MATT: Hello. My name is Matthew Mercer.
I’m a voice actor and the Dungeon Master on Critical Role here on Geek & Sundry,
and today’s topic is the joyous, wondrous event of player character death. [music] In running most RPGs there is the inevitable
scenario of a PC falling in battle without means of recovery. Months or years of
character development and investment gone in a flash. Now how do you guide your
players through such an intense scenario and move forward in a positive way.
I mean it’s the danger you must maintain in your game if it’s to hold any real weight
and stakes for the players. In the earlier levels it can really be a constant,
real threat. It can be a emotional and difficult scenario to see through as a GM so
be ready and here are some ways to hopefully make it easier for the player to digest,
and make it a real powerful and memorable moment for the game as a whole. First, let the players know that when you
begin the campaign that player death is indeed a real possibility. Make sure they understand
that fact early in so as you progress it doesn’t catch them off guard when it
does happen for the first time. At least, as off guard as it would.
It’s going to catch you off guard regardless, but, you know what I mean. Now when
the moment does happen, don’t gloss over it. Explain the death as cinematically as you can,
letting the epic final moments ring out in the party is a powerful if incredibly sad, moment.
Now, outside of a non-recoverable corpse, or a death that destroys the body instantly,
consider letting the player get a few last words out as a battle cry or inspiration to their friends
to carry on that will allow a very clear crystal moment for that character to really be remembered
by the rest of the players and the PCs for that matter. If there is no resurrection recourse for the PCs
give some time to let the group mourn in game, in character and perhaps, if in game time allows,
hold a role playing wake. Try your best to play up the warriors wake
with celebration of their life over hanging on to the sadness of death instead.
It really helps the players kind of digest in a positive light and tell rousing stories
of great memories they had with their party member and kind of just overall gives a better and more
healing spin on the whole experience. Also, let the player of the deceased character
write an epilogue for their tale. Perhaps as a way to get down those unspoken words
they never really got a chance to say before their untimely end came.
After the session is done in which the character falls, maybe shortly in the future, depending on gauging it,
go out with the players to get drinks or a fine meal to celebrate the memory of the character as
just a group of friends sitting in a restaurant somewhere. It really also helps to get rid of all the tension
of the moment and let you guys remind yourself that it’s just a game and you’re all friends
still having a good time even when the sad moments happen. As soon as it feels
comfortable after the session, go ahead and speak directly with the player about the excitement
of getting to create a brand new character and all the endless possibilities for
trying out new skills and abilities. Brainstorm new character story ideas and how
they would fit into the current campaign. If they’re still really attached to their dead
characters, perhaps you could brainstorm a way to have the new character involved in the
backstory of the deceased PC so that a spiritual successor is found and it carries the torch.
You can discuss with the other players ways to keep the memory of the fallen
in the game as you go on. They could craft bracelets of remembrance they refer to in
the future during moments of tension. Perhaps they could name their new keep after
the dead. They could use their name as a war cry in future struggles. Things like that. Ways to keep
the memory of that character alive as they play on. There is sometimes difficulty in incorporating
a new character into a long-running adventuring party. Filling a hole in a long-established rapport
can be strange and finding a way for you, the GM, to bring them in without feeling too forced
can really be an interesting challenge. Trust me. It sucks. I recommend finding a way to tie
them to the main narrative threads or the current overarching quest. Talk with the player about this,
and talk with your other PCs about being receptive, as much as their PCs can be, to a new ally.
The new PC can be related to, or a friend or ally, to the deceased PC, wishing to avenge them
and see their goal to completion in their honor. The new PC could even be an off-screen NPC
from another player’s character’s backstory, with that player’s permission of course,
already tying them to the party and giving them inherent stakes in the story. The new PC
could have strongly aligned goals with the party and having heard of their proven skills and renown
wish to ensure the best means of success for both of them. They could even arrive
to the party with extremely essential information, or an essential artifact of the main quest,
quickly tying them to the fate of the adventuring party. The new PC could have a long history with
the main antagonist – wishing to tear them down for personal reasons, and they seek like-minded allies
to achieve this goal. The new PC could even pick up the reins of a non-essential NPC you introduced
that the player took a shine to and bring them to the forefront of the story as a PC now.
You inform the player of what you had developed regarding that NPC and their story and
let them take that and run with it for the future. These are all options and ideas of ways to do it,
and there are many others that you may want to research on your own, but I hope that at least
these will be somewhat helpful in tackling this somewhat difficult circumstance in your game. Well thank you so much for watching.
You can see other episodes of GM Tips here on geekandsundry.com.
I’m Matthew Mercer and I’ll see you on the internet. [fantasy music] [Geek & Sundry theme music]