What Was Your Most Impactful RPG Session?

During the month of August, I’m participating in RPG a Day 2017. Each day I’ll answer a question, or my interpretation of a question, about tabletop roleplaying games. For those who have wanted your beloved UncleBear to get back into RPG blogging, this is the closest you’re going to get.

What Was Your Most Impactful RPG Session?

This would be a tie between every session where the player characters died in the first session, and every total party kill that took place later in a campaign. I hate that stuff. I resent that stuff. People take the time to create something, to develop something, and because of some bad die rolls it just gets wiped out. That stuff sticks with me.

What Does “Impactful” Even Mean?

This may not be what whoever came up with this question had in mind when they put this question together, but it’s had a major impact on me. As a player, I refuse to sit at a table with a “killer GM” who finds it acceptable to destroy characters willy-nilly, or worse, who thinks that killing characters is somehow the point of the game. As a gamemaster, I take extra care to ensure encounters are balanced, and that players have access to information needed to make good decisions. I will fudge die rolls in the players’ favor. As a designer, I lean toward story games rather than tactical simulations not just because I enjoy the storytelling aspects of the game, but because a character death should be meaningful and not just some random event.

My Own Subjective Truth

Your mileage may vary, of course, and if this is your preferred style of play then have at it. Enjoy yourself. It’s not for me. But for decades it’s been a running joke that, in the original Traveller RPG, characters could die during character creation. That’s considered absurd and ridiculous. Yet dying in the first game session is somehow acceptable. Total party kills, after players have put thought and consideration into creating these characters, playing them over time, making careful decisions about how they level up and improve, and learning how to use all of their abilities, is somehow okay. That’s not fun for me. I don’t know how that’s fun for anyone.

Check Out Roleplaying Group Dynamics

While it doesn’t deal directly with character death, I did write a book about getting along with players and addressing their needs. Check out Roleplaying Group Dynamics, a best seller available at DriveThruRPG.

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