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D&D 3E
PC Death 
24th-Apr-2006 09:05 am
LJ Drama
How do you guys handle character death?

In one of the games I play in right now, the DM is worried that PC deaths are going to cause the party to become unbalanced. IE, Fred the Fighter dies, and everyone takes his spiffy magic items, and Fred II The Fighter comes in with a whole new set of magic items. Thoughts?
24th-Apr-2006 01:09 pm (UTC)
Make Fred the Second come in at a lower character wealth. Either the party can cough up Fred-the-First's goodies, or he can be at lower wealth until natural selection brings him to the norm.
24th-Apr-2006 01:10 pm (UTC)
How much lower would you suggest?
24th-Apr-2006 01:38 pm (UTC)
I'd say not more than half, depending on the condition of Fred-The-First's gear and his general wealth level. If he was over valued, less. If he was under...more.
24th-Apr-2006 01:16 pm (UTC)
hmm in my game Fred 2 comes back with normal character wealth while Fred 1's items all become unlootable except for story items of coz ~
24th-Apr-2006 01:17 pm (UTC)
You could also encourage roleplaying rather than munchkinism. Maybe suggest that the PCs bury their friend along with his favorite magical sword, rather than carry it around as a backup weapon. Of course, carry around the weapon and using it in Fred's name is could also be good. But general looting of other PCs isn't exactly friendly like.

Or, depending on the circumstances of Fred's death, it's quite likely some of his gear was destroyed and so can't just be looted. And if you are at the level where that many magical items is an issue, maybe the party should look into hocking Fred's gear to get Fred ressurected, rather than just replacing the character at full power?

In any case, as mentioned above, new PCs should probably start out at a level or two lower. Also, you could just have the new PC come in with full gear, and so the party is a little above the bar for a while, but then just cut back on the wealth you provide them until things balance out.
24th-Apr-2006 01:30 pm (UTC)
Some of this is pretty good suggestions. Depending on how fred I was killed, potions might be smashed, armor rent and broken, amulets crushed. Allowing some of it to be taken would be alright though. If it balances with the wealth the other characters SHOULD have, then nothing is amiss. Check the chart near the blue lady in the dm's guide.

I usually start new characters 1 level lower than the rest of the party (just like if they used a raise dead spell)
24th-Apr-2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
New characters at 1 level lower has been my group's rule for eternity. Sometimes I penalize more levels for character tanking.
24th-Apr-2006 01:22 pm (UTC)
Depends on your favourite style of game play. We're all about the story. A PC death will be a big event, it'll be a key part of the story and not just a lootfest. I suspect games like this have much less in the way of magic weapons which could unbalance the action scenes but (and I know this isn't DnD canon) given that these things are magical anything could happen when their wielder dies. They could die too.

Or you could work in a plot strand designed to de-power the characters. Magical weapons could get lost, stolen, faded or even cursed, etc.
24th-Apr-2006 01:38 pm (UTC)
If there are significant quantities of magic items, then the party must be at a level where some form of raise dead is available. Why does Fred I not get raised? If the party are mercenary enough to loot Fred's gear and not cough up for a Raise Dead, then Fred II should be very wary indeed...
24th-Apr-2006 02:06 pm (UTC)
Not everyone agrees to come back from the dead. The character has to be willing... if Johnny the player of Fred I doesn't want him to come back, he will not.
24th-Apr-2006 02:15 pm (UTC)
And then you have to start questioning why. If Johnny doesn't want Fred1 raised because he wants to be able to give the party an instant influx of magical items, that's a problem (which might seem to be the case if Fred1 and Fred2 are otherwise the same character). Or if Johnny wants to do a rebuild, taking a different feat at 3rd level for some odd reason, there's a way to react to that. Or if Johnny actually doesn't like playing Fred1 anymore, there are different issues in that.

I'd be wary of any player who says "My character wouldn't want to come back from the dead." That indicates to me that there is some problem in the game, either on the player's side or on the DM's side.
24th-Apr-2006 03:03 pm (UTC)
We had one who didn't think he was playing the character well, and brought back another who was a different class, different person, etc. He refused a res.

I can understand the concern however.
24th-Apr-2006 04:16 pm (UTC)
I remember one case where I was playing a half-orc fighter / thief with a pronounced hatred / fear of spellcasters. He continually refused magical healing, and once beat the party's wizard to a pulp for casting cats's grace on him without asking. He did have a couple of minor magic items - defensive or anti-magical, but these were viewed with suspicion, and not trusted very much more than spells.

Would you have thought there was something wrong with him refusing to be resurrected? What if he'd belonged to a religion that believed that the Gods gave su one life each, and any attempt to circumvent that was evil, and no different from coming back as an undead? What if they (Buffy season 7) simply find themselves in an afterlife so pleasent that they have no reason to want to leave?

