Last Updated: April 8, 2022
In this episode of the RPGBOT.Podcast, we discuss character death in tabletop RPGs with special guest Wolf. We discuss preparing for planned deaths, handling unplanned deaths, and how to come back from both (both literally and figuratively). Wolf also gives us some insight into the world of Live Action Roleplaying (LARP).
Special thanks to @pugmonzz for this week’s question of the week, and to @bearded_pilgrim for the monster of the week.
Special thanks to Asher Ely of the Critical Fails Podcast on the Monsterizer winner assist.
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Materials Referenced in this Episode
- Middleground, a Pacific Northwest LARP Venue
- DnD 5e Spells referenced in this episode
- DnD 3.x spells referenced in this episode – See the Spell Compendium (affiliate link)
- DnD 5e source books referenced
- Pathfinder 2e source book referenced
Ominous Voice 00:00
How do you want your character to die?
Welcome to the RPG pod podcast. I’m Randall James and I’m dying to be here. With me is Tyler Kamstra
And Random Powell.
Random, and we have a special guest tonight with us tonight is wolf.
I thought you had it covered. Hi, my name is
perfect. Awesome. Awesome. Tyler, what are we doing tonight?
Well, today we’re going to talk about death. It’s Halloween. Well, it’s spooktober, so it’s the spooky month we’re going to talk about spooky things and we wanted to start with death. Last week we talked about the Monsteriser, so I guess technically we started with that, but you get my point. So we have Wolf here. Dan… producer Dan and I met Wolf at PAX after a panel called the Care and Feeding of the Community. And wolf had some really interesting insights into managing traumatic experiences for characters within the game, specifically death. Now, Wolf, my understanding is you’re very active in the local LARP community. And in live action roleplay players often play the same character for years at a time. They’ve invested a lot of time and money into the character, into costumes, props, things like that. So death is really significant when you’ve really lived in a character for that long and that feels very similar to the tabletop RPG experience but taken like way to the extreme because you’ve spent so much time inhabiting this character.
It’s… it’s true I’ve seen I’ve seen it all. It’s horrifying
well hopefully not too horrifying. So you had some great insights in the panel about
Well actually, Tyler, before we go much further I have a question for you:
What is death?
What is death? Well if we asked the biology community, question mark. I’m kidding, scientists understand this way better than I do. So in terms of game terms, your character is dead. They go from a character to an object
Straight into the philosophical stuff! This is not what I was expecting from tonight. Good! Very good.
Truly a collection of objects if we’re being…
Yes. So, depending on your rule set, there will be some variation on the rules that lead to your character dying. Most frequently will be you get hit with something nasty like a spell or you take a bunch of damage and you’re reduced to zero hit points. Your character is now dying or possibly immediately dead. If you are a longtime RPG player this has happened to you, most likely. If you’re a new player, it’s coming. Be ready. And just understand, it’s part of the game. It might hurt. It probably should. But that’s part of the experience.
In fifth edition right like we have this idea of the saving throws to save yourself from death, but you can actually take so much damage… like what is the rule if you take a certain amount of damage you’re just dead. Like, it’s over you’re gone.
Yeah, double your hit points and that is way more… what am I trying to get at? Way more generous than previous editions. In 3.5 if you reached minus 10 you died. It doesn’t matter if you’re a 20th level character with 500 hit points. If you take 510 damage you’re dead. You know, Pathfinder did that a little bit better. You could get to minus your cotton score for some reason. Which still, you know, like I’m still 20th level I still have 500 points. Ooh, negative 520. Ooh boy .
Yeah, between 10 and 2013 isn’t isn’t carrying much weight anymore, is
it? Exactly. So yeah, mechanical death and there’s usually some ways to save yourself from it. You know, in fifth edition. Like Tyler said, you have your chance to save yourself with death saves, which is a really interesting mechanic. In particularly it’s… it’s kind of fun that you stop tracking hit points. Like if you’re at zero, you’re just dying and even if somebody hits you for 50, you know, as long as that’s not gonna outright kill you that’s just one fail. So mechanical death like that but, yeah, character death is a… it’s a can of worms.
So wolf I’ve actually I’ve never done live action roleplay so I asked the question is there such a thing as mechanical death? What does it look like typically in LARP? Is there a particular system?
So, it varies just sort of game to game it is… more hardcore games is pretty much one and done. When you… you have a bleed out timer so once you’ve taken your damage or you’ve been hitting the appropriate spots, you fall over and you start a five minute counter. Then there’s an option of a killing blow where they raise their arms and drop them down you know with their sword on you and that cuts your timer down. And then there are games where when you die you go to a resurrection circle and you draw beads from a bag, and you have eight beads and one of them is black, and if you draw the black bead, that’s it you’re done.
So there’s a bunch of different systems and that’s just… that’s just kind of the surface of the ones that I’ve played in.
How many not-death beads do you have to draw to not be dead? Or is there some other mechanism to escape that?
Seven or white, one is black, and if you draw a white bead, the white bead stays out of the bag and the next time you die you draw again and your chances get even harder.
So it’s it’s a it’s not quite a nine lives situation. And yeah, like you said the odds get worse for you every single time.
I have seen new players draw the black beadon their first game.
Oh that’s rough. I actually really like that mechanic. That’s so cool!
So that’s interesting like I would almost want to take that into, like, regular games. But we’ll… we’ll definitely come back to this later in the episode, but man, that is fascinating. I like that.
Yeah. Yeah, I’m… I’m imagining not doing this on Roll20. I feel like I’m gonna draw the black bead every single time that’s a whole ‘nother…
Something about Role20, our luck is just always the worst.
