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Dovetailed
2016-02-11, 11:12 AM
I'm a fairly novice DM leading five newcomers through their first ever roleplaying campaign (D&D 5e). We’ve been playing for about two and a half months now and everyone’s been loving it - backstories have been written, comic strips of their ‘best bits’ have been drawn, miniatures have been hand painted, and so on. Through laughs, toil and tension they have just reached level 4. In last night’s session, however, in the encounter that finally provided enough experience for them all to level up, we had our first player character death.

Due to a sequence of unfortunate events (and rolls) the party inadvertently alerted an entire cavern filled with gnolls (and a displacer beast they were foolishly attempting to train) to their presence. A massive fight ensued - the wizard’s lecherous weasel familiar called Sleazel was killed, many gnolls died, the displacer beast killed lots more gnolls and then set on the group’s barbarian. At various points in the fight I made it as obvious as I could that the party could hear more gnolls rushing up from deeper in the caverns and that they had a valid escape route if they wanted to beat feet. Instead, however, they essentially decided to separate inside of the caves in order to chase down a fleeing gnoll boss. As a result of this all 5 of the party members ended up unconscious at various points in the fight, only surviving thanks to a well-stocked supply of potions of healing. Unfortunately, however, the Halfling rogue was not so lucky as their racial trait would imply. Having been absolutely mauled (beaked?) by a grick on attempting to enter a blocked up passageway she then proceeded to fail three death saving throws in a row and died. The party, seemingly realising their mortality, then decided to flee. Managing to grab up the rogue’s corpse en route.

That was where we ended last night’s session. They were pleading with me to retroactively allow her a reroll and trying to rules lawyer a way out the situation. However, despite it being genuinely hard to unflinchingly allow my friends to be upset and not bow to their wishes, I managed to stick to my guns. In the long run I think this is good for the drama, the development of their characters, and to demonstrate the peril that is inherent in their adventures.

Waking up this morning I am starting to think about next steps, I think my players are likely to want to pursue a quest to resuscitate the rogue. Whilst they could pool together enough gold at the moment to buy the material components necessary for raise dead, they do not have immediate access to anyone powerful enough to cast such a spell. They are currently in a forest containing a coven of hags, who I think might consider offering assistance but probably at a hefty price involving a moral quandary and a lingering curse. Alternatively, the rogue was rank 1 in the Harpers, who might help if the party can return to a city. Finally, she could simply draw up another character. All in all, I am not sure how to proceed, I don’t want to make the player in question feel left out (at the end of the session I could tell she was genuinely upset and was joking about not turning up next week), but I also don’t want to cheapen the threat of death. Given it’s their first death, I want to make it a memorable experience.

So my questions are as follows:
1. What experiences do people have of player death and resuscitation done well?
2. How do I make the player of a dead character feel involved in a session where their character is not?
3. I still feel guilty about killing the character and enjoying the drama of the moment … am I a terrible person?

Rusvul
2016-02-11, 11:39 AM
As a relatively inexperienced DM myself, I can't be of too much help here. But I can answer the third question: No, you're not. The players, through bad luck, poor planning, or both, got someone killed. That's not your fault.

Player death is important. You, as the DM, must remain impartial and let it happen. That doesn't mean it's alright to gloat if a player dies, of course, but allowing players to live through die fudging or straight-up rules breaking is setting a dangerous precedent.

I think you've done a good job here. Definitely have a resurrection option available, but make them work for it- Death isn't easy to overcome.

The only potential issue here is if your players were expecting fair, balanced fights all the way through. If this is the first fight they've had that they couldn't hack and slash their way through, that could be jarring. As a DM, it's a good idea to make sure everyone's on the same page about that sort of thing.

Now I feel like I'm rambling, so I'll shut up. Good luck!

Seto
2016-02-11, 03:34 PM
So my questions are as follows:
1. What experiences do people have of player death and resuscitation done well?
2. How do I make the player of a dead character feel involved in a session where their character is not?
3. I still feel guilty about killing the character and enjoying the drama of the moment … am I a terrible person?

