Character Death, Party Wipes and Popping your Cherry

We have a term in my games for when a player has the first character die ever. We call it "popping your cherry". Crude, but it allows players to joke about how characters die - sometimes in a funny way.

My games are exciting. Battle is bloody and deadly. PCs get injured, sometimes they die because they make foolish mistakes. And I don't pull punches as a DM, if a PC does something suicidal they are going to get themselves killed.

Like the time a character wandered off to explore a cave during combat and found some traps... decided to run through the traps and got very injured. And then decided to run through the same traps again. So he died alone, far away from the party who was still busy killing some undead.

His death was no fault of mine. The player decided he wanted to run through the traps. I warned him that they looked dangerous. But he did it anyway.

Another time years ago the party was exploring a maze when they found a nice room with an old water fountain that still worked. The water was clean and clear and it was a good place to rest, and the party was already injured and low on spells from an earlier fight with a wyvern. But for some reason they decided to not rest and continue onwards... and found the undead minotaur boss monster. They then began to run away from it and the minotaur killed them one by one as they fled. One character managed to get away (same player as the first example) and would have been the lone survivor when he came to a pit trap the party had previously went around and avoided. So he decides to jump it... rolls badly. He uses a reroll. Still fails. And dies. Clearly that player should stay away from traps.

And this is just two examples from my campaigns which I have been running for 18 years now across 2nd edition, 3rd edition, 1st edition (boycotted 4th and decided to go retro), and eventually back to 2nd edition again. There has been many more character deaths and party wipes over the years.

A few things I have learned...

  • Combat is more exciting when death is a possibility.
  • Players roleplay their characters more realistically when they know the DM doesn't pull punches.
  • Players sometimes make all sorts of foolish mistakes. Things like not using a safety rope when climbing a steep cliff.
  • Players eventually wise up and start thinking and planning more, and learn to make more calculated risks as opposed to reckless suicidal actions.
  • Nobody has ever accused me of killing characters on purpose. They all died by accident or because they did something foolish.

For example... you know the lightning sword of a balor and how it electrocutes whoever picks it up? Character death right there during a fight with a balor. They thought it was a potential loot item. I showed the player the entry in the 2nd Edition Monster Manual so they could read for themself what happens.

Fortunately by the time PCs are fighting a balor death becomes more of a temporary problem. Permanent character death is really only a problem at low levels.

One time I ran the Vecna chapter wherein everyone plays a powerful wizard investigating a tomb wherein Vecna is trapped. So the team of wizards goes through the tomb, solves every problem and then arrive at the room where Vecna is sealed in. They break the seal open and release him... at which point Vecna stops time and begins killing them, as per the original module, and it ends up being a complete party wipe. (My version of Vecna is called Xorek instead and is a powerful Chronomancer, which works perfectly since Vecna tends to use chronomancy spells.)

That party wipe of powerful wizards sets up the whole adventure later on with normal PCs and allows the players to realize just how powerful and deadly Vecna/Xorek is.

I also used a demilich version of Xorek in Tomb of Horrors, in place of Acererak. Xorek has many clones and versions of himself scattered through the centuries and different timelines. As an undead chronomancer he is walking undead time paradox.

However here is the thing about Tomb of Horrors and when my players went through it..

They didn't have a single character death. After years of being in a deadly campaign, playing 1 potentially deadly session every Friday night for years, they had all wised up and had learned how to deal with traps, monsters, and constantly looming threat of death.

They survived Tomb of Horrors and the funniest incident they encountered was that teleporter that takes their clothes and crosses their gender.

Also I didn't tell them it was Tomb of Horrors until after they defeated the demilich. To them it was the Tomb of Xorek. Well... one version of Xorek.

After defeating the demilich Xorek, the other Xorek clone was activated and that triggered the game session with the powerful wizards investigating a different and more powerful Xorek tomb.

And eventually those characters and that campaign was retired and I started a smaller sandbox style game where the same players are now playing children in a village in a valley much later in the timeline... and the characters slowly age up. Currently they are teenagers. Eventually they will reach adulthood.

But soon, this Friday, the teenagers will find a book titled "The Many Lives of Xorek"... and the players will all laugh/groan at the reference.

Note - None of the teenagers have died yet. Not because I am not still running a deadly campaign, that has not changed. The big change is that the players are wiser and roleplay better now. They take precautions. Closest thing to death they have encountered so far is a near drowning and a few encounters that surprised them.

So will characters die? Who knows. It has been years since that party wipe. Maybe they will make a mistake.

Lately I have been researching old school traps... like you see a rope dangling from a ceiling in the middle of the room. You yank it and the ground in the whole room collapses. No saving throw, but the onus is on the players for not checking for traps before yanking the rope.

