Killing Characters

“O death, where is thy sting?…” — 1 Corinthians 15:55a (KJV)

One common complaint about Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, aside from incoherent rants about it being a video card miniatures game that wants to punch grandmothers, is that the characters are so darned hard to kill. What happened to the good old days when the average fighter would have 10 hit points and the average magic-user, bless his fragile heart, would have 3 hit points, and could be felled by a particularly deep splinter?

Across our current battle maps, there are:

  • Defenders: Blocks of hyper-magnetized steel who not only lock down the biggest bads, but also are invulnerable to most attacks with their high AC, oceans of temporary hit points, self-healing, and resistances out their heavily armored wahoos.
  • Strikers: Highly mobile death-dealers who eviscerate solos in a tornado of blades and blasts, often causing so much damage on a single turn that the player requires a calculator, an abacus, and a team of accountants.
  • Controllers: Comparatively delicate, these minion-erasers and battlefield grand masters lay down zones of pain and sadness on the enemies, stripping defenses,  amplifying agonies, all while cowering behind their unyielding allies.
  • Leaders: Semi-toughs with ouchie weapons and scorching rays whose real strength lies in the bubble of healing and support with which they surround the party, closing wounds, augmenting defenses, and guiding attacks, bettering all party members.

Typically, each of the characters in the party has a single brain running it, choosing an optimized course of action that is unimpeded by complexity or distraction, while the DM juggles settings and environments, traps and hazards, motivations and strategies for dozens of enemies, all while managing the blizzard of chirpy questions from the players: Can I move here? How do runes work? Why don’t I have line of sight? Can I use History to find secret doors? Are you sure I already used my action point? My second wind? My daily power?

All of this conspires to turn good DMs away from the sunshiney Say-Yes path, and down that dark and rocky Eff-You trail. They become frustrated by round after round of monster misses, irritated by earth-shattering attacks that are easily shrugged off, infuriated by sing-song taunting from the other side of the screen, “I didn’t take any damage in that battle, ha ha!” And the DM Jekyll gets his raging Hyde-on.

The changes can start small and are often well within rules, innocuous alterations to “challenge the PCs,” such as bumping the average level of the encounters. “My group breezes through fights, so I try to throw an extra brute in there, or I’ll put a controller out of reach on a balcony, or include a couple elite soldiers.” If this doesn’t work (and good groups are excellent at adapting), the DM might haul out some extralegal techniques, like the occasional dice fudge (“Another critical!”) or the block-text handicap (“You surrender your weapons and magic at the Black Gate, and then find yourselves standing before the Troll King.”)

After this, your other options are house rules and streams of intractable No-no-no’s.

And to what end? Why this unappealing evolution? If the purpose really is to engage in collaborative storytelling, why would a DM choose to put in his gaming teeth and be Francis Dolarhyde to the PCs’ Freddy Lounds? Perhaps it’s because players just aren’t as scared as they used to be. They scoff at danger, they laugh at death. Where is the fear? Where is the tension? Players need to respect the nothingness, the void, which lurks about every gaming table and inside every DM dice.

And so the Dungeon Master, the creator of all things, the beginning and the end, the alpha and the omega, oh yes, this Dungeon Master will make you fear death.

Way back who-knows-when, I played AD&D with school friends, and death was a funny little occurrence that meant, “Yay, I get to roll a new character.” But this hardly ever happened, since the DM recognized that we were happy with our party, and we were all having fun. From there, I jumped into a new group, my older brother’s classmates and their college age friends, and this was a campaign that had been going on for years, which lent the whole affair a sense of permanence and gravity.

You can imagine my surprise–or perhaps the better term is “heart-stopping terror”–when one of the PCs did something stupid, and the DM… just… killed him. There was no hesitation or prevarication. “This is a lethal game, and now you can’t play it anymore with that character.” I was shocked. This DM was buddies with the player, but there was no quarter given. Tear up that character. He’s done now.

It’s not the same game I play today, but I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing. For the purposes of drama (or horror), you can try to make the protagonists as close to “regular people” as possible. When a regular person is pursued by death in a hockey mask, we in the audience experience fear because we can so easily imagine ourselves as the victims. “What would I do? Where would I run? Could I get away?”

However, this isn’t a fair comp, since the characters are not supposed to be “regular people.” They are supposed to be superstars, superheroes, super-amazing. They are supposed to laugh in the face of death, sneer at the nose of destruction, and giggle at the ears of annihilation.

