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The Seer Vitz

Death: Just Another NPC?

On Tuesday, while hosting chat, a bunch of people told me that they wanted to game. Though I was hesitant, I decided to go ahead and GM anyway. However, after a few minutes, one of the people had to leave, and since I wasn't really in the mood to GM, I decided to kill off everyone else, giving them little chance of survival. Actually, none.

In my opinion, though, death should not be used by the GM. By being used, I mean the GM should not create a situation where death is the only possibility. Nor should a GM prevent a death of a character if that player did something really stupid. If the GM starts involving himself in influencing death, the whole challenge of the game disappears.

Now, I am not saying that a GM should not allow for characters to have lucky breaks instead of dying. That is one of the things that makes a character a hero, surviving in situations where others would not. It is important to remember that characters are heroes and not just normal citizens.

Yet, death should be feared. If the GM influences situations too often, then the players will not respect it as they should, and will start thinking that the GM will prevent anything bad from happening. No matter how close the characters come to death, make sure that they realize that maybe next time they will not be so lucky. If they still respect death then they will enjoy the game more.

On the other hand, do not kill off characters just so that the others fear death. That is very counterproductive. Players will become so afraid of dying that they will no longer play their characters as heroes, but instead as commoners. Yet, creating a situation where death is the most obvious outcome is not entirely wrong, as long as there IS a way out. For once the characters do find the way to survive, they will have enjoyed the situation just that much more!

So even though I have killed off entire parties without giving them a chance, I do not suggest that you do the same <s>. No, I am not being hypocritical, I know that doing it is wrong, but I do it anyway. In a real campaign I would not do it, but in the situation I described it was not even a real adventure. One time I did it in a real adventure, but that was only because I took over GM'ing from another GM and was not impressed with the amount of magical items, experience points, and other things which that GM had given out. I could have handled that in a much better way, however, and would if I had to do it over again. Yet, at the time it seemed the best idea.

Do you agree? Or, do you think that death should just be a tool of the GM to rid himself of troublesome players? Let me know!

In my own words,

James A. Vitz
RPG Columnist