Also working on a teleporter puzzle wherein the party has to get from A to B across a room full of squares that teleport to other squares but has to figure out how to best do it. Some parts of the room has walls of force with a monster in them. Some has a pit trap there so they are teleported above a pit trap. So their challenge is to walk from teleporter to teleporter and find the correct way across. The puzzle will be deadly because of the traps, but should make a good challenge for a low level party.

So as long as they don't make any foolish mistakes...

High AC, a Dungeon Master's Nightmare

To his credit, this dwarf bard has weak armour.
Someone on Facebook was asking how to best handle characters who have ACs so high it becomes hard to hit them. Basically they were describing a nightmare scenario in which the PCs had become so powerful and impossible to hit that anything he threw at them bounced off.

I responded with the following:

How often do characters die in your campaign? I will come back to that idea later.

I determined years ago as a DM that I should rarely provide loot that boosts AC.

  • Magic armour, magic shields...
  • Rings/Bracers of Protection, anything that provides an AC bonus...

The problem is that characters over time accumulate things that provide AC bonuses and that they often stack. Eventually they become almost impossible to hit so that only really powerful monsters and boss monsters can hit them (or sometimes even those things have problems hitting them).

Having realized this problem I prefer to simply limit how much magical items I give out which boost AC. What items they do find are often only +1, rarely more than that.

Smart players in my opinion should be trying to use distance, cover bonuses, footwork and good timing to boost their survival chances. I use those tactics for my characters during D&D Adventurers League play.

As a DM i also like to run a more deadly campaign as it makes things more exciting, so if PCs are hard to hit it is like everyone is wearing seatbelts and PCs rarely die. Having a high death rate teaches the players to be more cautious and approach death realistically with their characters. (As opposed to DMs who *never* kill characters and PCs do all sorts of suicidal stuff knowing the DM will not let their character die. That to me is boring because everyone is basically protected from death and combat just becomes a foregone conclusion.)

The recipe for a more exciting / more deadly game is:

  • Lower AC.
  • Combat that gets bloody.
  • People get knocked out. Sometimes people die.
  • Players learn to be more cautious.
  • Characters are roleplayed with the fear of death. This means more actual roleplaying.

Note - As a DM I don't actually go looking to kill characters. Usually they die because they do something stupid or in accidents.

Examples of past stupid deaths:

  • Climbing without a safety rope.
  • Running through traps without disarming them - twice.
  • Separating the party in a maze with an undead minotaur.
  • Refusing to rest the party when they found a good place to rest... this one ended in a party wipe. They all died.
  • Killing a mammoth while underneath it and already very injured - Zlatgar got squished and became forever remembered as Splatgar.
  • Running off alone during a Spartacus style revolution.
  • Deciding to fight a harpy on slippery steep terrain instead of waiting to attack the harpy on level ground.
  • Teleporting into the skull of dracolich while it is flying... and then the dracolich crashed headfirst into the ground upon its defeat.

The list goes on...

Sometimes PCs do stupid things. And I don't pull punches or coddle them.

Which to my credit means that my games are exciting and players keep coming back for more.

I ❤ Exiled Kingdoms

Okay, so that is a pretty strong statement in the title. I admit it. Makes a good title though.

I started playing "Exiled Kingdoms" 3 days ago and quickly determined it is an awesome game to play on your cellphone (or tablet) and here I am writing about it because of its sheer awesomeness. However I want to explain some things...

  1.  I rarely put game reviews on Nerdovore because quite frankly a lot of games out there are horrible and there is no point talking about games that I hate (unless I have a good reason to talk about it I suppose).
  2. I hate trying out new games on my phone and finding out that they are horrible.
  3. Or worse, horribly addictive and you eventually get bored of it.
  4. Not what I expected - and I end up deleting it because it was not what they advertised.
  5. The game is immediately boring.
  6. The game is too complicated.
  7. And worst of all, they want you to buy things in the game to make it easier to play it.
  8. Horrible game maps, or in some cases - no map at all. :(
And I hate spending money on games that I might get bored of later.

So lets talk about Exiled Kingdoms and why I like it so much.

  1. The trial version of the game has quite a bit you can do. 15 maps to explore and kill stuff.
  2. The full version of the game has 108+ maps to explore and kill stuff, and is only $4.
  3. The creators keep adding more maps. So good for them.
  4. It is an one time fee of $4. There is nothing else in the game to buy. Everything else you have to earn. There is no store to buy gold or equipment or gems or whatever. One time fee and you can play as much as you want. Want to get really cool armour? Need to earn it.
  5. The game has an old school Dungeons and Dragons feel to it.
  6. I have not got bored of it. The trial version alone has a lot of stuff to do.
  7. I am pleasantly surprised at how good the game is.
  8. The game can be quite exciting... just remember to quick-save often, because death is always just around the corner.
  9. It is not too complicated, but there is plenty to do within the game.
  10. Completely open world - the trial version you are limited to the 15 maps in question, but the full version you can explore anywhere you want.
  11. The maps are awesome. The maps have the feel of classic Dungeons and Dragons maps.