Yeah, at least mine. So I feel like we can kind of categorize deaths into two batches, right? There’s the unplanned death. It’s the “ou made a bad choice or you got yourself into a bad situation.” When we had Colby on a while back they were saying as a DM killing your characters and 5e like is actually hard to do because the game is set up so well to keep players alive. I guess, especially in LARP, like how often is it that a death is a planned death where it’s like look we need to retire this character we need to end this and kind of go to the next thing? Versus, you know, live, in-game dying.
Most of it most of it is is “on camera” so it’s happening live and in the moment. When deaths happen sort of outside of the public view or in private places, a lot of times the storytellers will get together with the player and say “let’s make this cool. Let’s do it in public. How do you want… How do you want this to work?” Ultimately, the ending is still the same it’s just we’re letting you… we’re letting you tell the story. We can choreograph a little bit and we can make it dramatic and fun for everyone. Because nobody likes to die off screen.
Yeah 100%. Like how often is that like a character gets to redeem themselves and have this like heroic moment or something funny? How often is it like turning villainous and then being the foil right before being put down?
Honestly, in in some of the games I play in it’s it’s a roll of the dice. Somebody goes bad or somebody comes in with a concept where they’re they’re playing a villain, and sometimes both will get their moment. Your heroic person as he’s saving someone and the villainous PC as he’s getting stabbed by the heroic PC. And so really, it’s it’s a roll of the dice. I’d say by far the most dangerous thing is going into the woods alone is probably one of the most dangerous situations where you get murdered by a monster in the woods because you went out there alone.
Makes sense. Makes sense.
Yeah, and it’s funny, right? You say talking about going off in the woods alone. The eternal trope of “don’t split the party.” Having characters turn villainous, sometimes against their own will, like against the players will, can be a really interesting way to just throw a wrench into the current narrative which if you’re prepared for it can be really cool. There’s various points that I’ve seen in books and and even experienced, like, everyone is asleep, but the person on watch, and the person on watch fails a geas and now they’re secretly plotting to kill you. Source: this happened to me. If you are going to roll something like that, I think that it’s really important to talk with the player. And you know, if it is something that is happening live like okay, the randomness says you failed your geas, you’re my spy now or you failed, you know, the dominate whatever. Then play out the rest of the session, and then talk to this person offline. You know, say “alright, I know you love this character. I own you at this point.” We need to figure out how to make this interesting so that maybe this character does die. Maybe this character, you know can be redeemed somehow. It’s a thing to be aware of that you should play out the immediate consequences, but don’t feel like you’re locked into those immediate consequences. You know, don’t feel like just because I have turned this person, you know, just because this person has suffered the vergouille’s kiss, they are now toast because they’re a level two character. Talk to somebody and then if you are gonna plan it, then definitely have that sort of plan for making it be something cool.
Yeah, I guess I want to, like, dive into this a little bit more. So I’ve never been in a situation where there’s a planned character death where a DM and a player are like conspiring together to put this together. And so, Wolf, for like… for what you talk about for LARPing when it is a plan, how do you do that? Do you put the high level bullets together, and then kind of get from bullet to bullet as, as improv? Like how much of this is scripted and rehearsed versus, we know, we want to get to this end point. So just get out there and get there.
If someone’s retiring their character, say they’re getting close to an XP cap, which is something they do in a lot of LARPs to help with the power creep and stuff. We’ll spend a lot more time you know, choreographing what’s going to happen, what’s happened with their character in the last year, two years, three years that that led them up to this point. And then… and then we work with them to tell the story and to help push the plot forward. Generally, from the get-go on character creation. It’s one of the things I talked about at PAX, one of the questions we like to ask and continually ask is, “how do you want your character to die?” And, and you, you’d be interested, it’s interesting to see how much that answer changes as the character develops, because at first they may, they may say, you know, “I want to go in the tavern when it’s caught on fire, you know, and I, that’s, that’s how I want to go.” And later on, it’s like, “I want to die in the arms of this person who saved me.” And it also serves as a mechanism to remind them that death is a possibility, especially in LARPs, where you play for two or three years, you forget you’ve gone in the woods 100 times, you’re safe. Like you’ve every time 10 out of 10 and then that one time that that rock golem comes out and smashes you for 100 massive damage and you’re down and you’re in the woods and nobody’s there. It’s so… sorry, I’m getting off topic but in in retirement situations or in situations that are like a character wanting to bring in something else. They will generally talk to staff work something out that continues to plot or seeds the next plot or makes the villain look even more you know, badass. In smaller scale situations, like if I’m going out as a big bad guy NPC, and I accidentally throw 100 massive at that poor new player who is… it’s his second game. I create workarounds with the player where I pick their body up while they’re still on their five minute count and I walk them into town and I throw their body at the tavern and then all their friends come out, fight me, and kill me like they’re supposed to. And then they have the chance to save their buddy so in those situations, it’s a little less choreographed and more like I’m going to drag you in here because you shouldn’t have been out here and you likely didn’t know.
That’s pretty awesome.
I like that kind of… I don’t want to say “gentleness” because it’s not quite that. Throwing… throwing an unconscious body into the tavern as a monster feels plausible. At but at the same time, it does provide those interesting guardrails for new player0s. I think that’s a really clever way to handle that.
And in other situations, we’ll turn them undead you know, we’ll raise them as undead which stops their counter now they’re temporarily an NPC. We get to send them in, everyone knows what’s happening. And then they get to murder him and raise them back to life. So it’s another… another option to make it a little more thematically appropriate
Revenance-Revivify. No, God, why? It’s back. It’s in LARP.
Okay, Random there are gonna be people asking what that is. You gotta explain that one.