1- Nothing of note. I've never seen it done badly, but never especially well either. The one player death we had in my campaign was due to bad luck, the player got to hear a description of his character traveling to the afterlife, and he was resurrected three sessions later by the High Priest of his deity (he was a Paladin). The three-sessions-wait wasn't too punitive because he had real-life stuff going on and wasn't very available for playing anyway. I never had a character resurrected myself as a player, because when my Ranger died I chose to write up a new character.
2- Give her control of a friendly NPC ? Alternatively if he seems like her thing, ask if she'd be interested in helping you DM the session, playing the villain, coming up with setting details, etc. As a third solution, if it makes sense in-game, have her character follow the party as a restless spirit, capable of interacting verbally with them (she'll still feel useless in combat though).
3- No. Congrats for getting involved in the game and respecting both your friends' feelings and the cooperative storytelling.

Zumbs
2016-02-11, 04:45 PM
Your players knew that it was a dangerous and potentially lethal situation and refused to retreat until one of them actually died. The realization that their actions have consequences will have a profound effect on the drama going forward. If failure is a very real option, victory becomes all the more sweet as you now know that you fought for it.

So, my advice to you is to not back down. You and your players will be happy in the long run.

It has been quite a while since I played games where resurrection was readily available, so my experience with your first and second questions are limited. If the player wants to be resurrected, I kindof like the idea of letting her run a ghost. Getting the character resurrected should be a big thing, something that should come with a cost, e.g. owing a huge favor to some powerful priest or spending a long period doing quests for the priest (or the organization paying), depending on how much the players can scrape together for payment.

Resurrection should happen before the quests start, and the priest could try to get some guarantee (oaths, items, binding spells) to ensure that the party actually honors their agreement. If they have a reputation of being trustworthy this could be waived, whereas if they have a reputation of not being trustworthy ... well ... they could get be in for a short and intensive course on Karma.

veti
2016-02-11, 07:59 PM
Raise Dead is only a 5th level spell. It's also exactly the kind of spell I would expect most temples to keep a few scrolls of lying around. Assuming your PCs are within a weeks' journey of a decent-sized town, and they've got a reasonable amount in cash, they should be able to score the spell without much drama.

Of course, you might want to impose "a favour" on them or something for Plot reasons, but that's entirely up to you.

Sam113097
2016-02-11, 08:34 PM
It seems like your players have definitely been impacted by the character death, and from your description, it appears that they will be more careful in the future. It also sounds like they have become very attached to their character (especially as these are their first characters ever in DnD).

I would allow them to raise the rogue fairly simply - but at a cost that makes them realize the significance of death in the game. You mentioned that the players were near a group of hags? I would suggest having the hags raise the rogue as some kind of undead. The character would keep the same personality, but come back with a limitation/curse that constantly reminds them of the encounter with death. It would make for good roleplaying.

Anonymouswizard
2016-02-12, 06:48 AM
Is the world high magic or low magic? In a high magic world the local temple should have either priest able to go it or a scroll or two for emergencies. They'll likely be willing to raise them now in exchange for a favour.

If you're running a low magic world then it sounds like the hags are the best bet. Give them a curse or have them do something.

The key thing, is this can be used as a plot hook. Have the next quest be 'journey to cure the curse' or 'escort holy McAcolyte on his way through Goblin Wood as he goes to report to the bishop'.

johnbragg
2016-02-12, 07:42 AM
That was where we ended last night’s session. They were pleading with me to retroactively allow her a reroll and trying to rules lawyer a way out the situation. However, despite it being genuinely hard to unflinchingly allow my friends to be upset and not bow to their wishes, I managed to stick to my guns. In the long run I think this is good for the drama, the development of their characters, and to demonstrate the peril that is inherent in their adventures.

Good job, DM. HAve an internet cookie. The game is more fun and the players invest more deeply if their survival isn't guaranteed. We could play video games if we wanted to do something where we get to try again from the save point if we screw up.


Waking up this morning I am starting to think about next steps, I think my players are likely to want to pursue a quest to resuscitate the rogue. Whilst they could pool together enough gold at the moment to buy the material components necessary for raise dead, they do not have immediate access to anyone powerful enough to cast such a spell.