Also, permanent obliteration is not nearly the punishment you think it is. By removing any sort of reliable restoration in your game (I’ve heard more than once, “There’s no resurrection or raise dead in my game!”) or by introducing lasting punishments like “wound effects,” all you’re really doing is saying, “I’m going to punish your characters for being effective, cool, and dangerous.”

DMs of the world, hear my voice: don’t bend and fold and mangle and mutilate the game to deliver your perception of difficulty. Let the game go and grow as it will, and if the players really have a problem with it, trust me, they’ll let you know. There is a social cost to dropping in combat, and it’s not that you will never again play this half-elven bard you’ve had for the last couple years. No, the punishment is immediate and acute: you have to sit there at the table for a time while the other players have fun. That hurts way more.

Comments

  1. Excellent article!

    My last two sessions (with two different groups) have been BBEG battles, and in both the PC’s – who are a tough damn bunch in both groups – survived with some close calls, but no actual deaths. However, at no point in either game did they feel invulnerable, despite all their tricks and interrupts, healing and high damage, because I was careful to describe everything in very brutal, very evocative language. It was never “You take 20 damage”, it was a graphic description of having the air blasted from behind suddenly cracked ribs, and shooting pain making every defensive move or spell casting gesture agony.

    I am also careful to drum home the magnitude of what they face. It’s hard to feel entirely confident when you are repeatedly reminded that your opponent is an 18′ tall mass of unliving flesh and bone, driven by an insane and hateful animation, clad in layers of seething dark magic and alien metals, and although they may get missed by its attacks, I tend to hear “Thank **** for that!”, rather than “HA! HA!”… well, at least most of the time :D

    Again, brilliant article.

  2. Brilliant.

    Just effing brilliant. I could not have said it better myself, and believe me I’ve tried.

    Dave, give this man a raise.

  3. Great article. I want my PCs to feel like heroes, not necessarily invulnerable, just heroic. I’m not saying I haven’t killed characters, I have. But when it happens it’s a big deal. I’ve played with brutal “gotcha” DMs, and eventually the players will stop caring about their characters.
    Nothing is more fun than spending hours on character creation, and coming up with a detailed character background, just to have your character die within the first 15 minutes of a session trying to open the first door in the dungeon.

  4. Honestly, while PCs are more resilient now than they used to be, I still have not had too much trouble in making them feel vulnerable, even without resorting to fudging and the like. Heck, my Scales of War group lost 6 PCs to death in the span of two adventures (perhaps one depending on how you look at it — halfway point of 1 to the halfway point of the next). My paragon game has been a bit better but even there the PCs lost 3 of their own during the campaign and are still occasionally looking like they tide could really turn against them.

    In 4ed, death is still certainly a possibility, particularly when the dice start to betray the PCs, its just not nearly as flukey as it used to be. I remember starting my 3.5 campaign way back when. The very first encounter, the very first attack roll was a charging goblin with a spear on the wizard. Crit. I will admit that I fudged that roll because the idea of the character dropping unconscious before he’d had a chance to even do anything (I jumped right into the action in that campaign) just didn’t sit well with me.

  5. Shilling says:

    “DM Jekyll gets his raging Hyde-on.” Hahah what a singular turn of phrase. I like it.

    As for the main thrust of the article – this subject gets discussed every few months and I’m sure most people know where they stand on the issue.

    For my part, I think I dislike the “we’re invulnerable” attitude because it makes people behave in a fashion that breaks my suspension of disbelief. They stop acting like people and instead act like people playing a board game.

    Also: “They are supposed to be superstars, superheroes, super-amazing. They are supposed to laugh in the face of death, sneer at the nose of destruction, and giggle at the ears of annihilation.” ‘SUPPOSED’? Says who? Where is it written? It is entirely down to the DM and players at any particular table to decide what the PCs are ‘supposed’ to be (and it is best to talk about it before the game begins).

    And there are a hundred different flavours, not just a single axis. Game of thrones is a good example of bad-ass characters who are still vulnerable to death and who understand that every combat is a risk. They don’t let it stop them, it just makes them try harder.

    I do agree that a good DM can put PCs in danger using just good tactics and terrain only. No need for special rules or fudging or anything else. Learn to out-think your players – and then be pleasantly surprised when they out-think YOU. True bad-ass-ary starts in the brain.

  6. Michelle says:

    Killing characters frequently discourages players from investing time, effort and imagination into creating deep back stories.

