Right to Die

It seems only fair that if I do a post about killing players, I should do a post about player’s right to control their character. Just as it is the DM’s right to kill the players when they decide to kill the king in the middle of his throne room, it is the player’s right to try. Whether you’re playing a pen and paper or video game, the PC is the player’s only method of interacting with the world around them, and you cannot take that away from them. This isn’t to say that their characters can’t be forced to do things they don’t want to do, but the player has to be the one that does it. Kidnapping, extortion, blackmail, and even guilt tripping can give a player motivation to do something he doesn’t want to, but it must be his choice. A good way to think about it is “keep it first person”. Games like Bioshock, anything from Valve, and even most Call of Duty titles have pivotal moments that reach out to the player because they happen under player control. In Modern Warfare One, YOU die of radiation, not some random soldier, just as every Valve game cut-scene is performed with you still in control of your character. It is even admissible to mind control a player in some fashion (as long as you roll for it), but make sure the player is still in control of the character. Bioshock is a good example of forcing a player to do things he wouldn’t actually want to, but never taking away control.

But this is a digression from the point I was making, which is the player’s right to break things. It’s been said that players hate the railroading, but it’s more correct to say players hate obvious railroad tracks. And this is understandable, as the DM is trying to impose their ideas on the players story, however necessary that is. The player is allowed to buck the tracks as much as they can, in an equal degree of severity to the amount of railroading. Let’s say a player needs to go into a room to talk to an important NPC. If a large man pushes you into a room, break out the window and flee. If, on the other hand, a small man mentions that there is free cake in the room, go inside and grab a slice. The DM can do their story either way, but the player gets a better deal if he got to choose. I talked last week about the detriments of killing quest givers, but the player has the right to try, especially if it makes sense to them. A Crimelord hands the player a gun and tells him to kill a rival in exchange for his family’s safe return? Shoot the Crimelord and roll them into a ditch. If the DM didn’t see that coming, it’s their own fault. King sending you on another suicide mission? Fireball the throne and leg it. You might even get away with it if you can escape before the DM manages to come to terms with what you did. I understand that these are hard to escape in video games, where the game designer cannot plan for every contingency, but the easy rule of thumb is to have a plan for every NPC the players can kill.

The player’s most important right, however, is the right of suicide. A PC, being the only thing a player can control in a game, is also the only thing a player can be sure to destroy when they need revenge. When the DM has committed some completely unjust act, such as saving the day again with their precious DM PC, the players have the right to kill themselves in any way they can. Often, this involves attacking whoever just wronged them in game, which almost always means death. Sometimes they don’t have a plan beyond charging the throne and taking as many with them as they can. Sometimes they just turn on each other, and the party descends into madness and bloodshed. Whatever they do, a good DM will take note of what caused it and discuss it with the players later, when cooler heads have prevailed.


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