That's a totally reasonable course of action. Some posters have asked about the magic level in your world, but if you're saying that this is what your players are likely to try, after adventuring for 3+ levels in your world, then yes.


They are currently in a forest containing a coven of hags, who I think might consider offering assistance but probably at a hefty price involving a moral quandary and a lingering curse.

How much do your players konw about Hags? IF you were playing 3X, I'd have them roll Knowledge checks and clue someone in about Hag curses etc. Not sure how that goes in 5E. (ACtually I'm currently DMing my 7-10 yo kids, so I'd stop the game and flat out tell them, but that's a special case.)


Alternatively, the rogue was rank 1 in the Harpers, who might help if the party can return to a city.

This could probably be combined with the first plan, for a hefty discount on the components or price tag or whatever. (Sorry, haven't played 5E)


Finally, she could simply draw up another character.

If that's what the player wants, that's fine.


All in all, I am not sure how to proceed, I don’t want to make the player in question feel left out (at the end of the session I could tell she was genuinely upset and was joking about not turning up next week), but I also don’t want to cheapen the threat of death. Given it’s their first death, I want to make it a memorable experience.

[quote]So my questions are as follows:
1. What experiences do people have of player death and resuscitation done well?
What you're talking about is the high end of the curve--coming back from the dead is possible, but not easy, and is a memorable adventure in its own right.


2. How do I make the player of a dead character feel involved in a session where their character is not?

That's a toughie. Temporary NPC (ally or villain!) some sort of ghost are the basic options. If ghost, that should effect the players' build path from a drama perspective. After being a ghost for 3 sessions, next level shouldn't be a straight Rogue. Not sure exactly what I'd mandate in 3.5, no idea at all about how to work it in 5.


3. I still feel guilty about killing the character and enjoying the drama of the moment … am I a terrible person?
Nope. OK, maybe. But you're gonna be a good DM, if you're not already.

Firest Kathon
2016-02-12, 09:26 AM
2. How do I make the player of a dead character feel involved in a session where their character is not?
I recommend to make a quick and easy way of resurrection available - the Hag coven seems like a great way to do it. Maybe one of the hags, or an ally, comes about the group sitting around their dead team member and offers them a way to get him back - for "just a little favor". The favor is to be granted afterwards (or even at some unspecified point in the future), this should limit the time the player cannot take part to maybe 30 minutes real-time.

This recommendation is given in the understanding that these are relatively fresh players - they have now seen the consequences their actions may carry. Make it clear to them (IC and if necessary OOC) that such an easy way out cannot always be expected in the future.

lacco36
2016-02-12, 10:01 AM
So my questions are as follows:
1. What experiences do people have of player death and resuscitation done well?
2. How do I make the player of a dead character feel involved in a session where their character is not?
3. I still feel guilty about killing the character and enjoying the drama of the moment … am I a terrible person?

1. When my PC was killed (assasinated when the clueless barbarian thought we can take on assassin's guild as Lvl 2 characters...so he put a contract on my character and our ambushers knocked out everyone and killed my char), my first GM took me aside and described how I went into underworld, met Death and he told me I was not on the list yet. He sent me back, but it drained me physically (=lowered my attributes) and told me that next time we meet it will be the correct time (= no more ressurections).

For my setup it worked - it wasn't my choice that got me killed (I remember that I protested quite vocally, but was overvoted and if I left the group, there would be no chance to survive the attack...) and it was all working together with the world. And it was not "free".

The question is - is the character religious? Maybe his god has plans for him... and will present part of them, but also warn him that another death will be final because he will select different hero.

2. I wouldn't go for the "undead" variant. The deal with the devil (hag in this case) sounds better... "I will ressurect you, but you have to do something for me...". The hag could be encountered right outside. But it shouldn't be free.

3. The first one is always the hardest. However, you were correct - if you provided means to flee (without dying), warned them about the next batch of gnolls, and they still separated (!!!)... well, they were in for it and you did the correct thing.
Now the right question is... how to make the death/ressurection interesting, memorable and even fun for the player? You need to get him to play as soon as possible - however, if you have an interesting idea, which will make them even more entwined with the story, go for it.
They save someone, who has a cleric for a friend and who offers a free resurrection?
They kill the hag and find out she has the cleric scroll of "raise dead" and a small partially burnt note "bring the scroll to the ruins so we can raise the gr...." with her?