I know. So the… the undeath thing that you just talked about. So in… in dungeons dragons 3.5. There was a so revivify, much like reunify in fifth edition, if someone has recently died, you bring the back to life, no penalty. It’s a lower level and it’s way easier to accomplish. Great. But what do you do if someone’s been dead for a day because you didn’t have Revivify? Well, you blame Wizards of the Coast for wording things badly because they created a spell called Revenance which is basically I’m going to bring someone back to the back to life from the dead so that I can talk to them for like 15 minutes and then, and this is the exact wording of the spell, “at which point they die again.” And because they just died they are now a valid target for Revivify. And so you bring them back to life and you can’t see my frantic arm gestures, podcast listeners. Oh my god WotC. Figure yourself out. They were vivacious. I will say for like, for the the LARP situation, that sounds perfect to me because I can imagine you might have folks who are out there for the first time, they will walk away not realizing that you saved their life. Potentially, they might just think “that was awesome.” Because, like, I went out there and I got murdered, and then he threw me at my friends, idiot! Because then my friends brought me back to life. Like I can, I can imagine situation where they learned the lesson you want them to learn, which is “you can die in this game.” Like don’t, don’t just gently walk out into the night because you think it’s going to be a good time. But also they still get to come back and play that same character without having to restart so I… that really makes a lot of sense to me.
And when you have, you know, 50 to 120 or 200 players at a time, the power scale is difficult… more difficult to manage. So like in D&D, generally you’re you’re close to the same level as you progress. Nobody wants to be that guy who shouldn’t be in the universal, like, like domain of planes as level two because he’s going to get killed by a scrap piece of dust. So we’ve got people from level two all the way up to you know 110 that are, that are out there playing and the one guy who thinks he’s safe in the woods, gets, you know, found because he doesn’t know that he shouldn’t be there. And just to be clear, rock golems are very territorial and like to rip people apart in front of other people to show how badass they are.
The kind of monster that will beat a dude with another dude?
Yeah, it’s… yeah. Rocco Golem X.
How? So in LARP? Like how you talked about throwing the body at a group of friends. How attached to a particular character will other characters be? Like, do they… Is it a thing folks take in stride? Or do they really get into the roleplay of like, you know, it’s John and John’s gone, and I can’t believe this!
It’s real bad.
Which way? Cuz there’s so many versions of “real bad.”
You get, you get really attached to your character. We have some players in, in a couple of the games that I play with, who have an accent and they can’t stop speaking with the accent, you’re almost guaranteed to have dreams or nightmares about your character dying or living within the first year of playing. And people get really attached and there are funerals that people hold in-character. There’s generally there are safe places where you can speak out of character, but once you’re in the game space area, you’re considered in character for all intents and purposes, unless you’re brand new and don’t know the rule yet. There are decorum calls, so if somebody starts speaking about the real world and cell phones and all of this you you just politely say “decorum,” and it’s the call to get them back on track.
Obviously not from the LARP perspective, I have not done much of that. But in… even just like a regular D&D game, I have definitely had characters, you know, more or less… and it’s really about the character, I think. So, you know, a… is a chaotic, neutral stabby Rogue gonna be real mournful about the passing of other people? Nah, man, that’s money laying on the ground. On the other hand, this Paladin that I have talked about so often, we lost two player characters to the final boss of Death House. A few sessions later, when we finally got some downtime. I, like, in the… in between sessions, I went, I found a font that claimed to be giant, like, you know, which is like based on a Dwarven script. I wrote out the character names and I like printed them, brought them in and I said, “Hey, other character, will you ritual scar these into my back for me.” And that way, I was carrying those, you know, dead characters with me forever. You know, that’s just like… that’s really where, you know, how long should the PCs mourn? It’s dependent on the person right? In the same way that people in real life, you know, you’re gonna have people who react to death very differently. You’re gonna have somebody who says, “Oh, well, yep, there went my parents, whoo.” Or you’re going to have somebody who is really grieving and, you know, if they’re processing for days, weeks, months, that’s fine. Now, you know, given the… the nature of D&D, you’re probably not going to be actually like, IRL mourning a character for months. But you know, it’s also plausible. So it really… it just boils down to what do you think the character that you’re inhabiting would do as a reaction to these other characters dying?
Now, I’m curious what you guys think. If the death of the character isn’t planned, like, does that affect kind of that mourning period? Like I know I’ve had some characters that I was kind of attached to die untimely deaths. Random, your Rise of the Runelords campaign, I had the same character die at least twice. The first time, real unplanned. It was, it was a straight up fight. We were winning, I got hit with a bad critical hit and went from like, half hit points to outright dead in one shot. And I was the healer, so nobody else was gonna do anything to help me. Yeah, so, so if the death is unplanned, but also inevitable, like, how do you handle that?
I think that, once again, I’m gonna want to point us towards… let’s have a social solution first, and part of that is going to be at your session zero setting the expectation of this is a low/medium/high lethality campaign. You know, we talked about this some in Failure because often, you know, consequences for failure do lead to death. Maybe your characters aren’t actually dead, but you know, improvise, and they’re captured or maybe like, yeah, you’re, like, dead. But people are going to be able to bring you back to the local Cleric who very conveniently you have done a service for and will bring you back to life. Or maybe it is just, nah, man, you died. And again, like we talked about it in an episode, I think there’s really a lot of… did you die Because you’re a wizard who just walked into a room full of territorial rock golems? Or did you die because, like, we were having a straight up fight, and man, I crit you three times in a row? I’m sorry, that’s on me. What is it acceptable, I think, really, you’re going to want to start off with having that conversation long before it comes up. As long as you stick to that. And in fact, in my personal opinion, you should even oversell how lethal your game is going to be a little bit so that then you can tone it back. So that you know if you say, you know, somebody is really atached to their character, and you are just about to murder them. It’s like, Oh, you, um… 33 hit points? Oh, that’s weird. He deals you 31 damage (ignores dice). On the one hand, talk about it ahead of time so that people know. And on the other hand, if the numbers say that it should happen, make it happen, and then talk about it with the player afterwards, if you can tell that they are really broken up about it.
