I'm playing an 8th level Valor bard, and she's basically The Load (warning: TVTropes link) at this point- high-combat campaign, so not a lot of charisma stuff to do, and really doesn't have any casting function that the others can't do better. Her motivation is to find and defeat challenges, and has a tendency to think she can do more than she can, which is how she wound up as The Load in the first place, so getting killed off by something she couldn't handle would be a very in-character end.

However, my party is pretty heal-happy (8th level druid, ranger and paladin) and it would be in character to heal her. That, combined with the 3 death save mechanic, makes it pretty difficult to kill the character off. How do I get around this so I can roll up a character with some actual utility?

  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Note that the user's profile says “Last seen May 10 '15”, so the handful of comments and answers posted since then haven't prompted them come back to read any of them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 15:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Ah, good point. Related q & a. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 14, 2017 at 16:45

8 Answers 8


You don't need to go to the effort of plotting to kill her off.

What you do need to do is speak to your GM and your group and tell them what's on your mind: your character doesn't have much to do, and you'd like to roll up a new one.

At that point, you may still need to come up with a plan of how your character can exit stage left, but you'll have their help. Death isn't the only option — you could pursue a peaceful, healthy retirement. Whatever you decide with them, you can have their cooperation in helping it happen. Your GM or players could suggest something to do: she could go out with a blaze of glory in the next battle, or retire to become a student of the High Songstress, or so on.

Or other things could happen:

  • You might find they don't need a plan, and they just accept having your bard vanish from the story and someone else entering.
  • Better yet, your GM may realise that they have presented you with few challenges and ways to contribute and that's a problem, and you can talk with them about what you want and they'll change things so you can keep going with this character. (Unless you don't want to.)

Without their help, they'll do pesky things like save you, and generally wonder what the heck has gotten into you.

(GMs who might plan to kill off a character: I strongly suggest you get your player's OK, even if they're already talking about retiring the character. Your player may have ways they do and don't want it to happen. If you get their OK, you can get their input and respect their wishes, avoid the risk of upsetting the player, and get the player's help in conspiring against their own character and get a good exit narrative.)

Anything that would happen in character to disrupt the plan after the group agree to it (such as "it would be in character for them to heal/resurrect her") should be treated as an instance of my guy syndrome, where the players acknowledge that sure, that could happen, but they can and should decide not to. Alternately, they can do that anyway, but it shouldn't stop you making a new character: they can go ahead and heal her or embark on a quest to resurrect her, but at that point she's an NPC, and you're playing Joe McNewlyRolledWizard accompanying them.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "come up with a plan of how your character can exit stage left [pursued by a bear]." Problem solved :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Dedwards
    Commented Jul 13, 2016 at 20:42

Definitely discuss with your GM, but don't discuss it with the other players unless the GM thinks it's a good idea.

I've been reading a lot of John Wick lately (Play Dirty, Play Dirty 2), and he's all about drama in the game. He puts characters in terrible, soul-wrenching situations to push them to change. It's good stuff, whether you run games, or play in games.

So talk to your GM, and figure out what you guys can do with the character that will most mess with the other players.

Some ideas:

  • Noble Sacrifice: Remember when that well beloved character sacrificed themselves to save others in Angel, that really popular show from a couple of decades ago?

    Doyle sacrificed himself to keep a bomb from vaporizing a bunch of people in Episode 9 of Season 1 of Angel.

    That could be you. The villain sets a death machine in motion and you can stop it... if you're willing to die. The Lich Overlord shoots a ray of disintegration at the hero holding the One Thing that can kill it, just before he can use it... and so you jump in the way. You smile as you disintegrate and disappear forever.

  • Vile Betrayal: The party wakes up, and the bard is gone. So is a large chunk of their gold. There is a note: Thank you for the fun times, but I've outgrown this. It's just not giving me what I need any more. It's not you, it's me. Love, your Ex-Bard.

  • Get Revenged: You go off to buy supplies when in town... and you don't return. Later they get a note. Some bastard Orc whose town your party massacred followed you, and kidnapped you while you were alone. You put up a big fight (you took one of his eyes!) but in the end he overpowered you. Of course your party goes to ransom you. At the appointed place and time with the reward, they try to pay him off, but he goes: "I don't want your gold. I want my family back, you bastards! Have a taste of my pain!" Then he murders you. With a cursed blade that eats your soul. And dies laughing when they take him down. He doesn't even put up a fight. But you? You're gone.

  • Go Nuts: Figure out what would absolutely break your character. The thing that would push them over the edge, around the bend, into full-on chaotic evil. What would turn them into the Joker? Into Sweeny Todd? What would make them join the Dark Side*? Is it watching the party massacre defenseless Orc children? Is it when they murder a beautiful and innocent girl for profit? Is it just when their actions inadvertently doom a small human town? The town that had your family in it? Whatever it is, ask the GM to do that to your character. Ask him to turn your character into the rest of the party's intimate, personal nightmare. He gets an amazing villain to play with, your story continues, and you get to play a new character.

  • Quiet Retirement: Boooo! You can do better than that.