    And while “Hah! my character is invulnerable!” isn’t something you want to hear at the table, do you *really* want to hear “Who cares? We’re due for a TPK pretty soon anyway.”

  7. Death is always on the table for my players – and it is something that I constantly remind them of from time to time. If your character dies, then that’s it – you’ll have to come up with someone to replace them.

    Now, this may seem harsh, and contrary to what this article is about, but I’m not trying to punish the more effective players – they’re still managing to be the amazing combat gods who are rarely scratched in a fight. But there’s a sense of concern that goes across the table when one of the squishies – say, their medic or engineer – suddenly hits the deck, or loses almost half their HP in a single round of combat. A sense of urgency that reminds them, ‘hey, you need to be making sure these characters aren’t getting hit, hop to it’.

    Often times, my players are not facing NPCs of their own level. Usually, the NPCs are about half their level, and therefore much less effective than usual. Of course, this also means there tends to be a lot *more* of them, which can also help to add that sense of urgency, particularly when a fight starts to go the wrong way.

    Over 70 sessions into the game, and my players have a healthy respect for death. Because they know for a fact that once their character bites the dust, that’s it for them. But on the other hand? When they manage to triumph and overcome a bad situation that should have most likely resulted in their death (as a result of their own decisions putting them in that position)?

    They feel like the complete badasses that they should be (at least, in this particular game – PCs aren’t always badasses…).

    You don’t have to kill characters often to make the PCs fear death. You just have to edge them close enough to that line, and continue reinforcing that when they hit that line, that’s the end of the line.

  8. @Michelle: I think you are on the right track to a degree. I agree that in general, the game is more entertaining for everyone concerned if the PCs are generally succesful. Although my Scales of War game had a fairly high mortality rate (which is pretty unusual for me) everyone still accepted it as it was a result of bad luck and bad decisions. Usually though the PCs should be succesful. The key to remember of course is that failure need not mean a tpk, but I do think the occasional PC death can be good for the game all around. For one thing, it makes reaching the highest level that much more meaningful if you know that there was a decent chance of death along the way. If no PCs die (and I don’t think you were advocating this) then reaching the ultimate level, or even defeating the BBEG doesn’t really mean anything.

    I have to agree though that constant PC death simply tends to be disruptive and will often result in your game not having much in the way of stories. Players won’t care about their PCs and won’t create backgrounds. DM’s won’t bother to tailor the campaign to particular characters, or even give them a moment in the spotlight, because there’s just too great a likelihood that the PC in question won’t be around for it.

  9. B.J. Morgan says:

    I agree with Michelle. I’m brand spanking new to the game. I think as a new player, there’s a certain degree of safety these newer rules provide to new players. That safety net gives new players like me a bit security while learning the ropes. Rigor comes with experience, so I do expect to have a richer experience once I come to a better understanding of the game. I can see how it might be frustrating for long-time players, but looking at this as a newcomer, the ability to get comfortable in my own playing skin is an advantage.

  10. I’m not a fan of random, unexpected death, but I fall hard into the school that if characters slip up in a situation where death is the logical outcome, then death is the outcome. Everyone seems to agree that characters are supposed to be heroes, but if there’s no real danger, then there’s no heroism. Imaginary characters striking hero-like poses are amusing for a while, but it doesn’t take long before everyone realizes it’s a sham. People go to Las Vegas because gambling with real money is exciting in a way that gambling with plastic chips can never be. Gambling with your character’s life is the same. When you lose, you experience a real sense of loss, and when you succeed, you experience an honest sense of victory. As Winston Churchill said, nothing in life is so exhilarating as being shot at and missed.

  11. “You don’t have to kill characters often to make the PCs fear death. You just have to edge them close enough to that line, and continue reinforcing that when they hit that line, that’s the end of the line.”

    That’s pretty much my motto. 4ed can be hard to create engaging encounters for, but so what if characters are able to outdo something you spent a few hours on putting together in a matter of minutes? That’s their job. They’re “players” in a game.

    I think the best way to keep PCs on their toes is to mix it up! By throwing them new things they aren’t accustomed to, it forces them to really think before doing anything. Makes sense for adventuring, sure, but I do the same thing for encounter building, too. I like to really see what kinds of monsters I can mix and match.

    If you really want to kill a PC (or make them feel the heat, so to speak) I’ve found auras and ongoing damage typically do the trick. Ongoing damage works better for the players since they have a chance to roll to get rid of an effect, which means they have a chance for successes which is much more exciting than taking 5 damage because they are being gnawed on by a bunch of rats radiating from a kobold.