So there’s an interesting thing here, though, that you’ve highlighted and then we’ll if I think you also highlighted in the LARP context, it does feel a bit arbitrary. Whether as a Game Master, you’re going to say, “No, you’re dead and you’re dead permanently.” Or I’m going to give you an out through a local Cleric, or through this, this in-game mechanism where your, your teammates, your friends can help you where like, Wolf, I heard you apply earlier, if it’s your first game, or if you’re very new to this, I’m actually gonna cut you some slack. But I’m gonna cut you some slack for in a way that actually makes sense in the game. And there’s probably a point where you cut that off where you, so, Okay, look, you’ve been here for months. You knew, sorry. And again, like how hard a campaign ,if it’s our third session in a game, maybe I’m okay with killing your player character because it’s not like you’re attached to it anyway. We’ll roll new character and you’ll do better next time. But if it’s a year into the campaign, and I crit you in this amazing way that nobody expected that’s much harder to manage.
Yeah, I super agree. Generally, you get some games do the first two deaths are free, where you don’t have to draw from the bag you just go back to the resurrection circle. Some games, they’re a little bit more lenient, I think it’s two or three games, game sessions that you get to play. And then some of them is just I… I brought the wrong… I brought a machine gun to a knife fight. I didn’t know the guy in the woods was gonna have like a knife and a box of tissues. That he’s too dead to use. And so I gotta make a correction for that. In… generally when I’m. when I’m. when I’m playing tabletop and other… I’m running games like that. I put a level cap on and it’s it is about manage expectations I say, you know, by level five, like you’ll… my common sense should be your common sense. The the world should be explained enough that you’re, you have a general understanding of how things work. At that point, I take the gloves off and let the dice do the work.
I think that’s the right way to handle things. Depending on the level of scale, like your, your 20 level, D&D games, you’re starting level one and you make it to level five by then you’ve probably got a pretty good sense of how things work and how lethal things are going to be. Wolf, you mentioned that there were larps they go up to, I think you said, level 110? Something like that?
Yeah, depending on the game that you’re playing, you can you can go all the way up to… Like I have a level 341 Rogue in games I play in. And I only play with the new players because I like to teach them how to be real fighters in real life, and then send them off into, into the game as amazing rogues at level two. There’s something about seeing a bunch of, I call them “ducklings”, sneak up, sneak up behind the big monster, do like 60 damage, and then bleed into the shadows in real life. It makes my heart throb. I love it.
That’s great. Now, just for curiosity, so you’re level 300-something, how quickly do advance levels of that game?
I ran… I ran one of the chapters for two years and so I invested my, my payment in that game, which is an imaginary payment that doesn’t do anything in real life, but I reinvested that into XP. Blanket XP because they’re national fames, so basically it’s like I I pretended to play in this game over here that I would have pretended to be my character, so I get XP for playing that, but the progression is… it’s almost twice as difficult to get to the next level so it would take probably five years to get to level 200, level 250. And that’s like playing every single game that you can get to locally like the Washington, Oregon, and maybe the California game just to try to maximize the amount of experience points you’re getting.
Wow okay, so you’re you’re super invested in this character. Wow.
I’m tempted to ask what uh, under what scenario will that character die?
Oh I want I want him to die… he, he has yet to pull a bead from a bag. He doesn’t believe that resurrection is okay and he absolutely hates magic in all forms. He thinks if you were civilized you just stab somebody in the back like everyone else. My answer to my own question for that character was “I want to die telling my party that if we do this we’re going to die.” And and having done that I will be the one to die while making direct eye contact with my party that I told we shouldn’t do this. I just… I want that.
You want to see it coming? Okay.
Well, it’s more than that. You want the last imprint you give to them to be guilt.
I want I want them to think the next time they’re going to the bathroom, like, “am I going to die? Is… would he say that I was going to die?” and I mean sometimes going to LARPs where you have to leave your cabin and physically walk to the bathroom to go to the bathroom and that’s a place where NPCs jump you. I myself have camped outside looking for someone doing the peepee dance. Like, I want that to be that moment where you’re like “what would… what would he say?” He would say “don’t go outside you’re gonna die.” Like, I want it to haunt them, you know?
Again just curiosity because I still haven’t made it to a LARP despite being invited numerous times, um… so the restrooms are in-character too?
No. So once you’re inside the bathroom, so I’m speaking about different sites. I own one, but we’ll all talk about that later. You, you typically sleep in a cabin and the bathrooms are like… like on a campsite. They’re, they’re not in the same building so you have to walk sometimes up to a quarter mile to get to the bathroom. And them’s woods is dangerous, especially in the middle of the night when you’re like “I’m gonna leave all my stuff here because this is an emergency. I need to get there right now.” And then you’re, you’re running through and you see that giant rock golem and you’re just like “just kill me so I can go to the bathroom out of character please.” Like I want to go.
Okay is the is the Kevin where you’re sleeping also a safe place?
Different games have different rules. Say the… generally from 2am to 8am, you’re safe sleeping in your cabin. No monsters are going to come in. But as far as PvP goes, it’s, it’s whatever you want. Somebody comes into your cabin and shanks you in the night and it’s another PC, rough! But as far as PVE goes, we generally stop at 2am. But I absolutely have crawled into people’s bed with them at like 8:15 in the morning as fay and been like, “Josh. Josh, wake up.” And then, and then hit them with some hallucinate gas and run away.
