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Killing PCs in HERO 6th Edition

Updated on July 24, 2016

Death of Superman

Property of DC Comics
Property of DC Comics | Source


Short form: Not a very good idea.

In AD&D, I would roll up a character, check his stats against what was available to play, and basically act out the actions of a character to which I felt no true attachment. Yes, maybe after a few scenarios I'd gain some concern for the character. But, since I didn't create the character -- the dice did that -- his death at the hands of a few 0 Level farmers didn't phase me in the least. Oh well... I'll roll up another character.

That all changed with the role-playing world created the point system of character creation. Now, I could create the character I wanted -- just as I wanted it. And I cared for those characters. They were truly my imagination made manifest. I created the character instead of let chance or fate decide. I mean, after all, don't they have better things to do than worry whether or not I rolled that 17 for the base Charisma of a Paladin?

But, of course, the campaign decides in the end. Bloodthirsty Game Masters would force you to create combat gods, just to survive their sadistic onslaught. Other players would feel compelled to make their own characters to match yours, to prevent becoming supporting cast members to the MY HERO SHOW. And, sometimes, the other players would look down on you for wanting to roleplay a subordinate, supporting character.

This is about killing Player Characters, so let me get on with it.

The PCs are the stars of the show. Their deaths should be meaningful and game-changing events. And, that's if they should ever be allowed to happen at all. My rule of thumb is this: Killing PCs is a very bad idea, under most circumstances.

Here's a few ideas on the exceptions to my rule. They make the event of a PC death count.

The Comedian

The Comedian from the 2009 film The Watchmen. Property of Warner Bros. Studios
The Comedian from the 2009 film The Watchmen. Property of Warner Bros. Studios | Source

1. The Comedian's Death in The Watchmen

If there was a player character playing the Comedian, I'm sure he would have been pissed. BUT, if he made another character who became directly involved in investigating his former character's death -- in this example, Rorschach -- I don't think he would mind so much. So, this is an acceptable death. I'd call it "taking one for the team." I actually had my character in a game die within the first five minutes of a game. The GM, in his infinite wisdom, turned the entire game into a means of collecting money for the funeral. Brilliant. Wish I'd thought of it...

The Watcher

Uatu the Watcher. Property of Marvel Comics.
Uatu the Watcher. Property of Marvel Comics. | Source

2. The Universe Needs You Too Much

I keep a few Deus Ex Machina characters around for just this reason. They step in and basically say, "No sleeping on the Job." Sometimes, just to be cryptic, I'll say, "Your work here is not done -- a greater destiny awaits you." It's BS, but if you never let the Player know that... well... great.

3. He Was A Douchebag Anyway

Yes, I've killed PCs that were too powerful, or got in the way of storytelling, or just annoyed all of the other players. I've even gone so far as to let other players kill them. Sometimes, you've just gotta do what ya gotta do.

The Death of Barry Allen

Property of DC Comics.
Property of DC Comics. | Source

4. Now That's How You Go Out!

The PC sacrifices his life in such a way that it truly defines him. He saves the Universe, but dies in the process. He uses up all of his END, then STUN, then BODY, just to get the job done. That's a heroic death. It's dramatic and game-changing. It's profound, and shows a dedication to the story beyond self- gratification or glory.

Now, understand that "made" characters mean much more to roleplayers than the dice-generated ones. They should be given a bit more leeway with regard to fatalities. First rule: Don't be a jerk. GMs on a killing spree is just wrong. No one enjoys a kill session but the sadistic GM, with all the power in the game, attacking that bully he had busting his balls in junior high vicariously by beating his players up. If there's any truly WRONG WAY to roleplay, this is it. Second rule is simple: Are the players having fun, and is more fun promised if they continue? If any answer is "no," turn in your Gamemaster's Screen and just silently walk away. Please.

And with that, I'll open the floor to your comments below.


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