Every group treats this concept differently. It depends mostly on the type of story that the GM wants to tell. If this is a dark world, especially a Lovecraftian world, then it is expected. That character’s death was written into the story the second his name was jotted down on a piece of paper. Lighthearted games tend to treat character deaths as a mistake. The players scramble to finish off that last cave troll so they can drag their comrade back to town that day. But there’s often more to it.
The group itself has something to say. Sometimes a group works against the GM. This GM’s job is to kill the players with the challenges that come around. This challenge means that death is always a possibility. Another group might fly in the face of death at all times, but they are all advocates for the same story. The insane misadventures of their superhuman protagonists is greater than death. Even if a character dies in any game, there just may be room in that story to seek out a magic powerful enough to raise the dead. That character’s story doesn’t end, it sits on hold as a new story spawns from it.
The prevailing ideas in every scenario are to penalize the player in a small way. Either by rolling a new character or sitting out the rest of the session. But what about a new approach?
Timeless: Creatures! has a fascinating approach, similar to the dark one described above. Characters are expected to die almost every session. Whether sacrificing themselves for the group, getting separated and ambushed by the monsters, or just plain being overpowered in a last stand. Players don’t have nearly the same supernatural longevity as most games allow. But every character in this game is an actor playing a role. When an adventure ends, even if that role has died, the character lives on to play his next part.
Now Creatures! is a setting, but it is a world building tool mostly. GM’s use it as a guide to construct new monsters and new adventures for their players. Its development focused entirely on tools and multiple setting options. This is not so for Woods of Edir. This setting provides a detailed world for players to play in. One that presents a society, its relationship, and the dangers all around.
Death in Woods of Edir is never the end of a character. More so, it provides a choice for that player. Depending on the path of the Child a type of spiritual entity emerges in their place. Each is unique to its path and based on a connection left open to the magic around the forest. This spirit, called the Chaff, sticks around until its energy is destroyed. This happens a different way for each path, but gives that player a choice. Every session the player can choose to continue on as the Chaff or to play a new character. The memory of their dead character lives on, and the player continues to enjoy the benefit of the effort put into their character.
For example, the Talkers come back as the only Chaff capable of being seen or heard again. Like an ancestor’s ghost whispering in the wind. The elemental magic of Talkers allows a channel for speaking. Often seen in flicking images of a roaring fire, a talker can also be seen in the darkness of caves, blowing leaves, and the mirages of hot sand. When danger threatens the Talker’s friends, the channeled element can reach out and strike. The living players get to live on with the protective spirit of their great friend following and appearing to continue their work whenever needed.
This part of role playing gets discussed a lot in the circles that I follow online. Players all have different expectations. GMs have even more. I think that these kinds of unique ideas tackling the topic that is normally glossed over in most games will really appeal to anyone who’s put enough thought into it. Not how a player tackles it. Not how a GM tackles it. But what can the game do to help?