  • Loud Retirement: You tell the party that this has become boring, and you leave. You talk your way into the princess' bedroom. You become the dread pirate Roberts. You show up later as a rich robber baron. Or you start a competing adventuring party, and they hear of your much more successful exploits talking your way out of trouble. Like human beings.

Basically, find something dramatic and over the top. Bonus points for something that wrenches your party's mercenary hearts. Extra bonus points for causing actual story to happen to them that makes them think twice about how they do things in the future.

A death is precious, especially one that you can't come back from. Use it to spur the other characters to change. Make them remember you, how you lived, and how you died.

*John Wick pointed out that the Dark Side dominates your destiny forever, but the Light Side makes you want to sleep with your sister and kill your father.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great post (+1), but re: "the Light Side makes you want to sleep with your sister and kill your father." John Wick wrote Play Dirty (AFAICT) in 2005. Joseph Campbell published The Hero with a Thousand Faces in 1949. In it, Campbell wrote that some of the challenges the hero must overcome are his 'incestuous libido and patricidal destruido'. Lucas read and riffed on this. It is not that the Light Side makes you want these things - these are psychological challenges that everyone faces, and how you respond to them determines whether you become a hero, monster, or frozen. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kirt
    Commented Jul 14, 2021 at 16:00

The real question is: why do you want to kill her off? Claim that your character fell in love with a local farmer and married a local tavern keeper.

Why not discuss with your DM the idea of just rolling up a new character? I would suggest that you start the new player at level 7. The other thing I would recommend is giving your DM a good GAME reason for giving up the character.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Fell in love with one local and married another? Yup, sounds like a bard... :P \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 15, 2015 at 11:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ While it might seem obvious: Have you tried this in your own games, or seen others do something like this? How has it worked, in your experience? Answers are much better when supported by citing evidence or experience (especially for subjective questions/answers), rather than unsupported/untested recommendations. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 6:43

I'm assuming this (warning: TV Tropes) is what you mean by The Load.

Talk to your GM. Tell him or her, "I'm not having fun with this character like I expected to. I'd rather play something else. I'd like to retire this character. She's just not enjoying adventuring."

  • \$\begingroup\$ While it might seem obvious: Have you tried this in your own games, or seen others do something like this? How has it worked, in your experience? Answers are much better when supported by citing evidence or experience (especially for subjective questions/answers), rather than unsupported/untested recommendations. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 6:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BaconBits users on this site encourage and provide improvement to posts any time they happen to come across them, for any reason, and we don't ask why; we just believe continual improvement to be the means to high-quality Q&A. If you've no desire to change the post, that's fine. You are not, however, to talk to people on this site like that. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 23:46

Lots of excellent suggestions in the other replies.

But have you considered other solutions that don't require the character to exit the game? (If the rest of your party is especially determined, even Death isn't necessarily going to get you out of it, in a game where Resurrection is rather easy to come by.)

What about options like multi-classing? Maybe it's time for her to "Grow up and learn to swing a sword like a proper adventurer, instead of just plunking around on that damned guitar like some court jester!" Or perhaps she wants to turn to a deeper understanding of her arcane studies (although it sounds like spellcasting might already be pretty well covered in your party).

A level or two of another class (or even classes) will add a lot of abilities to your character. Obviously you'll be a bit behind compared to someone dedicated to that class, but as a Bard, isn't being a jack of all trades kind of a core class concept? Additionally, unlike 3.5e and earlier systems, in 5e all characters advance in basic combat ability (your to-hit roll) at the same pace. The difference between classes is the special abilities they earn.

You can check out the information on Multiclassing in Chapter 6 of the PHB.

Death is not the only way out of this situation. But then again, if you've really come to dislike this character, maybe retirement is better than trying to save her.


Going out with a bang, a la Thelma and Louise

Trigger warning: Fictional character suicide.

Using the additional feature of falling damage can trigger the Instant Death mechanic, which precludes the three death saving throws. The bard has to hit the ground with 0 HP before impact to maximize the chances of success.

Sha doobie, shattered!

Providing that your bard has the shatter spell, it can be cast at 4th, 3rd, and 2d level (8th level bard). The bard has 3 2d-level slots, 3 3d-level slots, and 2-4th level slots. Assumptions:

  1. A Charisma of 18 for a spell DC of 8+4+3 = 15. With a Con of 14, +2 to Con saves, so bard probably makes just under half of the Con saves. A problem arises with a hot save streak.
  2. a Constitution of 14, which adds 2 HP per die. 5x7 = 35 HP, + 8 + 2x8 = 69 HP. (With a lower Constitution, this gets a bit easier to do, with 16 or higher we tempt fate a bit too hard).

Objective: It's not the fall, it's the sudden stop that kills the bard!

Note on Falling Damage: 20d6 averages 70 HP of damage; unless the dice go very cold, this ought to work.

Assemble the tools

Have all spell slots, and shatter ready to go.
Find a sheer cliff that is ~ 1000' high with a hard surface at the bottom. Make an excuse to be near it; hey, this is a bard character, use that Charisma!

