Character death, things to consider?

Milennin

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Talking about story deaths, not gameplay deaths. What are good ways to kill off a main character, what are things to avoid? It's something I've been thinking about lately, and looking to see what other people have to say on the matter.
 

HarlekinLehl

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I would ask myself what the reason behind killing off a character is. More so when it's one of the main cast. Just for dramatic effect? Does it play a major role in your plot? Killing a character is a big step. Even more so when your player got invested in them.

So my opinion: Don't kill characters just for the sake of it.
 

TheoAllen

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I personally hate it when a character is declared dead, then for some reason, they actually cheated death or bring it back to life.
 

VampItUp

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If the death is meant to be abrupt, personally I try to avoid making any obvious death flags; such as if one character is suddenly getting a lot more attention and good things happening than they normally do or if they say how they are looking forward to a future event/promising something before a big fight.

But, to also agree with what HarlekinLehl said, don't kill a character just for the shock value.
 

Rodak

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It's always best if they die in an act of self-sacrifice to save others.

Then they can become "martyrs" and be a rallying point for the rest to be motivated to make their death have meaning.
 
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Thefirelion

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A very common way for writers to kill one of their characters, is to make the player take affection for the aforementioned, this is achieved by "cooking" little by little.
 

Elissiaro

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One thing to avoid is to not kill anyone off during/after a boss fight that the player is winning easily.
That's always takes you out of the story imo.

Like, sure you could have a different bad guy come in and murder someone maybe, but don't make the super weak midboss villain do it out of nowhere. I mean, unless it's to reveal that it was all an act and he's actually the big bad final villain. That might work, if you do it right.
 

EpicFILE

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I think the things that need to be considered is the impact of said character's death.

Here are some impacts of character's death I can think of:
1. Source of character development for others who are still alive
2. A "tool" to make the villain more threatening, if said character was killed by the villain
(let's say the villain kills the OP character, the villain will be perceived as serious threat).
3. A world building tool (the deaths are there to give an impression that the story's world is a dangerous one)

I'm sure there must be other impacts I missed.
But I suppose if the death have no impact (at least from the list above),
then it might be better to keep the character alive. xD
 

ElCheffe

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I think it is about the story you would like to tell. Killing of a main character is always a tough thing (well, except for series like "The walking dead" etc.) and it should really have a bigger meaning.
Players can get upset when you kill off their favorite so you should carefully consider if it is worth it.

If your story somehow evolves around a character dying (e.g. he is already marked for death when the story begins) and therefore it is not too surprising it might work just fine. For example if the protagonist tries to achieve his last ultimate goal before dying of an illness and fails it could be a great turning point within the story if now his friends try to complete this.
 
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I think the things that need to be considered is the impact of said character's death.

Here are some impacts of character's death I can think of:
1. Good stuff
2. Good stuff
3. Best stuff
This post saved me so much time. Lol I'd only add that the story and characters have a refreshing amount of freedom the moment you remove the plot shield and make everyone vulnerable to the consequences of their own actions. So if the reason your leading character dies is because they brought a naive mindset to a realistic, punishing world - I think it's only natural that they pay for it with their lives when the time comes. Protecting them from... themselves via writer intervention would show the more cynical players a writer's limits, methinks. Because to me, that says the story can tease a world without that character, but the plot would fall apart without them.

And that's not the rich world I'd be as interested in.
 

Htlaets

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The best deaths in fiction are the ones that feel earned. Doesn't matter how long the party member has been with you. For it to feel earned in an RPG you have to lay the breadcrumbs in the story before it happened, you have to make the other party members relate to the death.

That's not to say to make it obvious that they're gonna die necessarily, though, there are ways to pull off an obvious death with impact if it's done right.

The best character deaths have enough context that the player could easily imagine "what if's" alternative scenarios. AKA "What if what character X was trying to accomplish succeeded and they hadn't died?" If you can imagine a concrete, compelling answer to that question, then it feels more earned. Bonus points if you uncover more details about the characters goals and their "what if" effects on the plot further in the story well past their death.
 

gstv87

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A very common way for writers to kill one of their characters, is to make the player take affection for the aforementioned, this is achieved by "cooking" little by little.
some telenovelas do this..... they cook and they cook, eventually a *bun* pops up somewhere, if you know what I mean.
 

