I'm quite new to role playing games; I've got about 10 sessions of experience. I'm interested in the role of game master, and I've tried an introduction game where everything is pretty much set up for me, I just had to do the storytelling and some easy decision making.
What does it mean for a PC to die? In terms of what happens in and out of the game when it happens, I'm not sure what "death" is.
For example, do you lose your character? Do you just lose all your character's items? Do you personally get removed from the game (I guess that's silly)? Do you simply lose some of your character's XP? Does your character get teleported to HQ to respawn?
Some of these sound like players might not fear them enough to be careful with their characters. The games I've read (I'm setting up for All Flesh Must Be Eaten) just say that the PC dies, but assumes that I know what that means. There are so many different ways that "death" can be done in games that it's not obvious what "you died" means for the PC as a game-piece.
I intend on playing a whole campaign (not one-shot sessions) where players can evolve, and I don't know how to implement death so that it matters but isn't frustrating. Right now they don't want to die obviously, but as soon as it happens I want the consequences to be sufficiently harsh so they're really careful, but not too harsh for them to stop enjoying the game. I know losing is a part of the game though, so I'm trying to find a balance here, and the only solution I came up with is: here, start another character and I'll introduce you into the story, you lost all your XP, maybe your items if the other players got the chance to loot you.
But I don't know what's normal or reasonable in RPGs in the first place, so I'm just making stabs in the dark at what death is supposed to mean in an RPG. When a game doesn't explain what “death” means, what is that supposed to mean?