  12. Yeah, I’ve had a handful of deaths in my games, and while it starts off with a feeling of failure I find it tends to be replaced by a bit of excitement when I do get around to the “Yay! I get to roll a new character.” stage. Still I enjoy crafting detailed backstories and the such for my characters so it does feel like a real loss.

    And Captain DM… Rats radiating from a kobold is the best imagery ever and I need to literally use it. Call it Aura of Rats or something.

  13. Dixon Trimline says:

    @Seftonius: That’s such a great approach, describing the scenes in explicit detail, but I have found myself at a loss for words over the course of a particularly involved battle. I mean, how many times can I use the word “slashed” before it starts losing its edge? I’ve played for DMs who can unreel an electric paragraph about the battle or setting, but I’m just not one of those people.

    @Bob Younce: Thank you so much! Once Dave saw the comment, he promised to immediately double my Critical Hits salary. Now I just have to figure out what 0 x 2 is.

    @Nick Titano: I think it’s great that character deaths are a big deal in your game. That’s exactly where you want to be, right? It means the players have emotionally invested in their characters, instead of just treating them like markers on a board.

    @Gargs: I feel the same way about the inherent vulnerability of characters, which is why I wanted to write this article. Initially, the first paragraph was something like, “I don’t understand all the complaining. I’ve found 4E characters to be very easy to kill. The tough part is making the players scared.” And yes, I’ve found that if I’m going to fudge dice, it would tend to be in the PCs’ favor. This has become more challenging, mostly because I’m making all my rolls out in the open.

    @Shilling: The DM Jekyll line is hands down, no doubt the best thing I’ve ever written. Which is a little sad, if I really think about it. While I acknowledge your concerns about the invulnerability attitude shattering disbelief and that PCs aren’t actually superheroes, I’m sticking to the claim because of what I see in movies and comic books, and what I aspire to be in my gaming storytelling.

    It bothers me when “heroes” tiptoe through their adventures, scared of their own shadows, prodding ahead with 10′ poles, searching every door for traps. Think about Spider-Man or Conan the Barbarian or John McClane or the execrable Drizzt Do’Urden. These are heroes who leap into danger with the expectation of success. They PLAN on succeeding! That’s the kind of hero I want to play.

    @Michelle: It’s a good point, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve stepped out of games. The DM had no interest in really letting me shine, even for a moment. It was all about keeping me down, helpless, and useless. I hate that! The same DM would delight in my natural 1 when I tried to show off with an Acrobatics check to juggle daggers, and then when I dropped a natural 20 on a Streetwise check, he said, “Well, you don’t really find out anything.”

    @E-l337: Absolutely, you are entirely correct by keeping Death as that extra character sitting at the table. If death had no bite, if there was no real risk of playing, then it’s not the game I’ve signed up for. I want the thrills and the risk, I want the obstacles and the danger, but that means we’re agreeing to a particular contract: if I succeed, you need to give me that moment at the end of Star Wars when we characters all receive our medals from Princess Leia. We are acknowledged as heroes!

    @B.J. Morgan: It’s something I hadn’t thought of for this article, but have brought up in the past about the weekly Encounters games. Most of the people coming in the door are, as you are, brand spanking new, so is it really a good idea to super-optimize the encounters to drain resources and keep PCs back on their heels? It seems like the point of those games are, “Come play D&D and be a punching bag for a couple hours! Whee!”

    @Steve: I agree that a stupid or ill-advised choice should have serious repercussions, as powerfully demonstrated by Aeofel’s splitting the party. And it doesn’t just have to be dopey moments that are being punished. Sometimes a hero doesn’t have a happy ending, as when he sacrifices himself to save the party. I know that it cheapens the cost when the DM handwaves the death in these circumstances.

    @Captain DM: Mixing up encounters is a great idea, both in the composition of the enemies (here are a collection of kobolds backed up by a white dragon) and in the difficulty from encounter to encounter. It was a tough lesson for me to learn, thinking the players would enjoy escalating difficulty instead of tossing in that Minion-Only battle now and then. And you’re dead-on right about auras and ongoing damage, something I can attest to as both player and DM. I can’t remember any encounter using these effects that wasn’t instantly engaging for me.

    @Kaloo: I think you nailed it, converting the genuine loss into an opportunity to create a new and interesting character. It does fall on us as players to realize that death is part of the game, a risk that makes the game worth playing, and it’s not an excuse to skate for our next character. Put even more effort in, and this time, survive!

