Death in reality is a way of life; we see it every day and usually try to avoid it. The same is usually true in role-play: death is a part of in-character life and role-players often have to face and accept it. However, many players feel attachment to their characters and believe the decision of when death should occur is a personal choice.
A character is a work of artistic value crafted by the mind and tools of a role-player. Players work hard on them and put a lot of effort, thought, and care into character development and design. To see them die can be hurtful, if not heart-breaking. Many players freely accept character death. However, a good number of other role-players approach it differently. Some of us go through leaps and bounds to keep our characters alive and continue their story further. What this guide is really about is where to draw the line when accepting death; it's important to know when and how to accept or avoid defeat.
A character commonly faces death through in-character murder, which can cause stress to a player because the character he has spent hours, days, or years growing and nurturing seems to have been just thrown away. However, a more optimistic view is that death completes the development of a character. Still, those who feel they aren't at a proper conclusion attempt to circumvent death in questionable ways to keep their characters alive, such as necromancy or unrealistically escaping a fatal wound or fight.
A good deal of controversy arises when players circumvent harm by playing unfairly or without realism, some prime examples being unsophisticated and generic actions like *dodges*, *parries*, or *rolls to the side* in combat. Note, some of these are completely legitimate and could be accepted in the right context, it all depends what characters are dodging and how they do so. Desperate players may beg out of character, argue a character's longevity, or perform objectionable acts to avoid danger like using a teleport, rage-quitting , going out of character in the middle of a conflict, or voiding a conflict without fair justification. These are only a few examples of how one may avoid death in an objectionable manner. Note, while it isn't part of a rule, it is common sense that you at least ensure that the player, who's character you are about to kill, has a right to accept their death.
Hopefully this guide will help players to better understand death in roleplay, when it is better to accept death than to evade it or vice versa, and what reactions to mortal danger are generally more accepted throughout the community.
When Not to Accept Death
There are times when you should and shouldn't accept death in role-play. There are times when the death of a character is not fair or legitimate and the player can reasonably object to it with the support of other role-players.
Out-of-character conflict is often mixed into events and relationships in-character. In a scenario where two players despise each other and one or both of those players choose to reflect their conflict through personal vendettas between role-playing characters, often a resulting death will be questionable. A death resulting from conflict between two players without any rationale for in-character conflict is almost never accepted, and is heavily frowned upon by role-players because it violates rules against metagaming. Sometime a player will create a character, or hire someone out of character to assassinate the character of the player they hate.
When two clashing players have two characters who also have a history of not getting along in-character. A death that results from genuine in-character hatred is almost always considered realistic and acceptable.
When pub fights occur in-character, even if two players and their characters have just met, character lives are at risk because, one way or another, the two characters (or more) have been driven to blows. Assuming that nothing questionable aside from this stated scenario occurs, death can be an option.
When to Accept Death
Now that the types of deaths players shouldn't accept are out of the way, we can touch on the times when you should accept your character's death. Note, that the list below are those that makes sense from the aspect of how one dies, the actions of your character is the punishment they might get and that is listed below.
Sometime there will be a role-play where death might be an option and there will be times that you have to be careful on where you lead your character to. In some situation you might find yourself in a trap, fight, or area where there is little chances to escape. In this matter, you either find a way to survive, or are killed for a mistake.
There are cases where the host of the role-play will give you chances and hints on how to escape/survive. But in some cases, you could still die. If this ever happens, embrace it and understand it is only part of life for someone to die.
If your character is captured and thrown in a cell, there are chances where your character might be executed. In cases like this you have no chance of survival unless you request a chance to escape. But understand that if you lead your character to being imprisoned and any attempt to escape fails, your character might be executed no matter what. So make sure you are aware that if your character breaks the law, or is wanted, that being caught might lead to death.
