The Character Death vs No Character Death argument is an old and sometimes hard fought debate. I’ve known players who will sooner stop playing a game if their character died rather than roll a new one. But, more often than not, I’ve played with the “I won’t kill your character unless they deserve it” GM’s. I even adopted this method for years, but lately I have been more involved in the collaborative roleplay and narrative driven aspects of the hobby.
Now days I muse on how and when character death is necessary or even when it can be used as a dramatic event or plot device (like real writers). No matter what though there are millions of examples demonstrating either point of the argument and as far as I’m concerned there are no wrong opinions.
So far I think my favorite way to handle death is by not killing the character if it can be far more dramatic to slowly disable them. Let me paint two pictures for you:
“A soldier, long fought, veteran of many battles, swings his sword for the last time as a stray arrow pierces his chest, impaling his heart causing him to die almost immediately. This is the moment he was waiting for; to die on the battlefield, lamented by family, honored by friends. It was the only death he felt he deserved.”
“A soldier, years of fighting have left them broken and bloodied on numerous occasions both on and off the battlefield. The scars and injuries slowly began to pile up: a gash on the arm here, a cracked bone there, hair doesn’t grow properly from that place anymore… Eventually parts go missing: nails, fingers, eyes, hands, arms. One day, you can’t hold your weapon. It becomes too much. Soon, you are forgotten, looked down upon, just another invalid begging on the streets of the country you swore to protect.”
In the first example the character’s death was his own reward. In the second example the same character fell into obscurity and eventually died a beaten and broken man.
In my opinion death should be used as a dramatic device. Don’t just kill important characters just because the dice says so. Kill them when it makes sense narratively.
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