Player Character Deaths! (GM Tips w/ Matt Mercer)

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MATT: Hello. My name is Matthew Mercer. I'm a voice actor and the Dungeon Master on

Critical Role here on Geek & Sundry, and today's topic is the joyous,

wondrous event of player character death.


In running most RPGs there is the inevitable scenario of a PC falling in battle without

means of recovery. Months or years of character development and investment

gone in a flash. Now how do you guide your players through such an intense scenario

and move forward in a positive way. I mean it's the danger you must maintain

in your game if it's to hold any real weight and stakes for the players.

In the earlier levels it can really be a constant, real threat. It can be a emotional and difficult

scenario to see through as a GM so be ready and here are some ways to hopefully

make it easier for the player to digest, and make it a real powerful and memorable

moment for the game as a whole.

First, let the players know that when you begin the campaign that player death is

indeed a real possibility. Make sure they understand that fact early in so as you progress it

doesn't catch them off guard when it does happen for the first time.

At least, as off guard as it would. It's going to catch you off guard regardless,

but, you know what I mean. Now when the moment does happen, don't gloss over it.

Explain the death as cinematically as you can, letting the epic final moments ring out in the

party is a powerful if incredibly sad, moment. Now, outside of a non-recoverable corpse,

or a death that destroys the body instantly, consider letting the player get a few last words

out as a battle cry or inspiration to their friends to carry on that will allow a very clear crystal

moment for that character to really be remembered by the rest of the players and the PCs for that matter.

If there is no resurrection recourse for the PCs give some time to let the group mourn in game,

in character and perhaps, if in game time allows, hold a role playing wake.

Try your best to play up the warriors wake with celebration of their life over hanging on

to the sadness of death instead. It really helps the players kind of digest

in a positive light and tell rousing stories of great memories they had with their party member

and kind of just overall gives a better and more healing spin on the whole experience.

Also, let the player of the deceased character write an epilogue for their tale.

Perhaps as a way to get down those unspoken words they never really got a chance to say

before their untimely end came. After the session is done in which the character falls,

maybe shortly in the future, depending on gauging it, go out with the players to get drinks or a fine meal

to celebrate the memory of the character as just a group of friends sitting in a restaurant somewhere.

It really also helps to get rid of all the tension of the moment and let you guys remind yourself

that it's just a game and you're all friends still having a good time even when

the sad moments happen. As soon as it feels comfortable after the session, go ahead and

speak directly with the player about the excitement of getting to create a brand new character

and all the endless possibilities for trying out new skills and abilities.

Brainstorm new character story ideas and how they would fit into the current campaign.

If they're still really attached to their dead characters, perhaps you could brainstorm

a way to have the new character involved in the backstory of the deceased PC so that a

spiritual successor is found and it carries the torch. You can discuss with the other players

ways to keep the memory of the fallen in the game as you go on. They could craft

bracelets of remembrance they refer to in the future during moments of tension.

Perhaps they could name their new keep after the dead. They could use their name as a war cry

in future struggles. Things like that. Ways to keep the memory of that character alive as they play on.

There is sometimes difficulty in incorporating a new character into a long-running adventuring party.

Filling a hole in a long-established rapport can be strange and finding a way for you,

the GM, to bring them in without feeling too forced can really be an interesting challenge. Trust me.

It sucks. I recommend finding a way to tie them to the main narrative threads or the

current overarching quest. Talk with the player about this, and talk with your other PCs about being receptive,

as much as their PCs can be, to a new ally. The new PC can be related to, or a friend or ally,

to the deceased PC, wishing to avenge them and see their goal to completion in their honor.

The new PC could even be an off-screen NPC from another player's character's backstory,

with that player's permission of course, already tying them to the party and giving

them inherent stakes in the story. The new PC could have strongly aligned goals with the party

and having heard of their proven skills and renown wish to ensure the best means of

success for both of them. They could even arrive to the party with extremely essential information,

or an essential artifact of the main quest, quickly tying them to the fate of the adventuring party.

The new PC could have a long history with the main antagonist - wishing to tear them down

for personal reasons, and they seek like-minded allies to achieve this goal. The new PC could even pick up

the reins of a non-essential NPC you introduced that the player took a shine to and bring them to

the forefront of the story as a PC now. You inform the player of what you had developed

regarding that NPC and their story and let them take that and run with it for the future.

These are all options and ideas of ways to do it, and there are many others that you may want

to research on your own, but I hope that at least these will be somewhat helpful in tackling

this somewhat difficult circumstance in your game.

Well thank you so much for watching. You can see other episodes of GM Tips

here on I'm Matthew Mercer and I'll see you on the internet.

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