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-   -   Death systems (https://www.rpgwatch.com/forums/showthread.php?t=5870)

Dhruin November 19th, 2008 23:59

Death systems
What death system do you prefer? Do you like NWN2's "Everyone's a medic" system (see below) or did Baldur's Gate's "Traditional permanent death" system get it right in the first place? Lucky Day has put together a list of death systems that have been used for us to consider.
  • Traditional permanent death - player must load a previous save
  • Hardcore mode - permanent death, player must restart the game
  • Miraculous resurrection - player returned to start point
  • Japanese miracle - returned to previous check point (player may only save at these points)
  • Waiting for a miracle - player can wait for the heat to clear before respawning at the place they died
  • Everyone's a medic - permanent death only when last party member is dead (playable party or NPC)
  • Casper system - player can only interact as a ghost until restored to the land of the living
  • Hybrid/Cocktail - low levels character are too weak and its too expensive to rez (effectively making it perma death at level 1) or high level, where taking the next step in the evolution of your character comes at a cost (effectively God Mode)

You can have any of these with various penalties such as wait times, stat adjustments, permanent injury or experience or level drops, player must walk back to start to continue and so on.

Make your vote and feel free to add comments on your own experiences, preferences or ideas for a better way to handle death.

Lucky Day November 20th, 2008 02:19

Another choice I suggested was Rescue Dog where another player or party is needed to rescue the lost one.

Although primarily a multiplayer option this was used in Wizardry I if your party died in the Proving Grounds. I think this was meant to mimic how some people played D&D back in the day when dungeon crawling when they took new character sheets.

Otherwise you needed to rez your party or haul them to the Temple of Cant. In the first release of the game you couldn't save in the dungeons so you had to be careful, and hopefully remember where you were.

This was a real pain if you only had one high level party - it meant using Locksmith to copy your buddy's disk or doing it the hard way.

Wizardry IV offered a patch for Wizardry I if I remember where you could save in the dungeon.

Dying was still dangerous even with the additions because it recorded the PC's status to his save file. Hopefully you flipped the drive open in time before it could write.

When Mr White wasn't in the Computer Lab Ian McCormick would slap those Apple ][ floppies drives hard when that happened.

It was very unforgiving.

txa1265 November 20th, 2008 03:54

I'm good with the normal system … though the 'everyone's a medic' system is interesting as you have to sometimes split your battle / healing duties to save party members from perma-death.

Kostas November 20th, 2008 06:15

Although I dont like party based RPGs(Baldurs Gate,NWN etc) as much as single(Gothic,Witcher etc) I voted for "Everyone's a medic".In singleRPGs death=reload but in party based it makes more sense to use the "Everyone's a medic".
Planescape's system was good but dont like resurrections and an awful example of modern resurrection is Two Worlds.
Japanese miracle:I hate checkpoints this doesnt even sound like an RPG
Casper system:WoW????No thanks I dont believe it would be great in any cRPG

Prime Junta November 20th, 2008 10:04

I voted "hardcore mode."

I would, of course, have to hedge that any number of ways -- just plopping hardcore death into, say, NWN2, would immediately make the game unplayable. If a game has hardcore death, it must be balanced to deal with it. It could be like NetHack or Dwarf Fortress -- a random world every time means that winning isn't really the point; exploring, growing, and eventually dying in some incredibly annoying way is. Or it could be like Planescape: Torment where death is cleverly worked around. Or it could be a game that's balanced in such a way that death is unlikely unless you really goof off -- making even relatively easy fights tense simply because you can't afford to slip up the way you normally do in games.

JemyM November 20th, 2008 10:14

These days I am into Everyone's a medic, at least in party RPG's (otherwise Miraculous resurrection). I play games more for the experience and experimentation than the challenge and I am not a huge fan of frustrating game mechanics. The more fluid the experience is, the better and the faster you can get back up and back into the game the better.

When I play FPS's these days I prefer the "stand low and catch your breath" kind of approach, utilized in games such as call of duty, halo and crysis. You do not need to monitor a healthbar and stack up with meds, as long as you do not take enough pain to kill you, you can just stand behind something for awhile and your health automatically restores up to full. Like the RPG's above, this allows the player to get back into the game at a faster pace.

