As a Dungeon Master (DM) I have a confession to make. I want to kill a player character at my table. Just one. Not the whole party. Just one, or maybe two and I don’t care which one. I just want to kill one. I have wanted to kill one since I started this 4th edition D&D game two years ago.
My D&D game has been my first real experience with any kind of role-playing game. Before I bought my first 4th Edition book I did a lot of reading about Dungeons & Dragons. Older versions of D&D and on the current version. One thing that did not become apparent to me until my party and I sat down and started playing D&D was how hard it is to threaten a player character with death. With all the healing surges and death saving throws a player has available to them the odds are in the favor of the player that he or she will not die. This fact has been the hardest for me to learn it seem.
I have been reading a lot lately about how other DMs handle this issue and there seems to be a wide array of acceptable answers out their.
(I owe a big thanks to Save VS. Death and the DM hot-line for my recent epiphany about the how to implement and handle death in an RPG game.)
Today however, I had an epiphany about this whole subject of death and I want to share it with all of you. Those of us who run RPG games, the DMs, the Game Masters (GM) out their, first and foremost we are ENTERTAINERS! That is our job. We are entertainers. We need to make sure that the quietest person at our table is having as much fun as the most outlandish and out spoken person at the table. If this is not happening then you’re doing it wrong!
I have realized that if I plan my next game to kill a player character, no one at the table is going to have a good time. It has to happen organically. Players have to make mistakes and you as a DM or GM have to be at the ready to take advantage of their mistakes.
So go about planning your next game like you normally would. Focus on making a great adventure and a great story. One that involves every player at your table. Personally, I have started added way more traps to my adventures. Deadly, painful, scary traps that take away lots of hit points. Lots of times my player characters avoid these traps. Other times they hit a trap head on and proceed the rest of the game with extreme caution. This is all ok. That is what your players are supposed to do. If your players by pass or avoid or just plan miss traps you have hidden, this is all a positive thing. That’s less planning for traps you have to do for your next game. Just take the unused traps and apply them to your next game.
Having learned how to make a deadlier game by using traps, my need to kill a player at my table has subsided quite a bit. This is because I know I am eventually going to kill one. I know it’s only one mistake away. Perhaps a trap is going to take away so many HP for a player to recover from. Perhaps the monster they battle next will be just a little to strong for one of them. However it happens, it will happen organically and it wont feel forced.