There are two broad schools of thought on this. There’s the old school approach of being an unforgiving bastard to your players and punishing them for stupidity or bad rolls with death. You could call this the ‘Old Testament’ Games Mastering style. Then there’s the more new-school approach of making the story and narrative more important. The characters may not (probably won’t) die unless it fits the story, but their goals and desires may never be met, or may be dashed.
As with most things, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Players do need to feel that their characters and their progress is as genuine risk. They also need to feel that they may not be able to achieve their ends. Both of these things give accomplishments meaning – beating the odds and succeeding against genuine opposition.
You have to – sometimes – let people fail. Failure doesn’t have to mean a TPK (total party kill) or the end of the world, but without failure success just isn’t worth as much. Sometimes, also, you do have to let characters die.
I admit, I’m terrible at this. I just want everyone to have a good time and I want character deaths to be meaningful and not just down to bad dice mojo. I daresay my games would be better if I could grasp the nettle and acclimate my players to the idea that characters can and will die. In one shots – especially horror – I have no problem procuring a higher kill-count than Jason Vorhees, but in campaigns I’m a total wuss.
Bad Grim, no biscuit.
Hey, thanks for stopping by. I’m an independent RPG (and other games) designer and author. You can check out my stuff via the links at the side of postmortemstudios.wordpress.com. If you feel so inclined, after a look around, you can support me at patreon.com/grimachu, Minds.com/grimachu or steemit.com/@grimjim. Questions and queries are welcome, remember, ‘Nullius in verba’!