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This was inspired by this question: Should I allow players to recreate the exact same character if they die?

Whilst it was closed as too subjective (because it asks whether one should want to do this), I think there was an interesting subject matter here, so I'm going to start my question with the premise that I do want to discourage my players from doing this.

As for whether or not I should feel this way, I believe the answers to the other question already cover that (basically, is the rest of the table as troubled by this or is it just me, and if it is just me then does it really matter if that's what the players find fun?).

However, if I need to justify my position, I personally find it boring and unimaginative and therefore it would take away from my fun to some degree if they just made the same character again after they die (especially since I try to work elements of the player's character's backstory into the game, so if the same character turned up with the same backstory, that would disappoint me). However, it doesn't take away from my fun so much that I want to stop DMing for these players or force them to make different characters.

So, to restate that last point, I don't want to force my players to make a new character; as some of the other question's answers have said, some players just like playing the same character (either literally, same name and backstory and everything, especially if they don't take character death well, or more broadly the same character, such as someone who always makes a dwarf fighter with roughly the same personality but with a different name and a slight variation to their backstory), in which case there probably isn't an answer to this question that wouldn't also reduce their fun. Hence this question isn't about those players who won't budge, it's about players who aren't quite so determined to make the same character over and over, but might do so anyway.

So, to try to keep this within the limits of "Good Subjective", my question is: what methods have you personally used or seen that successfully encouraged players to make new characters or discouraged them from making the same character without forcing the players into it?

I imagine most answers will be answering from the perspective of the DM, but if someone has achieved this as a player, influencing another player to make a different character (without forcing them), then such answers are also welcome.

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    \$\begingroup\$ @CrossRoads The trouble with re-incarnation is that it still feels like forcing to me, and it may actually upset a player more if they're character is now forcibly someone else; they might have preferred that their beloved character stay dead as they are and for them (the player) to just be forced into make a new, different character. I know at least one player who has said they would hate for their character to be re-incarnated (as per the Druid spell) into a different creature; I will point out that this particularity player is one who is good at making different characters though... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Nov 7 '18 at 8:32
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Ask players to think of backup characters ahead of time

To throw out a suggestion to answer my own question, there's something my current DM does, and that's to get people thinking of backup character ideas whilst their current PCs are still alive and well.

Literally, he just says "All of you should be thinking of backup ideas for characters, by the way, should your current one die" once in a while (usually when the session ends on a "how do we get out of this one?" moment); nothing more involved than that, but I think this sort of encouragement helped me, at least, to start thinking of a new character rather than staying too focussed on my current one. This makes it clear that none of our characters have plot armour, and at the same time, implies that death is not the end but rather the beginning of your new character (although this is a reflection of mine, not something he said).

I want to point out that he's not a DM out for blood; he's not running Tomb of Horrors or something where it might be a good idea to turn up with a few characters already created and ready to go for when your current character inevitably dies, this is more about just thinking of the character's concept ahead of time.

Thinking about who or what this other character could be whilst my current character is still alive has encouraged me to think of someone different; I'm deliberately trying to come up with someone who is different, in race, class, playstyle, personality, etc, whereas I might not have been thinking in such a deliberate way otherwise.

I know of at least one other player in this game who has also been thinking of a backup character relatively different from their current one. Again, it's not as well defined as their current PC yet, but I believe it is at least some amount of evidence that my DM's tactic has worked.

Furthermore, I have successfully employed this method myself as well, as a DM, and managed to get at least one player thinking about a new character or two, all whilst their current character is still alive. In fact, their initial response was to want to tweak or retcon their current character, but by suggesting that their next character could be this thing without needing to change their current character, they have now started thinking of a new backstory for this new character (and on reflection, they were happier leaving their current character as-is, because who they were already fits them better than the suggested retcon).

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have also used this technique with great results - the whole group will start discussing cool character-ideas in their off-time (e.g. after a session) and some players will even retire their current character willingly, so they can play the cool new concept, they have been planning for weeks. \$\endgroup\$ – Falco Nov 7 '18 at 9:56
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1. Make yourself available to help with character creation

Character creation can be the trickiest part of the game, especially for relatively new players. Players might not want to create a new and different character for this reason. Maybe they find it confusing, maybe time consuming or perhaps they just don't enjoy it.

Whatever the reason, if you as a DM want your player to create a new character and they are resistant, then offer to support them through the process.

This might be part of a session 0, or it might be that you arrange to spend some time one-on-one (if appropriate) to build their new character with them. It might even mean briefly establishing parameters with them and then you going away and building a chracter for them (whilst giving them a right of refusal if they don't like the end product).

