Character death within a party

This is not a new topic. I’m sure it has been talked to death, but when a member of a somewhat advanced party is killed, how do you handle it?

In D&D, I think this presents a very large problem, since the gap in survivability of 1st level characters and say, 6th or higher, is huge. So you lose a character or two, and what do you do. I’ve recently read about various ways people handle this. Some have the person roll up a new character, and advance them to the old character’s level, or maybe a level or two below. I’ve never been a big fan of starting characters at higher levels. For me as a player, I never feel like I have any emotional investment in that kind of character. It just doesn’t feel the same as running a character up from level 1. I actually saw one guy on a Facebook discussion say he considered the Experience Points to belong the the player, rather than the character. Obviously people can do what they want, but that seems weird to me. A little too much like just getting extra lives in a video game.

BUT – if you have a party of somewhat advanced characters, and one dies, if you make that player start over again with a 1st level character, a couple of undesireable things seem likely. First, the new 1st level character may simply ride on the coat tails of the rest of the party, gaining levels almost by association. Or second, the challenges faced by the party may simply be too difficult for the new character, killing him/her quickly if the DM doesn’t go easy on him. I can remember really good DMs who could integrate the new characters in, and give them challenges appropriate to their level whilst still challenging the higher level characters, but that’s not easy in a D&D game.

In the past I’ve participated in groups that avoided this situation a couple of ways. In some cases, in a particular DM’s word/campaign, players would have more than one character, so that if one died, there was still another to work with. We only played one at at time, so this made progress slower. It did have the added advantage of giving the players a more diverse group of characters to chose from when starting a game. If you played in a shared world, with multiple DMs running games at an agreed upon power level/style, the multiple characters can work out pretty well.

As I am about to start a GURPS Cyberpunk campaign in a couple of days, it made me realize that game systems like GURPs make it a lot easier to introduce new PCs to replace dead ones.  In GURPS, a PC gets better, but the world is still pretty dangerous. There isn’t such a huge gap in survivability between new PCs and experienced ones.


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