What to do when a member of the party dies

There’s a lot out there on the web about dealing with your own character’s death.  You can try to get him resurrected, create a new character, or bring back your character and add a “2” to his name. In the game session when he dies, you (as the player) can go home or hang around, play a NPC, or wait just a little bit while the rest of the party brings him back to life. For this post I want to focus instead on what you and your character can do if she survies , but one of her companions does not.

  1. Have a funeral/wake for the character. This post is in part inspired by watching the episode of Stargate SG1 where Daniel “dies” the first time. The party characters should get together and celebrate the life of their companion in an honoring way. Would he have liked a solemn religious service or  a wild party? The characters can tell stories of their favorite moments, and with enough lead time important NPCs from the past can come by to pay their respects.
  2. Avenge his death. The second most common scenario is getting a bigger boat and coming back  to the dragon’s lair. Let that red dragon know that he can’t push around The Party. That’s how Aeofel would have wanted it.
  3. Bring him back to life. A dead character is never more than a ritual and few hundred gold pieces away. In past editions, the difficulty of bringing back a character depended on how much of the body was left and how long he was gone.  In 4th Edition you just need 50 x 10^teir gp and someone to cast Raise Dead [DDI]. Interestingly, bringing a pet back to life is only a 1st level ritual.  Personally I am a fan of having to complete a noble quest to bring a character back to life. However, the upshot of having an easy spell for this is that the player gets to spend those next adventures playing the character he truly cares about instead of a backup, which should in theory be more fun for him. In the 4e mindset, I recommend quests to raise dead for important NPCs rather than PCs.
  4. Loot the body. Sometimes there’s nothing to be done, but you don’t want his boots (or gold and magic items) to go to waste. Depending on your characters’ ideals I suppose you could donate his stuff to a orphanage or adventurer’s shelter instead of keeping it for gain.  The only tricky part here is you want the player to come back with a new character and have party balance preserved.
  5. Gone but not forgotten. This works well when a player leaves the group. The character can have a poignant death, such as holding back the onslaught while the rest of the party escapes. The surviving PCs can go on with their lives and save the world, knowing their friend’s courageous sacrifice allowed that to happen. You can honor and memorialize him with a small ceremony right away, and when the world comes back to normal, with a grand monument.

It might be fun to leave behind a party member because you think he’s dead, but somehow he survives and comes back. This would have to be cleared with the DM first, but he could come back at a higher level (Gandalf the White),  or just as he was, maybe missing a toe or two. It’s also fun to come back as an Evil character, either as a NPC or PC-NPC. That might be fun if your character started off happy-go-lucky but being left behind in the underdark twisted his mind to the point where he now seeks to provide the same torment to his supposed “friends.” Fantasy trope gold….

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list. How else have you dealt with a dead party member?

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4 thoughts on “What to do when a member of the party dies

  1. All very logical points. The groups I’ve been in have run the gamut from top to bottom as you’ve listed them. Our DM was a particularly tough cookie so the resurrection option was extremely limited as an option. This was something we as a group were accepting of. We got the fact that a lot of time and effort went into creating a character but we also decided that if we did something rash that resulted in our deaths, well, we got what we deserved.

    To your point about revenge, on more than one occasion the player who had their character meet an unfortunate end would fashion a new character who somehow had a tie-in with the old: a brother, a husband/wife, a friend….and that character would take up the mantel of revenge.

    Sometimes we couldn’t do the funeral route, and sometimes we had to abandon the body or lose everyone. That was particularly harrowing as there were a few occasions when the deceased was holding something of great value. And we had to let it go.

    Personally, I’ve never allowed a character of mine to be resurrected in any campaign, no matter how much I invest into said character. It always just struck me as an easy out method of continuing with the same creation when sometimes the new creation ends up playing better and fitting a hole in the story/party.

    Thankfully, I’ve never been part of a group where the people got bent out of shape over character deaths.

  2. Thanks Steve. You sound like the kind of player that wouldn’t just make the same character and stick a number “2” next to his name. Character Builder makes it pretty easy to do that. I’ve been in campaigns where character death was taken too personally by a player instead of being a poignant turn in the story, and this not fun, especially for the DM and other players. I’ve also had DMs who were a bit “power-hungry” and would just attack us with a 8,000 hp super-yeti for fun (er.. just his fun).

  3. In dire situations or if the group is playing mosnters as PC’s…. Eat the deceased character.

    If you have no scruples whatsoever….

    Animate dead.

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