Player Character Deaths in Dungeons & Dragons

player character deathsMy friends and I just recently started playing a new Dungeon & Dragons 5E homebrew campaign with a professional Dungeon Master. I have played DnD a few times before and I must say, I enjoyed this one the best. But there is one problem:


Our DM introduced a critical hit effect table, the effects ranges from a simple maximum dice damage to an insta-kill. And it didn’t help that the first time I got hit by an enemy is a natural 20. Although it was just a double-damage from a low damage roll, I was worried that my character will die from the first hit in combat. As a result, the entire session I was scared that the character I prepared can die anytime. Therefore, I am now writing this to come up with some sort of compromise we could have with the DM.

So what can you do when a player character dies?

There are multiple ways to revive a player character in DnD through magic

DnD have a variety of spells that can bring back characters to life. But all are usually expensive and not accessible at the early stages of a campaign.

Suck it up and roll a new player character

character sheet

While this is the most sensible thing to do, this is harder for some more than others. Player character creation is something I personally enjoy, from backstories to combat builds. But not being able to play them more than I wanted to would be frustrating.

Leave the campaign

This is where being casual gamers come into the equation. Our group would only meet once a month, and it’s kind of a West Marches setup where there is a pool of player and we’ll set a session when at least 4 people agreed on a date. And a player character death could potentially affect motivation to play further.

Alternatives to dying?

Since I don’t think it’s polite to just tell our DM “I don’t like this, change this”. I should think of other ways to punish us players for our poor life decisions leading to a player character death.

Not-so-Permanent Injuries

Instead of being dead permanently, how about getting ability score penalties after being KO’d in combat? Treating these injuries may be expensive but this at least let us continue playing our beloved player characters.

Lose Experience Points

A common video game punishment in RPGs. Losing a session’s worth of experience will surely make us think twice during combat encounters.

“goddamnit Leeroy”

Do Over

In an event of a total party kill, rather than having the party to roll new characters. Just let the players start over at a certain part of that quest or dungeon in the next session. While this idea sounds dumb, I believe that it could work well for both the DM and the players. In our case, a do over will probably costs us another session with the same scenario, or just leave that quest or dungeon for another time. Our DM could probably use the time to prepare for other campaign or projects since our next session is just a repeat of the last session. Also, it doesn’t have to be actually the same in the sense of we know which door goes where, and what’s inside. The DM could easily mix it up a bit and adjust the difficulty.

Adjusting Campaign Lethality

In my google research, some people claim that dying past a certain level (varies from 5 to 8) is rare. And at that point we would probably have the resources to revive party members who died. Maybe we could just agree to not have people dying until a certain level?

The most simple way is just toning down the difficulty a little and maybe reconsider some effects in the critical hit table. For some non-hardcore DnD players, the idea of having to roll a new character just because character deaths is part of the fun is a bit disappointing and not fun.

How I would have done it

Personally, I want to make character deaths communicated as part of the story, and only if anyone wants to. I’d let the players play the characters they have invested in for as long as they want. But that’s because my ideal game of DnD is playing with good friends in our own reality. Where I’d look like a medieval version of Post Malone and no one is dying randomly.

What about you guys, do you have any suggestions or some sort of punishment as an alternative to permanent death?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.