Zaleukos November 20th, 2008 10:47

What inspired the "hybrid/cocktail" option? I thought resurrection costs (in games where you literally pay for resurrection) usually scale in such a way that they are relatively painless for the level 1, not the other way around:)

In party-based games I'd go with everyone's a medic, mainly because the alternatives often result in reloads and thus lose their teeth.

Hardcore mode only works for certain kinds of games.

Miraculous resurrection gives an arcade feel and breaks immersion. Save points (the japanese option) are idiotic from a usability point of view because they prevent you from taking a break from the game at an arbitrary timepoint. Waiting for a miracle can work (I'd say that describes Mount & Blade), and the traditional system is fine for single-character games (and party based games where there is a resurrection mechanic that fits the setting, I actually used BG2's resurrection mechanics quite a bit).

crecca November 20th, 2008 10:53

For single player rpg-s traditional death with saves is perfectly fine for me. I have never played a MMORPG before, but from the videos, the forums, blogs today's mmo seems quite boring and empty (quest-kill-level cycles infinitely). It seems to me, that death system is one of the keys in this fenomenon. Developers (unfortunately) work for money, and money is basically from the monthly fees (WOW model). In this situation every developer is interested in payed fee maximalization. It's kinda risky to change the death sytem in a new game drastically: 'Hey, i'm not God anymore, what happened? This sucks. Let's find another one.' likely to happen. If a developer system rise that's not relying on money but on the pure passion for the traditional RPG genre, then it will probably be better in the long run. I've been thinking about an MMO system, where people die. By the age or by the sword, but fully and permanently. Aging is out of the question, most of the time. The only implementaion that i can think of is Fable. Why is this taboo? People, who play a GAME don't like to die that's obvious. But i'd like to see a game for the people, who play a ROLE. What do you think about such a system?

Zaleukos November 20th, 2008 11:02

Darklands (old Microprose RPG) had aging that affected your ability scores to the point where you'd want to retire your party members before they die of old age:) Most games dont have the kind of timeframe where visible aging effects make sense though.

skavenhorde November 20th, 2008 12:07

Traditional perma death is fine by me. I normally reload if a character is killed, but it is still better than any of the other choices.

One thing that the game Devil Whiskey and the game that it was heavily influenced by The Bards Tale did right was the way it handled dead characters. It cost very little to ressurect a dead lvl 1 character, but it cost increasingly more money the higher the lvl the character was. I didn't reload if a character bit the dust, I just walked back to the temple and ressurected them. It took a big bite out of my gold when dealing with higher level characters, but it was part of the strategy of playing the game.

I think the old SSI gold box games had a similar way of healing the dead and it wasn't that painful to head on over to the temple to heal them again. It's a lot better than getting fully healed after every battle, that completely takes away the attrition portion of the game.

Zaleukos November 20th, 2008 12:29

Legend of Faerghail and Demise - Rise of the Kutan also increase the cost of resurrection by a factor level^n, making it relatively more expensive for higher level characters.

The gold box games used the raise dead spell. I think the only downside was a loss of one constitution point.

One way to keep the attrition factor with an "everyone is a medic" approach would be to bring the chars back to life with only 1 HP (which could be justified as HP represent an abstraction of the general condition of the character).

Jabberwocky November 20th, 2008 14:16

Voted traditional death. That's the standard of most of the RPGs I've played and it works fine for me. That was one of my beefs with Two Worlds - just seemed arcadish. I think it should be up to the player when he wants to save, when to re-load, and from where.

rbtroj November 20th, 2008 15:12

I chose "everyone's a medic" because we seem to be talking about party rpg's. For single character rpg's I'd have to vote for traditional reload.

Hardcore is just too painful for an RPG with any substance. I can't imagine dying near the end of Fallout 3 and re-rolling. Pretty sure I would just uninstall the game if that were the case.

Checkpoint, imo, needs to perma-die without any save to reload … and no checkpoint.

magerette November 20th, 2008 15:59

Traditional death--not because I'm a big traditionalist or anything but because I put a lot of value on combat over personality in parties--I just find that it adds to the tactical element of battles, and that's one of the main draws of a party rpg for me. One of the factors that lost my interest in KotOR in particular was just having everyone fall down and get up later unharmed at no cost. NWN2 I had less trouble with, since the combat was a bit more challenging and involving, and the rest factor was convenient enough to make me feel it was the equivalent of proper planning. ;)
I'm not a fan of hardcore but the 'everyone's a medic' is also perfectly acceptable if the game's combat is challenging enough on other levels.