There are some things I wish this game could do however.

I kinda wish it was a MMORPG. It currently is not. It is a RPG and you can hire mercenaries to accompany you on the quests.

But honestly, I am okay with it being a solo game because there are benefits to that... like not needing internet all the time to play it.

I have not purchased it yet. Instead I made a 2nd character, a thief/rogue this time and I am going to get the new character up to level 5 before I make the decision as to whether to buy. But for $4... I am leaning towards a yes.

I do wish there was alternative ways to heal up in the game. Healing potions are a bit expensive and going to an inn to rest is annoying. My characters can currently rest and heal up twice in the wilderness, but after those run out you have to be careful getting back to a village to rest at an inn. (I assume playing a cleric makes this aspect easier.)

About Exiled Kingdoms

They have a forum with lots of active users:

Their reviews on Google Play are pretty impressive.

A lot of people, including myself, happen to like the graphics. Too many games make the graphics look childish and cheesy. This game they went for a more realistic look.

Here is a sample of the game play on YouTube:

And here are some more screenshots of game play.

Look at the details of these collapsed ruins? Don't they have a nice D&D feel to them, feel realistic and not childish or ridiculous?

To see what I am talking about let me show an example. See how everything looks like a cartoon in comparison? Anime-esque aesthetics. I find that really annoying when I play games. It just ends up feeling so childish and ridiculous - and gameplay in such games is often designed to be horribly addictive, which is another problem because eventually you grow bored of the game and delete it.

I will give an example of one I have actually played...

Gameplay of SAO Memory Defrag
"Sword Art Online Memory Defrag"

I love the TV show Sword Art Online, and Sword Art Online II. Both awesome.

So I tried the game.

It is a side scrolling game. To do a quest you click a button. It has ZERO maps. There is no open world. You just click and do a side scrolling fight. Feels a bit like a horrible Nintendo game from the 1990s.

A few months ago I played "Sword Art Online Memory Defrag" for about a week and then got bored of it.

The graphics were annoying me. Everything was so cutesy.

A lot of the game was geared towards selling cute weapons and armour for the heroes to play... and you had to try and collect all the heroes, which also required money - or a lot of hard work to get just 1 hero with good stats.

Within the game there was...

  • No maps.
  • Nothing to explore.
  • No roleplaying elements.
  • Not much of a story because it basically just recapped fights from the TV show.
On the plus side with SAO Memory Defrag, you could team up with other people and do quests... if you really wanted to. But the game was mostly designed for solo questing, so why bother?

Eventually I got bored of SAO. Still love the TV show. Recently rewatched seasons 1 and 2 on Netflix. But I don't see being bored enough that I will log into SAO Memory Defrag again any time soon.

Most likely I will eventually delete it from my phone.

Which brings me back to Exiled Kingdoms.

It has a rich story. Lots of open world to explore. I am going to be very pleased to fork over $4 for a game I can play continually without being expected to ever pay another cent.

And I will finally have found a nice Dungeons and Dragons style game I can play on my cellphone which has all the elements I have been looking for in such a game.

So what if it is not a MMORPG? Perhaps it doesn't need to be. One thing that SAO Memory Defrag has proven, is that even if you do make a game a MMORPG, that doesn't mean it is any good. It could very well be boring.

Other Games I would like to briefly comment on...

Skyrim on PS3 or PS4, awesome!

Witcher 3, my wife is literally playing that game right now in the living room. Awesome.

Dungeons and Dragons Online, a PC game, awesome! (And not childish graphics like WoW either.)

I used to play a Facebook game years ago called Battle Pirates. Typical village building game, but with ships. You build better ships, mine resources, build defenses for your island, and attack other islands and ships. I eventually got bored of it however. It was a huge time waster and was not that enjoyable. Too many pricks in that game and you just get tired of defending your island from pricks.

Clash of Clans is annoying, very much geared towards sucking money from your wallet. Castle Clash however... much better. Almost exactly the same game, but with the benefit that your troops don't disappear after a battle. If they survive the battle, you keep them. Castle Clash also has immortal heroes that go up levels and you can duel them against other players and send them on quests. You can play Castle Clash for hours without getting bored.

Although both CoC and CC are addictive. So you have been warned!

I once recommended Castle Clash to a friend... I never saw him again. I wonder if he is still playing it... I did warn him it was addictive.

My Green Arrow Comic Books Collection

Okay, so this page is mostly for my own personal use. Years ago I collected a number of Green Arrow comic books, but I never completed the collection. I would like to eventually fill in the gaps.

