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Old 10-11-2018, 07:07 PM   #11
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Default Re: Killing PCs

Depends on the game and the level of player investment in the story and their characters. In my decade long epic fantasy / Arabian Nights campaign, players had binders filled with character history. The players wanted the story to be about their characters attempting to change the world, so I honored that. They didn't die from bad die rolls, despite the fact that many aspects of my world were simulationist. Tension was always high, though, because the stakes in the story mattered a lot to the players. Beloved NPCs died regularly, characters gained unexpected disadvantages, and there were some irreversible plot complications due to poor decisions or strings of bad luck. This is probably my preferred style of play, but it took us years to get the whole thing perfectly tuned.

In my current much-lighter DF game, where many players are running characters from Delvers to Go, characters will die if the dice so dictate. It hasn't happened so far, though there have been some close shaves. Of course, if they save up some cash, they can be resurrected, so that transforms most deaths into another resource-management challenge.
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Old 10-11-2018, 07:14 PM   #12
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Join Date: Jul 2006
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Default Re: Killing PCs

Originally Posted by Nereidalbel View Post
As long as you aren't putting a Plotco lock on doors to prevent the "RUN AWAY!" tactic from working, it's not your fault if the PCs fight to the death.
Exactly. That's pretty much the only time I have Character death, they chose to face something that could one-shot them (and they knew the possibility existed) or they decide to stand and trade killing shots.

Otherwise, there are usually multiple ways to avoid getting into the "and now you die" situations.
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Old 10-11-2018, 07:20 PM   #13
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Default Re: Killing PCs

Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
G/N/S theory has its problems, but this is a prime example where it describe something relevant, because that's basically a narrativist way of looking at PC death. By comparison
  • In Gamist play, the character dies because that's what the rules and the dice said happened. This can be modified or eliminated by choice of scenario and rules, gamist play likely insists on a chance to lose, but dying is not needed.
  • In Simulationist play, the character dies because that's what would happen. Simulationist play is probably the most prone to highly mismatched fights.
I had to read what you wrote like a dozen times to figure out what you're trying to say. And, I'll be honest, I'm not 100% sure I got it now.

You're trying to break everything down into G/N/S and, really, that's just a fool's errand. The OP, it seems to me, was just looking to see how everyone else played. That indicates (and I could be wrong) that they're either a Neophyte GM, or just very new to GURPS and is looking for how things are played.

Here's the big secret: "There's no wrong way to play."

There really isn't. If you're having fun, then, by all means, play the game how you choose. There aren't any GURPS police to come and take your books/PDFs away when you're not playing it the way everyone else does.

All three aspects of G/N/S can co-exist comfortably. They do in my games all the time. Just because Death is off the table as a potential consequence (when Dire Peril is not invoked) doesn't mean that the characters can't fail at their tasks, or suffer permanent consequences for their foolish actions.

The unexpected killing of characters, in my opinion, isn't fun. It pulls one of the players out of the game, and now they have to make a new character. Which they may not be ready to do. They're certainly out for the current session, and, depending on how long it takes for them to get another character ready and approved, may remove them from another session while the GM works them into the story. (YMMV, for certain games, like Paranoia and Murder Hobos, it's fairly easy. For other games, it can be quite difficult).

Where, if they're prepared and want their character to die, forwarding the plot, then they're invested in the story, and are (most likely) already prepared with a replacement character. The GM has had time to think through the plot and can readily introduce the new character.
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Old 10-11-2018, 07:22 PM   #14
Join Date: Feb 2016
Default Re: Killing PCs

In my old GURPS games, the PCs tended to last an average of 10 sessions, as the people that I played with tended to take risks. Of course, I would let them have a few backup characters of the same running value, so they never got too attached to individual characters. Games were fun when people were willing to sacrifice their PCs to preserve the story instead of sacrificing the story to preserve the PCs.
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Old 10-11-2018, 07:39 PM   #15
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Join Date: Oct 2008
Default Re: Killing PCs

It depends a lot on the campaign.

In the current campaign of about 320 sessions there has been no permanent character deaths and about 8 temporary deaths.

In the really hack and slash quickie DF campaign of 16? or so sessions there were about 22 character deaths including one who got eaten by the wumpus.

In the previous longer game of about 110 session here were about 7-8 deaths.

And so on.

I am a firm believer in letting the dice and the situation to stand as they are, but to allow characters many ways to try to avoid death and such.
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Old 10-11-2018, 07:48 PM   #16
Mister Negative
Join Date: Jan 2006
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Default Re: Killing PCs

I'm not sure that what I am conceiving of as 'planned fatalities' is what you mean (I'm thinking that you have a player who has a plan that his PC will die, for dramatic reasons or to change characters).

If that's the case, I've never had that.

I've killed PCs due to bad luck, and due to situations in the game. Admittedly, with fantasy games, death isn't always permanent.

I've had a PC who refused to back down in a fight that the other PCs knew was unwinnable and avoidable (the player knew it too, but his PC was headstrong and blinkered, so it was actually a great RP moment).

I've had PCs who didn't think that someone was holding back, when they were.

