stakes to the story, and makes beating those odds even more satisfying. It can be a really hard thing to balance around, though, and there are times where a GM might bend the rules a bit.

For example, recently in my current D&D campaign, my character was knocked unconscious and acquired two death save fails. The problem is that this was only about our third session into a brand new campaign. Obviously, there’s no good story to be told when a character dies that early, it’s disappointing for both the players and the GM. My GM let me have advantage on my next death save due to this fact, and luckily I didn’t need it and was able to pass and get healed next turn, but it goes to show there are moments where the threat of death can be very inconvenient.

But at the end of the day, I advocate to keep death as a mechanic in most roleplaying games where it would make sense, especially in D&D.

On the matter of:

I watched a very interesting video recently that dealt with Taliesin Jaffe from Critical Role and his perspective on the death of his character Mollymawk and PC death in general. It gave some really important advice that any good character needs to be prepared for death, prepared for that story they are trying to build to end at the drop of a hat. Because, like Kini mentioned, the death of a character can be a really powerful moment of storytelling, and if you can plan and prepare and expect that to happen to even your most favorite character, it won’t be this all-crushing event a lot of people view it as.

I’d like to give a sort of testimonial to this notion, because I feel the same way. In my first D&D campaign, I did the exact same thing. Our party was against all odds in a harrowing fight against a Death Tyrant, where any one of us could be killed with no chance of being healed at any moment.

All our backs were against the wall, but the Tyrant was nearing death itself. As a last ditch effort, I willingly allowed the Death Tyrant to strike my character in hopes of using Hellish Rebuke at the last minute to kill it as it killed my character. I had no real plan, no real clue what might happen, or even if my plan would work, but the simple act of me choosing to let my character die, let his story end, for the sake of everyone else made the difference.

And, like any good GM should do, I was well rewarded for my bravery and sacrifice. After my character was disintegrated, he reformed as a massive magical construct, engaging the Tyrant in an epic clash before finally landing the killing blow. And after that last act of heroism, he returned to ash and dust.

Granted, I was allowed by my GM after the session to choose what to do next with my character, and obviously I allowed him to return to the game after a good couple of months playing another character, but that act of sacrifice had lasting effects on the attitude of my character, his story, and even his physical body. What matters is that I was rewarded for my decision, and even more so in the memory I still hold of that session.

When handled right by both player and GM, death is one of the most powerful storytelling tools imaginable.

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Death should be 100% allowed. Like others have said, it builds tension and allows conflict to have actual meaning. RPs that don’t allow it stifle a good amount of possible plot lines in regards to less than heroic characters.

Now to go through and respond to what people have said specifically.

I too think dying is quite an issue when attempting to live :thinking:

obvious /s is obvious

I mean, the response I typically have to these things is why bother to join a RP, which I see as either being a collaborative writing thing or a game, when you just want to tell a preplanned story without any interuptions? If you want to tell a story without the risk of interuptions it’s not too hard to simply write your own story

I mean, I won’t say that. I will say it typically does do that, but just because you allow death doesn’t automatically do that.

That’s part of having trust in the other players and all that. On the other hand, it’s also a lot of fun going in when you don’t have trust because it adds an extra level of depth to the game, especially if you have some final goal.

Mmm, while I’m no GM and my expierence with GM run games like DnD is somewhat limited, I do think there would be potential with stuff like traps and obviously overleveled encounters. If it’s obvious that the party can die and you make it clear that you as a GM would follow through, I think there’d be potential for a much more dangerous and cautious game

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I feel like death should be allowed, but people shouldn’t make characters for no other reason than to kill other players characters.

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I think we all agree that death should be allowed, but whether GM’s should have the power or not?

In terms of story, a death is definitely much more meaningful and well-implemented if done correctly by the character’s creator. They can build up to it, prepare for it, and agree with it before it even happens. However, there are times where the best decision is for the GM to take over. While they might not be as well done, sometimes they are necessary for the plot to continue fashionably.

I think deaths are fine. It’s almost fun, too. Whether you’re on the side of writing the character who’s dying, or experiencing a character you like die, it’s always fun. However, something I don’t like (which I used to be guilty of) is making a characters death so dramatic and out of proportion that it’s just dumb. I remember on this one rp I’m in, Okotan Adventures. At the end of part two, one of my favorite characters died, technically saving mine. It was an incredibly fun scene and was probably one of my favorite deaths in any rp because it actually made me feel sad. Maybe it’s just me, but seeing one of my favorites go and then getting to write how it affected my character is incredible. Magical, even. Maybe I’m just rambling though.

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Deaths are necessary. If there doesn’t die any character, that makes it unrealistic.

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It all comes down to how the death is executed. If the player wants their character to die, then anything is fair game really, but if you’re using death as a mechanic, then the GM should be especially careful about deaths to make sure they’re fair.

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Well, if it’s down to that, it isn’t the GM’s goal to ensure death. If death is a mechanic, then that mechanic needs to arise naturally in the gameplay.

It isn’t the GM’s job or place to set up a “cutscene” where a PC dies (without their consent), nor is it their job or place to deliberately set up a scenario that will certainly kill the players no matter what they do (i.e. a jump that can’t be made, a boss that’s too powerful).

The role of the GM is to facilitate the storytelling and be its narrator, not the god that will kill as he pleases. The GM and players play with each other, not against each other.

But what it if would literally make no sense if the said character would not die? Let’s say that the player has to battle a Thanos-tier character, but his character is a regular human with no powers whatsoever. Wouldn’t make sense if the Thanos would kill him/her?

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I think what he’s saying is that it isn’t the scenario itself that’s the problem, but how it was set up.

If this player was just minding their own business, and said Thanos-tier character was dropped into their path with no way they can escape and just left to die, that would be unfair, right? However, it would be fair to enforce death in the way you have in mind, say, if this Thanos-tier character had been previously warned about which the player ignored, the player was then given an opportunity to avoid them completely which they also ignored, and then proceeded to goad them into fighting them, and then throw their toys out of the pram when their character predictably and fairly dies for their willful stupidity.

One was the case of an unfair GM, the other of an unreasonable player pushing things too far.

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I was more or less thinking at one such scenario. I should have specified that.

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Though I don’t believe he’s discounting that, just that there’s also the danger of the GM being unfair with that much power as well. There needs to be a balance.

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