Move frantically toward the edge of the cliff, demonstrating great fear

Screaming about "spiders" or "pink elephants" or "get 'em offa me!" or even "dadburn revenoors!" helps set this up. "Can't give it away on seventh avenue!" To outward appearances, the bard has gone utterly gone mad!

Cast shatter(2) at the bard's feet, or anything well within the spell's 10' radius. "Take that, vile monstrosity of bent pan pipes!" That does damage to the bard and to the (non existent) foe (3d8).

Important Note: Keep track of the damage being done to the bard! The finishing move is based on having about 20-22 HP left, though fewer is better. Keep running about, screaming and looking about frantically at something that isn't there.

Cast shatter(2) again. 3d8. "Get away from me!!" (About 27 (6d8 avg = 27) points of damage so far). Keep running and dancing about -- ham it up / overact (this is a bard for goodness sake!) nearer to the edge of the cliff, and cast shatter(2) again. (~ 40 pts damage so far). "I'll see you in hell, vile demonspawn of elevator music!"

Add shatter as needed / to taste

Cast shatter(3) again, 4d8, ~average 18 HP damage (58) and again average 18 HP. While that gets to 76 HP of damage taken, the bard will make the save once probably, maybe twice, but should be low on HP. The target HP for the bard before the finishing move is less than 20; if more saves are missed the final one comes sooner. Again, keep track of the HP!

The Finishing move! (Look at me, I've been shattered!)

At HP threshold or lower, the bard Moves by making a running long jump off of the cliff, and then takes the Action of casting a 4th level shatter (5d8). (Average 22.5 damage, 11 with a save). If that doesn't kill the bard, no worries! It takes just over 7 seconds to fall 1000' (standard earth gravity) and a turn/round lasts 6 seconds. If using the rules in Xanathar's Guide to Everything, it takes 1 round to fall 500'. The last action is to cast shatter(4) for that last 5d8 right before impact.

Unless the dice are ice cold, bard is at 0 HP before the body hits the ground.

And then it's the sudden stop that kills the bard. The distance fallen makes for the max of 20d6 falling damage. It should do 70 HP of damage, hopefully more. Max HP is 69 or 61 depending on the Con being between 12 and 14.

Damage at 0 Hit Points. If you take any damage while you have 0 hit points, you suffer a death saving throw failure. If the damage is from a critical hit, you suffer two failures instead. If the damage equals or exceeds your hit point maximum, you suffer instant death. (SRD p. 98)

May the dice be (un?)kind in your efforts to send the bard out with a bang. And if all of that doesn't kill the bard, perhaps Fate is telling you that this bard is destined for greatness (and is just a late bloomer)! Wait, that's a different game, right?)

And look at me, I'm in tatters, yeah I've been battered, what does it matter?
Does it matter? Uh-huh I'm a shattered
Sha oobie, shattered, shattered ...

(Obvious lyrics reference is the Rolling Stones - Shattered; if that can be playing in the background while this is going on, so much the better)


Find a reason she might wander off from the group while exploring a dungeon or similar dangerous area. I've lost more characters by going off alone. When you don't have the rest of the group there to heal and help you, it's a lot easier to get ganked by monsters or traps.

Better yet, don't tell the rest of the party where you are going, so they can't find you in time to save her. When you prevent the other players from having out-of-character knowledge about your PC, it's a lot easier for them to role-play the fact that their characters don't know where your character went.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried this in your own games, or seen others do something like this to intentionally kill off a character? How has it worked, in your experience? Answers are much better when supported by citing evidence or experience (especially for subjective questions/answers), rather than unsupported/untested recommendations. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 6:43
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yep, I’ve seen this happen countless times in over 15+ years of playing D&D. It’s better if you tell the DM you are wanting to kill off the character. But even if you don’t, wandering off from the group is a good way to get yourself killed. \$\endgroup\$
    – peacetype
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 6:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ You should edit your answer to support it by elaborating on your experience. Have the DM/other players found it enjoyable/entertaining (i.e. has it been well-received)? Have these methods caused any problems? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 6:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ It’s worked out fine. There’s really not much more to tell about it. Sometimes it can be pretty funny for the other players to witness the demise of your character, especially when it’s pretty obvious that he is going to meet his doom. If the DM knows you are trying to kill your character, he might make it quick so the game doesn’t get derailed. Or he might get creative with it and have some fun. Anything is possible. \$\endgroup\$
    – peacetype
    Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 7:23

I was in a similar situation and my DM didn't want me to kill my character. Luckily, there were no spellcasters except for a paladin who was the... Difficult player of the party. I just lowered my health to like 20 hp. I died very quickly. Now I know this is kinda stupid but my DM was not very perceptive so I failed my death saving throws.
Overall I effectively killed my character.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome! You can take the tour as an introduction to the site and check the help center if you need further guidance. I think this answer could use being a bit more clear on what you are suggesting. Good luck and happy gaming! \$\endgroup\$
    – Sdjz
    Commented Aug 2, 2019 at 23:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ how did you lower your health to 20 HP? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 3, 2019 at 1:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why are paladins always the problem characters? :) \$\endgroup\$
    – peacetype
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 0:13

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