Dealing With Death – Part 4 – When It Happens

Over the course of this series, I have talked about preparing for death in a campaign. But today I want to wrap up by taking a look at how to handle the moment at the table when death emerges.

The Painful Sting

For GMs, it is important to remember that there is loss in death. Obviously, the longer the character has been involved in the story, the greater the loss GMs and players will feel. It is only natural. You have worked with that player to involve the character within the emergent story. New players tend to take the loss of characters harder than experienced players, but this is not always the case.  You know your players better than I do, but one thing aids in dealing with a character death. Taking the time to recognize the characters passing.

It does not have to be elaborate, although I have heard about games where wakes and funerals are held for characters who have passed.  I have a simple tradition at my table. When a character dies, once it is irrevocable, I stand and give the player a sharp salute. It started off because I wanted provide some sort of recognition when a character passed from the game. I gave the salute because it was quick and obvious, but as it worked its way into my games, something strange developed. The salute became a ceremony, a rallying signal for the group to take a moment for the dead character. It is usually accompanied by curses, laughter, a round of quick comments, ect. After the session, I try to chat about the death, if we have time, or if it is exceptionally painful.

I have come to believe that this is an important piece of dealing with character’s dying in the game. Creating a group tradition around death can establish how players react when their character dies. Whether it plays out reverently or irreverently depends greatly on your group and the situation.  It can remove the sting by providing a framework for dealing with it.


Death is a pretty heady subject to tackle, even if it is only character death. I feel like I have just scratched the surface with this article, I am sure greater minds could spend four times the time on this subject. But I hope that this gave you some things to think about and some new ways to use and deal with character death in your game.

In October, I will start a series on 13th Age GMing. The game is unique and has some unique narrative components that I think are very insightful, but they require some thought to get the most out of them. See you next week.


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