  14. That is exactly where I want it to be. If the cast of heroes is a revolving door of PCs eventually the players are going to stop caring about their characters, and the plotline.

    P.S. The second part of my original post was meant sarcatically, I just realized that may not have been apparent.

  15. Dungeonmaster Johnny says:

    Hard to kill characters? Tell that to my players! They have died more in 4th than any other edition.

  16. Anaxetogrind says:

    I keep hearing about TPK as party failure. I consider a TPK Dm failure. I want to push my players to the brink of disaster from an HP perspective but I don’t consider char death a measure of party success or failure. In each encounter I try to set up the bad guys with objectives. Hold the pcs back for 3 rounds, or destroy the mcguffin before the pcs can retrieve, or slaughter the npc, burn down the building. The baddies have an objective to accomplish. If the pcs fail to stop them then the story evolves along a different path then if they succeed. A TPK only serves to break continuity. As far as entertainment it becomes about can the pcs stop the bad guy before he accomplishes his goal, some nights I get a rush of success from out maneuvering the pcs and some nights I get a rush from watching them be clever. Either way we all win.

    Also I tend to run one faction of my bad guys ( in the current campaign Orcus) and a fellow Dm strategically plans the other factions (the devils). When we have an off screen contest for resources we just flip a quarter to decide the outcome. In game I run all the monsters based on his goals and objectives. For my faction I out line the objectives on a sheet of paper and have the other Dm choose some terrain without knowing the encounter parameters. Makes for some very dynamic fights in unusual
    locales.

  17. @Anaxetogrind: To a certain extent I agree with you. Failure for the party can certainly mean many things, not just tpks or even a character death. However, I also don’t necessarily consider a tpk to be a DM failure — although I have to agree that in many circumstances a DM should consider whether or not the bad guys would actually kill the PCs as opposed to just taking them prisoner. Actually, that poses a potentially interesting skill challenge of sorts. We’re used to the PCs . . . ummmm . . . “interrogating” the bad guys, but in the event of a “tpk” (or perhaps tpc would be more accurate) we could turn this around to the bad guys interrogating the PCs and giving the PCs bluff, diplomacy, and endurance checks (for starters) to resist revealing their plans/knowledge.

    All that being said, I do think that in certain situations, a tpk is appropriate. I just believe that DMs should also think outside the box from time to time. As an aside, the way you run your campaign actually sounds pretty awesome — a shame none of my players ever want to take a turn behind the screen. :p

  18. @Kaloo: Glad I made a good impression! Hope you can fit in into a game sometime!

  19. Different games have differnt lethality levels.

    Sometimes players want that heroic (as opposed to superheroic), dangerous feel. And then you play a different ruleset. Same as if they want a game where the role balance is not combat. Then you play something else.

    4E is made for the superheroic, low lethality game (thoush some GMs seem to do ok here). That is what a lot of players want.

  20. The Awkward DM says:

    speaking from personal experience — on either side of the DM screen — i can attest to the fact that it isn’t actually hard to kill PCs in 4e … luck of the dice, environment working for/against you, tactical positioning, syngery with allies… any of those things can tip the favor against you and cause one death.
    And, sometimes one death leads to a domino effect as monsters have one less PC to focus on and thus can swarm more on the remaining PCs…

    But what to do when you’re dead? Waiting is harder for some people than others.
    you could start looking through books/material for next character concept, or actually start stating it out.
    you could watch the action
    you could ask if the player of the dead PC wants to roll monster attack rolls.
    if there was some npc already present, ask if the player wants to run it (though , not all players are “in to” running anything other than their own self-designed PC)
    etc

    but, yes, if you can’t find a nondisruptive way to pass the time while waiting, then it does suck big time when you’re PC just dies and you have to wait out the remainder of the encounter.

  21. David Harmon says:

    I can think of at least two (related) issues here: One is Genre/Role: Yeah, Spidey and Conan go blasting into combat, but then, they’re major badasses in their respective universes! If your character is meant to be a beginning superhero, then they should naturally be more cautious, and they should recognize that even if they are a superhero, there are bigger fish around!

    If the game is based on, say, detective fiction, then the rules are very different: For example, you do not argue with the guy holding a gun on you. Even if you have your own gun, a shootout is insanely risky, and you really want to avoid risk-to-life situations.