There will come a time where you will cross this path. Being poisoned is a serious matter, but not a threat to your character entirely. When poisoned (and this is going by the lore of the game) your character has a chance to escape the said poison, of course depending on how strong the poison and your character is. In this situation, some poison may be an instant kill, if that is the case then you might have only a few seconds before the effect is felt. Within your character dying breath, that could drink an anti-poison, but only if they have one, or someone who is with them does also.
Being killed by another player can sometime be frustrating, even when it is being murdered without your character putting up a fight. In this case, assassination is a way to accept death if it is done right. Of course one must make sure that there is an in-character reason behind the assassination for the attempt to be legit also. This is one of those situation where your character would have caused their own undoing.
Although you have accepted your character's death, another problem that regularly comes up is that some players don't like their characters to stay dead to long, either for plot purposes, or they refuse to make a new character. They will attempt to revive their characters or otherwise somehow continue on their legacy. Whether this is good or bad is entirely circumstantial.
Necromancy is probably the most obvious way to recover from death. While it is possible for your character to be revived in that matter, there is no method in reviving your character without some state of corruption. For example, there is no known "perfect" necromancy ritual that revives your character without the wound/mutilation being noticeable. Necromancy is also a dangerous path to pick, as the spell caster aren't known to be trustworthy and could back stab those that they revive to do their job also. Also note that any sort of spiritual ability (such as praying or summoning) would be impossible to achieve. This is evidence by Zanik who was unable to train summoning.
Some role-players may come up with excuses to explain how a dead character did not actually die; they will claim that the dead character was a decoy, being a same-gender offspring, or some other doppelganger who looked and acted similarly for some reason but who was not actually the main character. Like with necromancy, it is important to recognize that decoys would not be hired for everyday commoners, reserved really only for those with a good deal of power who are in dangerous positions and the financial resources to afford a decoy's services. After all, unless there was a lot in it for him, why would someone else go to risk their life in ensuring another's is perfectly fine? Never mind that these scenarios rarely, even never, premeditated - it's unusual to see someone actually hire or pay the decoy, with the actual decoy going out to the scene of death. Unless there really is another player playing your character's decoy or doppelganger, or you have reliable witnesses who can vouch that the scenario really is legitimate and premeditated, it's best to avoid the doppelganger excuse because odds are no one will believe the excuse.
Although it does not technically involve resurrection or any other such risky or unrealistic events in-character, creating instantaneous duplicate characters is considered very unbelievable. The creation of a new character that somehow just happen to have the same exact name, personality, appearance, emotions, and often even biography of a previous character is considered a very cheap and not creative. Creating a new character that is made solely to develop a previous character's story further, such as a young adult son who was never mentioned ever before but is suddenly alive and very close to his deceased father, can also be frowned upon. Some role-players will generally use the excuse that their son was named after their father and they wish to continue the legacy. This can be true in some cases, however most are just made up on the spot and generally are poorly executed attempts to avoid death all but literally. By all means, players who want backup characters related to other characters should not hesitate. To do so is almost always fair, reasonable, and legitimate, simply be careful of timing so that the wrong message isn't sent.
Some players may have their characters go through a phase of development that makes them immortal or undead in some form. Immortality cannot be achieved easily in the realm of public role-playing, because it walks a dangerous path with consequences that cannot be overlooked. While, yes, your character can be ageless, this only means that your character cannot die of old age and that your character is still very available to be murdered. Wights are a major example of this form of Immortality, as they cannot truly die, and are ageless as well, only until they are released by their master.
When it comes to death in role-play, there is often temptation for players to protect their characters in ways that aren't necessarily realistic or fair. They may involve bending the rules to work artificially in your favor, using amateur or even auto'ed actions to escape harm, or playing in ways that may not be clearly against the rules are considered unsportsmanlike.
