Saturday, September 9, 2017

My paper man is dead

One of my friends and long-time gaming buddies*, Don W., has a great line about dead PCs.

Pretty much, it goes, "Waah waah waah, my paper man is dead." It works best stated with cold contempt.

It's a line I have to pull out and say to myself sometimes.

Yeah, I know it sucks when a character dies.

But it's just a paper man. It's imaginary. Don't invest too much in it.

"But I invested a lot of time and effort and love into this guy!" Sure. You invested a lot of time and effort and love into having fun and playing a game. You did those. You already got a full return on your investment. That you could have had more fun and played the game more isn't nothing, but it's not really something important. You can make up another paper man and have another go at gaming.

Of course, this is no knock on cautious and careful play. But still, as your character gets stronger, gains experience, and otherwise improves, you're less and less likely to take foolish risks. Yet you can get paralyzed into inaction by fear of losing what is, ultimately, just a paper man. Is it better to sit back years from now and talk about all of the risks you avoided to keep your paper man "alive"? Or to remember risks taken because it's a made-up story about risks without real consequences?

And if your guy dies . . . well, you know the line.

* Although we both game regularly at the moment but don't game with each other. But schedules change, and we'll game together again. We've got an overlapping player who plays in our Gamma Terra game, as well.

(2/6/2023 - Editing much later: This post has some further discussion of the subject.)


  1. The story of your man's death is no less important than any chapter in his life. They're all a part of the story. Don't deprive yourself of telling that story and giving the character closure.

    Then roll up another guy. If I know you, Dear RPG Player... and I think I do... he'll be EVEN BETTER

    1. The second part I can get behind whole-heartedly. The first part, I haven't played with a lot (maybe any) players that really could get enjoyment out of their paper man dying.

      We did a "cool deaths" description for a short time, but it felt like an end zone dance in a game between an NFL team and Peewee team - the GM always has all of the resources, the PCs few. No one had more fun because of it.

      But ultimately, you have to just say, what the heck is gaming with an imaginary man in an imaginary situation for except for letting you take real-world consequence-free risks?

  2. Something that works for me as a player is embracing a dramatic death, rather than running from it like a sensible person. Sometimes a chance comes up to do something audacious, awesome, and risky as hell. When that chance comes, if it is at all in character, I tend to take it.

    It can be extremely satisfying to pull it off, sure, but it is also extremely satisfying to go down being awesome. (Barring the DM or dice deciding to humiliate your PC instead, of course.)

    However, this sort of thing depends on a game style that is more cinematic that you usually depict in your blog posts, so it probably is not for you.


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