206 – The Illusion of Death in RPGs

The Mythcreant Podcast
Players don’t just want to win. They want to win by the skin of their teeth. They want to feel like the dragon could have eaten them and they just barely got away. So how do you create that feeling without actually killing any characters? That’s what we’re talking about this week, including everything from how to make your villains threatening to what happens if you actually do kill off PCs whenever the dice say to. Also, a few strolls down memory lane to the campaigns of yesteryear!

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Opening and closing theme: The Princess Who Saved Herself by Jonathan Coulton. Used with permission.

Show Notes:

Torchbearer Cave Troll Fight



Stalagmites and Stalactites

Sequel Campaigns

Ned Stark

Season 3 Buffy

5E D&D

Legend of the Five Rings

Tenra Bansho Zero

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  1. Alejandro A Zarate

    I love your show, but I take UMBRAGE at the idea that dice should be fudged to avoid character death.

    If you find yourself having to ignore the rules of a game, then probably one of these is happening: a) either you’re playing the game wrong, or b) you’re playing the wrong game, or c) the game Is terribly designed.

    If you find the game you’re playing has too high lethality foto your taste, maybe it’s meant to ve that way. Maybe it’s meant to encourage you to avoid combat at all costs like in Cthulhu Dark, where engaging a creature in combat always means you automatically die. Maybe the survival element is part of what makes it fun, like with old school D&D (after all, if character creation Is little more than rolling 3d6 six times o
    in order and picking one of seven clases, you should be back playing in no time).

    If character death bugs you so much, why not play games in which character death is not an option? Example: Icons, a superhero game based on FATE, specifically states that in the superhero genre death isn’t ever permanent, so your character will be back in a couple sessions. It makes a lot more sense to just play a nonlethal game than to roll dice and then just do whatever you like (which is pretty much just playing pretend but with a plastic rattling pantomime).

    Okay, that’s out of my system. Love the show, I just really strongly disagree on that one point.

  2. Matthew

    DO NOT fudge your dice rolls. If you fudge rolls to save characters (or to kill them) you are just a lying cheater.

    There are an infinite number of ways to have the game you’re playing create the kinds of results that you want, if you set up the initial conditions properly. If your group decides that character death is off the table (this is a conversation for session zero), then you should arrange the game beforehand to prevent this from happening.

  3. Lizard with Hat

    I personally don’t fudge dice, but my players are aware of that fact and they like the unpredictability of taking any role as I comes.
    Our safety feature is that character death (or severe injuries) can be taken if the player likes but are not a must – except the deliberately overextend.

    And yes i had fights where the opponents lost through bad look but this adds to my players enjoyment as they see that they are not the only ones with bad luck.

    I think the vail between in-time and out-time are quite blurry in my groups and I have nothing against fudging dice, its a matter of taste i guess.

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