Can we just crop that and just slip that in at the beginning of the episode, just to mess with anyone listening named Josh?
I’m imagining having to actually set guard, like before we go to sleep.
You I really do have to set a watch.
I need you to be
Oh my gosh, that’s so much fun!
The worst thing that’s ever happened to me is like I got attacked by the cat once when I was going to get a beer, but that was my fault.
Yeah, that’s the trouble of owning a cat.
Okay, so… sorry. Alright, so, so let’s say I’m that guy. It’s four in the morning, I wake up, run to the restroom, get ambushed by the rock Golem. And at the time, I’m like, “look, man, just kill me. And I’m gonna go do this. And we’ll deal with consequences later.” And then I wake up the next morning and think, “maybe I made the wrong choice. Maybe I still want to be this character.” How do we recover from that?
That depends on the game you’re playing in the ruleset going in. So you’ll be able to manage your expectations from there. Obviously, there are some caveats for “it’s 4am and I had to I had to go pee.” And that’s definitely something that most plot members will definitely have that conversation with you. It’s, it’s generally accepted that you’re going to be frustrated, especially getting up in the middle of night and have to go to the bathroom, first off, and then being jumped by a rock monster, man. Nobody really saw that coming. I guess running into a bunch of traps would probably be a whole different conversation, because we use like little mouse traps that signify that you’ve hit a trap. And that might be a conversation that you save to the morning and then walk up to the we call it monster camp, the place where the logistics team get together and do horrible things to the players. You know, it would be up to them, they would say “okay, you, you accidentally ran into three traps go into the bathroom. Alright, let’s let’s have this conversation.” And in a lot of cases, they’ll have you go out into an area in the woods and just lay down and start your counter then. And when somebody comes up to ask you what happened, you tell them that a rock monster jumped out of nowhere. And that was that. Some games have a fate of the party rule where I’m sleeping out of character anything that happens after I go to sleep I leave my body which is a physical character sheet in this cabin. And whatever happens, happens to the party. And that’s… I’ve always felt that’s the more dangerous scenario. Because if, if they decide to go Leroy Jenkins or something, then then you went with them. And in, next thing you know, it’s “dude, where’s my car?” as you’re trying to figure out what happened to your body.
I will say I’m imagining being the rock golem, the NPC, but the player part of it. That’s just camping outside the bathroom waiting for people who have to pee. Yeah, it’s like the troll waiting under the bridge. It’s like “who pees here?”. Yeah. Anyway, okay.
I myself have been in a full ghillie suit hiding near the bathroom just into the shadows, waiting with an herb that you pick in real life, you have to walk around the woods and find the herbs, planted in my chest, waiting for people who are going to the bathroom, but decide to come over and pick the herb on the way to the bathroom, and then get them.
What is this? I’m so curious.
So if you have herbalism, and typically the we use prop flowers, and it’s got a little QR code on it. Depending on your skill level when you scan it, it’ll tell you what the herd is and so they don’t really know until they get close enough to find out
Okay, so it’s so it’s like a game or not like a real world herb, but then you’re actually… Okay.
It is, it is, there is a “phys-rep”, a physical representation of the herb that is a fakeflower with a QR code on it. But when they come up to check and the tree is alive, it sort of goes downhill from there.
If, if they haven’t gone yet they will then?
Okay. And so I feel like we’ve talked about the different ways in LARP that folks will come back to life. So the beads, I think we’ve all agreed, is probably the best idea on this that we’ve ever heard. That sounds amazing. The idea that if you’re dead, you’re dead. I mean, this is always something that’s there. I guess, I want to bring it back to 5e for a second. I have either failed my saving throws, my death saving throws, or I have taken so much damage that I am just dead. In fifth edition, what are my options to actually come back to life?
So I did touch on one of them a little bit ago. Traditionally divine magic is gonna get you stuff like revivify, Raise Dead, Resurrection. I’m reasonably certain they are moved True Rez in this edition and because at this point you could probably just Miracle, which it’s the same level, so why not? There are definitely several ways of… someone casts a spell and you come back to life. It is almost invariably going to involve crumbling up some diamonds because… I don’t know why. I guess they’re pure and so that purifies your corpse or something? Question mark?
It’s because we all know there’s a value to life and that value is diamonds,
Materialism in my D&D? It’s more likely than you think. All of these spells are something that kind of become a problem as the game goes on because, you know, when you are a lower level and somebody dies, you’re just dead unless the DM feels like being generous. But at higher levels, and we talked about this again some in the in the Failure episode, it can really feel like death is cheapened by the fact that, great, I have a million money because I’m a level 15 character and I have all these spell slots and so, oh somebody died. *the sound of somatic components* Anyway, carry on. You know that Jeremy Clarkson mem “Oh no! Anyway.”.
We talked some then as well about, like, what we would do to fix this. I love that idea of the, the bags with “you’re gonna get up to eight, perhaps, resurrections if you are exceedingly lucky.” Matt Mercer’s resurrection rules where if you… if someone tries to cast one of these spells, it is not just a guaranteed success. There’s a roll that happens that can be modified by other members of the party doing other things that are perhaps relevant to the character and it’s… one of the things that I will reiterate from when I talked about at that time is it can be a really cool way to find out what other characters, what other players as their characters think is meaningful to your character, which is a really cool way to gauge like how well have you been roleplaying. You know, in any case, the spell always, like, if you succeed in the ritual and Matt Mercer’s rules or if you just cast the spell in, in rules as written D&D. Eventually someone knocks on your dead soul and says “Hey, bro, you want to come back to your body?” That’s another interesting thing because, you know, if you’re at a real hardcore roleplay table where maybe the player hasn’t been talking, because they’ve been dead, maybe they didn’t want to be that character anymore. Maybe you knocked on their soul and the soul says, “Nah, I’m good.” You know, I’m up here chillin and Celestia with my god who I’ve been worshipping for my entire life. I’m gonna stay.
