What happens if a character dies?

Players are not allowed to start new characters at their own whim, nor are they allowed to have more than one character at a time. This is a long-term campaign and I expect players to build and become attached to their characters. I expect them to speak in the first person (“I” rather than “my character” or “Felix the Strong”) and to see their character as an extension (or avatar) of themselves. For example, players often play the same character for years (out of game). Players create their characters and if they die, they are out of The Game. There is no “reset” button that you can hit when you don’t like how things are proceeding or you die. Death is the end.

While this sounds harsh, I realized early on that in order to create a sense of reality, death had to mean more than simply starting again. I want players to fear death, to feel a sense of mortality. I want them to make decisions that reflect these fears and this reality.

So, while death is the end, The Game can continue. Players are allowed to take on the characters of their descendants. In this way, family lines and dynasties have been created. There are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if a character is celibate (in the case of a clerical figure or by choice), he/she will be allowed to create a new character. Obviously, the character should not be punished out of game for an in-game decision. If a character dies and his/her children are too young to start adventuring, they can “trade in” this generation of descendants and start a new character. But, if a character dies and the player has no descendants to play, he/she is out of The Game. That said, there is still an option to keep playing. If your character dies and you are knocked out of The Game, you can try to convince another player to give you one of his/her descendants.

Aside from character creation (out of game), I handle death in The Game differently as well. I have never liked how relatively easy it is to be raised from the dead or resurrected in most game systems. This ease, once again, diminishes what should be a very real fear of death and the end. In my rule system, raise dead and resurrection prayers are rare and difficult to ascertain. Even if they can be obtained, they only work within a two-hour framework. After this time, the soul/spirit departs the body and there is absolutely no way to be saved.

And yes, players have had their characters die and they have been ejected from The Game.