Stanza November 20th, 2008 18:02

For a party-based game, my ideal system would be traditional, but with a meaningful buffer between being functional and being dead. The -10 HP rule from most versions of D&D is sort of there, but once you're fighting higher level opponents, you'll almost never end up between 0 and -9. Something along the lines of "below 1/3 health, you're incapacitated". That way any single hit is unlikely to kill a character outside of a boss fight. And it adds some strategy in requiring you to deal with bleeding characters, and maybe defend them against carnivores that would otherwise try to eat or coup-de-grace fallen party members.

For single-character games, dead is dead unless there's a really good reason otherwise. Like tying it to the story, so the first time you "die" you wake up in prison and have to escape, something that was done in Thief 3. But having something like Elizabeth and Abe always showing up to rez you is cheesy.

Lucky Day November 21st, 2008 00:55

I would have liked to include D&D's bleeding system but it sort of falls between permanent death and the medic system, with penalties on the side.

Bioware attempted to implement it into NWN1 but scrapped it due to bugs. Community members revived the scripts and discovered what they were the hard way.

One major problem with it is when you stop bleeding but you are below 0 you are incapacitated. If AI or another player can't revive you, you are as good as dead.

Related, I recall Raise Dead and Resurrect are very different in D&D. One important feature was the need for a 1000gp's crushed diamond as a spell component.

Things could really get interesting I remember if you used Limited Wish to raise the dead. Too often things would happen like the Magic User's dog dying to compensate. The mage would end up mad at you for the rest of the campaign.


Immortal was a choice I thought of but promptly forgot. That should have been a choice.


I've never played WoW but I played the Casper system in Ultima Online. I found myself a ranger and the plarty I played with was shocked when I told them I could see and speak to the dead without being able to hear them. It was pretty neat the way they varied the implementation.

In NWN1 several people tried to script a ghost system, especially because it had a neat visual effect in Ghostly and Ethereal Visage. But there were serious problems because it was difficult to prevent the player from picking up anything and you can't stop and PC from talking. The idea is almost forgotten now.


Someone mentioned a Limbo system and again several people took this idea up in NWN, usually in the form of a time delay and finding your way out of a series of mazes. I believe which maze you ended up in was randomized. I never played too much on worlds that used this but I would think it would have been pretty easy after a few tries.

I think there were variations of after life depending on alignment too on some servers.


And finally, someone asked in the DA FAQ news thread what game server I ran where I implemented my harsher death system with plenty of complaints but significantly increased my player base. That server was with Neverwinter Nights. It was called Wheel of Time: The Third Age, or WoT:3A for short. I might still be running.

Korplem November 21st, 2008 04:25

I voted for hardcore. PJ already said exactly what I had in mind: The game needs to be balanced for the hardcore death system.

I can only think of two game to offer this system. Diablo 2 and ToEE. Hardcore was the only way I could tolerate, even enjoy D2. In ToEE, I had a blast. I never beat it but it made everything in the game much more exciting and memorable. Even now, countless games later, I still remember most of my adventures in ToEE.

GothicGothicness November 21st, 2008 09:01

you could play Diablo 2 as hardcore ??? I could only play Diablo 2 as the Miraculous resurrection option. I think the d2 system with miraculous ressurection works quite well though.

titus November 21st, 2008 09:34

I would say that the casper system could be very interesting for single players RPG or MMORPGs
for real party RPGs I would say: One or more that you can teach a revive skill (preferably more than one guy :p)
I voted casper because I play siongle players RPG mostly.
although I am very addicted to Perfect world at the moment :)

Dez November 21st, 2008 23:45

Traditional death. Like Magerette I can't stand it all if a game takes my challenge away. If I play stupidly, caressly or badly its only fair that me or someone from my party pays the price. In addition in the best death-system the resurrection spells should only be available during a short time span after party member's death.

The sense of danger during battles is very important to me and no other system can quarantee it better than traditional death. And if you don't constantly quicksave the reload-spell ain't always so painless.

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