OK, that last one isn't really within the scope of the game, but still...
24th-Apr-2006 04:18 pm (UTC)
Correction, Buffy Season 6. (Man that was depressing to watch)
24th-Apr-2006 05:18 pm (UTC)
"I think I was in he.....avan..."
24th-Apr-2006 08:47 pm (UTC)
I'm just saying, it's something to watch for. If you've set up your character for a while as making sense to refuse a raise, then that's fine. But if Fred suddenly decides that he doesn't want to be res'd in favor of his Fred2 clone, alarm bells begin to ring.
24th-Apr-2006 11:33 pm (UTC)
In your situation, that's totally believable.

However, with a character like Fred I, with a TON of magic items to his name, this is highly unlikely to occur.

The one-life-each situation could still hold true, I guess.

But even so...unless this is a very low-magic game, adventurers have got to be accustomed to these things.

If I were the DM, I would rule that the character could refuse resurrection on the "one life per" grounds ONLY if the character had previously stated a religious affiliation and explained the implications thereof. Anything else is suspiciously similar to munchkining.
24th-Apr-2006 03:08 pm (UTC)
Fair enough, and if the party are prepared to honour Fred's wishes, then they will also ensure that his next of kin get his possessions.
24th-Apr-2006 02:11 pm (UTC)
I think it's an over-blown concern.

At low levels, there are few spiffy items to worry about.

At higher levels, you can take some (or possibly just one) of Fred's spiffy items and use them to pay for a raise dead. (6,125 for the scroll).

Fred the fighter's spiffy items probably aren't as useful to his companions as they were to him in any case. So most of the stuff gets sold.

Finally- if you break down the magic items and carried equipment value of a single character, divide it by three (the other three party members), and sell it off or whatever, you usually get about an encounters'worth of extra loot. Not enough for the GM to bother worrying about. (All a GM would have to do to put in an encounter that had no treasure value- and there are plenty of those.. )

24th-Apr-2006 02:16 pm (UTC)
lots of good suggestions. you could also have the party hire the new pc for the cost of fred's items.
(Deleted comment)
24th-Apr-2006 03:54 pm (UTC)
I'm thinking of doing this for my next campaign (half level) to discourage dumping an existing character to try a new build; I'd rather see a player do a total rebuild on a character and keep the name, race, and general background so that I don't have to introduce a whole new PC into the game, because all the experience and contacts and knowledge of the previous PC goes away if somebody gets permanently killed off.

In my current campaign, a Paladin of Horus refused a Raise Dead because the Mulhorandi pantheon has a problem with raise dead. The party performed a ritual over his body which caused him to be interred into a tomb with all his main weapons, then they did loot split on the rest.

A wizard/cleric who died three times had left a will behind stating that if she died a third time, it was a sign from Mystra that it was time for her to move on, and this adventuring gig just wasn't working out for her. She left her flying carpet to her raven familiar, because irony was a powerful force in her life (hey, what happens to familiars after their masters die? do they just go back to being dumb animals? this raven was talking and smarter than most of the PC's...), and all the rest of her gear went to her church.
24th-Apr-2006 05:06 pm (UTC)
I'd have multiple problems with this, but they're mostly flavor and continuity issues. First, the one-level penalty is to encourage characters to play dramatically instead of Munchkin-ly. You'd be penalizing them a month or more's worth of play time for overestimating their abilities a bit or having a run of bad rolls.

Second, why would a player that came back from the dead have forgotten Cleave and figured out Deflect Arrows? This almost seems to require beyond-the-grave RPing. There's plenty of easy scenarios where a new PC would have the same contacts and knowledge as the old PC - Krunk the Barbarian's sister is Desdemona the Druid, and she's coming to take the body home for burial, when she realizes her purpose is with the group. She'd have similar contacts and knowledge to Krunk before he joined the party, and if Krunk didn't share with the party information attained while adventuring, well...it should be lost.

Third, a familiar's stats are so high because of the mystical bond with their ever-developing master. When that bond is severed, the stats should be lost, and the familiar may even be traumatized from the psychic backlash of that bond snapping.

But like I said, that's my opinion, I don't think it'd severely unbalance the game or anything.
24th-Apr-2006 03:18 pm (UTC)
The looting thing has been common in our games of late.

Metagamingly so, I've always insured that my characters (regardless of alignment) have some form of respect for the dead and their belongings, and I always ensure that one of the following happens.

a) The loot gets used to resurrect the PC.
b) The loot gets returned to the PC's family.
c) The loot gets donated to an organization that the PC belonged to/would have liked to see things donated to (orphanage, charity, mercenary compound, high-scale military campaign).
d) The loot goes towards downtime-related aspect X (i.e. home base for the PCs, helping out the PC's home town).
e) The loot goes towards a monument/memorial/grave/tomb for the PC (if sufficiently high level).
f) The loot gets buried with the PC (especially or with the exception of a few prize items; if not buried, they're usually kept by PCs as momentos).

