Normally when I run a game I do everything on the fly out and out of my head but this time I wanted it to be a bit different.
The youngest hero in the group is our Druid, who we shall call Throm. As with every Saturday, he shows up excited to play, what 10 year old would not be? He wants his character first thing, (I keep his so he does not lose it) next he wants a mini and then wants his Bear mini (he is playing a Sentinel in the game), something he has been psyched to play since he saw another player with an animal companion. I think there is this misconception on his part that the bear is all powerful and capable of doing a great many things.
Originally I had not wanted him to play a healer and a class with a companion because of his lack of knowing the rules, which I am fine with; it is my experience with him in D&D encounters and knowing that his playing the healer had me worried. He does not like to heal anyone but himself that had me worried. That worry has been justified as he calls for heals instead of healing himself, and wants his bear to do extraordinary things which are mostly flights of fancy but I have to keep saying no. Again not a problem there, I cannot speak for the group though.
The adventure I am running is "The Slaying Stone" and I started it last week, I had not expected Throm's player to show up today because I was told he would not be able to make it, so I had kind of half prepared for him not to be there. I knew one player was leaving the game after today (So sorry to see ya go) and I was getting a friend of the Bard in the group to join and they would be arriving late to the game. So lots of things going on and I wanted it to go out with a bang for our Rogue who was moving to Pittsburgh.
The party was overlooking the town of Kiris Dahn as they argued about the plan on how best to get into the town of Goblins and Kobold's. Throm's player kept saying things about just fighting and the "no's" kept being thrown out there. When it was learned he could speak Goblin they chose to include him in the plan but Throm had ideas of his own and that had him getting close to listen to a group of Goblins who had left the town on a scouting missing.
The more the party said no to him the louder he got, which finally made me say "Fine you go.” Now mind you the looks from the other three at the table made me laugh on the inside. (Really guys I laughed hard) Like I said after the game he has to learn that splitting the party is never good unless it fits the adventure, and at this slice of time it did not work for the adventure.
He makes it down the hill along the road and hides in a bush where the goblins do not see him, except for his Summoned Bear. The lead Goblin says "Look there! Dinner." and Throm pulls out his short bow and fires at the lead goblin. His shot goes wide and six goblins (not one of them is a minion by the way), gang up on him and knock him unconscious just as the rest of the party makes it down the hill to see him fall.
The Paladin gets a hit in on one of the goblins and then the Mage lines up a scorching burst and along with hitting some of the goblins, kills our Druid. The poor kid got mad, and rightly so, I would have as well. As DM I could have stopped it but I am a let the dice fall where they may and in the end it is about having fun and not me telling them “NO” all the time, like letting Throm's player go out and get attacked, I let the Mage attack. I just did not expect to hear him say that if he survives this his guy was going to kill the mage (that is the influence of a kid on Wed night encounters)
When he started saying he might as well go home, I asked him if he wanted to leave, (awkward moment there) He put his hands to his face and put his head on the table. OK TIMEOUT... my intention was not to have him die or let him cry nor did I want him to do it at the table in front of the rest of the players. I needed to turn this into a learning experience for him. I took him around the corner and I asked him a few questions.
Q: Do you know what just happened in there?
A: I was burned to death
Q: No before that.
A: I was attacked by the Goblins
Q: Why were you attacked?
A: Because I ran off by myself.
Bingo. I wanted him to know there were consequences when doing things like that. NEVER SPLIT THE PARTY. I tried teaching them that in encounters when I was playing and just it never stuck, I think now after this experience it has. I told him that his character would still be alive after the combat, I was using my judgment as the DM to do this but after this there would be no more of it, of course I could always do it again especially if it is a mechanical thing that kills him off. I wonder how things went at home later that day. Will his Mom want to talk with me at the store on Wednesday night? Will he have an even greater aversion to getting hit in combat? Time will tell.
All I know is that when he started to say things like they needed to work together and that he learned his lesson I think he had learned something. He did have some funny comments later in the game about running for his second life and things like that. I did not let him have his animal companion bear back for the remainder of the session as a sort of penalty for bringing him back to life.
His character thinks his deity, Melora has saved him. To my players reading this, and much like I told him, Character Knowledge and Player Knowledge are two separate things. Just know this, the Raven Queen does not give a soul back without asking for something in return and it might not be a favor or quest, it might be a soul.
I know that when I was 12 I did not deal with the death of my first real and successful character named T'larn. I took it bad and I was a few years older than him. I looked back on that incident and used that experience for how I dealt with this situation.
How did you handle your first character death experience, and if you have not yet, can you handle it?