After years of development and playtesting, the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons is upon us. My initial impressions of the free-to-download Basic Rules and Starter Set were favorable, and I was eager to play a few sessions with the new rules. After deciding that I would dust off my Dungeon Master screen and run the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure, I needed to find an intrepid group of characters. I had the privilege of leading five players through the first major delve described in the Starter Set. What follows are my early thoughts on running the new rules and Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure over the course of an epic, 10-hour session with a specific focus on character creation, combat speed, combat presentation, and character death. Specific details contained in the Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure are avoided, so players awaiting a chance to play the adventure can read further without having a future gaming experience spoiled.
Each player ignored the pre-generated characters included in the Starter Set and created their own. While I was organizing a few last-minute details before the session got underway, the players helped each other create and finalize their character. It was a fun process, although it certainly took a good chunk of time as each player was searching for different rules at different times. A few people stumbled with the different modifiers and when they should be applied. For example, a weapon proficiency bonus is added to attack rolls, not damage rolls. The Passive Perception, Saving Throw, and Skills also took some time to calculate. I imagine (and hope) the Player’s Handbook will be more organized for character creation than the Basic Rules approach.
I was asked by the fine folks at The Going Last Podcast to participate in their May of the Dead Carnival. The blog carnival features a wealth of articles devoted to the undead. Realizing that many other talented writers would take on the task of creating monsters, campaign arcs and other gaming mechanics with an undead theme, I spent some time pondering a different angle for my May of the Dead column. I landed on the topic of character death and player grief during a roleplaying game. (EDIT: The painting below was created by Gene Gould. I first found the image through Google Image Search and did not know the origin. Check out other works by the artist!)
It is interesting to think about character death from the perspective of the player in terms of attachment. I previously discussed some thoughts about character death and how save-or-die mechanics can take away a player’s attachment to her or his character. How does one cope with investing effort and time creating a character and bringing that character to life at the gaming table only to see the character die? Everyone does not experience character death in the same manner, and while some players may grieve the loss of their favorite character, other players may not give the matter a second thought after their poor Paladin is pounded to pulp by a Purple Worm. Below, I discuss ideas for how a DM can handle the death of a character at the table. I frame the discussion by detailing the five stages of grief and present ideas to ensure the death of a character is not overlooked in a campaign.