Cinematic Death in D&D

How can you handle a fitting, cinematic death for a PC when death can happen suddenly and randomly?

Adam Koebel posted this comment to Twitter, and it generated a lot of conversation.


Adam’s comment is specific to streaming, but it’s an interesting idea. D&D’s rules allow death to happen at any time, which works in most games. However, streamed games are for an audience, and their needs are sometimes different. Gaming groups that focus on character development and story may find that they want some more agency in their characters destinies. How can we accommodate this?

Changing the normal rules of D&D isn’t necessary, since this is something that individual tables can house rule themselves. At its core, this is about wanting more control over the shared story, so a possible solution should be narrative in nature. The fewer rules, the better.

So...this is how...I die...

So...this is how...I die...

I have a quick solution that I’ve put together, and I’d like to hear your opinions on it.

When a character would be killed, they are instead stable and unconscious at 1 hit point, but they are marked by Death. The character will meet their end soon, or be forced to retire from the adventuring group. Work with your GM privately to decide how your character will move on.

Mortal wounds are one way of handling this, but aren’t necessary. You know the character will die, so you can work on making it as heroic or fitting as you need. If don’t have anything in mind, or think the death will serve the story, you can die in the moment!

When you can specify a time of death for your character, you avoid the issue of having a player sit around and not participate in the game. A character’s death is unfortunate, and not being able to participate for an indeterminate amount of time can be frustrating. Death is set up to be a penalty, instead of another story moment.

Come back into the Light.

Come back into the Light.

Resurrection in D&D can cheapen death. Once you achieve a high enough level, the basic rules allow for death to be a revolving door. This feels good when a character you like gets to keep playing, but removes the importance of death. When you allow players to find a fitting death for their character, resurrection isn’t as necessary. With this idea, you can get rid of resurrection magic entirely.

What do you think? Do you have any ideas, or do you do something differently for your game? Let me know!