[apocalypse world] eulogy for a PC

edited February 2012 in Actual Play
[x-posted here]
So! Last night's AW session. One of our protagonists died.
Keep in mind that this PC was nicknamed the Ronin, took potshots at Mudflat villagers kind of "just because", and never fully backed down from a fight, not once.

Let's explore this a little more. His name was Rue Wakeman, a Gunlugger. He had bad, bad scars from when his boss, Diamond the Chopper, beat him up and left him in the desert, where his wounds went bad and exposure did its thing, and made him really hard to look at.

He lived in a drainage tunnel that fed a semi-toxic river outside of Adobe-town; hallucinogenic mold grew inside the tunnel, which Rue ate to open his brain to the Maelstrom. Doing so got him in trouble a couple times, like the time the Mudflatters finally arrested him for deadly assault and he ended up thinking his captors were dog-headed monsters serenading him, so he shot one and ran away.
The guard lived, but only just. Thanks to Boo the Angel on that one, I think.

Anyway. So Rue forged his nemesis when he was walking past the Mudflatter work-camp in town (across the river from the Mudflatter village of Northside) and a couple of guys stopped him to ask if he'd be up for making a little money.
Rue: Sure, what's the job?
Roy (Mudflatter): There is a ... forgive me, but a child we wish for you to assassinate [the playgroup started telling John, Rue's player, that this must be a reference to Dr. Last, a semi-immortal warlord from down south whose current form is that of a 6yo boy.]
Rue: A child, huh?
Roy: Regrettably, sir. Will you take the job?
Rue: *shoots Roy* No.

Roy's friend runs away. When Rue is eating, later that night, Roy and two buddies jump him. Rue manages to kill two of them and send Roy packing again, but this time the Mudflatter camp all saw what happened and formed a big old gang to hang him and put an end to this.

Ol' Rue got away that time, but after Diamond's boss, Havok, ate it in a gunfight down south (Boo got him), and things started to settle down a bit, Rue made the error of robbing some Mudflatters playing dice in an alley. Well, Rue had been sleeping in the desert for a bit, ever since the first near-lynching incident. Now that he was back, and they sure knew his face, about fifty Mudflatters got together to stop him for good.

They chased him out of town, throwing rocks. The elder of Northside sees what's going on, sees Rue's defensive counter-fire, and sighs. He was in the middle of a visit with Diamond and Vega (the Operator, old boss of Adobe-town), and apologized before giving the order for the village guards to shoot Rue on sight.

Diamond: Honestly, I helped him get out of town last time a mob came after him. I'm done.
Vega: He'll probably be okay.
Elder: ...

So the gunmen from the village go charging out into the desert, and soon enough they intercept the mob and a tiring Rue. He turns to lay a little cover fire before taking off down a nearby dune, and flubs the roll. So he doesn't get away, and they get him with small arms fire (2-harm; Rue has 2-armor), and he rolls a natural 11 on the +harm move.
I tell him he's incapacitated.

Right before Rue dies, A. (playing Vega) turns to me and says, "Is Rue gonna die? That's harsh."
Me: "I mean, it's what the fiction demands. I have mixed feelings about it, but I can't not do it."
A brief discussion of "be a fan of the PCs" vs. "look through cross-hairs" ensues.

This is when I get a little nervous. I've hardly killed any PCs in my time, so I feel kind of bad. I describe Li, one of the Mudflatters, a guard who's got a thing for Vega, coming up and delivering the fatal back-of-the-head shot himself. He then goes to throw up.

Later, we're packing up to go, and John (ex-Rue) says, "Maybe I'll play a Faceless next. I really want to do something that's noticeably different from Rue, though." Clearly I got worked up over nothing. I did have to sit with it for a couple of hours (I have anxiety; what can I say?) but I got over it, and Lord knows, John got over it in about sixty seconds. Next week, onward and upward!


  • This is a pretty big thing in my experience.

    Sometimes you get locked into a characters existence and even if he's a jerk you keep walking down that path and it's hard to step off. It's great when the player is able to move on and it's difficult for a gm to follow through rather than give him the easy out (I'm sure you could have captured him rather than just killed him off, but that would have been softball and likely not what the fiction demands)
  • Killing PCs is definitely traumatic for at least one of the parties involved, either player or GM. It only gets worse the longer the character's been around. I was actually in a game some number of years ago that completely imploded when one player's character died. He was the glue that held everything together and we didn't know it until it was too late.
  • Thanks for the input, folks!

    @Vernon: this was, like, the 5th or 6th unnecessary fight that Rue got into. He didn't even have any formal status or authority to defend, so he really was just that ornery. I openly told the group that I was ambivalent about Rue dying, but, like you said, it was what the fiction demanded.

    Threat of death against PC + PC chooses not to change current course of action = someone's gonna try to kill the PC.
    Diamond has been a great example of tactically (and morally) backing down rather than insisting that it come to a fight. Diamond's player, Biff, would probably get a lot out of Dogs in the Vineyard, I think.

    @Sam: oy, tell me about it! I think we're gonna be just fine as a group, but I did feel weird and bad about it for a little while afterwards. Does it get easier over time? :)
  • We used to go out for beers after our regular weekly game, and a dead character meant you drank for free that night. It took some of the sting out of it and was a nice way to memorialise the character.
  • Nice!
    Note to self, 'cause there's a bar on campus!
  • Posted By: Zac in Virginia@Sam: oy, tell me about it! I think we're gonna be just fine as a group, but I did feel weird and bad about it for a little while afterwards. Does it get easier over time? :)
    That I don't know, because I was so spooked by what happened that I never allowed another character to die again, even if I had to bend the rules to the breaking point just to ensure their ultimate survival. I'm pretty sure I'd still be gun-shy about character death today, though it's been a good 20 years since The Occurrence.
  • Well, I definitely still don't have the hang of letting characters die in D&D, but when your player tells you "It's cool, man" that's nice to hear. Makes you better able to remember that it's just another part of the game.
  • edited February 2012
    Usually I protect PCs a lot and give them enough chances to survive, re-rolls included sometimes. However, in the case their luck totally runs out and the fiction demands it, I let the player narrate the last moments of the character and help to make it an awesome moment. That way the players get a better closure and a chance to say goodbye to their characters by having them look cool on their way out of the stage.
  • That's a great story. James Ellroy great.
Sign In or Register to comment.