...the thing is, if you go for the solution from point 1, think also about this:
For the next few weeks, my character was seen talking to empty meadow, or a tree, or something. The other players were told by the GM that there is nobody standing there, yet there was the Death. And he asked me for favours - first only small ones (move this stone there, cut this step of the ladder here, etc.) but then started the more complicated ones (you will kill this person...). He made me work my debt to him out. However, the other PCs (not players - they heard the GM) thought my PC was going crazy...
So if you do the "mysterious ressurrection" - take the player away from the group. Explain the situation & roleplay it quickly. But make him pay...in his own way :smallsmile:

Zumbs
2016-02-12, 02:21 PM
The question is - is the character religious? Maybe his god has plans for him... and will present part of them, but also warn him that another death will be final because he will select different hero.
Interesting idea. The character doesn't even have to be religious and the entity does not have to be a god. Just a powerful entity that has some sort of interest in the PC ... or figures that the player can be manipulated into a willing tool.

Slipperychicken
2016-02-12, 04:24 PM
So my questions are as follows:
1. What experiences do people have of player death and resuscitation done well?
2. How do I make the player of a dead character feel involved in a session where their character is not?
3. I still feel guilty about killing the character and enjoying the drama of the moment … am I a terrible person?

1. Just don't bring the rogue back for free (for this purpose I count "you owe me a favor" as free). That sets a dangerous precedent. If the players feel like you don't have the stones to kill them and let them stay dead, they'll only get more reckless, expecting you to keep bailing them out. Also it can severely detract from the game's tension when the players feel like they can't ever lose. Allowing them to shell out for a rez isn't as bad, however. It'll put the fear of death in them, and that's what's important.

2. Have your players prepare backup characters so they can keep playing. In this case, the party briefly finds this PC as a companion who will help them until they resurrect their friend, but then leaves for urgent business. Also, you can sometimes let a player control one of the bad guys.

3. Nope. PCs dying is just part of the game. If you don't want to deal with the prospect of RNGesus killing your favorite characters, then maybe you shouldn't be playing D&D. There are games that don't decide these things with dice alone, and they might be better for you if that's the case.

Lvl 2 Expert
2016-02-12, 06:31 PM
You mentioned that the players were near a group of hags? I would suggest having the hags raise the rogue as some kind of undead. The character would keep the same personality, but come back with a limitation/curse that constantly reminds them of the encounter with death. It would make for good roleplaying.

I think I like this option, especially since it leaves the option for a proper raise dead later on open, if the player doesn't just choose to keep the curse because of some cool aspect of it.

The group of hags is such a specific thing that you're not planting an expectation that this sort of help will always be around.

sky red hunter
2016-02-13, 01:34 PM
you could always have them delve into the land of the dead to rescue their dead party members soul, maybe the hags could perform a ritual and send them there, if any of the other members die whilst on the quest they lose their souls too. the cost could be having to fulfill a request for the hags that conflicts directly with the parties morals, like bringing a child sacrifice when they return to pay for the power ( or even do that first?)

MBControl
2016-02-13, 04:52 PM
In a DM round table with a bunch of WotC employees, the same question was asked. I was surprised to hear that most of these DMs, basically said that they would "revive" a fallen PC, with certain conditions.

If the PC's are subject to devastatingly poor die rolls, or amazing rolls from the bad guys, the DM's all said that they would try to find a believable way to prevent the death blow in game, for example a new ally appears and helps the party, or the monster is forced to abandon the fight for some reason.

First of all, the point is to have fun, and not lose players, so if it comes down to losing a valuable member of the play group, it's okay to revive them. You don't want the person that brings the snacks to stop coming do you?

You must create a reasonable scenario, like you've mentioned in your original post, or you remove the threat of death. It may take months before that character returns, but it will make the experience more valuable.

However, ever every DM said that if the PC dies to utter stupidity, that's on them.