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Gregor Eisenhorn

Dealing with Player Character Death

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One of the appeals of Dark Heresy is that it's a brutal system. My PCs still have fate points to burn but even now I find myself pulling punches when I really shouldn't be (and of course, also when I should for terms of the story). I've got one hold up with the whole thing and I wanted to ask my fellow GMs for advice.

 

What do you do when a character dies in the middle of a session? If they die at the end I imagine it can't be too bad because a new character can be rolled up for next time, but in the middle of a session what do you do? It sucks for the player to have nothing to do for the rest of the session, but pausing the session to roll up a new character for them is equally bad for the other players. We mainly play online and not everyone has a copy of the rulebook so it's not like they can create a character in the background whilst we keep playing.

 

Any advice?

 

Thanks,

 

Eisenhorn

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1. Don't pull punches, they have fate points for this reason.

 

2. This is different for likely most GMs, but for me if they die they die. If you have an npc they can take over for the rest of the session have them take that over. Otherwise continue with the story, and have them bow out to make a character.

 

2.1 For your particular case however, you might have them (or just one yourself) make a similar level character made for this just event to pull out until they get the chance to make one. That or ask the group what you would want to do, and it might be possible to have that be the end of the session and get some time to deal with it.

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I have character creation rules at my table for if/when your character dies.  You get the same amount of experience, but only some equipment/other game rewards.  It keeps them on par with their coleagues mechanically.  I generally have a few Acolyte teams working in a region in my game, so if they lose a person they can call up another same-tier character to help them out.  I've made it a Thing that whenever Acolytes/Interrogators gather in an area, I'll name-drop some of the back-up characters.  It makes sure they have ties to the game and aren't just Random Stand-In #3.  For areas in which that doesn't work, I tend to hand them an NPC or 'survivor' of some kind (if they don't have back-up somewhere on the planet, it ain't a planet you want to be on).  

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PC death is something that Players just have to deal with. If it happens mid-session and they don't have the rules-savvy or books available to get on with creating their next character for the rest of the session then they're just going to suck it up and be what I call a "Character Ghost". They don't get to make any rolls or dictate the actions of any characters, but they can still participate by advising the surviving characters; something that is often valuable in itself, especially if the dead character was the one calling most of the shots before they died.

 

If you want to tack some kind of in-game interaction on to the idea that the Player is now playing a "ghost" of sorts, give him a fresh set of Fate points that he can use on the other, surviving, characters. I've not tried this before, but it's something I've toyed with. I imagine that it could create a really cinematic feel to the game because the more characters get bumped off during a session, the more powerful the remaining characters will appear as the "ghosts" spend their Fate points on the living.

 

For Example;

Ash, Bubba, Chump and Dale are delving into the Cult Lair. Chump dies to a nasty trap on the front door...'cos, you know, he's a chump. He gets a tasty pool of Fate points that he can spend. Ash, Bubba and Dale continue on and fight some mooks, but Dale takes a lucky shot right between the eyes and dies a gory death. He too gets a bunch of Fate points. Chump was getting the pizza when Dale bought the farm, so couldn't help him survive (even if he wanted to. Chump never did like Dale much). So now, Ash and Bubba are feeling mighty ornery; they're two men down and feeling mean. They lock and load, scavenging ammo from the corpses of the fallen and carry on, determined to take out the lair. Just around the corner, though, is the main alter-room. The High Priest stands at the back of the room, chanting, whilst a horde of mooks protect him. Ash and Bubba, fueled by a couple of Chump and Dales extra Fate points, cut a swathe across the room, but not before the ritual is complete. Just as they reach the bottom of the stairs up to the altar, the High Priest turns and...changes. Before they can react, the High Priest/Daemon reaches out a meaty claw and throws Bubba against the wall with a spine-snapping crunch. Bubba gets some Ghost Fate points and gurgles out a last goodbye to Ash as he dies in his arms. Ash looks up at the Demon High Priest and there's bloodlust in his eyes...it's come to this; one man against the darkness. One man with vengeance on the agenda. One man who's not holding back. One man with a crap-ton of Fate points to spend because all his dead buddies are playing Character Ghosts.

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Hello Gregor,
luckily, DH has never been a system with a brutal sudden death. The way fate points are burned to keep a character alive two or three times were the PC  would otherwise simply had been be dead, means you have a lot of forewarning and thereby, you can prepare for the situation (like, having an interim character at hand).

 

[What I -plan- to do in such a case]
Since I do not really expect a character to burn two fate points in one session, I will _assign_ NPC cell members to a mission where one or more of the PC “is really risking death now”. This can be supporting casts or full fledged NPC. As soon as a character REALLY dies, I give the player control of the NPC as an “interims NPC”. As soon as the player (and myself) find time to create a new character AND I find a way to insert this new figure into the game, the interim PC becomes an NPC again.

 

Edited by Gregorius21778

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Fate points really do protect PCs well and prevent a surprising character death.

 

But I always didnt like the aspect that this makes players that have FP left feeling "invincible".

 

Thats why one of my houserules makes characters that burn fate points suffer the worst non-lethal effect on the matching crit charts. In this way, "dying" still is something which is scary to the players, as it doesnt kill their PC right away, but very well might cripple him.

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The last person to burn a Fate Point in my group had to get a Bionic Respiratory System and Bionic Heart.  If we hadn't had a skilled chiurgeon on hand, he likely would have had worse consequences.  

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My players like their fate points for their special abilities and the rerolls and wounds regeneration it can give them. In their opinion, that is what makes the difference between their characters and basic statblocks (rulewise) that are the NPC. 

 

 

They don't like to burn them, so they pay attention to keep them, but when they have to burn, they still have a chance to go through the campaign without dying.

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These are all excellent points, thank you for taking the time to reply guys. Unless it would be *far* more interesting to the story to do otherwise, I'm going to stop pulling my punches so much. Who knows where the story will go when the war and have to look after a critically injured member? I also agree that the fate point buffer as it were should peep my players for when they will need a new character. I'm going to do a Nathan explosion and be more brutal, I'll report back once the next session has been completed. My groups are currently in the gallowsway which is a grim place even by Imperial standards so I'm sure something exciting will happen...

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Back in the day, the old Dark Sun world from D&D had this idea for having a "character tree" that had different characters already made up for use in the event of character death since Dark Sun was as brutal, if not more so, than Dark Heresy.  I am incorporating that idea into my current campaign, where the PCs all made two characters and I am having this "backup" characters appear, if briefly, to do something that is heroic and thereby earn the notice of the Inquisitor.  Should the player's current character die, the "backup" character can readily appear in between missions or planets, etc.

 

~ alemander

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Well in our DH1 game, we all have Secondary PC and there are other Support NPC controlled by PC's.  How they gain exp is the following, Primary gain full exp, 1 Secondary PC gains 50%, the rest 25%

 

But if need be, a 2nd can take the place of a Primary if they are down for injiury/wounds/death.  And the team has people who they know and trust, who can fill gaps.

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One other suggestion that hasn't been mentioned: Let the dead pc (who doesn't have a new character yet during a session) control npc in combats (man, that one cultist is really giving it all! -_- ) or out of combat to improv a non-stated role (we need a guide, a mutant reclaimator named blobo the green).

 

I've done this a few times and it really let's the player get a bit creative, silly, and just experiment with things. And it establishes a new persona that may or may not randomly show up again in the future. 

Edited by Cogniczar

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