Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Wages of Death

The players in the Partholon campaign have been fortunate enough that in the years we've been playing, only a single PC has died (and technically he's been petrified, and may well survive in a state of suspended animation). Partly this is due to my incapacitation rules which create unpleasant consequences for letting your character run out of hit points without necessarily losing the character, but partly this is due to the players' mix of skillful play and dumb luck. However, in our most recent session Bill the Green was incapacitated and may yet die (we suspended play before we could confirm his status), so this seems like a good time to review what happens when a PC actually does bite the dust.

For one thing, this being Dungeons & Dragons, there is no certainty that death is permanent. There is a sacred grove just one or two days' travel from Sham where, with proper sacrifices, the spirits may be petitioned to raise the dead. The sacrifices would be costly, and results are not guaranteed, but there is some chance at least.

Second, if a party member is given proper burial (or an appropriate pyre, or whatever funeral rites seem appropriate), the party will actually gain xp for any treasures they bury with him (including artifacts!). Tyrhennean culture has a minor but noteworthy tradition of sacrifices to departed allies & ancestors that can provide PCs with some options to translate spare wealth into xp later in the campaign as well.

Naturally, the player will want to get back into the game as soon as possible, and there are two readily available options.

Take over an existing NPC: The party frequently employs mercenaries and retainers who accumulate treasure and experience. One of these characters could be upgraded to PC status quite naturally (for example if Ash died, it would be appropriate for either Spurlock or Molin to step up to fill his role in the party). The advantage here is, of course, that the character already has equipment, money, and experience, so the player isn't forced to start over from scratch. Unfortunately, since these characters have most of their necessities already paid for, they are prone to frittering their wealth away off-camera. When an NPC is upgraded to a PC, we discover that they only have (5d20)% of the listed treasure hoard (averaging around 50%).

Generating a new PC: A new PC can be generated and added to the game, and can even be introduced as the heir to the fallen character's fortune. This is a good way to start off with a preferred class or just get a fresh start on the game, and to retain 90% of accumulated treasure (that remaining 10% is lost for any number of reasons - funeral costs, traditional sacrifices, inheritance tax, legal fees, etc). The downside is, of course, the fact that the new PC starts from first level and may have a hard time facing the sorts of dangers the rest of the party is used to. On the other hand, if the party takes care to protect their new ally, the kind of expeditions they can handle should ensure he gains levels rapidly.

This new heir might be a relative of the fallen character, or perhaps a (previously unseen) protege, or similar. For example, if Bill dies, he could be replaced with an apprentice who is retconned into the game, or perhaps Bill's mentor, Incanus, could send another student of his to ensure that Bill's arcane lore doesn't fall into the wrong hands. Such a character would of course benefit from the magical research Bill has previously undertaken.

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