Death of a PC after a year and a half

I’m not a killer DM, but I’ve offed a few PCs in my time. Off the top of my head, I can remember the following deaths:

  • In the first Living Forgotten Realms game I ran, a low-level striker rushed into a room full of bad guys and got chomped on by two Guard Drakes, taking him below his negative bloodied value.
  • In the first game I ever ran for my wife’s brother and his wife, my brother-in-law’s character died in the first combat. He got better.
  • One party in an LFR game let the bulk of the party become separated from their healer, resulting in a dead seeker
  • I destroyed a PC in memorable fashion when the foolish thief rode a beholder into a river of lava after hanging on a little too long for the ride.
  • I’m pretty sure I killed off another PC played by the same player whose PC I killed off with the guard drakes in the first example, but I don’t remember when that was.

Now, in my longest-running campaign, my Friday night War of the Burning Sky campaign via MapTool and Skype, I had never killed a PC through 15 levels of play. They had some very close calls, but the numbers always seemed to come up in their favor when the chips were down. The characters had reached 15th level with no PC deaths.

That all ended with our most recent game.


After the session last week with the Storm Titan and friends, the party was ready to burst into a mysterious laboratory. The lone healer in the party (a pacifist cleric optimized for massive healing) wasn’t around for the night’s game, so we pressed on with a party of four PCs.

The first fight was against a flying minotaur and some freaky creatures from vats of goo, and the party was definitely up to the challenge. They blew through the bad guy without much trouble.

The second fight of the night (which was the fourth fight of the adventuring day) started when the PCs opened the doors to a fancy two-story library/office room with a glass-domed ceiling and an opulent rug inside the door. Thorfin the fighter marched into the room and just barely jumped out of the way in time as the rug itself tried to reach up and grab him. With that attack having missed, an invisible flying monk tossed him across the room and into a wall, beginning the combat.

The party was at level 15, and the monk was a level 19 solo. I updated her stats to be more in line with modern solos, but since there were only four PCs instead of five, I lowered her hit points from 718 to 450.

This was one bad-ass monk, and the party had a hard time with her. They tried throwing out various controlling effects, but she had the ability to shake off a condition once per round, which made a big difference. It didn’t help that the adventurers’ dice turned ice cold on them for long stretches. If it weren’t for the fact that Hammer Rhythm let the fighter deal 5 damage even on a miss, things would have been far worse.

Vena, our elf seeker, found herself knocked unconscious by the monk’s lightning hands. Faebs, the human wizard/swordmage hybrid, managed to deactivate the man-eating rug and knock Vena off the suspended sculpture where she had fallen unconscious so she could let Vena spend her second wind. Shortly after getting back on her feet, Vena was knocked down once more. She failed a couple of death saving throws and then rolled a 19 – which, using a bonus point, turned into a 20 and let her spend a healing surge! Boy, were they missing their cleric.

When the monk darted out of the room, the party decided to close the doors of the library and barricade themselves inside. They created a hole in the glass-dome ceiling so they could climb out. The monk huffed and puffed and blew a hole in the door, by which time two of the PCs were on the roof with the other two on the rope on their way up.

The monk’s teleport power failed to recharge, so she couldn’t pop into the room that way.

The monk’s power to summon a magical fist inside the room to attack the climbing PCs failed to recharge.

But the monk’s “turn into lightning and zap a bunch of PCs” power DID recharge. Up the rope she went, zapping the climbers and ending on the roof.

Vena the seeker tried to take care of the frightening monk, but her dice betrayed her once more. She found herself stuck next to the monk when the monk’s bonus turn to make a free basic attack came up – and the lightning hand dropped Vena to the ground.

Whereupon Vena promptly failed her third death saving throw, in round 14 of the fight.

Things were looking grim for the party, when all of a sudden the player of our pacifist cleric showed up! His character was on the opposite side of the battlefield and spent the first round and a half rushing over to the fray – in time to resurrect Thorfin, who had fallen unconscious, but too late for Vena.

With the battle teetering on the brink, the cleric made the monk vulnerable to damage, and the wizard finished the monk off with a super-powered magic missile. The party got away from the lab (with the body of their fallen comrade) just in time to watch a magical storm destroy the building.

Thus ends the tale of fair Vena the elf seeker. Her character’s paragon path was Twilight Guardian, which to her meant that she respected the natural cycle of life, and therefore would not want to be resurrected (despite the cleric’s attempts to make it happen). We’ll work on a new character for Vena’s player; we may very well end up with the first Pixie PC I’ve seen in action!

RIP Vena.

7 thoughts on “Death of a PC after a year and a half

  1. A pretty heroic death, in what sounds like an epic battle! Nothing wrong with that. Is your player excited about trying a new build, or mourning 15 levels of work down the drain?

    • Vena was actually the latest character added to the campaign; her player joined in January or February of 2011 and played a different character for a few sessions before switching to Vena. I think Vena came on board at level 11, so it’s not a full 15 levels down the drain for her (though it would be for three of the other current PCs if they were to die).

      She seems excited about trying something new, which is a good attitude. I think a pixie bard may be in our future.

  2. 4e death is very rare in my experience, whether I DM or play. PCs are better at surviving than ever, with every deep defensive and healing resources, higher base HPs included.

    That said, it’s okay to throw several “Too Hard” encounters at the group to up the excitment and truly challenge and actually threaten them. Especially important at higher levels, otherwise your entire playgroup (DM included) might get bored pretty fast!

  3. I used to be of the same opinion re: death in 4e, but in 8 sessions of my Zeitgeist campaign, I’ve had at least 3 opportunities to kill PCs.

    Two of them would have required me to Coup de Grace (which I generally don’t do), but the third was a completely viable death (the unconscious PC was caught in the area of a close burst). I chose not to roll the attack.

    I suspect it’s fairer to say that 4e is forgiving of higher level PCs.

Leave a Reply