Death in LRP divides people. I’m a proponent of doing what feels right, and think that giving people control over when they die allows for greater glory and making things feel right. Trusting players is important. LRP is collaborative. We’re working together to make the game.
I like low rules systems. There are places this doesn’t work. For example - you need an agreement about how firearms are going to work, and you may need some agreement about certain skills in order that players can use them.
There are a few main things you need to consider when running an event that relate to character death:
- Do players get a new character if they die?
- Does that change depending on when they die?
- Is the new character disadvantaged at all
- How are you feeding new characters in? We used to have two slots we could use to feed people into Alone games. People would have to wait for those.
- Do you need to outline a way to handle death ic? With most of our games it gets briefly roleplayed over and then ignored.
- Do you have kit to send players back in with?
Death of a character is a big thing. Sometimes it’s the end of the game for someone, and at other times it’s a change in direction. Other characters will quickly move on from it. It’s the nature of LRP. Dead friends are people you talk about around the campfire with a drink a few times a year. They’re a reason to keep fighting, part of the story and some background atmosphere. For a lot of systems there are a significant number of dead characters and the majority of them won’t be individually significant in the game anymore.
For me the best deaths are those with meaning. To die gloriously holding the enemy back while your friends escape or complete setup or to die because someone has put a lot of thought into killing both feel good. That characters death had relevance. It always feels a bit rubbish to lose a character to a random skirmish, because you fell into a shadow or similar. it’s a sudden and abrupt ending that doesn’t really feel like you had any choice in it. Which is realistic, but not glorious. These deaths are also important. I can see their value, but I don’t really like them. They discourage effort spent on making kit that can’t be reused, and for me they make me move on when I may not have got bored of playing something. I don’t like going back to the same thing twice in a row. It devalues death to play the same character twice.
I don’t see LRP as a competitive thing and so I believe people can be trusted to decide when they die. It can still come as a shock. That realisation that someone has put thought and effort into killing you can be a bit of a surprise. For me, this normally happens once the character is dead. Letting you make that choice also allows you to choose to roleplay your injuries appropriately. It makes for far more immersive situations.
With any character death, it’s no longer about you. You’re not the one who gets to decide what is remembered about a character or how people react. In long term campaigns there are often lists of the dead, ways of remembering who has gone before. They add a sense of continuity and ritual to a situation that often has more death than would be fun in the real world.
In most cases it’s important that death is acknowledged. There could be groups that refuse to discuss death or to participate in any form of memorial or funeral rite. That should really be a significant thing about that group though. For the most part how a society deals with its dead is a significant part of making it feel real, especially in a violent situation.
I like death. It’s a nice underlining of the end of a life. It gives solid stops and leaves no ‘after’ for someone to worry about. As someone who runs games it makes it a lot easier to track survivors. If only 6 characters are still alive and I know where they are then I know there’s very little chance of someone showing up with knowledge I don’t expect them to have at future games.