HexMozart88

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I personally hate it when a character is declared dead, then for some reason, they actually cheated death or bring it back to life.
I agree to an extent. I have that happen a couple of times in my game but it's very costly, which I think is the only time it works. If the punishment for bringing that character back to life is someone else sacrificing themselves and the person who got brought back has to live the rest of their lives with the consequences, then it makes the player feel less cheated, I'd say.
 

Htlaets

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I agree to an extent. I have that happen a couple of times in my game but it's very costly, which I think is the only time it works. If the punishment for bringing that character back to life is someone else sacrificing themselves and the person who got brought back has to live the rest of their lives with the consequences, then it makes the player feel less cheated, I'd say.
Like everything it depends on execution, yeah. If proper preparation is done subtlely, but noticeably, for the character's secret survival, if there are hints that the character survived, then it can be done OK. The good ol' "They fell into a pit and are assumed dead" trope is really annoying because whenever someone "dies" in a story by falling you know they're probably not dead and the trope is so rarely subverted, too.

Buuuuutttt, a temporary assumed death can have characters re-evaluate their significance to one another and help redefine the nature of their bonds or highlight how characters react to tradgedy. This can also be used for foreshadowing, e.g. if someone goes a murderous rampage, breaks down and gives up, or give up on certain morals when they think a friend is dead and stops because they find out they're alive, it lays out some justification for long-term reactions to actual deaths.
 

coucassi

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Since a lot of story-related advices were already given here, I'll add something about mechanics:

You want to make your players feel the characters loss not only in an emotional way, but also when they battle for example.

All the strategies they came up with evolving around this characters abilities won't work anymore, or will be much less effective. This will make them really miss this character and create an even greater impact than just the story/character-related feelings.

To accomplish this you need the deads characters skills unique to the party, or of someone else has comparible abilities they should be very ineffective on compaeison or come with a higher cost.

Make sure your players don't see this character just as a friend but as an important and valuable element of their playing style too.
 

AmazingKazuki

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Talking about story deaths, not gameplay deaths. What are good ways to kill off a main character, what are things to avoid? It's something I've been thinking about lately, and looking to see what other people have to say on the matter.

Having a character death in a game is what I've debated in every project. Not that I have one in each one, just debate it as I'm writing the story. Character death can be an impactful tool and an emotional shock to players, in my opinion, because when players get attached and you kill off that character, they have a reaction. In most cases, it reminds us that death still happens around us and in video games (not that we don't know but sometimes games just feel too safe).

If you're creating a thriller or horror genre game, death is expected. You want those stakes to be high, you want to have that sense of danger.

As far as things to avoid, I'd avoid making the death painfully obvious or reviving the character multiple times (you may see this in comics or some television shows).

In the game I am slowly getting around to the death of a character helps with the plot. I think it drives the wedge between the two main characters that really help showcase their personalities after their reaction and response to the death. Although, as a spoiler, the character isn't dead and there is an explanation behind it which fuels the characters to find their way back to each other and going on a second part of the adventure.
 

CasualJeff

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Everything comes down to execution so there's not really a 'one size fits all' answer for how to carry out a character death. You can look at examples though, Chrono Trigger being the one of the biggest rpg games to kill off the MC that I can think of has the MC die in a fight against the big bad to get across how truly dangerous they are. Final Fantasy 7 also kills off a main party member and seems to carry that out rather effectively, again being killed by the big bad. So it seems like a good rule is to have a character die to the big bad guy as a way to show how dangerous they are.
 
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Does it play a significant role in your tale?
It's a huge move to kill a character.
 

Milennin

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Does it play a significant role in your tale?
It's a huge move to kill a character.
The plan was to offer the choice to spare or kill off the main villain near the end of the game. If the choice is made to kill him, the "true" main villain comes in to revenge-kill one of the player's party members.
To make up for the loss of a party member, all other characters gain a rage buff for the entirety of the game after that (final dungeon and final boss fight).
 

Finnuval

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The plan was to offer the choice to spare or kill off the main villain near the end of the game. If the choice is made to kill him, the "true" main villain comes in to revenge-kill one of the player's party members.
To make up for the loss of a party member, all other characters gain a rage buff for the entirety of the game after that (final dungeon and final boss fight)
Hmmm... The way i read that it happens in close succession of eachother? Cant say im a fan of that - feels to much like a trade off. Would much more prefer it if the choice was given much earlier maybe with a 'smaller' antagonist and the recente not happening until much later.

It would also invoke a different reaction in the player more questioning their choice earlier in game and more driving home the point that it was their choice that led to this and less of a trade off...

But that's Just me and i am only a single fool xD
 

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