If you're not willing to help them make a new character, then don't force them to do so.

2. 'Not the same' doesn't have to mean completely different

Often the unknown is scary for players - 'What if I don't like my new character? I was really happy with my old one.' Or maybe they love a certain class feature and just don't want to try a character without them.

Make sure they know that just because they've been playing a Barbarian, making a 'different' character doesn't mean that their next character has to be a Wizard.

Try and work out what was most important to the player about their last character and then offer them options to mix it up while still keeping the part that mattered most to them.

Examples could include:

  • 'I know you always prefer to play spellcasters, but in this campaign we need more frontline combatants, have you considered playing an Eldritch Knight, Valor Bard or a War Cleric?'
  • 'I understand that you loved playing a rogue because of getting to Sneak Attack, do you think this campaign being a Swashbuckler rather than another Assassin could be fun?'
  • 'So, you were pretty used to your Champion Fighter and feel like anything else would be too complicated for you to keep track of? That's fine. You can stick with a Champion Fighter if that's what you want, but can we change your background and the type of weapon you use? If you're up for it we could also try a different Fighting Style or even go Variant Human and you could take a starting feat?'*

3. Reassure your players they can change things later

Whether you convince them to try something outside their comfort zone, or you comprimise and they roll something up that feels very familiar, reassure your players that the conversation doesn't have to end there.

Maybe they'll realise you were right and they are quickly getting bored of a character so similiar to their previous one, maybe a player you convince to try something completely different just won't get on it with. In both situations makes sure that your players know that they're never stuck with a character for the forseeable future against their will. If someone wants to swap characters mid campaign try and make sure they have the flexibility to do so. Just knowing that they have that safety blanket available may give someone all the confidence they need to try something new - even if they end up loving it.

Always be prepared to supply your players with options, the better you know them the better your suggestions will be, but make sure that they know the final decision about their character lies with them, not you.


*An actual conversation between myself and one of my players. They're really happy that the playstyle hasn't changed but using a morningstar over a longsword (in one hand) feels completely different narratively while still being exactly the same damage dice. They're also now enjoying their new Fighting Style and Feat.

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Another option:

Characters are not made, but are introduced

Note: The following should probably be determined at Session Zero, where you determine a great many things collaboratively with the players and work out how you're going to play. This is not a suggestion that your average player will accept ad-hoc and must be known beforehand.

What I've done is make it so characters are introduced to the party and are basically "assigned backup characters." [I do this at a rate of about one new character per 3-5 sessions, tapering off so we don't end up with large amounts.] These characters may be played at any time (in lieu of your other character) to level them up as they'd like. The characters I bring in may be influenced by ideas from the players, but it solves several issues I personally have when GMing:

  • I no longer have to coincidentally supply a character to the party at the same time as someone died. I personally always found this awkward/immersion breaking
  • Players can no longer game the system via suicide
  • Death has weight because the character actually dies and its role may have to be filled in a different way (such as a Fighter being replaced by a Paladin)
  • The penalty for Death can be mitigated by playing different characters in different sessions
  • It encourages Role-play because you may be playing different characters in different sessions; each with their own history with the party and history of decisions/introductions/backstory/etc
  • Loot on the dead body is up for grabs! No longer does a player's items disappear and a brand new set of gear magically appear on some character. Similarly, this means that gear is more likely to be passed around between characters. Note: I also tend to be conservative on players buying loot.
  • Choosing a race and a class level or two makes optimizing and choosing these various characters different than your previous. You could make a suboptimal version of your last character, but why would you?
  • It introduces a concrete fail-state for the party: Run out of characters? Game over.

This all said, this is a much more ruthless game than many people play.

The "NPCs" I introduce tend to be of low level so that the player can customize them outside of those few first choices I've implicitly made for them (race, starting class, etc.)

Adjustments to this could be made, such as having the backups level with the characters and such; I just happened to have modeled my game akin to Darkest Dungeon.

Issues:

  • Doing this can result in players being unhappy with their choice of NPCs. Attempt to cultivate them with players in mind and what they like. I have one player who refuses to play a dwarf which limits the NPCs available to him if he dies.