When Facing Death
- Teleport is an example of an unsportsmanlike escape from a dangerous situation. it is an action that instantaneously teleports a character out of harm only to go out of character or physically leave the scene of role-playing before any opponents have the chance to respond or take counter-actions. Though it borders on the edge of being an auto-action, not all teleports are inherently against the rules. Even still, the use of them is frowned down upon because, in addition to generally being an easy way out, the likelihood of a character actually possessing teletabs or teleportation runes is somewhat unlikely. It should also be noted that not everyone can teleport perfectly, it is known that teleportation is very difficult and dangerous that a small mistake will teleport you into the abyss.
- In role-playing, most players expect each other to narrate with enough detail that actions and intentions have clarity. For example, rather than saying a character "slashes at" an enemy with a sword, he may say that he swings his scimitar horizontally and blade-first towards the opponent's right forearm. One trap some players fall into when threatened with character death is to abandon this clarity and default to more amateur, ambiguous actions. For example, *dodges*, *rolls to the side*, *ducks*, and *parries* are usually unfair evasions. While a character who *ducks under Gerald's sword arm and tries to get behind him* explains to Gerald what he is doing, where he is, and gives Gerald leeway to follow through with a counter-attack, an action like *dodges* automatically makes the character safe and does not give Gerald the opportunity to try to turn things back to his advantage. It also does not explain how or why the character was able to evade what otherwise may have been a very tactically-executed strike.
- Some players turn fights to their favor by attempting to bend the circumstances artificially, and oftentimes this tactic comes dangerously close to powerplaying. That is, one player will launch a character's action, and the offending player will fill in otherwise empty holes in that first player's action that weren't established ahead of time to give his own character an advantage. For example, Joe lunges forward at Bill with his rapier, and then Bill's player narrates that Joe's lunge causes him to slip on a muddy patch of ground, causing him to stumble and allowing Bill to get a strike in while Joe is unbalanced, knocking him to the ground.
- Leaving combat artificially, for example by dropping out of character in the middle of a conflict, is also considered very poor form. Though some players claim to do it because they feel that the opponent is already not playing fair and do not wish to continue the game, the area is very grey for when this explanation is just an excuse to escape a situation dangerous to a character. This is, of course, considered an illegitimate way to escape, because in-character, the character would still be present in the dangerous situation even though his player is no longer participating. As a result, even when a player feels his opponents are not playing fairly, it is best to remove a character from a situation before exiting the game if at all possible.
When Causing Death
- It is almost never good to auto-kill a character. Some players feel that a player who escapes from a fight in a distasteful way or a way that can be considered cheating deserve to have automatic death as a repercussion of that cheating. However, because many situations involve confused intentions, miscommunication, and perhaps a certain level of inexperience on part of one or all participants, rarely does anything good ever come from auto-death consequences. Some players also use this when facing a character with whom they have experienced frustration, and are tired of making legitimate efforts to eliminate that character only to have all of them thwarted by less-than-fair escape tactics. Instead of auto-killing the character, it is often advised that frustrated players simply recognize that they do not enjoy playing with that player and no longer wish to do it in the future.
- Though not a rule, it is typically considered polite to risk a character of equal value when combatting an enemy with intent to maim or kill. That is, if your enemy character is three years old, has an entire network of friends and relatives, and is currently the leader of a major organization or political body, it is tasteful go after that character with one of similar value to you as the player. In other words, don't go after a main account with a rofl-knight with no name who you made three minutes ago.
- Causing death through omission is also considered poor play. That is, if observable circumstances are intentionally omitted from the description of a dangerous situation, the death is typically considered unfair. For example, if a cook prepares a highly potent poisoned meal for the Duke, who has a food taster to sample his dishes for him and ensure his safety, but the cook's player fails to mention that the taster will have been experiencing symptoms of a quick-acting poison early on only to inform the Duke's player after he has consumed the entire meal that the duke should be nearly dead, the death is often not considered legitimate. If important details that would have been readily evident and would have affected other players' actions ahead of time are omitted, the results aren't realistic. Typically, death inflicted by unrealistic means is not accepted.