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Content Warning: Suicide

I'm posting anonymously for privacy and I'm sorry if this is kind of disjointed, the topic is obviously very emotional.

About a month ago one member of our friend group, and a player in a D&D game I DM, committed suicide extremely unexpectedly. We're all guys in Junior/Senior year of college. There were 6 of us and we all met living in the same building Freshman year. Four of us (including the guy who died) lived together in an apartment and the other two lived with SO's.

We haven't done our weekly game since but today one of the other players asked me when we might play again. I'm not sure what to say or how to continue the game.

Has anyone experienced a similar situation in the past? How did you handle it?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Answerers - please respect the fact that this question is asking for direct experience with this issue (which you'll recall is how we should address all Good Subjective questions on the site) - do not answer with speculation or opinion. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Apr 21 '17 at 20:06
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Many years ago, a member of the AD&D group I was in died in an accident. We took some time off, as a group, then got back together to play.

The first session, the GM brought each of the player parties we'd had together in a situation drawn from their previous adventures, an all-out battle with the missing player's characters at the forefront and the biggest, baddest evil we'd ever fought opposing. The intent, obviously, was to provide closure for us, the players, as the characters died heroically. In the one battle we won (due to an unexpected -- by the GM -- invocation of a setting-specific power by my own character, the only PC who could have done so in that situation), the missing player's PCs were translated into the heavens.

It's a bit different situation from suicide, but allowing the missing player's character(s) a heroic death with the rest of the group at their back seems a very good way to provide closure to the other players.

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    \$\begingroup\$ A million +1s if I could. Honoring a passed friend's memory by continuing to do the group activities you all enjoyed is the right approach. I highly doubt said friend would want the remaining friends to stop enjoying each other's company just because he was gone. \$\endgroup\$ – T.J.L. Apr 21 '17 at 20:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ A particular +1 because I cant answer this question with experience but your points were spot on. Heroic Character death to help progress past and honor player death, and continuing the game in thier honor. \$\endgroup\$ – Airatome Apr 21 '17 at 21:35
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I'm sorry.

I run an AL site at a boarding (high) school, three tables on Friday nights. About three months ago one of our players took her own life.

It was hard getting back to things. We were mercifully spared our usual "next" meeting because of an all-campus event. But two weeks later, there we were. We all congregated, though no reminder e-mail had gone out.

Everyone loitered around, nervously not talking.



"Shitty."

They all looked at me strangely.

"Everyone's been asking me how I'm doing, every time I see someone it's all 'how are you?' Well, I'm shitty."

Some nervously chuckled, some cried a bit.

"I don't know if I want to play."



So that's how it started, the process of finding our new normal. We talked for a bit but there's no real need to share the rest--your group's and my group's experiences will be as different as every suicide and its aftermath are. But let me stress this: things will never return to "normal." Your work now is to learn what your new normal is.

What to do? Tell the players honestly how you feel, that you're unsure. Listen to what they have to say. You may not play that night. Hell, you may never play again. But the great thing: all those skills you need to be supportive of each other, you've been practicing them as a group. You listen to each other, you respect each other's contributions and feelings.

In short, all you have to do is the same thing you've been doing every game-night: describe the scene before you, listen to your players, and make a decision as to where to go next.

Good luck.


A postscript, two years out: the rest of the year was really hard, as one might imagine. But near the end of that year I was talking to her father who told me (paraphrasing, here) "she was in a lot of pain, and for a very long time. She was happy and loved and embraced here. I don't she'd have lived as long as she did if not for her friends and teachers."

Thanks to her father's insight I'm able to look back on the stupid harmonica ditties she'd make up for her bard spells, or the acting out of failing a DEX-save she'd do, or even just the smiles she'd throw to everyone around the table differently. Not with sadness at the loss; but with hope that those were a few hours she wasn't in pain, those were hours she looked forward to rather than dreading.

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Several years ago, a long-time friend of mine, as well as a co-developer of the world for our home game, took his own life. My initial instinct was to run the game the next day.

