Raising the dead is an expensive business. You’ve got to strike dark bargains with unsavory entities, shell out for a king’s ransom worth of diamonds, or spin the reincarnation wheel and hope you don’t come back as a lizardfolk or some crap. But no matter how you make your way back from death’s cold domain, there is always a cost to the process, and you can count yourself lucky if that cost is in gold.

Sound fair? Well I hope so, because here comes the controversial part: as a GM, I don’t like permadeath. Or rather, I don’t like permadeath without player buy-in. I’m running on the theory that tabletop role-playing games are an act of collaborative storytelling. Sure the guy at the head of the table has the lion’s share of narrative control, but the lowly players ought to have some input as well, especially where their characters are concerned. Players, after all, are the people you as a GM are trying to entertain. If their entire experience of the game world is bound up in the trials and tribulations of a single character, why in the world would you unilaterally decide that character is no longer a part of the story?

OK, sure. It “takes away from the realism” and creates players who “aren’t scared of consequences.” But you know what? We’re in the land of action, adventure, science-fiction, and fantasy. There are a thousand different ways to justify miraculous returns from the dead. That’s why, when a PC in one of my games dies, I immediately ask them if they’d like to roll up a new guy or help me come up with a reason to resurrect their character. There will always be consequences, and in many cases these will be worse than death. For some that might mean swearing allegiance to a new deity. For others (cough Thief cough) it might mean losing out on 5,000 gold.

So how about you guys? How do you handle it when players kick the bucket? Do you go with permadeath, willy-nilly resurrection, or some balance of the two?


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