23 March 2012

Pen and Paper: Casualties among PCs part 3 - Left in the Ditch and other Deaths

Still talking about characters who died on me, this time we'll look at the other three deaths in my roster. My first character death was something I actually enjoyed, from a story-perspective (going out in a blaze, saving the world and killing a lot of evil authority figures in the process) as well as from a meta-gaming perspective (screwing up the deus-ex-machina players-not-involved ending the GM had prepared). The second one much less so.

Captain Vance Jefferson was my character in a campaign set in the Firefly-universe (albeit played with a different game-system). Owner of a small space-freighter, Jefferson was living the life of people like the original Firefly-crew, only with a different cast of characters around him. But he had more to lose than just the ship: He had a dependent, a young daughter who lived with her maternal grandparents. He did this whole smuggling/transporting job to send home some hard-earned credits to make life a little better for what was left of his family. The campaign even featured the crew going after reapers who had kidnapped the family and part of their settlement, catching up with them, fighting and defeating them and rescuing the hostages before they were eaten by those crazed mutants. Over the course of the campaign, the ship got in their hands some technological information that was way beyond their league - Jefferson decided to give it up to the guys who originally owned it.

This timid style of leadership, which had also prevented the first story-hook at the beginning of the campaign, as Vance thought it was just to risky to steal a warship out from under the nose of the alliance, had started to piss off some of the other characters. So much indeed, that they didn't stop the bad guys from shooting their captain. As I wasn't even present in that game-session, there was nothing I could do. I still hold it against the GM of that campaign (which hasn't stopped me from playing other games with him, he is a good GM) that he let my character die in my absence but I had, in all honesty, given him free reign on such things. Vance Jefferson died with his face in the dirt, a single dad gunned down on an uninhabited planet because his friends had forsaken him.

After the captains death, the ship became a group-owned asset and I, half a year in real-life later, made a new character to re-join the group. He was basically a revenge-character to annoy the crew, a rich-kid jackass with unlimited funds and a big mouth but nothing more than that. Thing is, it was a lot of fun to play this guy, so that is an advantage in and off itself. He also fit in with the crew way better than anyone would have expected. You don't need high stats if you can just throw money at problems until they disappear.

Anyway, next character-death. Hakai was a dragon-blooded monk in Exalted. This one didn't affect me too much as we didn't meet to play very often and he was only about three sessions old when he did his final flight on a first-age jet fighter without knowing the controls to chase down an enemy he could have punched to death, had he been unhurt and with full essence (which is, to all of you who don't play Exalted, mana). Not much to say here, I had tried impossible odds in Exalted before, sometimes it even worked out with a lot of dice-based luck and then it was usually awesome, this time it didn't. He crashed to the ground and died, far away from his group. It was a risk I had taken and I felt no remorse. Instead, I made a new character to replace him and moved on.

The most recent character-death I have on my rap-sheet is the most logical one, as it was in a game of Call of Cthulhu. As this is a horror-game about cosmic horrors to large to comprehend for human beings, PC-mortality is expected to be high. As such, the suicide of my character being the only casualty our four-man group had to suffer was an irregularity, especially since it was my decision to have him shoot himself after the adventure was technically over. It was also one of the very few pre-made adventures I have ever participated in and I must say that the localized adventures of the Call of Cthulhu RPG-system are excellent in quality and the amount of research that must have gone into them.

Death by suicide fit the character, a manic-depressive painter in 1920s Berlin. He had seen and suffered horrible things in World War I and used his art as an outlet for that. The adventure he embarked on with his new-found friends led him to a small town with a terrible and ancient secret, at one point in the story forcing him into a pact with the horrors dwelling below the city. Refusing to hold up his end of the bargain by murdering his friends, Karl (that was his name) received burn-wounds around his waist, growing worse every day. In the end it was clear that he would live with incredible pain and only had a few weeks left at best. It was to much and he opted out as long as he still could and had a rifle at hand. It was a fitting conclusion to the troubled character, this time I wasn't sacrificing myself for the world, but for the group.

And that's it, the four stories of characters of mine who have died. There will be more in the future, I know that. As I have said before, if PCs can't die, the risk is not there. And adventure without risk is Disneyworld. And that's for kiddies.

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