Having had to deal with some feelings that came from being in this position, I was thinking it would be useful to make some kind of guide to how to deal with RPG character deaths. I won't bore you with the details of what happened... let's just say that I was too stupid to clearly understand what was going on, wrote myself into a corner, and didn't realize until it was too late to do anything, then before I knew it my PC was dead and there was nothing I could do.
I'm probably not the only one who's had to deal with this type of problem. Every now and then, one player blunders too much and gets stuck. Then the host has to make a tough call on whether the situation qualifies as one that can only be resolved by Deus Ex Machina. If they decide it is, then that character is dead and not much can be done. I can say from experience that it's not easy for the player affected by this choice, especially if they were emotionally invested in the character in question. When I lost my PC, I experienced feelings of anger, frustration. I remember it felt like everything was against me. It's not an easy thing to deal with, especially when it happened early on (as in the first few pages) because of extreme foolishness on my part and an inability to realize the mistakes I was making.
Still, I found a few techniques for dealing with the problem, and I was thinking it could be worthwhile to share some of what I did in the hopes that it may be useful to other players. So here are some things I've found useful in dealing with those feelings. Here is a straight forward list of steps I took to deal with my situation, and I'm hoping will be useful to other players.
- One thing I've found is that, as angry as you may feel when it happens, it's important to control yourself as much as possible. If you try to take out your anger on anyone you'll only make things worse.
- Talking to either the host or the person who performed the action is a good move move. However, you need to make sure you can stay calm enough to have a civil conversation. While there's nothing wrong with sharing your own feelings, try to listen to what the other person has to say. This is not to say that you'll agree with everything they write. However, it will offer some context on why things happened the way they did, and they may even offer some valid points.
- Once you've calmed down enough to think clearly, talk with some of the other players in the RPG. Share everything if you can on what you've felt. They should be fairly understanding.
- Once you've gotten a lot of your frustrations out, start trying to figure out what went wrong. This is a good time to ask for feedback, mainly because other players can offer information and perspectives that may not have been obvious to you. For instance, it may turn out your character made a very different impression from what you intended, or perhaps there was important information or details you missed or misunderstood. While this won't bring back your PC, it is still useful to know in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.
Now of course this process is not exactly an instant cure for any anger you may experience. It does take time, and it requires an extensive effort at self-control. However, I have found that when a PC is killed, the best thing you can do is try to stay calm, talk to whoever you can, and do what you can to understand why it happened.
Also, one other technique I've used is to turn those feelings to your advantage. This involves channeling your anger into the RPG itself through a new PC. An easy way to do this is to give your new PC a revenge quest (presumably directed against the rival PC who performed the action). While there's no guarantee that they will get their revenge (it does after all count on several variables, including whether the two PCs even meet) it does provide a good starting point and allows you to work some of what you're feeling into the story itself.
I'm hoping this is useful to anyone reading this. If anyone else has techniques of their own, feel free to share them.