    The other issue is Giving Due Warning: Players need to get appropriate notice when the situation is becoming dangerous, or when the tide is turning against them. “Do you really want to chase that thing across the ice bridge? You don’t even have cleated boots, let alone a parachute!” “Your troops have taken the hill — but it looks like Darkthorn’s ogres are halfway to surrounding your hill!” The Amber Diceless system writes this directly into the rules — if a fight is going against you, you’ll get plenty of warning before you’re SOL. Losing henchmen or the like (or seeing them break ranks and flee) is another way to handle this.

    OK, there’s a third issue too: You need at least some ways to lose the fight, without losing your character. That can mean losing the objective, while they still have a chance to escape. Sometimes, baddies can offer terms for the PC’s surrender, or just capture them (“You wake up in a stone cell. A kobold is bandaging your wounds, while several bugbears watch through a grill.)

  22. “Players need to respect the nothingness, the void, which lurks about every gaming table and inside every DM dice.” – This is greatness. I have this mental image of a swirling black void within a translucent d6. They should make those, bet they’d sell well. :)

  23. Dixon Trimline says:

    @Dungeonmaster Johnny: Yup, that’s been my experience too, though that might be a result of so many “new” players to the game. Of course, I haven’t run any games of high paragon or epic tier, so maybe PC Godlings are tougher on the DMs.

    @Anaxetogrind: In those few times I’ve committed a gross act of TPK, I have felt like I blew it as a DM. Usually I get all dewy-eyed and sorrowful, and roll in some kind of ham-handed, “Uh, you guys wake up in the temple, and your patron is standing over you looking annoyed.” Everyone at the table knows it’s a cheat, but they typically don’t complain.

    I like your goal-oriented villain approach, since it doesn’t (and maybe shouldn’t) include trying out for the PC serial killer role. Sort of a “these insects (the PCs) are an inconvenience, but not a true danger” attitude.”

    @Rob: I like your idea about TPC (Total Party Capture, I’m assuming), allowing the party to figure out how to escape. It does raise the possibility that the players will take a purely passive role, waiting for the DM to get them out of this rotten situation.

    @LordVreeg: Oh, absolutely. I tend to communicate in hyperbole, making my point using words like MUST and WILL and ALWAYS, instead of kinda sorta maybe. But you’re right, there is always (and should always be) room in every game for a kick-buttocks setting, a challenge to the players to “survive if you can.” Growing up, our Go-To adventure was Treasure Vaults of Lindoran,” which is AD&D destruction in 30 pages.

    @The Awkward DM: Yup, that’s true, and it can be pretty wonderful when all things fall perfectly into place for the party–dice rolls, strategies, synergies–and it’s the DM’s responsibility NOT to punish the party for their success. Of course, when things go the other way, and the dice turns on the party like a box full of rabid weasels, then the DM has to decide the degree of honesty/punishment.

    You offer up some great ideas for the just-sitting-there player. I’ve never tried any of these, but I love handing responsibilities over to the players with fallen characters.

    @David Harmon: You’re right, circumstance usually defines mortality, and I’d want the PCs to appreciate the “neophyte hero” or “NPC with gun” situation. Keep in mind that ultimately, the characters are very breakable, and if you don’t want your character to die, try not to act brazenly stupid.

    I’m a big proponent of Giving Due Warning. In my games, the phrase I use most often is, “Are you sure you want to…” Building in killable henchmen is a great way to emphasize peripheral fragility, getting the players to realize, “Hey, the archlich just did 76 damage to my standard bearer… maybe I should listen to it.”

    @Goken: Oh yes, I’d be ordering the Void Dice immediately, provided they can also drastically reduce the temperature in the room when the DM rolls a natural 20.

  24. Can’t agree with this one. I respect that there are a variety of “styles” out there, but nothing is a bigger fun killer for me than realizing that there is no risk of total failure. Please let me know up front if this is dm story time or the local improv hour, because frankly, I’d rather play a game.

  25. Dixon Trimline says:

    @Chaz: You make an entirely fair point. We’re just coming to the game looking for different things. I’ve played with my share of game-oriented, win-and-lose players, who thrill at the bloodiest challenges, who want to crawl out of the other end of the meat grinder adventure knowing they just barely survived… or possibly not. It feels like that’s what the new Encounters series is going to be all about, Lair Assault (http://www.wizards.com/dnd/Event.aspx?x=dnd/4new/event/dndlairassault). Survive if you can, though you probably won’t.

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