Friday, February 14, 2014
This is short, and more of a suggestion than anything else.
New Rule: when a character dies from something other than long-term attrition affects (like a lingering disease that's been afflicting them for a session or so) or combat damage, then the player controlling that characters gets a round (as in combat round length of time) in which they can have the character react. Characters can avert otherwise guaranteed deaths or make some other short, quick action.
[edit: this was left out, but the death round happens immediately and interrupts everything else]
Back when we were getting sick of 4th edition, I found 4thcore and that really re-invigorated our interest in D&D. 4thcore PC deaths are abundant (like TPKs 10 minutes in or less), horrible and abrupt. Here are three 4thcore adventures. Here are 3 others.
One houserule I implemented at the time was the above.
Theoretically you could (and players did) use the round to avoid the otherwise mechanically guaranteed death. The cost paid was nearly always gruesome (usually in stony limbs left on dungeon floors, infected tongues and eyes flung into corners, henchmen or other player's characters pulled in between the victim and oncoming death). And then there were times (like being teleported into a death trap room) where no one ever managed to cheat death.
[edit: it bears mentioning that this also encouraged me to think of lethal affects that might be gotten out of but only by doing something horrible. There is a table somewhere for what auto-death spells might do - like cause your bottom teeth to grow in seconds until they pierce your brain. I'll find the table and share it.]
A thing these death rounds taught me was that even if everyone else is certain a character is about to die, most players will still make a last ditch effort to save the character and it is amazing when it happens but it is also pretty great when it doesn't because they get to effectively own their character's death. Maybe not a thing in old-school games, but a nice stepping stone from 4e to OSR for us.
Another thing was that it was an opportunity for people to go nuts rather than being super cautious and analytic. Cathartic, even (maybe?).
And finally that, in games where character death is very common and, as in the case of 4thcore or my home game, everyone just brings a stack of pre-gens to at least the first few sessions, it made characters feel way more real and memorable. Like, no one remembered the pre-gen's name, race or class or pretty much anything else the player did with the character (fail an Arcana roll?) but everyone remembers when he used his death round, his character's body decaying as she ran, to kick the trap that was killing her into a pit in the center of the room, thus clearing the room.
The games I run are still like this, a lot of the time. Last session, on a poor roll, a mass grave began to belch corpses into the sky like a geyser. Hundreds of zombies raining down, portal to negative plane opened because they poked around the grave and I rolled a nasty encounter. So if you play a game like that, then this might be fun (I average at least one death [including henchmen] a session). If you don't... this will probably drag things out and blaaaaaah.
attributions: Vania Zouravliov, someone else
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