Death is good.
Some people are like "OMG someone died! How could the game possibly go on! What a bummer for everyone." and some are like "So what, somebody died, roll somebody new and move on."
At least for my own personal D&D games, I disagree with both of them.
Death is good. Death is a great opportunity to give a campaign some real (as opposed to suspension-of-disbelief-based) drama.
Why don't players like it when their PCs die? Because they identify too closely with them? Maybe, but it's more this, I think: They put a lot of effort into imagining and--often--levelling up a character and now it's gone.
And what's a character? It's essentially, a decision to play the game in a certain way, or move toward playing in a certain way. If your first-level barbarian dies, you aren't gonna be Conan anytime soon. First level pirate dies, and you're that far from getting to play as King of the High Seas.
In other words, when your character dies, you are actually, really being barred--at least for a few weeks--from playing the game the way you planned, so now you have to play a different way. And since high-level play is, in a sense, a different game, it's like you're being prevented from playing a certain game for a while.
And you like the game. And you like playing your way. So when you are told you can't, this is genuine privation. Not imaginary. You didn't make it as a pitcher, son, try right field. You can't play guitar, try drums for a while...
This is your real life: playing a game. This is a real consequence: you can't roll like that any more. Or, if you want to, you'll have to start over from scratch.
So, in my games, I like to make use of this rare moment of genuine (if low-level) emotion. Characters should be threatened with death. And if they die, it should matter in the game. And maybe the next thing happens in the game has to do with it.
I prefer the best of both worlds: characters die a lot, and it hurts every time. Drama drama drama.
PC death is a plot hook. Shakespeare knew it.
Shooting today, after the show I'll mail out all the remaining Secret Arneson Gift Exchange requests and then I'm done, so if you got one, e-mail me before midnight Pacific Time. After that, it's outta my hands and we get to see what y'all come up with on Gary's birthday. Though maybe send me a link so I can show people.
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