Erik Tenkar was reflecting on PC death, and also referencing my favorite two-katana wielding character, Groo.*
In the comments and on some unrelated Google+ threads I was perusing recently, there was talk about the short lifespan of characters in OSR games.
I was thinking - don't people still bootstap up new PCs?
By which I mean, don't you use higher-level types to ensure low-level guys live and win gold and get levels faster than you did?
It's the Greyhawkian Dream. You work hard so your kids, er, low-level friends, don't have to.
Back when I played in elementary school, we didn't do this. When we got older, preventing bootstrapping was something we actually had to rule on, otherwise folks would escort low-level types to get them up levels. And when I played video games like Wizardry, the goal was to get one or two guys up to level 3+ and then use them to backstop lower level guys, and then repeat the cycle until you had a solid core of guys with the money to resurrect any slain.
This is something you can easily do in a tabletop fantasy game. Send your 5th level fighter with a bunch of 1st level guys, ensure they win, give them all the gold (you don't need it), and don't fret the miniscule XP you all get once it's divided by 5 for your high-level guy bashing low-level foes. They level quickly, and avoid the lethal entry point. Seems like a very logical way to avoid the lethality of low-level play and maximize the benefits of higher-level friends, and to avoid the sometimes slow slog of early leveling up.
In fact, once I hit level 4+ in Erik's S&W B-Team game, remind me of this - I'll be happy to throw you extra gold, etc. to ensure you level faster.
This kind of thing is probably easier in a re-stocking megadungeon, where you can just escort them to level 1 or 2, bash the big guys and let them kill and loot the easier stuff, heal them up and send them back into the fray, and otherwise act like a parent standing on the curb while they trick-or-treat in the dungeon.
Is this behavior common these days, or rare?
My games these days are GURPS, and you don't need to do this - or benefit much from doing so. But you still will see players giving out gear to new PCs. They'll tell new guys to take sword skill but skimp on a sword because they can just loot him or buy him a better one, or skimp on armor enchantments because someone else can trivially get that done for you, or not worry about consumables like food or healing potions because they have that covered.
It just seems like, although there is risk in being low-level, the real risk is being low-level without high-level friends. Once you have them, I'd expect a lot more bootstrapping . . .
* True story, I once met Sergio Aragones, and my sister got him to sign a copy of Groo to me. Nice guy.