Monday, January 01, 1990

Narrating the Game--Character Death

Character death is a special case in narration. With few exceptions, when a character dies, he leaves the stage, never to return. Such a momentous occasion should not occur randomly. Moreover, once the character has exited the story, the player who was controlling him is probably without a further role in the story. At best, he must take over another character or introduce a new one. Because of these reasons, the gaming group should determine who is allowed to narrate a character’s death.

One answer is constant. The player controlling the character may always choose to end the character’s life. This does not need to be the result of a die roll at all. It could even be the result of a successful die roll. Just think of Darth Vader hurling the Emperor into the chasm at the cost of his own life. For that matter, think of Gollum seizing the Ring from Frodo on the edge of the Cracks of Doom.

However, the gaming group must determine if anyone besides the character’s player is allowed to call for a character’s death.

Narrator determination When using this option, only the Narrator may determine that a character has died as the result of a conflict. The primary advantage of this method is that the determination is made by a neutral party.

Winner determination When using this option, whoever wins the conflict may determine that the losing party has died, if the conflict would allow for such an outcome. This option gives players a lot of power over characters that do not belong to them, so this option should be chosen with care.

When Devil’s Hour is rolled This option is a restricted version of the “Winner Determination” method. When using this method, the winner can narrate the losing character’s death only if the losing player rolled Devil’s Hour. A variation on this method is to allow the winner to narrate the losing character’s death if the losing player rolled a Devil’s Hour and the winning player rolled a Sext.

Player Veto
In addition to determine who is allowed to narrate a character’s death, the group should also determine if they will allow “player veto” on a character’s death. Simply put, using the option allows a player to negate a narration of his character’s death. This veto can only be overridden by unanimous agreement by the rest of the group. Allowing this veto can be a helpful safety net for uncertain players, although it is probably not necessary with the restrictive “Devil’s Hour” method outlined above. On the other hand, having your entire gaming group tell you that your character should die might be an unpleasant experience. At least the rules are impersonal.

Playing after death
So your character died? Now what do you do? Don’t fret. There are lots of options for the characterless player to consider.

The most obvious answer is that he could take over play of an extra main character. This will get him back in the game the quickest. Of course, since the player may interpret the existing character in a different manner than the current player, this must be done with care to avoid major character changes.

Another option is for the player to create a new character to introduce into the story. The easiest way to do this is to make an incidental character into a main character, although introducing a brand-new character can work well also. Since character creation is so quick in Legends of Alyria, this should get him back into the game pretty quickly as well. Of course, it may be challenging to add a new character into an existing storymap, particularly if the climax of the story is approaching.

The player could also take over the roles of all the incidental characters. Having a player devoted to the incidental characters can be very freeing for a Narrator, leaving him to focus on coordinating gameplay. Of course, other Narrators like being able to roleplay the incidental characters and would not like to give this up.

Finally, the player can still play his dead character. Who says that the grave has to be the end of the story? The character could be Restored, healed by a Blessed or a Misbegotten with a life-giving power, or perhaps raised by a Chosen or even a dragon cultist. The character could struggle in the lands of the dead, seeking to return to the living world for just a few hours to complete his tasks. Or perhaps the character is now a ghost, haunting the other characters. Numerous possibilities exist, all of which allow for memorable play and the development of an intriguing story.


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