The Dice Are Trying to Kill Me! Dealing with Character Death

Brained by Ashe Rhyder

It happens to the very best of us. From first level Bard to 18th level wizard, sometimes that monster just rolls a crit and you’re doomed. It’s not fair: you get a DM who just gets off on killing PCs, there is nothing you can do and the dice rolls are against you, or sometimes you’re just an idiot and don’t check for traps. Now you wouldn’t think that having a pretend person die in a pretend way would be difficult, but it can be. I recently had my first brush with character death and it scared the pants off of me. It was my absolute favorite PC and I would’ve honestly been sad had she died. Now, chances are we’re all grown ups here and the death of a fictional character shouldn’t cause us to hide under the covers for days on end; but just in case you’re a little heart sore, here are some ideas on how to ease the suffering.

Laugh It Off: The first time I witnessed a PC death the player just laughed. Now it /was/ a rather hilarious death, being dragged away by giant spiders while my character failed a shooting roll and killed him with an arrow. But the nonchalance and acceptance I saw inspired me to do the same. Most of the time people laugh hysterically at their poor character dying. This is a good reminder that it’s a game and should be treated as such. It’s not the end of the world.

It’s Okay to Cry: Had my poor Penelope died I probably would’ve put on a stiff upper lip, not made a fuss, and had a good cry in a bubble bath afterwards. You get into these characters, and the longer you spend time with them ¬†chances are the more attached you’ll be. You’re not a sissy for actually being upset, you’re human.


Don’t Be a Jerk: All that said it’s not okay to pout, get angry, throw things, blame other PCs, storm off and generally be a grump. Death happens. Be a good sport about it and make other players admire you for your fortitude.


Save Them: Some DMs will try and help you. My Penelope got a direct Crit 20 hit by the monster they were fighting and had her skulls smashed in. She was -14 hit points. My DM knew how much I loved her and he was upset that the dice had rolled such a way. He allows for other characters to try and save dying PCs (Via potion, a healer, or something else), or he’ll allow us to sacrifice something (such as an NPC, a really special piece of equipment, or a limb). In Penelope’s case we took a chance and another player made her drink a random potion we had picked up. Our DM pulled out the random potion table, the player trying to save me rolled…and lo and behold it was a potion of restoration. She gained back all her HP and gained +2 to her INT. HALLELUIAH!!!! I nearly started crying of relief right then and there. Her bright violet, Jack Kirby inspired Helmet-of-Reading-all-Languages was destroyed (see the “smashed into skull” above). But I (being a resourceful player) turned the lenses it came with into a pair of bright purple glasses that still gave her the same abilities.

Run With It: Deliberately kill your character. Slayer/Death dungeons are a blast as long as you go into it expecting death; that way it’s a treat if they do survive! I know one player who killed his character in order to murder the groups most hated NPC villain. Rumor has it was spectacular, over the top, and grand. If you’re going to die, make it fantastic!

Acceptance: Chances are you’re PC didn’t get as lucky as mine and you’re in mourning. Best piece of advice I can give is KEEP PLAYING! Roll up a new character that will join the party. Take over a NPC and make him/her/it your own! It’s a game and should be treated as such. The goal is to have fun.

In Memorandum: Keep track of your dead characters. I know of a guy who runs games that only dead characters are allowed into. Someone suggested to a local game store that they have a wall where customers can pin their dead characters sheets and how they died. Years later you’ll find this sheet, remember how they died, and hopefully have a good laugh.Yeah it’s silly to cause such a fuss over a dead character, but some people would argue it’s silly to cause a fuss over table top games. It’s only as serious as you make it. We’re all human and all have emotions. No one will fault you if you are honestly upset. Just keep it mature and in good sportsmanlike conduct. Enjoy playing the game and growing as a person while you mow down PC after PC. KEEP PLAYING!!!

2 thoughts on “The Dice Are Trying to Kill Me! Dealing with Character Death

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  1. Heh, One of the player’s in my non-regular group often crumples up his old character sheet and tosses it across the room, before stalking into his room in a fit of rage when his character dies.


  2. I have A character that has been killed three times, but he was enlisted in an army with excellent clerical backup so we always had revival potions. He is now insane and in possession of a ring of healing. He will eventually (because I said so, It’s in all of my new characters’ backstory) possess the Wand of Wonder and become a god of madness.


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