In my latest campaign (D&D 3.5), I have a player (let's call him P). P is on his fifth character. Yes, fifth. Except for P, only one other player has lost a character. The world P lives in is harrowing, that's for sure, lots of deadly skills encounters, traps, difficult combat encounters. It's a bad-things-happen sort of world, similar to Game of Thrones. Several innocents dying to a goblin horde is par for the course. It's a gritty, get-stabbed-in-the-back sort of play style, and P was particularly excited to join a campaign based around that dynamic.
The main issue is that P isn't as mature (he's half the age of the others) or skilled as the other players. P takes his character deaths with a laugh, but inside, I can tell he's a little sad that he can't keep his character breathing.
I've already tried fudging a few monster rolls/actions, putting my thumb on the proverbial scale, and other tricks, but to keep P alive through two sessions would take a hail-mary of DM chicanery. I'm not willing to give all the other players (who are not all pros, but they are surviving) a handicap like that.
P has played a range of characters, but I think he prefers a striker or defender type. So far, P has killed:
- A dwarf fighter (lvl 1)
- A human sorcerer (lvl 2)
- A half-elven bard (lvl 1)
- A human monk (lvl 3)
Here's a list of the questionable decisions P has made so far:
- The party (6 characters) was escaping on horseback from a horde of goblins (about 30 goblins, to be exact). Being level 1, most of the party decided to flee, because the odds were against them. There were some innocents that looked like they would be killed if the party fled. P's response was to dismount and stand against the goblin horde himself, trying to protect the villagers. Noble, but P wasn't even playing his alignment (chaotic neutral). He died before the others could go back for him.
- P (a sorcerer) decided he wanted to be the first through the door when the party was breaking up a local organized crime syndicate. The group talked it over and decided the idea had merits (I don't know why but I don't question their tactical decisions). The more experienced players didn't warn P to check for traps, or even survey the situation first. P sprung a trap and then was surrounded by thugs. (I was hoping the other PC's would give him some advice beforehand)
- In an encounter in a gambling house, P decided that his character would like to be a contrarian, and make as much trouble with as many people as possible (perhaps he was fed up with dying?) I controlled this situation until the point where P started intentionally picking fights with customers and guards. (Didn't die that time)
P makes bad tactical decisions during fights and is generally not careful about adventuring (charging ahead, not looking), along with sometimes playing his character in an overly obnoxious way toward NPC's. I don't think he was actively seeking death the first time, but definitely was the third time.
I've already talked to P and told him (outside the game) that he's dying because he's making terrible decisions. I'd like to help him succeed, but I'm out of ideas.
Am I missing something basic? How can I keep the campaign challenging for the other players while not killing off my neophyte?
Outside the box ideas are welcome.