View Full Version : DM Help Replacing PC death with physical and mental defects

2017-06-25, 08:48 AM
As I'm running a roleplay-heavy game, my players spend days (maybe even weeks) thinking about their character background, where the end result is a 5 to 15 page document.

That being said, character death is always a bit of an issue, as players are forced to throw out all their work because a bad die roll in a challenging encounter cost them their lives. On the other hand, risk and danger drives combat encounters, at least in part, which is why it should be possible to die.

In my campaign the PCs have a set of objectives to complete over a several months before time runs out. This gives me a good opportunity to replace character death with near-death experiences, where the PC is deformed in some way (mentally or physically). Depending on the illness itself, the player can treat it by seeking out healers, going to out-of-the-way shrines or other magical locations, by simply resting or meditating for a while. This takes time, which is a scarce resource. On the other hand, the PC can live and fight with the ailment, but he will have some penalties during his adventures.

In my mind, all of this can lead to good roleplay. Regarding this idea, I have several questions I'd like to discuss:

1) Is there a resource which offers good ailments of this kind (physical and/or mental). I know darkest dungeon does something similar with mental conditions.
2) Should I let the players decide what kind of ailment they wish to receive or should I let the dice decide?

The players are rather experienced, so they don't view the game as "DM vs PCs" which is why I don't believe they will always choose the optimal choice and will opt for good RP.

2017-06-25, 12:01 PM
Savage Worlds has a table for lasting injuries after a near death experience. You might be able to repurpose that for your game.

I like that you've listed ways the PCs can still heal themselves. Before I read your description I was worried that permanently crippling a PC may simply be akin to death. In that the PC still becomes effectively unplayable. But I like what you've done.

If you trust your PCs you might want to let them decide what injuries they receive. That way, thematically it makes sense. The issue with dice randomness if you could end up with a mental attack causing someone to lose a leg or something. It's not necessarily bad, it's just random. Then again, I love the randomness of RPGs. So it's a not lose situation in my book.

2017-06-25, 01:13 PM
I tend to play systems where characters are assumed to be knocked out rather than killed by default (Mutants and Masterminds), or ones where damage sustained during battle creates some kind of lasting consequences, which also can be death but usually aren't (FATE, Legend of Wulin, STaRS, etc). This type of penalty usually follows the "player picks what affliction they get, but the game master can veto it if they feel it's inappropriate/too inconsequential/etc" format.

Death is a poor motivator for player behavior, especially in games like DnD which on one hand tend to be pretty lethal, but on the other resurrecting characters is easy and affordable - a bit of a mixed message? From my experience, not wanting to lose is already a good enough motivator, and if your players want to focus on roleplaying then they shouldn't have problems acting out like their characters are in risk of dying even if that is not the case OOCly. So even if all you do is knock players out without mechanical penalties for doing so, it should be fine.

Darth Ultron
2017-06-25, 09:19 PM
1.It depends what you think is ''good''. There is mostly boring mechanical stuff.
2.I'd go with ''3'' DM Picks.

So first of all you will need to make the defects really matter. If your just going to do a -1 or something that will only come up like once a game for like two minutes, then you might as well not bother. If your not going to really effect the character, the game and game play, it won't work.

Next your going to need to be clear that characters need to live with the defects. There is a good chance you will have at least one three second jerk who will be like ''ok, whatever...I cure it.''

And for the ''finding the cure part'', you will need to be clear to the players that they can't derail the whole game just for their special character's cure. Again, you will likely have at least one player that will be like ''slam! stop the game! We must do nothing except cure my character!''

Unless, of course, you like disruptions to the game and like it when players do stuff like that.

It's hard for some players to pick ''negative'' things, chances are you will have at least one such player. So if you let the players pick, some will pick silly ones that won't effect their character anyway.

Even more so you will likely have at least one player that will be a jerk about it too. They will, again, disrupt the game. Like they will waste three hours of game time ''role playing'' how their character does not want to cross a ten foot high bridge as they are ''afraid of heights and just playing their character." But later they will jump off a 1,000 foot high bridge onto the back of a dragon and do something cool and be like ''what stupid fear of heights?"

2017-06-25, 10:16 PM
You could probably use the Injuries & Setbacks table from Low Fantasy Gaming RPG (free PDF): https://lowfantasygaming.com/