Tomorrow (Friday) I am going shopping and I want to have this list accessible on my cellphone (and future gadgets) so I know which comic books I have, and which ones I am looking for.

Already Have

Green Arrow
6, 8-10, 12,14,18-21,

Longbow Hunters 1 to 3

Green Arrow and Black Canary
Wedding Special
1, 7-12, 22

Priority to Find

Green Arrow
(Less Priority, 56 - 80)

Green Arrow and Black Canary

With Respect to Volumes

Okay, so with respect to volumes, comic books are often released in story-lines that continue from one comic book to the next until the story-line is completed.

There are quite a few volumes to choose from, such as crossovers with Green Lantern, with Black Canary, Green Arrow Return, the New 52, Rebirth, etc. However I am currently really only looking for specific volumes.

The volumes I am most looking for are in dark red, the ones in orange are less important.
  • Green Arrow Vol. 1: Hunters Moon #1-6
  • Green Arrow Vol. 2: Here There Be Dragons #7-12
  • Green Arrow Vol. 3: The Trial of Oliver Queen #13-20
  • Green Arrow Vol. 4: Blood of the Dragon #21-28
  • Green Arrow Vol. 5: Black Arrow #29-38
  • Green Arrow Vol. 6: Last Action Hero #39-50
  • Green Arrow Vol. 7: Homecoming Green Arrow #51-62
  • Green Arrow Vol. 8: The Hunt for the Red Dragon #63-72
  • Green Arrow Vol. 9: Old Tricks #73-80

So with the exception of the Longbow Hunters series, I don't have a single completed volume.

I am less worried about completing volumes of Green Arrow and Black Canary, but if I find them I will be buying them anyway.

Personal Notes as an Archer

As an archer (I taught archery for 8 years professionally and studied Olympic archery in South Korea) I would like to say several things.

  1. I definitely prefer DC's Green Arrow over Marvel's Hawkeye. While Marvel does do lots of nice things, archery in comics is not their forte. (And yes, I do have some Hawkeye comics.)
  2. One of the things I really dislike in comic books is when they don't depict bows or depicting archery form accurately. While the artistic inaccuracy can be found in both Green Arrow and Hawkeye, I find the level of ridiculously is worse with Hawkeye - especially in the recent Marvel films. The "Arrow" TV show meanwhile does a much better job when it comes to archery form.
  3. As an artist (I studied painting and sculpture for 5 years in university) I am appalled that comic book artists don't bother to learn more about their subject matter. As an artist, if I was drawing archers regularly - I would go out and get some actual archery lessons. Fortunately I have been doing archery since the age of 10, so I don't need such lessons, but still... learn your subject matter people!
  4. I would love to see more accurate depictions of archers in comic books and films in the future.
  5. I also feel like if the artists learned more about the subject matter they could do a lot more in the comics to explore different ideas. Such as:
  • Archery on horseback (aka Equestrian Archery).
  • Hunting game or bowfishing for food/survival.
  • Bowmaking in an emergency.
  • Tracking / survival skills.
  • Flintknapping.
  • How to use burning arrows, whistling arrowheads, howling arrowheads, etc.
  • Crossbows (there is a whole storyline wherein Green Arrow loses his arm... and he could have switched to using crossbows, but for some reason does not).
  • Play around with different styles of bows, including Penobscot (double limbed) bows.

As a fan of the TV show "Arrow" I feel they (the makers of the TV show) could also have more fun with the various different kinds of archery out there and explore some of the above topics. Not touching on some of these topics just seems like a horrible oversight.

As an author (I do many things...) I have made a habit of including some archery tidbits in my written work too. In the future I want to do more of this in my Wrathgar series of short stories. Wrathgar is a character I created years ago which is similar to Conan the Barbarian, but while he does carry an axe and a two-handed sword his primary focus is his skills with the bow.

I have also speculated about writing a more contemporary fiction book about survivalism, in which archery would play an important role in staying alive in the wilderness when the protagonist gets lost in Northern Ontario. Such books have been written before, but I have yet to hear of one wherein the author knew quite a bit about bowmaking, flintknapping, bowfishing, and other archery topics.

So far I have only released one Wrathgar anthology, but I have more written that I need to edit and release eventually.

Things to do, just need time to do it.

Note - Apparently I like making lists today. Earlier today I wrote a post on another blog titled: My Bowhunting / Archery Magazines Collection. I am sensing a theme today.
Publishing a fantasy book? Make sure you get a professional fantasy book editor.

Study Archery in Toronto

So you want to study archery, but you are having difficulty finding an archery instructor who is local. However there is a solution. If you are willing to travel you can take a crash course in archery in Toronto, Canada. 10 lessons over a two week period will take you from archery novice to an experienced and capable archer.

Popular Posts