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Permadeath vs. death protection (for PCs, not NPCs)


Permadeath vs. death protection  

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A pretty straightforward discussion - do you like it if there is always some danger for your characters (as long as it is not unfair) or do you never want to risk losing them? Deciding on permadeath or death protection seems like an important decision, so I'd be interested to learn which one you chose and why. Or maybe you have both in some way?

 

In one of our old RPs that had a battle system, we had permadeath and lost a number of characters, I think over 10. While it is sad to lose a character it also allowed for some pretty touching or even outright devastating scenes, like a man who had a whole side-chapter devoted to him where he tried to save his daughter - which he did - only to die in the next one after finally rescuing her (the side-chapter even had a whole dungeon). Or a trio of best friends where two of them died in the same battle while the third run had to run away, trying to not have a psychological breakdown at the same time (which happened after the battle), a former comrade that left the group but was mutated and had to be killed, a brave group of friends that died protecting a city, and so on.

I'm not sure if I would use permadeath again which is why it would be interesting to hear more about the topic from others.

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I voted for No deaths but actually fall between 1 and 4.

 

As hard as I work on a character's bio, and due to usually only running one or two characters in others' games, I do not want my character killed off unless I've requested it or have discussed it and agreed to it. Getting hurt if it furthers the game story, near-misses, etc., are fine unless they are just attention-grabbers. I do not expect my character(s) to win all fights or come through every scene unscathed.

 

With that said, however, were I to write my character doing something incredibly stupid or moronic that no one could hope to survive, then it's hasta-la-bye-bye! Usually though, if I enter into that sort of scene, I've talked to the other player(s) and sorted exactly what my character can do to survive whatever he or she is up against.

 

Honestly, I don't even like killing off players' characters when the player has poofed or been asked to leave. It draws too much attention to someone who doesn't really deserve that attention. Instead, we just write them out and move on.

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Someone somewhere went to sleep and dreamed us all alive.
Dreams get pushed around a lot, and I doubt if we'll survive.
We won't get to wake up, dreams were born to disappear.
And I'm pretty sure that none of us are here.
~ None of Us Here by Jim Stafford ~

 

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I may be a little weird, but I love character deaths as a part of my character development process. It helps me understand my character more, seeing "the bigger picture" of their life: who they were as a child, who they are now, and how/who they die as. 

 

On one of my sites, about 50% of my characters are destined to die in-game (the rest have "mind-canon" - is that the word? - deaths), based on their decisions. For example, one of my character eats poorly/generally doesn't take care of himself and for the middle ages, where they wouldn't be able to detect his illness appropriately and treat, he'll likely die of a health problem by his middle-age (if the rp lasts that long). Another of my characters is dying soon and in her case, it's setting (i.e. post-birth infection given early medieval knowledge of bacterial infection = non-existent).

 

I love developing a character and then throwing unexpected curve balls like a sh*tty death by cavity or falling down the stairs at myself, but I will say: I don't like other people making that decision for me.

 

My general preference is: character should not evade death where they shouldn't, but they also do not need to die if they don't have to.

 

That being said, random thoughts: 

  • Just because someone doesn't want to kill off their character does NOT (always) mean they want to evade consequences.
  • Sure, there are assholes who want plot-armour while they defy logic of the setting and one-up everyone but someone like that shouldn't even be on the site posting to begin with.
  • Just because someone says they're okay with killing their characters doesn't give you permission to kill that character. You still need a very clear, explicit consent. (I'm talking about cases where a member's character just randomly stabs another's because the latter one said once they were fine with deaths.)
  • From my experience on sites where characters are punished for stupidity with death is that: characters stop making in-character decisions and start making all the "right choices" to stay alive. It removes the haphazard and unpredictability of real life. Sometimes dumb people keep living, sometimes intelligent people die. If you  (not "you", the plural/indirect 'you') want that, lead by example in your posts.
  • Deaths depend on genre of the site too. A campy Star Wars setting does not need the same grit as a grimdark setting like Game of Thrones. Sometimes, I feel like people mistaken grimdark and character death with "realism". To me, realism is specific to what is realistic in the setting. In SW, characters evade death like no other, so in a SW site, I am not going to care as much vs. somewhere else.
  • If you want a site where death/danger is at every turn regardless of what the writer wants: make that explicit and clear as f*ck. (And if you're using points/DM/whatever, have the system clear as well.) 
Edited by Kullervo
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Yeah, true. It really depends on the RP, both for mechanics and non-mechanics RP. Like, we will have different campaigns, that have mechanics, additionally to the regular RPs that have no mechanics. The regular RPs come with complete death protection except if a player wants their character to die or lifts said protection themselves. For campaigns, it depends on the campaign and will be clearly stated in the campaign's info. The first one is a bit more lighthearted and about exploration, meaning that, even if your HP reaches zero, you won't die (except if the player wants that) but have some other malus, like a temporary debuff, not being able to join x number of expeditions or something else while another campaign in the future could be deadly.

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I won't say I like character death, but it certainly has its place and I can appreciate it.

 

Once I was on a site where every month a different character died at random.  It was supposed to make it scarier and whatnot.  None of my characters were ever chosen to die, but I still wasn't a huge fan of the system.  I enjoyed the site for other reasons and was well aware it was always a possibility when I joined, so it wasn't a surprise by any means.  Yet the idea that you work so hard on a character and it dies just by random while other less-developed characters squeak by doesn't make sense to me.  Still, it had the effect the board desired, so while I'm not a fan of it, I can still appreciate the system.