Yeah. The real world sucks!
In D&D, yeah, kinda.
A bit, yeah. I’ve always kind of wondered about, about that. Like, you’re a lawful good character, your worship a good-aligned deity, you die, you go to heaven, things are pretty great there. And someone casts Raise Dead, it’s like, “m I gonna leave heaven and go, I don’t know, fight zombies in a dirty pit? Like… ugh.
That’s why you don’t give them a chance. And you just Resurrect them for the God Claw.
I can spin that on you, right? Like, if you truly are lawful, good, and you believe you’re doing good in the world, that eternal reward is always going to be there. You might as well come back and do a little bit more good. And then you go and you do that.
See, say that I’m gonna go back to randoms reference to the God Claw. That is a very specific reference. Randoms’ Rise of the Runelords campaign that I was in for… gosh, how long was I in that game? Over… well over a year. So I started as a lawful good Paladin, died on the end of the pitchfork, and then came back as a… a lawful neutral Oracle dedicated to the God Claw, which is a lawful organization of deities who don’t like each other very much, but very much like to continue existing, if I remember correctly. Yeah. So… character was very much brought back to life against their will with the duty to do… So, so sometimes, like, sometimes you do come back from the dead against your will. And that can be a really interesting, a really interesting character point. And as much as I love that character, honestly, I think I kind of flopped on the roleplaying that.
But and one thing that I want to be clear here, Tyler and I had this conversation that this character was going to come back outside the game. This is something that, you know, I offered him a chance like, “Hey, you know, you… you do love this character. If you want to come back, you can come back. I’m going to make some changes, I’m going to do this.” This is not something that you should foist on your player, you know, don’t ever make someone play a character they don’t want to be playing that is just going to breed resentment. And no one will have fun. I promise you that. So…
So this is the place you took the social cure.
Exactly, yeah, and it’s the same thing that I offered to everyone in that game, which everyone except one person took me up on. Which, the first time they died… Well, what over the course I mean, that campaign lasted nearly three years. So over the course of that game, I did kill every single player at least once. It was, it was never… it’s… Rise of the Runelords is epic. It is like 1 to 18. each of them got that same choice, which again was handled in the social fashion. I was like, here’s this option, if you want it great, if not roll up another character and four of the five players took me up on… Yeah, I want to come back. They were really invested in the characters. So, just a way of gauging like, you know, if someone really does want to play or not.
So I do, I do have one more question about death specifically in fifth edition. Are there situations, like, can I… do you have to have a body to be resurrected? So if I, if my body is burned to death, or I’m tossed in a volcano, or I’m frozen and unrecoverable at the bottom of a lake? Can I still be resurrected?
It depends on the spell. Raise Dead requires a spell… more parts, er, sorry, Raise Dead requires a body, more powerful spells might not. You might need a portion of the body, which it’s not always clear how big that portion needs to be, so like, when your character’s start getting high enough level that that’s an option it’s a real good idea to leave your own hair various places. Just…
Everybody, hand some hair over.
Yeah, yes. Brush your hair, hand it to the Cleric, and be like “Alright, we’re good. I’ve got insurance.”
The one bald Monk is just sitting here like, “AH!”.
Yeah, that’s fine.
I’m sorry for that suggestion.
You should be. I want to go back to LARPing for a second so we talked about a few different mechanisms for somebody to come back to life. What are the other player characters options for bringing somebody back to life? So if somebody has, has their five minute timer has expired, are all other players out of it and there there are no other options?
Once your, once your timer has expired, your options are to go to the, to the resurrection circle. That’s generally most, most, most deaths or “downs”, I guess you might call them, happen in a battle an active battlefield where there are a bunch of people running around and there are dedicated healers, so when you’re down somebody might come up and they have a 10 second incant where they have to incant their healing spell and then touch you with a packet and then you come back to life and they try to drag you off of the battlefield and keep you from, keep you from dying. Once you hit your death counter is when you’re technically dead, but in that five minutes players can can save your life, but after that you do go to the resurrection circle.
An one thing ,so ,you have mentioned this several times this resurrection circle so what like what is that what is the mechanic there
The mechanic is there’s an actual glowing circle. On our site we have a graveyard, but there’s a big lit up glowing, blue circle and your body sort of reconstitutes there without any of your gear. Just, your, just your clothes because, you know, legal reasons. And you can’t leave the circle. Someone… someone who is attuned to that type of magic has to come in and give you permission to leave that, that circle. Once you do you have to go find your gear and you come back after your bead draw, and I’ve had people run in with literally just a dagger in their hand, no armor, no anything, run right back into battle. And it was a probably a half mile run that they, that they took from the resurrection circle back to the battle.
Wow, that is dedication.
Serious Dark Souls vibes. Anyway.
Os that indication of a really good player, or really crazy player? Dark Souls: who knows? Yes, great answer.
Although, yeah, I would totally do the the Dark Souls LARP, that sounds great. Like I haven’t… I have an ever, ever-growing, like bag of fruit that I have to carry around that if ever I die twice I lose all my fruit.
We should definitely talk after this, because we’ve got one for you.
How’s that Skyrim meme go? I’m fighting a dragon and just eat 12 wheels of cheese.
You don’t do that?
I mean, I do, but I do that not even just fighting. I do that just because cheese.
Awesome. All right. Awesome. Awesome. I think we did it. I think, I think that’s a whole episode. All right. This week, we have a question of the week! Our question of the week comes from @pugmonzz, or perhaps pug-mon-zz. I’m not exactly sure. Which class and ffiv is most in need of a rework?