I've had PCs who just had bad luck with an opponent who got a lucky shot (not an unforeseeable outcome, but an unanticipated one).

I've had PCs who just took a risk that was small, but deadly.

My players are generally surprised at how much I seem to want their opponents to win, and some opponents have a 'win condition' of "you die". On the other hand, despite playing a LOT of combats with a strong and deliberate attempt to kill one or more PCs, the players have never complained about an unfair fight. I try to never give my villains unfair knowledge of the PCs--but I also try to run opposition that is a credible threat.

That means that there's no point in running an ancient wizard with devastating spells and reliable scrying and unfettered power, because he will just kill the PCs. On the other hand, I have run an ancient wizard with devastating spells, somewhat reliable scrying with a blind spot, and an unreliable access to the campaign world. They beat him, on the second try. On the first try, they almost all nearly died (and would have, without a planned and executed escape plan).
Build a man a fire and he's warm for the night.

Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
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Old 10-11-2018, 07:53 PM   #17
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Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: New Orleans, LA
Default Re: Killing PCs

Things like Dungeon Fantasy, Monster Hunters or Gurps Action which by their very nature tend to have high body counts. They also have pretty good templates which makes the somewhat long task of character generation in Gurps take a lot less time (A LOT LESS) so PC death can be more common.

On the other hand, If I spent a half an hour painstakingly creating a character from scratch and while pouring over optional rules only to have it die from dumb luck or random chance...I'd be pretty put out and not very likely to make another character with that amount of care again.

While none of this takes into account players not being invested in the game, the more effort and work it takes to make a character the less likely it should die for no real reason.
I'll not mention any names but there is a multi genre scifi fantasy game that came on the market over 20 years ago that had a character generation that took upwards of an hour. It also had a high attrition rate. After making my third character I walked away form that table and never looked back. (It was the way the GM ran that game with character death happening a lot and generation taking forever that made me walk away, the game is fine if that's your thing.)
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Old 10-11-2018, 08:08 PM   #18
Join Date: Jun 2005
Default Re: Killing PCs

Originally Posted by Anthony View Post
G/N/S theory has its problems, but this is a prime example where it describe something relevant, because that's basically a narrativist way of looking at PC death.
On the other hand, I don't think it's the only narrativist way of doing so.

My view of narrative is that it leads up to climactic scenes where protagonists take decisive actions with a great deal at stake, where in effect the question is, "What price are you willing to pay to attain your goal/preserve your values?" And in an RPG, that question is asked by rolling the dice when failed rolls lead to truly bad consequences: that is, when there is really good reason for the dice to come out. Ideally, the player who picks up the dice is narratively declaring that their character is ready to risk losing something important to get what they want. And one of the most important things a character can lose is their own survival. In fact, that's not only a loss in the game world, for the character, but a loss for the player, who can no longer play that character.

I don't often have PC deaths; I think I've had three in the past quarter century. But my players have always been convinced that their characters COULD die. And I think this has led them to play their characters not as toons, and not as reckless fools who constantly take insane chances, and also not as Godzilla stomping on a succession of Bambis, but as rational people who sometimes face risks because the alternative is worse. I think that's more dramatic.

And to get this result, on one hand, I avoid fudging dice rolls; and on the other, I don't allow players to just bring in a clone after their character dies.

This isn't to say that everyone else has to do it that way. This is the way I like to do it. But what I am saying is that I think my underlying rationale for doing things this way can be called "narrativist" as plausibly as Mark's rationale for his quite different approach. There's more than one type of narrative.
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Old 10-11-2018, 08:40 PM   #19
Fred Brackin
Join Date: Aug 2007
Default Re: Killing PCs

The only time it's happened in the modern age (ad I still hear about it) it was a mixture of luck and bad module design.

I was running 3.5 from a boxed set mega-dungeon. The PCs were 2nd level and the encounter was with the module's special "variant" Orcs.

3.5 Orcs were already designed as glass cannons with poor AC and 2-handed weapons. Really not the way things should be done. The variant Orcs traded Dex for Str giving them more damage but lower AC. They also had only 6 hp.

Fianlly the module either cheated or screwed up dependign on how charitable you're feeling. When they transcribed weapon stats for the capsule description a x2 polearm turned into a x3.

So there we were and the "special" Orcs are dying early and often and not challenging the PCs at all until one of them rolls that natural 20 and does 42 hp to a 2nd level Illusionist (or maybe a Beguiler if you remember your 3.5).

I try and watch out for that sort of bad design these days and I never plan to kill PCs. That just slows up the game and diverts time and energy from playing. Although the next time someone tries to run "My parents were killed by Orcs and I have sworn eternal vegneance agsint all their kind!" a cow may fall out of a clear blue sky on them during character creation.
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Old 10-11-2018, 10:28 PM   #20
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Berkeley, CA
Default Re: Killing PCs

Originally Posted by Fred Brackin View Post
3.5 Orcs were already designed as glass cannons with poor AC and 2-handed weapons.
Hey, it was an improvement over 3e orcs -- they shifted from a d12(x3) weapon to a 2d4(18-20/x2) weapon.
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