Last night in my Pathfinder game, the rogue kicked the bucket (coup-de-grace’d by a mite, of all things). While the player was slightly miffed to lose a PC he liked, he quickly got started on rolling up a new character (another rogue, much to everybody’s chagrin).
This was the third character death we’ve had in the four sessions we’ve been playing so far. It’s been an interesting experience for me, since I haven’t GM’d a regular campaign in a long time, and the issue of what happens when PCs die and make new characters (rather than trying to resurrect their existing characters, since they’re too low level to have access to that sort of magic) has brought up some unexpected complications.
For example, relative XP for new characters – compared to the surviving characters – is something I hadn’t anticipated. This is a two-fold issue:
First, there’s a question of how to divide experience points among the party when some characters have died. Our group has six players; two sessions ago, two of them died in the climactic battle of the night. As we wound down and I tallied up the XP the group had earned, the awkward question came up of how to divide the XP – four ways or six?
The problem here was that while the fallen PCs had certainly pulled their weight in battle, their characters were no longer alive to gain the requisite XP from their efforts. Likewise, giving it to their new characters seemed a bit too far-fetched from an in-game perspective (even considering that XP is, in and of itself, a metagame issue), since those characters hadn’t even met the party yet. No one was sure how to divvy up the XP that night, including me.
The other problem with XP when bringing in new characters is that it creates lop-sided XP totals among the party. When a player in our game makes up a new character to replace a dead PC, the character is created at the same level as the other party members. However, after last night’s game, the surviving party members were now less than a thousand XP away from third level. If the new rogue came in with just enough XP to be second level, then the other PC’s have a not-insignificant jump on him as far as XP goes – it’s likely that they’d make third level next session, whereas the rogue almost certainly wouldn’t. In essence, since XP is always divided evenly among party members, the rogue would always be lagging behind the group (admittedly this gap would grow smaller and smaller in comparison as time went on and the XP totals rose higher and higher, but for now the gap seems pretty big).
Finally, this same problem raises it’s ugly head once again when it came time to determine the new character’s starting gold. Being a second level character, the obvious answer seemed like giving him the standard, average amount of gold for new characters as listed in the Pathfinder Core Rules (1,000 gp). However, the other party members cried foul, since, having only made second level themselves last session, that was more than any of them had yet – nobody liked the idea of a new guy who just entered the game with more personal treasure than any of them had earned in adventure after bloody adventure.
Eventually, we reached a compromise on all of these problems. We decided that XP would always be split six ways (the size of the party) and that the total XP for a character would always be of the group average. So the new rogue entered the game with exactly the same total XP as the characters who’d survived since the very first session. The issue of starting gold was messier – he ended up with triple the starting gold of a 1st-level rogue (a little over 400 gp).
However, I found that (at least as far as XP went), this seemed to undercut the threat of death by a large amount.
Now, fear of their characters getting killed is still plenty strong. PCs are attached to their characters naturally, and there’s always the issue of a dead character diminishing the party for at least the rest of that session, putting the others at greater risk by default (since that character’s actions aren’t there to hurt enemies, nor is he there to draw enemy fire). But beyond that…there’s no real loss for dying.
Simply put, if a new PC that’s brought in a replace a dead PC has the exactly same XP total as the dead NPC would, then it’s really like there’s no net loss. Admittedly, there is the issue of gold and gear, but overlooking that, is character death really that much of an impediment when you get to bring in a new PC at the exact same point of progression that your old PC had? Hell, even a resurrected character takes a few penalties for being brought back into the game (at least until you get the higher-level life-restoring spells).
And so I ask you, dear readers, how do you deal with this issue in your games? Do you institute penalties (or at least, not soften issues that arise) with new PCs who replace dead ones? Or do you make sure that new characters start on the exact same footing as the surviving ones?
What’s the impact of bringing a new PC into your campaign?