Oh, that’s a hard question. I’m gonna say Monk. Fifth Edition Monk does a lot of things really well that it has kind of struggled with in previous editions. Random and I are natives of third edition, where the Monk was just straight up garbage. So fifth edition’s, Monk being actually playable is really awesome. It would be nice if there was more than one way to play a Monk. Like the… okay, every Monk you’re ever going to play is going to be dexterity first, wisdom second. Maybe Astral Self can get away with wisdom first, and then dexterity second, but like, that’s the only options. Everything else is… the only change between builds as your subclass and some variety there would be great.
Yeah, and for those listening at home the entire time that Tyler was talking Random was shaking, er, nodding his head extremely vigorously.
Yeah. So having played a Monk in both editions? 3.5 and fifth edition? Or, I know I played several in 3.x. I also landed on that before he said anything, if you gave it a year and a half ago, I would have said Ranger, but then Tasha’s came out and did a good job of giving us some fixes. It’s interesting at this point, like, how much the power level of your game hinges on “do I own slash allow this book,” because you know in… especially in more recent things as you start getting better and better subclasses, and fixes to things… like, Ranger is just bad, in, prior to Tasha’s. And even in 3.5, it was very similar. If you wanted to be a character that used a bow, you should be a Fighter. And there is literally no point to playing a Ranger. As a Fighter, if you spent all of your Fighter bonus feats on getting good with a bow, you’d be better with a bow than a Ranger, and then you can spend your regular feats on getting good at skills, and congratulations, you’re a better Ranger as a Fighter.
No, but I want to be Strider with a gaggling of hobbits, like, falling behind me.
Honestly, well, okay, we’re not going to get into how the internet argues about whether or not Gandalf is a 20th level Fighter with a high Int. But, I mean… so I’m glad. I still think that Fighter could use a lot, er no, I still think that Ranger could use a lot of work. Because it ,you know, we talked about this a little in the Optimization, the crash course episode, it feels like they really tried to split the difference between a Rogue and a Fighter. And they did it really badly, like 3.5 introduced the Scout class in complete adventurer, which was also a much better Ranger, and felt like a Ranger, than a Ranger. I’m glad, and I think that, at this point, I would have to agree with Tyler, like, it’s Monk, but Ranger, man. Yikes.
Did they, did they ever fix the Artificer? Because that was awful. I had the worst time playing. It was like, I was somebody’s pocket helper who would hand them stuff. And then I spent the rest of my time sitting, literally trying not to die, getting as far away from combat as possible.
Oh, boy, did they ever fix Artificer? I if you haven’t gotten read my guide, that is a love letter to Armorer Artificer, you should. It is… that class is so good in fifth edition with with its full release in Tasha’s it can do literally anything you want it to, including being with just one subclass, depending on how you choose being either probably the best tank in the game, or probably the best scout in the game. Just, like, with no other additions. It’s so good.
Yeah. 5e artificers are nuts.
You say Tasha’s. I thought, I thought the Artificer came out in Eberron, or was it like an expansion of the class came out in Eberron?
Originally in Ebberon: Rising from the Last War, and then republished in Tasha’s, they, they periodically republish things from setting-specific books because they know what not everyone’s going to buy the Eberron book just for one class.
Yeah, okay, that makes good sense. That makes good sense. Awesome.
Yeah, the fifth edition Artificer is really, really great, but really, really complicated.
And so Wolf, it sounds like we need to get you into a 5e game where you can take one more swing and Artificer, or maybe you would run fleeing from that class and try anything else.
I liked it. It was a lot of interesting roleplay. And I worked my way into a position where they needed to keep me alive. But it… I spent almost all of combat kind of just getting out of the way. It was… I have no, nothing to compare it to. It was, it was, it was very strange to be almost completely useless in combat.
That is strange.
Now, I want to take one slight hot take here for a second. I think maybe the class that needs the most rework is a Wizard. Because if Wizard is consistently the strongest class in every edition, you need to balance it. I don’t know how we would fix that. But… spellcasting.
They don’t call it Sorcerers of the Coast, I guess.
So my thing was Wizard: Wizard is always the strongest class in D&D, but it’s… I don’t think I’ve explained this before on the podcast, but there’s the concept of a “skill floor” and the concept of a “skill ceiling.” So the floor is, like, how proficient you need to be to be successful in a thing. And the skill ceiling is how high you can go in that thing, and how awesome you can be at it. Wizards have a really high skill ceiling. The skill floor in fifth edition is actually surprisingly low, because a lot of the subclasses are super easy to play. If you just stick to blowing stuff up, everything’s gonna be fine. Artificers are similar, super high skill ceiling. But they also have a really high skill floor because if, if you’re not proficient with the game, the Artificer is super intimidating. But the Wizard rewards system mastery. And that’s why it’s always been my favorite class. If you understand the system, if you understand the options, if you understand the play style, like, the more you know about the game, the more the Wizard rewards you. And personally, I don’t want anyone to take that away from me because I’m selfish like that. But to some degree, yeah, the Wizard probably shouldn’t always be the strongest class. And real quick, so, real quick, the question of the week wasn’t specific to fifth edition. So I’m going to answer for Pathfinder second edition as well. So far, having read through every class that has been published, including guns and gears, so far, I really like all of the classes. I don’t think there’s any real losers right now. There are specific options within classes that have problems. I know the mutagen-focused alchemists from the core rulebook has some problems that they’ve tried to patch with errata and that could use a little bit of work. Honestly, I think Pathfinder second division did a really good job with the class design. And since it’s so… like, since it’s so dependent on feats over, like, subclasses and stuff, even if one class is falling behind, it’s really easy to fix with like, “okay, here’s two or three new feats for that, for that class. And everything is fine.” Yeah, fifth edition, Monk, maybe Ranger, don’t touch my Wizard, Pathfinder 2e everything’s pretty great.
