March 14th, 2010


How much character death is normal?

Hello, roleplaying newbie and new community member here. To give a bit of background, I joined my boyfriend's D&D 3.5 roleplaying group only a little less than two months ago and mostly I've been having a blast so far. We're currently playing Castle Ravenloft. Unfortunately, over the course of the last few sessions something has started to diminish my enjoyment somewhat, namely (in my eyes) excessive amounts of character deaths.

Basically we made it through my first three sessions without anyone dying, had interesting fights, character development and what have you. In the last three weeks however, people suddenly started to drop like flies, both of our friendly NPC party members died and we had no less than six player characters bite the dust as well. What's worse is that most of those deaths felt completely out of our control. Oops, the first hit crits you for massive damage and you fail your fortitude save, you're dead. Oops, a piece of the drawbridge breaks away under you and you plummet to your death. Oops, you step onto a circle of death trap, two people fall over dead.

Now, my own character is still alive for some reason (beginner's luck I suppose, or maybe because the bad guys don't care about taking out the bard), so it's not a case of me being grumpy about losing my own character. The affected players have also been pretty laid back about their losses and just roll up a new character right away. But I find it bothersome.

For one thing, I've quite come to enjoy the in-character interaction and building of relationships, but if every new party member dies before you even have a chance to get to know them or shortly thereafter it's impossible to get anywhere with that. I wanted to play my bard as a character who's overall friendly and optimistic, but with the way everyone she tries to befriend keels over dead within a few hours, she's quickly becoming quite disillusioned and depressed.

The other thing that bugs me about all those character deaths is that they really kill the feeling that we're in any way doing something heroic. We basically go into the castle, have one or two encounters at max, and then we have to run out with our tails between our legs because people died yet again and the remaining characters are overwhelmed and drained. Then we go back to bury yet another couple of bodies and beg the next random adventurer that comes by for help. It's kind of pathetic really.

Our GM is actually a very nice guy and I'm pretty sure that he doesn't enjoy killing people's characters, but he seems to consider it important that every other encounter should likely kill someone or the content won't feel challenging. The others seem to be fine with that, so I'm assuming that I'm just being the newbie that doesn't quite get things yet... which leads me to my questions:

Do you think losing about two characters per session is normal or is our GM being a bit harsh? How often do you usually have to reroll during the course of a campaign?
Is Castle Ravenloft simply a particularly harsh module? Or is it a 3.5 thing? Is fourth edition more forgiving?
And finally, any tips for dealing with the constant loss of party members in character without your character becoming completely depressed and defeatist?

What's my motivation?

I had a mini realization lately, that the thing I care most about in roleplaying is motivation. If I don't have a good reason for my character to be doing what they're doing, then I'm just humoring the GM and/or not having fun.

And on the other side of the screen, I'm gonna let character motivation push out plot, mechanics and all that other stuff in my adventure design. My new question to hold in my mind when designing adventures is: Will the players/characters care?

Other thoughts on motivation?
evil gm

A Question about XP

I'm running a 4e D&D campaign for a bunch of friends. It is the Keep on the Shadowfell module for 1st-4th level characters. As a module, it is kind of linear, but there's a lot of wiggle room for me to put in my own NPCs and sub-plots, and I love it when players do the unexpected. I'm pretty good at rolling with the punches.

The thing is that XP in 4e is pretty much locked into combat. My players have just pulled something unexpected out of their collective hats, and it was a lot of fun and I had to think on my feet, and we all had a blast, but I realized that what they did completely short-circuited one of the encounters later in the module. It now can't happen at all, and it was a big pile of XP.

Do I not give them the XP because they won't have the encounter? Do I give them the XP because they kind of did deal with it, even if unknowingly and by accident?

I'm not entirely sure what to do here. I want to reward them, but it seems to go against the game to give them XP for monsters they didn't technically fight.