At some point in your GMing career, a PC is going to die during one of your games. It’s inevitable (some might even say it’s recommended).
And depending on the style of your game, the way it happens, the player in question, how long the PC has been around and the finality of the death itself (very final in many RPGs, not so much in others), it can go very well or very poorly.
One of the best ways to learn about how to tackle this often-tricky issue is from other GMs — and that’s where this survey comes in. If a PC has ever died in one of your campaigns, how did it happen — and what was it like?
Many players take the death of their character very hard — and given the time and, in many cases, emotional investment involved in playing the character, that’s understandable.
As the GM, you have a lot of control over how and whether or not PCs die, whether you’re fudging rolls to try and avoid it or letting the dice fall where they may.
The Player Character Death Survey (PCDS)
For the PCDS, pick a PC who died in one of your games and tell us a little bit about how it happened. It’s most useful to pick a PC death that went exceptionally well (with “well” defined as you see fit) or badly. TPKs are off limits (not that they’re not interesting, but that’s a different ball of wax).
1. Tell us a little bit about the PC. How long was she played? How attached was the player to his character?
2. How did the PC die? Was it a random encounter? Unlucky roll? Bad judgment on your part?
3. How did your player take it? Did he shrug and grab a new character sheet? Quit the game? Something in between?
4. How did you handle the PC’s death? As the GM, there are lots of ways you can approach this — some good, some not so good.
5. How did the style of your game affect the answers to questions 2, 3 and 4? Whether the campaign is a hack-and-slash dungeon crawl or a story-driven makes a big difference.
6. In retrospect, do you wish things had gone differently? (This is a deliberately broad question.)
If you’re so inclined, you’re welcome to answer the PCDS twice — once for a PC death that went well, and again for one that went poorly.
To save you from having to rewrite the questions, or cut and paste them individually, here they are in a nice block:
1. Tell us a little bit about the PC.
2. How did the PC die?
3. How did your player take it?
4. How did you handle the PC’s death?
5. How did the style of your game affect the answers to questions 2, 3 and 4?
6. In retrospect, do you wish things had gone differently?
I look forward to hearing your harrowing stories of PC death.