  • Some people put a lot of weight on building a character (even that of first level); naturally the above approach makes character optimization less available and character choices much more limited

  • It's at least partly your fault if the character turns out to be garbage

  • If people die, you may not have a full party anymore.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by "Note: I also tend to be conservative on players buying loot."? I can't tell if you mean you're reserved, low interference; or if you impose a strict line. If the latter, what is that line? (If that's a rabbit hole, maybe drop that mention.) \$\endgroup\$ – Rich Nov 7 '18 at 20:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ As in, sellers don't have everything. Some GM's will just assume you can buy anything/everything; where as I'll be more deliberate in what items are available for sale. I'm fairly liberal for letting players craft, but that takes time/feats/etc; so getting the exact optimal equipment has other costs associated with it. I bring it up only because sharing equipment matters more when there aren't several copies of it. Consider Darkest Dungeon again: You can buy items, but it's limited. Your best items are usually found/earned. \$\endgroup\$ – blurry Nov 7 '18 at 23:47
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Simply forbid it

Is that easy for me to say? Maybe, but in the end that's all there really is to it. You might say 'But I don't have a lot of options in my area for players' or 'But this is my friend and I don't want to deny him' or 'but this guy has some personal circumstances that make having the same character all the time comforting for him' and all that is worth considering, however at the same time, you are the GM, and it falls to you to manage (Not control, this is a collaborative hobby) the fun of the game so that it's fun for you as well as for the players.

If you let the integrity of the game suffer long-term to avoid short-term disagreements, you'll lose more than just a minor argument. Over time, that sort of thing weakens the entire game and before long you've given up too much, and people start finding other things to do with their time.

You're the DM. So be the DM. Any new character requires your approval to exist in play, and if a carbon copy of the old one isn't acceptable, then that's that. If your players are just scratching off the names and writing in new ones if their character dies, that's indicative of a more fundamental problem than just a lack of imagination on their part.

That's a player who is not respecting their own fallen character's narrative and not respecting the stories of the other player characters, and not respecting the game narrative. If they really want to play the same character every time they lose one, then there are games where that are based on exactly that out there.

Pulse Check

Maybe look at what atmosphere you're creating or permitting that allows this sort of thing to come up and work on mitigating that. One way to assess the 'health' of your game is to look at what is happening in-play and what is happening out of play.

In character, do your game sessions flow organically from one scene to the next, with a variety of wonders, monsters, and NPCs to encounter, or are they basically flashes from one set piece to another, with monsters to kill and loot every time? Is there inter-character drama, or are the PCs just stat-puppets for the players to wave at monsters until the monsters fall down? Do the PCs have strong personal relationships to each other, for good or ill, or is all the in-character talk about the next tactical or logistical move?

If what you see isn't what you want to see, then take some in-character steps to fix it. Add variety to your scenes, ramp up on the story-arcs and cut down on random monsters. Infuse purpose into actions of NPCs, both monsters and people (The goblins have become desperate as trade has declined lately, reducing the frequency of raiding targets, or the flower-seller is so persistent because the money helps her pay for care for her sick husband)

Out of character, Is the game talk all about powers and mechanics rather than plot twists and awesome actions? Is the discussion about how much fun people had, or is it complaining about rules and rulings? Do players talk about each other's characters as people, or as stat blocks?

This is a subtle way of encouraging players to embrace variety. If there's a richer world, then players will tend to gravitate toward ways of exploring that world through the eyes of different characters.

Playstyle is important including your own

There's nothing 'badwrongfun' about taking a gamist mechanical approach, however from what you've said in your question, it looks like you want the players to expand their horizons a bit and honor the story of their fallen character, not just say 'oops, my Fighter's dead. Next fighter!' If Fred the Wizard dies, and his identical twin brother Ferd steps in to take his place, and is just like Fred in all other ways, that hurts the game for everybody, including Fred/Ferd's player. As GM, it's your job to ensure that doesn't happen. Often a 'no, try again' is all you need to save yourself months of irritation and headache, which will show through at the table.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The question specifically says the asker does not want to forbid it. But if you change it to "ask them to" I will agree with all. \$\endgroup\$ – TimothyAWiseman Nov 6 '18 at 18:12
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One good way is to make their death satisfying and meaningful. Make them want their own character to stay dead, because the story/moment is cooler that way. Let me explain my thinking...

Full disclosure, I do not enjoy character death and I don't usually allow it—or else I choose systems/styles that allow many opportunities to avert complete death. The main reason for that is because, in my experience, RPG characters tend to die for really stupid reasons. Often character death isn't cool or dramatic or interesting, but comes down to a bad die roll, or a cheesy monster, or an accidental miscalculation of power levels.

Of course, that can be fun. It can be hilarious in the right game! Or it can work well for a game which is dark and cynical, and wants you to feel like your existence is mostly futile. But a lot of games are trying to tell a story, and skew to cinematic adventure rather than soul crushing brutality. In general, modern editions of D&D fall into this category. And in these games, a boring or pointless character death can really ruin somebody's enjoyment.

