Gaming Diary – AD&D Character Death.
Last night was pretty crazy. We gamed at Fantasy Flight Games from 4PM till almost closing time at midnight (nearly 8 hours).
We nearly had two Total Party Kills (TPK’s) even though we had 6 players in our group managing 10 characters (old school games are tough and you need to have as many capable bodies as possible!). In the end two characters did die – a player lost their paladin, and I lost my 1st level, half-elf, cleric/fighter/magic-user.
I still have a human 2nd level magic-user, but now I need to create a second character again. In fact, I’ll be creating a third and possibly a fourth character just as a backup(s) to the other two!
I love these challenging games! I suppose for those who make modern D&D characters where they never expect the characters to die because all encounters are supposed to be “balanced,” this old school game style can be a bit jarring. But I have to say it is a real rush when you see your DM rolling on the encounter chart for the monsters as well as the number of monsters and not know what might come up! So many modern games feel like a video game where the random encounters are just “trash mobs” that you are meant to wipe away with no real threat, and if you have to worry at all it will be during the “boss fight” at the end. This makes the game too predictable, in my view, and I think it can get a bit boring. In old school games your random encounter in the woods could be a wandering dear, or ten hungry trolls – you might have a simple encounter with nature, or a total fight for your lives using everything in your backpack, saddle bags, and wagon, to desperately stay alive!
When you succeed at an encounter you feel a much stronger sense of satisfaction, and if you lose a character like I did last night, you still feel a genuine sense as if something was still accomplished. In nearly 40 years of gaming I’ve lost plenty of characters before and I can say when it was happening during the 3E era I got upset and sometimes, I think, felt a bit entitled and would think “you can’t kill my character (again!), I wrote a backstory for him and that story is unfinished!” But as I said above, the feelings are different in old school. Just hours before the game I had written up backstories for both my characters and shared them with my DM – I finally knew more about where they had come from and what they wanted to do – and hours later one of them died. But I didn’t feel that it was a waste, it was simply how life goes in a world that is filled with constant danger. Any sense of entitlement in old school games gets dispensed with quickly, for you are not a hero and not that special unless you actually manage to survive a few levels, before that you are simply a nobody with a dream and the world doesn’t bow to your will. It is a humbling but worthwhile experience.