 

Perhaps if a site had a system that wasn't pure roulette, I may be interested.  Like you can decrease your chances of being killed by having threads where your character is doing survival training, or once you reach a certain number of posts, that character is safe.

 

I definitely believe that characters who do stupid things should win stupid prizes, including death.  Or even if it's not stupid but it isn't something the character can reasonably escape from, there should still be deadly consequences.

 

My preference in a site is one where character death is possible and welcomed but it shouldn't be forced upon people unless there is a good reason.  There should always be at least one "safe" class of characters who are not killed by roulette or whatnot so that people can join and work on building a character without worrying about death (unless as a consequence).  I like having subplots where people know going in that their character can/will die, but they sign up for it knowing the potential outcome.

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I voted "No character death" just because all the other versions didn't match my views. In reality, I am OK with character death, but not always. As long as all the involved writers agree, yes, it is perfectly all right to kill a character. Not an unilateral decision, though, and only in the benefit of the story.

 

Or it is also all right to kill for the story's sake a character who was abandoned by a vanishing writer 5-6 months ago or more. (If the writer said he might come back, or if the character death can be avoided, there are other solutions to write said characters out of the story. But sometimes, for our site, it isn't). And it makes the battle more real if not only NPCs die.

Edited by Elena
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I am willing to kill off my characters if they get into situations where death is inescapable for the sake of a good story. Often by the time the story nears the potential death, I've already realized that they could die in the situation and have come to terms with that.  I am not willing to kill off characters if the death is just random, like someone just decides, they're gonna kill mine with no lead up or plots involved.  Yes some deaths happen like that, but if it doesn't make for a good story or creates a death without closure, then it makes it harder for me to drop the character.

 

I only allow for full protection for my characters who have not tried to harm other characters in any way, and only sometimes. As soon as a character tries to be violent themselves or is intentionally putting themselves at risk, they lose the freedom to not be hurt. 

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I voted No Character Death, but I'm with Elena more or less. I HATE having my characters killed. If someone kills my characters in an RP without my consent, I won't write with them. If it was the site, I won't stay there. But there are times where it might be good for the story, and if I'm asked and I agree, I'm okay with it. Nobody should get to decide something so permanent for one of my characters but me.

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I couldn't pick any of the choices, to be honest.
For me, Player Character deaths are only acceptable when that character's RPer okays/desires it. 

If a player is being a complete dum-dum, they are going to be warned that the only reasonable narrative response is death and if they don't like that they should back out of the situation and Re-do from whichever point necessary to avoid the icky deathness. If said player refuses, then, I simply just don't thread with them (most often a player who is going to be THAT level scummy and not try to work out a equitable solution between threadmates weeds themselves out of the site at this point and ragequits when they can't just go Invincible Mr. kill-happy willy-nilly all over the board). 

 

HOWEVER, there is always the uncommon case where for whatever plot reason (usually consequence of a slow-burning Long Arc of a plot with many webs of interactions between players and events) death ends up with a Check Mate in the chess game of Plotting. I like to stick to games with some sort of fantasy element so that I can weave in little olive branches to help players transform death: by either way of a Rare Magic revival (one of my mains is a Necromancy Master, yet in 12 years we've only had to call on her once to "fix" a death. Which I think is pretty good odds, overall), fake-out plot twist, or in my newest game the option to play said dearly departed as themselves in death (be it ghost, guardian angel, etc). I like to give options so that players don't feel like killing their character has to be the End All of development and will be more willing to risk their characters life for the sake of story. 

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8 hours ago, Kittenmitten said:

 If someone kills my characters in an RP without my consent, I won't write with them. Nobody should get to decide something so permanent for one of my characters but me.

 

Actually, it shouldn't be only you either 😉 . I said for a reason (having seen lots of things in my writing life)  "As long as all the involved writers agree, yes, it is perfectly all right to kill a character. Not an unilateral decision, though, and only in the benefit of the story." Because it might be your character, but he has connections. And the perspective of death should be discussed among all the involved writers: you, the site staff (because if you want to kill your character, make it memorable for the story and a plot point for the most characters possible, not just getting rid of someone you got bored of writing - as in some cases, this is unfortunately the reason characters get killed) and the writers who are writing your character's brother, lover/ wife, best friend, etc.

 

Maybe one can achieve the same wished plot twist effect without actually killing the character, if the wife doesn't want to be a widow, or if your character and his brother/ best friend had further plans for a later moment of the plot. It can be an almost death, a disappearance with death rumour and the character returning after a while, etc.

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I that it depends on the kind of site you're running or playing on for me. For instance, I joined a site that was a zombie apocalypse site, I wouldn't expect to have full control over the fate of my character

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I agree that it depends on the game! But I'm personally pretty much always ok with it. Kill my babs. Make me cry. But also let me make their deaths meaningful! Or give me an avenue to bring them back somehow (maybe as a ghost or some weird recurring dream or a psych-i-didn't-actually-die plot). Give me some creative freedom with their death. Let me make a plot out of it. I just wanna be dramatic ok?

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I think this is extremely dependent on the type of roleplay you are creating and participating in. For non-mechanics/stats roleplays that are based on narrative and character development, I typically leave that up to the players themselves to determine that. It's actually written in our rules that no admin "permission" is required for character deaths and that it's up to the player's discretion to do that. 

 

If a player wants a super dramatic scene with one of their characters dying, who am I to stop them?

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