To preface this - this was not a callous decision, and was one that I could not bring myself to follow through with. This friend loved the game. He loved the world. He spent his personal time to assist in running it, proofing my encounter design, and generally being my muse.

The reasons he gave to me before he went home for the final time? He was concerned about not leaving a mark on the world.

Now, words can't describe the pain of the passing. I hated myself for not seeing the signs. My game took a dark turn. But my players - his friends - stayed with me. They mourned with me. Together, we decided to take a week off, but then to resume, with the name of his favored character forever embedded in the history that he helped to write.

The game was rough to resume. I'm not gonna lie. We spent a lot of time tiptoeing around what to do with his character, with his legacy. His name was carefully omitted from our conversation, but his presence was felt. We got lucky, in that we had a major event just conclude in which he had been a pivotal player. We retconned a bit, giving him what he had spoken at length about prior to his last night - a heroic sacrifice.

I think building him a statue and legend in-game, and giving his character sheet the Viking funeral it (and he) deserved gave us the closure we needed. His memorial was the following week, and we, as a group, drove to his hometown to attend. Afterwards, we carried on. We played. We still haven't filled his seat, and we never will. But we played.

To summarize this rambling mess - we never got over it. His name still pops up, and it still hurts. We miss him. But we honor him how we can. I know no one may read the history of his world, but to me, and my players for as long as that world lives, will always be able to see the indelible signature that he left in our lives and our games.

I really, truly, hope this helps. And I am sorry.

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I can empathize. A few weeks ago, one of my good friends, a key player in our multi-year D&D game, committed suicide. I was - and am - devastated by this. I did not see it coming, and even after the fact, I still can't make it make sense. For context, I'm 51, and my group of friends has known one another since high school for the most part - the "new guy" is someone I've only known for 25 years.

In my case, I have decided - unilaterally, as I am the DM - that the game is over. The last session we had together is the end of that game. I can't handle the idea of continuing without him. To make things worse, his character was the at the center of the ongoing plot line, and continuing it without him seems wrong to me.

This isn't the first loss our gaming group has had. In 2012, my brother, also a long-term member of the group, died of cancer. In that case, we had had some time to get used to the idea, and tried to continue the game in honor of his memory. It wasn't the same, and we discontinued it.

My advice in this case is to do the right thing for you, first and foremost. Do not continue the game because other people want it, continue the game if (and only if) it's what you want.

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Several years back a player in my D&D group at the time died. It was pretty unexpected, though he had always suffered from a plethora of physical maladies. We took some time to talk about our experience gaming with him, and then started another campaign.

I don't think it's wrong to try to finish the campaign you have, necessarily, and doing so might be important to your group, but for us it was a lot easier to move on to a new campaign than to keep running an old one with someone 'missing', and we had no particular need to resolve anything game-wise.

It was sort of the same as when someone moves unexpectedly, except with a lot more emotions on the line. For us, abandoning a campaign has always been preferable to playing it 'wrong'. Unless you've good reason not to, I recommend you start another game


Side note on this process in D&D-like games particularly:

Some groups play games always starting at level 1. Unfortunately, most D&D-like systems really suck at levels 1-2. You can't even wash plates successfully half the time, or so it seems. D&D 5e is no exception to this problem: many entire classes lack the ability to perform within their core competency for the first level or even 2.

In older varieties of D&D-like games, where leveling up can take many, many sessions, losing a character and having to start over is rather awful feeling. To prevent this, PCs would keep around similarly-levelled and allied NPCs they thought were cool as henchmen, with the idea that upon their death they would be able to assume play of the NPC character.

All this to say that in certain playstyles starting a new campaign just as you were reaching mid-to-high levels in an old one can be disempowering and immensely dissatisfying. While such playstyles generally also allow characters to be carried across campaigns without issue, this is not necessarily the case. If you participate in such a playstyle, I suggest you make an exception to your normal rules and figure out a way to let people make new characters at their current level and with roughly equivalent treasure (but don't let them just pick the treasure because then it won't be equivalent to treasure acquired through play. Get them stuff that 'seems right').

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