Yesterday I gave a rundown of how hard it can be to die in GURPS. Yet my Felltower game has a graveyard with 28 bodies in it. How did that happen, give the relative difficulty of dying?
We Forgot About Mortal Wounds
I suspect Volos and Mikel (NPC) may have died earlier than they might have otherwise. It had been a while since we'd played GURPS, and my last game was a 4e conversion (and only partly - mostly we just did 4e for combat, not chargen or death). I can't tell you if Volos failed his HT check against death by 3+, or not. He did have to make more than one, though. But it's possible game rust and not looking stuff up killed him. Of course, being unfamiliar with Mortal Wounds (a 4e addition) would have meant we didn't know to go look it up. Volos maybe have failed by 2 and I thought it was "fail by 1" not "1 or 2." Either way . . . dead.
I recall Fuma failing his roll by a lot, too. Even if he hadn't, he was on the fast lane to -5xHP, being grappled around the neck by a throttler and taking damage by the bucketful.
Don't Swim With the Razor Fishes
Out of those 28, no less than 19 of them died in one session, in the water.
For all that GURPS makes failing a HT roll against death both not-difficult and somewhat forgiving (Mortal Wounds you can recover from, given sufficient aid), there is a limit. That is, there are plenty of ways to die that don't give you rolls.
One of them is reaching -5xHP. A number of those 19 died from reaching -5xHP. Some died before they got there, but most died being ripped apart by razor fish while drowning. I could have given them Hard to Kill 10 and they'd all have died. Others were torn apart by an armored shark.
Guys like Nakar and Inquisitor Marco hit the water hard, sucked in water, went unconscious and never recovered; even though the fish could barely hurt Inquisitor Marco and couldn't see invisible Nakar, they were doomed. They drowned, mostly from sinking underwater while unconscious and suffocating.
In that case, even the primed-to-survive guys had trouble living. Kullockh had a lot going for him, but a bad hit put him unconscious and he went under, and was torn up. Death checks didn't matter because he was torn up and eaten.
The NPCs were Worthless and Weak!
Well, some of them were weak. But even the strongest of them had HT 12, which means only a 15+ killed them outright. Still more failed HT checks by 1-2, but then suffered more damage and went down forever. Others still dropped with very high damage and had to make multiple checks, and failed them.
But also, they are NPCs. There is a meta-game reason they die more easily. If they fail a HT roll by 1-2 and are Mortally Wounded and unconscious (which is a pretty common combo), the PCs don't necessarily know they're still alive. They might suddenly get hit with an area attack in a desperate fight, or left in a bad spot as the party pulls off to a better tactical spot, etc. only to be checked much too late and found to be really dead. But a PC, well, I have to tell them they aren't dead yet. The players play accordingly. I'm totally fine with this - I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt and say they spotted some sign, refuse to accept he's a goner, etc. because PCs are special.
Still, others should have died and didn't. Raggi has almost died more times than I can count - and the PCs only cottoned to his Hard to Kill after they thought he did die against the orcs. They went to check on his "corpse" and he sat up, roaring "What did I miss?" That was back before they declared themselves "Raggi's Roughnecks" and started to joke they'd stay home if he wasn't there to lead them into the dungeon. A couple other NPCs made it despite horrid wounds. "Pigsticker" Pete the spearmen was from HP 12 to -26 without dying, Norman the Axe from 14 to -28, and Basher the Thug to -34 without dying, while Grace the Slick died as soon as she needed to make a roll.
For all that the rolls favor living, you don't always get a roll. And when you do, you still need to make them. Not everyone got the rolls, and not everyone made them.