Real quick, it’s fascinating that they did that because mutagen alchemists were actually pretty good in the first Pathfinder, so interesting that that’s one of the weakest things. Just a shower thought.
Yeah, my understanding is some some things changed last minute from the second edition playtests to the final publication, and like they, they forgot to cross a couple of T’s and dot a couple of I’s and things broke by accident. But I mean, other than that, yeah, class design in second edition is really good.
Nice. Alright, well, thank you @pugmonzz for your question. Yeah, absolutely. Alright, so and also thank you for joining us on episode nine, the 10th episode of RPGBOT.podcast. Next episode, we’re going to be talking about making horror work at a tabletop game. So how do we do horror in tabletop? I’m Randall James you can find me at amateurjack.com. JackAmateur on Twitter and Instagram.
I’m Tyler Kamstra. You can find me at RPGBOT.net. You can find me on Twitter at RPGBOTDOTNET. Same for Facebook. And you can find me on patreon.com/RPGBOT.
And I’m Random Powell, you won’t generally find me on social media. But in places where people play games, I’m often there as Hartlequint or Hartlequint. But mostly you’ll find me here contributing to the podcasts and articles on RPG bot dotnet
I’m Wolf and you can find us at SeattleLARPSite.com or Facebook.com/middleground.
Awesome. Alright. All hail the Leisure Illuminati. Thank you, producer Dan.
All right. You’ll find affiliate links for source books and other materials linked in the show notes. Following these links help helps us to make this show happen every week. So please do it. You’ll find our product wherever find podcasts are sold. If you enjoy this podcast, please rate review and subscribe and share it with your friends. If you’re interested in LARP, I think we’ll put some, some resources in the show notes so you could kind of follow along with that and find an opportunity to get involved. And if you know anybody who needs this podcast in their lives, please share. If your question should be the question of the week next week, please email podcast@RPGBOT.net or message us on Twitter at RPGBOTDOTNET. If your monster should be the monster of the week next week, please email us at… or no, don’t do that. Do this. Tweet us at Twitter @RPGBOTDONET, #monsterizer I know we announced this last week. The monsterizer is a fantastic tool and we have our first monster the week and we’re super excited to talk about it. This comes to us from @bearded_pilgrim and I think, quote he said “I’m sorry. I’m not sorry.” he created Rocket Rhino
It is wonderfully, exactly like you might imagine. It’s a rhinoceros. It flies. It also is apparently the helicarrier from the Avengers and has like retro-reflective panels, which is amazing. What ,what wonderful piece of creativity that someone decides, you know what this rhinoceros needs? Jetpack.
I like this little details like immune to being knocked prone. Why?
Because it flies! This is, this is a conversation that maybe we’ll have when we do the episode talking about flight. So it is preposterous to me that in, in some editions I don’t know if this carries over into fifth edition. If you are flying you can still be knocked prone. Which still poses the prone condition which is absurd cuz you’re flying.
Like, basically my understanding of it is if you’re not prone fly and you just begin to fall.
Yeah, yeah. So the number one way to counter flight is trip.
Yeah, apparently. But I want to point out something that really caught my eye on this. Under language is it says understands, but can’t speak. Doesn’t say what language it understands. It just says “understands”.
Now as the person who wrote the Monzterizer… wrote, built, As the person who built the Monsterizer, that is either a bug or I think they may have just put an empty, like, a space into the languages field.
Or maybe it was intentional. It was intentional. And this rocket rhino knows every single language in existence. It just can’t speak, which is amazing to me.
Because it’s a rhinoceros
I’m sorry, what a great way to build a fear. Here is the rhinoceros. It understands you. It can’t speak.
But it understands you.
It understands you and now it’s gonna rocket charge you.
Yeah. So the, the retro flicker thing just to be clear, right? When perceived from below Rocket Rhino gains a +10 bonus to stealth. Okay, in this world, we are out, you know, we’re in the city. We’re not in the savanna. Rocket Rhino obviously lives in the city. You see something in the distance, all of a sudden you see a flash as something disappears in the air, but you look up and you see nothing, because there’s a rhinoceros flying over your head about to kill you. But it has sky camouflage.
This, this creature actually reminds me of a meme-y creature from a game of my youth called Age of Mythology. If you put in cheat code that said, “Wuv Woo”
It would create a flying hippopotamus, purple, that would shoot, that would shoot hearts and rainbows at enemies. And it was lovely. And he was my favorite little boy and I loved him.
That is wonderful.
Nice, nice. All right, so we’re going to have to say @bearded_pilgrim, thank you very much for what you’ve given us. You have the monster the week.
Hell yeah. Think we did a good job.
Nobody died during the death episode. The best!
As a DM, I generally handle unplanned death in combat by fudging the dice – depending on the flow of the game. The goal is to make the game fun for the players while also making death a legitimate threat so the players don’t get too comfortable taking risks.
One time, the party’s best healer was killed by an overwhelming amount of damage from an enemy spellcaster’s lightning bolt. It was the big bad final boss of a long-running and fun campaign. If the party’s healer gets taken out early in the fight, this battle was quickly going to turn into a TPK. What are the chances I am going to roll a big pile of 5’s and 6’s for damage? Well, I just quietly changed all the 5’s and 6’s into 1’s and 2’s in my head and gravely injured the healer, but didn’t kill him. It still provided a scare and instilled a sense of frantic urgency into the party. The stakes had been raised and a feeling of dread settled over the party. They were ultimately victorious and the near-death experience provided more entertainment than a grim by-the-book accounting of the dice roll which would have likely killed the entire party.