What do dead players do in old school games?

edited April 2010 in Story Games
I'm writing an old schoolish game and adventure area and from the playtests it look like it will be very fun. Problem is with the fast paced and deadly system adventurers risk dying early in the expedition (especially if they are not careful). I don't want newly rolled up characters to magically appear in the dungeon and I'm not sure how often the party will have henchmen. Is there any good task for the dead players to handle? Or is it best to have an agreement if someone dies and there is alot of adventure time left you go home for reinforcements?

Comments

  • They sit there and do nothing and are miserable for hour after hour.

    Well, that was my experience.
  • This thread title made me giggle.
  • I've always thought the role of a GM in oldskool RPGs is as story teller and entertainer. So, I actively look for thumb twiddling and try to fix it when it happens. For example, if the party splits, I don't leave the room with some of the players. I let everyone sit in and hear what's going on, trusting the players to role play the fact that their characters weren't in on what was happening to the other part of the group.

    So, when a PC dies, I don't want the player to sit there bored. To me, player boredom is way worse than any sort of story inconsistency. I don't think having a newly rolled up character appear in a dungeon has to necessarily be magical. All you need is a "suitable rationalization" (and how realistic are dungeons anyway?) Here are some rationalizations for new characters that appear in dungeons:
    • They were sent after the party to help out, because they arrived late. They went by another route and ended up trailing behind the group in the dungeon
    • The group meets them in the next room. They're a prisoner of some monsters and the group has to help them escape
    • They are a treasure hunter and they were able to sneak in via an alternate route. The party meets them in a room full of dead monsters that the new PC just killed
    • The new character has been working for the enemy as a double agent and the enemy trusts them. They even know a thing or two about what's ahead.
    If you want more, you can give this list to your players and challenge them to brainstorm more options.

    When it comes to oldskool, lame rationalizations can power the whole thing. I usually shoot for professional wrestling quality and sometimes I accidentally come up with some very cool stuff. But I'm satisfied if it only gets to professional wrestling level.


    Bill
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: wburdick
    The group meets them in the next room. They're a prisoner of some monsters and the group has to help them escape
    That's funny because the original version of the game was much more tongue in cheeck and had a random table for how they found new PCs in dungeons.
    1. In a pool of blood
    2. In a cage
    3. In a locked treasure chest
    4. Inside the gut of the next monster they slay
    5. Hiding in a closet
    6. Sneaks up on the party and whispers "Hello"
  • I prefer not to rationalise it too much. Treat it as though a player turned up late: it doesn't really matter how they join the party, as long as they do. Perhaps they were there all along.

    But I like the random table.

    Graham
  • In my D&D games, if your PC dies, you start playing a hireling. We always take hirelings with us into the dungeon. And if you don't have any hirelings, another player will let you play one of his.

    When I showed up late for one game, the DM just said I was with the party the whole time, a la Graham's solution.

    But I like that random table, too.
  • Hirelings!
  • In my games the party generally retreats when fatalities strike. Deaths are not very arbitrary nor common, and the missions are not very long. It's sort of like a police commando operation more than a months-long campaign into the depths of the earth, so there's little reason for the group to linger once the shit has hit the fan and they've had fatalities. Even if there is some crucial mission goal or the party is stuck wherever they are, the latter end of the mission won't last long enough for the player of the dead character to get bored. Most especially it is notable that there is usually only one combat in my average adventure, at the end. So deaths happen either by falling prey to traps in the early investigative stages, in which case retreat is prudent, or in the finale fight, in which case the rest of the party can do quick mop-up/retreat and end the adventure in quick order. Dead characters only really become a problem if your set-up treats character deaths as inavoidable inconveniences in a slog through dungeon hazards; if the expectation is that death only occurs when things have gone wrong, then death is much less of a problem because the party will be going back to base anyway.

    I suppose that if we ever got stuck in the murk so that a player would have time to get bored, I'd just have them roll up a new character, who'd then join the party at the first opportune moment that would not break fiction too much for the current aesthetic understanding of the group. Because the GM has a boatload of power to arrange something and everything happens above-board without pretense to realism or impartiality, the wait should not be too long. Haven't really had this problem, though, so I don't know how well it'd work in practice. I wouldn't be averse to giving the player a colorful character with strong current motivations that might or might not be at cross-purposes towards the rest of the group; we have our share of inter-party maneuvers anyway, so a suspicious stranger insisting on joining the party mid-way into an adventure isn't that much of a problem. I've done this with players who've missed the start of a session, in fact.
  • edited April 2010
    Posted By: KripplerThat's funny because the original version of the game was much more tongue in cheeck and had a random table for how they found new PCs in dungeons.
    1. In a pool of blood
    2. In a cage
    3. In a locked treasure chest
    4. Inside the gut of the next monster they slay
    5. Hiding in a closet
    6. Sneaks up on the party and whispers "Hello"
    That sounds amazing! Are you sure you couldn't expand it and make it less silly?
  • From personal experience, The Gamers had it about right for the immersion-breaking feebleness of introducing a replacement character in the bad old days of 2nd Ed AD&D.

    Not that it was the system's fault, really, that was just how ham-handed my group was as DMs back then.
    Posted By: Krippler
    That's funny because the original version of the game was much more tongue in cheeck and had a random table for how they found new PCs in dungeons.
    1. In a pool of blood
    2. In a cage
    3. In a locked treasure chest
    4. Inside the gut of the next monster they slay
    5. Hiding in a closet
    6. Sneaks up on the party and whispers "Hello"
    Doesn't Paranoia XP have something similar, these days?
  • Posted By: Krippler5. Hiding in a closet
    It works in Left 4 Dead. In fact, we almost went this route in the Adventure Trip game I played on Saturday.

    image

    BANG BANG BANG
    "Hey! Is anyone out there?"
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