I can recall one game where one of the PCs (who was particularly loaded where cash was concerned, as the only remaining original party member) died. She had been a major mentor to my character and essentially taken her under her wing to keep her safe (despite being a conpsiring, theiving, murdering, lawful evil, religious zealot). So, when the other PCs, caring little for her at the time, looted the corpse, I stayed up one night, took all the items when I was on watch, shadow walk'd and walked to her burial site, buried the goods (keeping only her non-magical dagger), and shadow walk'd back before they woke up

It helped build some good tension between the party (none of the players complained, but the characters sure as hell did) and solved the loot problem at the same time. ^_^
24th-Apr-2006 04:33 pm (UTC)
The way I do it is I bring him in at normal wealth for his level...minus all the magic items he had when the player died. So if he's supposed to have 30K when he comes in and had 24k worth of items, he now has only 6k to work with. If the other players hoard his items and don't give him at least a few of the items they are being dicks.
24th-Apr-2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
Eliminate PC death. Seriously. When a PC gets to 0 hit points or lower, he is incapacitated as usual, but when he reaches -10, he doesn't die.

It isn't fun to die, right? It causes problems. If you're worried about losing battles having no "punch," implement an XP penalty or something. When he gets to -10 or worse, he loses 100 XP * character level.

This cures all kinds of ills with game. Continuity. Balance issues due to corpse looting. Losing your favorite character.

If that doesn't work for you, consider some game-world ideas like The Afterlife -- you must be cremated/buried with your belongings so you can take them to the afterlife with you. Corpses who are robbed are more likely to come back as angry spirits to take revenge on the looters.
24th-Apr-2006 08:20 pm (UTC)
We do it the way you described, and I haven't noticed any problems with balance because of it.

The easiest way to maintain balance is to simply load more items onto the badguys. For evil NPCs, alignment-based items are a good way to slow down the arms race as well (unless you happen to have evil PCs).
24th-Apr-2006 11:23 pm (UTC)
Hmm, that's a really interesting question--in the games I played in, we just paid for a resurrection spell of some variety. Not that death happened all that often, but yeah. Then we hit 17th level and our cleric became able to cast True Resurrection, and suddenly it didn't matter anymore.

If Fred dies, and the other party members take his stuff (instead of sending it (or the proceeds from its sale) back to his family, but I take it you're not playing a character-driven game), and Fred II comes in with *more* magic items, then the DM should just diminish the treasure for the next couple of encountes. Gigantic non-hoarding undead or something. That will balance the game enough, I think.
25th-Apr-2006 01:00 am (UTC)
I suggest he just rerolls and starts a new character.

Make the death mean something, write in his replacement. I wouldnt offer ANY of the previous character's wealth.

As a house rule, we often would allow a reroll of a character to be introduced with comparable equipment (random rolls) and a level loss.

There is no reason to let the new character benefit from the death of his previous one.

Furthermore, I have never believed in "party balance". I find it far more interesting if people play what they want to, and if it means they have no healer... they just have to think about what they are doing better.

25th-Apr-2006 05:02 am (UTC)
I've been part of and had to deal with this problem in my dnd time. When 3rd first came out our DM allowed us to make an equal level character with no penalties...so it turned out everyone ended up having a cloak of resistance, ring of protection and boots of striding and springing from old dead characters. But after reading the posts here I'm decided to do some of the following things when I start a game in a few months:

-new characters will be one (maybe 2?) levels lower.
-new characters equipment won't be of the PC's choice. Its not like they're handed 5400gp (or whatever amount) and told to go out there and make a name for themselves. It should come over time. Failing this, give them a limited selection to choose from. "No you can't buy that Vorpal Flaming butter knife!"
-Parties who kick the bodies of dead PC's to the side after stripping them of gear will find it harder and harder to find new recruits. Who wants to join a party of adventurers who bring a wagon for dead PC gear? Townsfolk will begin to believe they are cursed/bad luck.
-When a PC does die....think about HOW he died....see what items could be destroyed. If you know the player is thinking of a new character, well then, that mithril breast plate was torn apart. Too shredded to be repaired.

Ask the players would they try to raise dead on you or other players if such thing was possible for us. Assuming the party is friendly. One game I DM'ed had two Elven twin brothers. One died and the surviving one would not let anyone touch his brother or the gear. He carried it all to town and had it sent off to their homeland. He kept the brothers ring of protection. But that didn't matter. He already wore one. It was a memento.

25th-Apr-2006 11:48 am (UTC)
A high level character needn't have an excessive amount of magical items, especially on outset. In the vast array of heroic tale and fiction, one or two magical items were considered rather powerful.

Your DM should consider not so much the limiting of magic item distribution but the refocus of the campaign on achieving goals within the fantasy world rather than the accumulation of meaningless trophies.

A +2 sword is not very valuable, but a +2 sword that had several owners and a long legacy is all the more valuable, especially when legends surrounding that sword are recalled by various opponents.

Has the DM considered non-standard magical items, such as a silently sentient weapon that uses magic to learn the name of every enemy it slays and casts True Resurrection on any slain foe a century later? There's a valuable sword +1 for a story.

Keep in mind that even non-magical items might have a history with them and might have signifigance to royal families and people of power.
27th-Apr-2006 03:58 pm (UTC)
I love that sentient sword idea.
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