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Kill the character, not the player
And the most dreaded monster type of all
From the Oddpocrypha section of Mythic Bastionland, talking about Death. The keen-eyed among you will notice some terminology change from the current playtest document, but the new version will be released soon.
Tal has been spotted sneaking into a guarded tower. Their Spirit has already been depleted on the journey and from using Deflect, and now their Guard has been depleted by the first volley of arrows. Moss ducks out of sight of the enemies but Tal runs for the tower.
The sentries roll high on their attack dice and Tal has no choice but to take the damage reducing their VIG to 0, meaning they are Slain outright.
Ref: Oh, wow. One of the arrows flies straight into Tal’s throat… they fall to the ground, a pool of blood forming. They’re slain.
Tal: Argh, I knew that was a dumb thing to do. Is there anything else I can do?
Ref: I mean you’re out of Guard, Spirit, and Vigour, so I think that’s it for Tal.
Tal sighs and folds up the character sheet.
Ref: Well we have less than an hour left tonight, so I’d recommend we sort your new character at the start of the next session, or you can do it at home. You can make a brand new Knight or you could take on a successor. You had that squire who was injured, maybe they could get Knighted for themselves.
Tal: Yeah. Urgh, I should have ran away.
Moss: Hey we’ve both been taking risks, this could have happened to me. Can I recover the body? Tal deserves a proper funeral after all.
Ref: Oh definitely, we’ll get to that. In the mean time I’ll get Tal a character for now. Moss, what’s your plan after recovering Tal?
Moss: Well I need to get to safety for the night. Oh, and I look for Tal’s Raven!
Ref: Sure. Tal, you okay?
Tal: Yeah, I guess I was just getting attached to this character.
Ref sets up Tal with a character for the rest of the session, using a prompt to get a new character to meet Moss as quickly as possible. Between sessions Tal rolls a new Knight to join the company, the Riddle Knight.
Death is tricky, but I believe a game based around Knights benefits from its presence.
It’s usually considered a sort of “fail state” of the game, and Mythic Bastionland embraces the more unpredictable side of death instead of great sacrifices scripted ahead of time. If your Guard, Spirit, and Vigour are all getting low then it’s advisable to do everything you can to avoid taking further damage.
Although it’s a failure of that character, who would surely rather be alive, it’s not a failure of the ongoing story of the game. All Knights die in the end. This is why they seek successors, heirs, squires.
Many referees would be tempted to find a way to keep Tal alive. Dying to the arrow of a nameless sentry feels like an ignoble end for a protagonist, but we can see that Tal had opportunities to avoid this. As a Referee, if in doubt, make sure players understand this risk when they take such an action.
Of course, it still feels bad. The player might feel embarrassed that they let it happen, or sad that they won’t get to continue using their character. It’s perfectly fine to take a moment to acknowledge these feelings, and make sure that the player doesn’t feel the death was somehow unfair or unwarranted. Here I prefer an impartial approach. If the rules say they’re slain, then they’re slain.
The Referee didn’t kill Tal, the arrows did.
The feelings will remain, but the important thing is that the player is angry at the arrows, not the Referee.
Ref does the right thing here by getting Tal right back into the game with a new character, even if it’s just a temporary one for this session. Elevating an existing NPC to become Tal’s new character would be great, but sometimes none of the existing characters quite fit, so it makes sense to just introduce a new Knight.
In most cases I’d default to starting the new Knight as a Young Petty Knight, but if the rest of the Company are quite established then it might make more sense to start them as an Exemplar.
Saxon Magic is a very cool pack of system-agnostic spells and magical mishaps.
Playful Void writes about one of my favourite types of monster.
I read through Hull Breach, a fantastic new supplement for Mothership.
Over on Patreon I get a craving for something last seen in Electric Bastionland.
In Mythic Bastionland I have a bunch of prompts across the bottom of each of the 72 Knight/Myth spreads, meaning you can roll a d6 and a d12 to get a random entry for Person, Name, Characteristic, Object, Beast, State, Theme, Dwelling, Sanctum, Monument, Hazard, Gloom, Vestige.
Yet Spark Tables still call to me, so I've thrown in a page of them as well.
Expect the full post here and on the blog next week. Thanks for reading Bastionland Presser! Subscribe for free to receive new posts straight into your inbox.