A player who goes in expecting action movie flavour can easily be disillusioned enough to clone their dead character. After all, if the tone/story of the game has already let them down so completely, why should they respect it by building something new and different? Especially when that new character could easily also get critically shanked by a random goblin halfway through a mission.

One way to avert this is to make sure death is interesting. If you're willing to be overt about it, you could simply rule that only important villains can/will kill PCs. If you want it to be a bit more naturalistic, you can allow the players resources to avert death (maybe like a failsafe spell or a powerful patron) which can be thwarted when it really matters (the villain has created a countermeasure, or the patron is unable to help at a critical moment).

If all else fails, just give them an awesome description of how their gruesome death saved the rest of the party or threw a critical wrench into the villain's plan or whatever. Literally anything that makes PC death feel like something they might actually want to acknowledge. Get a player invested in their character's death, and they're much less likely to recycle them with a II on the end.

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I'm not very expert, so maybe this is not doable, but while I was writing a comment I remembered of Prince of Persia: Warrior Within and its "Dahaka".

For those who don't know the story and do not want to read it, the Prince in the first game does not die, because he alters his fate. For this reason, in the second game the Dahaka, the guardian of the timeline, chases him to kill him and restore the correct timeline.

You can do this. Let the player have a "magical mumbo-jumbo" procedure that allows his character to return. But then it is "marked". The timeline keeper starts chasing him, to kill him. This leads to disadvantages, for instance:

  • sometimes the keeper appears, and the party has to fight it. Needless to say, it is very strong, and at a certain point it vanishes on its own (so no experience, no loot, ...). The first time maybe another plot line can start to look for information on this creature...
  • bad dreams: once in a while the keepers appears in the char dreams, and so rather than waking up restored the char remains exhausted
  • some old people will be scared by the mark on the "marked" char, and refuse to give the party some infos needed on the main quest

I think that this way either you feel more involved and start enjoying it, or they will start to be annoyed by this, and so will let the dead remain dead..

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Why not treat it like a real-life hiring process? When you play with one character, you need a different character ready on back-up who is on call to replace your guy on the team if he dies... like in real life you might have alternates on an olympic team, or on a soldier's infantry squad. This prevents same character formation as you already have a back up ready. Someone could reasonably toggle between their two favourite character types from one death to the next, but at least not in a row.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello, old timer. Welcome to RPG.SE. Please take the tour and visit the help center to get a feel for how a Q&A site is different from a forum. Have you done what you suggest in your own games, and if so, how did it work out? Some pointers on "how to answer a question" are here. Thanks for joining in, and have fun. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Nov 7 '18 at 17:26
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Backup character is good, but have to be careful when deciding due to party needs of certain class or abilities. If the only healer dies and now you have a halfing fighter, O.o guess he could intimidate a merchant for a discount on health potions.

If they persist to play with the “same” character, have them change the race or theme of character. Don’t allow them to literally erase the name and fill in a new one on the dead character sheet. Some players just like to play something no matter what.

My old group had a younger brother who was always a half-orc fighter, just because he didn’t want to RP but wanted to kill things.

Out of D&D, as a personal experience to choosing a single option when playing a game, in Overwatch, I only played Torbjorn! I love turrets and I only choose him because of it. I have tried other characters, but 90% of my gameplay is Torbjorn.

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It is not the DM's role to encourage or discourage the players from making choices (as long as everyone is playing nice). It is your role to tell a story and allow them to freely act within your narrative. If it brings them great pleasure to always play the same character, that's okay.

If you're worried that it will be less fun for you, how about this idea: The world fractures across the Planes each time the person recreates the same character. The lives of the characters become twisted and entwined together. Madness ensues as images of themselves dying, and then illusions that they are being attacked by themselves, but then nothing is there. A shadow of their tortured soul is revealed, and then introduce a soothsayer who can help them locate the tortured soul to free their companion's madness. An adventure leads them into the Planes of existence fraught with danger. The sacrifice to save their fractured soul must be the cost of another life - which they can only discover at their journey's end.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The suggestion in the last paragraph make little sense in most cases. Are all twin brothers/sisters in that setting that choose the same/similar careers going mad, if the sibling dies? Furthermore revenge may be best served cold, but a GM should refrain from taking revenge on some player. (Your suggestion sounds like seeking revenge.) \$\endgroup\$ – fabian Nov 6 '18 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @fabian Perhaps it is mildly vengeful. It is not a twin but the exact same character. The player is hoping to negate the disadvantages of death, and it makes sense that there are penalties/costs involved. I've found that players love adventures to be about them in part, or in whole. \$\endgroup\$ – Kieveli Nov 6 '18 at 17:47

protected by Oblivious Sage Nov 8 '18 at 0:45

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