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Dealing with Negativity After a PC's Death
#1
As a fairly new DM my game has just experienced the dreaded death of a PC. My game has been running for a good few months now and the party are just about to hit level 9. We are a group of life long friends and this is all of our first times playing any pen and paper RPG. Things have been going well, all of us really enjoying ourselves.

But yesterday things took a turn for the worse as one of the party was perma-killed in a boss fight. Looking back at the fight I wish I had done things a little differently, but the party did a series of reckless things, so the possibility of death was always there.

The problem is the player has not taken it very well. I could do with some advice please on how to keep the game running smoothly when it's clear the player holds some resentment against me as the DM. To be clear he hasn't done anything wrong or offensive, but he clearly and vocally disagrees with the events that lead to his death. As a life long friend I don't want this to tarnish the enjoyment we all get out of the game, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.
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#2
Well, when you die in skyrim, do you blame the designers? No. Or the line of code that spawned the creature that killed you? no! His resentment is something he has to get over. It's a game after all, if it's too much for him, i would suggest taking a break, or have him take a break for a while. cool off, then come back.
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#3
It is a hard thing when you get attached. You put some pieces of yourself into characters even if it is just a game and you form an emotional attachment to it. There is no easy fix for when that piece is snuffed out. But there is something you have to bear in mind. This is his problem, not yours. You just the narrator. The overseer. There could be things you can fudge or gloss over but that should only extend so far especially if the players are too reckless.

Allow me to provide an sample of difficult situation with consequences I had to face as a player. I have a paladin. The DM was kind enough to let me retcon to that class about two sessions in (i think) after a component that I had really wanted the character to be able to do got nerfed by a ruling that actually completely made sense. I even had two pieces of artwork done for the character because it just looked so cool. However, because I like to work on backgrounds for weeks, this one wasn't quite what I would want in a paladin. It still technically 'works' but the way I wanted to play the character didn't lend itself to this particular class exactly. It was one of those things that looked good on paper initially but not in reality and I may have come to that conclusion later on like so many other concepts that I have thrown into the ether before they even make it into a game. It left me struggling to think of ways to play this character because of the restrictions that are placed on paladins. Could I have changed it? Probably. Should I though?

The series of bad choices and ill-fitting background eventually led to today. Because the background and the way the character I had wanted to develop wasn't fitting with the oath's paladins have to take, the chickens came home to roost. The oath powers are stripped away, became an oathbreaker and alignment shifted to neutral evil. Now there were several ways that could have not happened and I had all of 2-3 minutes to give it some thought but, in the moment, there was only really one route to take. So now I have to deal with two things I personally don't like doing at all. One, going down a more emo route to work into the evil-ness. I hate playing evil characters. Two, potentially beating the crap out of party members that rub the character the wrong way and all but one is really starting to push his evil buttons. And all this was after I was already struggling with the confines of the previous choices.

But, when you dig your own grave, you have to lie in it. There are certain ways it could be turned around. I'm not going to blame the DM for it. He laid out the narrative and the choices were mine. It was a struggle at first but after a day or two of thought, I could see some reversals and it may make for a character I can be okay with playing. If not, it is still, in the end, just a game.
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#4
IMHO, you can't blame someone for getting upset or even downright angry at the DM OR the other players. Players often spent a lot of time, TOO much time, thinking about characters, decisions, backstories, descriptions, and even what the future holds. When a player perma-dies, all of that comes crashing down. I can't be a god or a king. I won't get the girl. The rest of the party will go on adventures without me. (Using first person on purpose, as the "me" and "character" are often one and the same).

Personally, I would go out of my way to help out the character and their journey towards a new character. What did he like? Dislike? Does he want a clone or something new? Set him up with some sweet items that will immediately make his of use to the party.

It IS wrong to blame the DM, because I know when I DM, I often go out of my way (too much, probably), to make sure that people DON'T die, but my situation is likely different from yours. But you can't blame them when they do. Count the behavior as normal, and see what you can do to move forward, rather than blaming or punishing the player for their anger and distrust (no I don't think that's what you're doing, it's just possible).
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#5
Thank you all for your feedback. MessiahMoose I appreciate your proactive suggestion of helping the player set up again. Having had some time to reflect on what happened during the session I see it was just a natural reaction. Unfortunately there is an inevitable divide between the DM and players during moments like this.
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