One of the most fun, fascinating and unique things about tabletop RPGs is the idea of permanent character death. When your character dies they die, and you must invent a new character to replace them. It’s an opportunity for heroism with some real stakes. Because there are no save points, no lives, your character’s life, and their death, become a thread woven into a tapestry of the game’s narrative. Plus, creating characters is fun, so any opportunity to do it again is no bad thing.

On the other hand, our genre expectations of fun, pulpy sword and sorcery fantasy adventures don’t quite prepare us for the abrupt potentially hilarious death of a main character. Or, indeed, sometimes all the characters.

When I first became the Labyrinth Lord of my Labyrinth Lord game, I was initially quite worried about killing characters. The core game, without my homebrew modifications, is quite deadly. If you are poisoned, for example, you save vs poison or die. I added my own more nuanced poison rules: some poisons will kill you, some will paralyse you, some will hurt you but not kill you, and the likelihood of finding deadlier poisons increases as the difficulty level of the labyrinth increases. I implemented this rule after (you guessed it) poisoning a player character and in so doing killing them instantly.

You live and learn. Well, the game master does. The character is wormfood.

I was worried at first, but after your party’s been in a few battles and levelled up a few times it actually becomes a lot harder to kill them, and quite reasonable and balanced encounters become quite tame as a result. So now my approach as a Labyrinth Lord or Dungeon Master is to actively try to kill the party, knowing that I will probably fail. Probably. No matter how hard I try, no matter what situation I put them in, they always find a way out of it or around it. At least… so far. Some things can’t kill an adventure. For everything else, there’s a giant circular saw to the torso.

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