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Death is inevitable, and an important mechanic designed to kill the egos of players. However, it can be fun to have your player characters die, albeit rarely.

As a DM, I've made it my mission to seek out the player characters and watch them die as quickly as possible, be it by falling, monsters, or maybe even by falling off a horse. The mission has some caveats though, in that the players have to agree that the death was fair, and not unforeseen (I cannot simply throw many monsters at them).

I feel like the above mission is a good assessment of one of the primary goals of the DM, but I'm not sure myself.

We also see times where PCs are on the ground, and helpless while the others are trying to actively fend off the other assailants, and as DM you cannot help but save the character.

What time is it appropriate to kill a PC?

Think about time in the session, time in the campaign (storyline), and time in the encounter (end of the cave of death, or near the beginning ).

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Thomas Jacobs, Ifusaso, user27327, user17995, NautArch Jul 20 '17 at 16:28

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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I honestly don't think the DMs goal should be to kill the PCs, your goal isn't to squash them like bugs, your goal is to give them a fun story world that they can embrace and become a part of. If your only goal is to kill them how can they ever build meaningful relationships or have any sort of impact on the world you've placed them in other than "Here lies Roderick, rocks fell and he died."

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    \$\begingroup\$ I would upvote this multiple times if I could. A game is not "DM vs. Players", but is instead a collaborative effort to tell a story. Certainly conflict - character vs character (with either or both being either PC or NPC), character vs nature, character vs self - is going to be a part of the game, and in some cases, the DM will have to 'stand in' as the antagonist, but that's not (or shouldn't be) the DM's primary role. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Zeitlin Jul 20 '17 at 16:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ There are exceptions to the rule, however I will agree with you that most games where the term "DM" is used, as opposed to "GM", PCvDM is not used. \$\endgroup\$ – BanjoFox Jul 20 '17 at 16:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BanjoFox - From where I stand, the difference between "DM" and "GM" is merely one of nomenclature; in games where "dungeons" do not figure prominently, Game Master (or, as I prefer, referee) is the most immediate thought for substitution - and the game still isn't "Players vs. GM (DM, referee, coordinator, etc.)". \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Zeitlin Jul 21 '17 at 12:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JeffZeitlin -- I 900% agree that GM/DM is entirely nomenclature. I suppose that the root of my point was this: D&D and Pathfinder are both games that prefer the DM nomenclature and are decidedly not PCvsDM. Whereas other games that prefer the GM nomenclature (Paranoia) are PCvsGM. :) Hope that clarifies it. \$\endgroup\$ – BanjoFox Jul 21 '17 at 12:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso: The faq on the subject explicitly and repeatedly states that frame-challenging and playstyle-championing answers, as long as they are following Be Nice, are acceptable. That is, it's fine to tell someone "I think (for reasons X, Y, and Z) that you should play in way W", as long as you aren't mocking them for playing like an ABCer, or simply stating an opinion without any reasons to support it. So this answer appears to be fine by established RPG SE standards. \$\endgroup\$ – user17995 Jul 21 '17 at 16:01
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Most of the time, RPG's are not intended to be GM vs. PC as appears to be stated in your question*. However:

The appropriate time to kill off a PC is when the story dictates it.

OR

When the dice/game engine have resulted in a catastrophic failure.

*I can think of one exception where it is explicity stated and one where it is encouraged(/required?) for added fun. However, discussion of those specific instances are off-topic.

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