If you’ve ever heard of the pile of dead bards, then you already know what’s up. It’s not easy saying goodbye to a beloved PC, but with enough printer ink and a suitably lenient GM, you don’t have to! Just bring in the long lost twin brother / mirror universe version / identically built dude named Fïghtër and you’re good to go! It strains credulity, but hey, as long as the player’s happy, right?

Well, not exactly. You guys know my opinion on PC death. You know that I like for my players to have some kind of say in their PCs’ ultimate fate. However, I also think it behooves a player to move on. PCs have a shelf life, and if the dramatically appropriate climax rolls around, clinging to a PC can ruin the moment. There’s something unsavory about the revolving door of death. It’s the thing that players object to when they say that “easy resurrection cheapens the game.” When I see the sentiment in forums, it’s usually followed up with, “Taking death out of the equation removes all the tension!” For some players that may be true, but for me it’s more about squandering a good tragedy than losing a sense of threat.

Take my last dead player. He was a ranger, and he’d just challenged the Priest King of the Bestial Host to single combat. Now this Priest King was a badass troll with cleric levels, and the fight was friggin’ epic. The besieged townsfolk looked on from the walls. The other players, huddled in their orc disguises, muttered prayers from ringside. And when the Priest King finally lost his last hit point, got booted into the conveniently placed bonfire, and began to smolder fitfully, everyone thought the day was won. The triumphant ranger began making his victory speech. He commanded the Bestial Host to lay down their arms, leave human lands forever, donate to the local puppy orphanage, etc. etc. good guy stuff. Unfortunately, the Priest King had fire resistant armor, and he was slowly regenerating the whole time. Suffice it to say that the ranger didn’t survive surprise-attack-round-2.

The other party members managed to finish off the fire resistant troll. They scattered the horde, saved the day, and even managed to recover the ranger’s body. However, it’s tough to beat dying in single combat against the big bad.  The ranger’s warrior spirit refused the party’s resurrection attempts, and I think the campaign was better for that decision. The hero was brave, the villain was treacherous, and the death was memorable. Coming back after that would have been anticlimactic. That’s not an easy call to make, but in my book it makes the player ever bit as heroic as the PC.

Question of the day then. Have you ever seen a truly excellent death in a game? Conversely, have you witnessed an ill-conceived resurrection when the PC really ought to have stayed dead? Let’s hear your tales of mostly dead PCs in the comments!

 

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