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Back with a Vengeance

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Returning from death

This is a house-rule designed to act as a "safety valve" against the death of a player character in your game. It should allow you to threaten the party more without worrying about them losing a character, as well as allowing for limited PVP without bad feelings between players.

The Rule

When a PC would die for the first time in a campaign, they instead get left for dead by their foe and return later with a grudge.

That pretty much sums up the whole thing, but below will cover the reasons why you might want to use it and some potential mechanics that would work with it.

Why to use this rule

Firstly, the reasoning. How many films, shows or books have that scene where the hero is struck down by the villain only to return and win the day?

Luke Skywalker loses his hand and tumbles to the bottom of cloud city because of his hubris; Harry Potter has to sacrifice himself to destroy the final piece of Voldemort; James Bond falls from the train as it crosses a bridge and MI6 thinks he’s gone for good.

This house rule captures that feeling, of the tragic fall and triumphant return. It also lends some resilience to PCs to allow you to put harder challenges in front of them or allow a small amount of PvP without worrying so much about the upsetting event of a player losing their character.

Potential mechanics

You can easily just play this house rule in its most basic form, but here are a few suggestions of mechanics to modify the rule with:

  1. They come back with a Perk representing their grudge and/or a Flaw representing their injury. Either of these could be due to being “touched by death” in certain settings. Remember that Flaws are a bonus to players, because it’s more chances to earn Legend points.
  2. They come back with 5 (or less) levels of Fatigue. This fits a much grimmer tone, giving the character a long, slow road to recovery. It may however be kind of unfun if your game involves daily fighting.
  3. They get an optional respec. Almost dying changes people; if the player wants to keep RPing the character but would like to change up their playstyle, or vice versa, then this is an excellent opportunity to fit that into the narrative. It also lets players fix any problems with the build which may have resulted in the death to begin with.
  4. Give them an Extraordinary “item” (not a physical object) to represent their condition. Maybe it’s gives them special powers from their brush with death, or maybe it’s Cursed with something due to their injury. I like to have it be an automatic Provoked bane when dealing with the foe or type of foe that struck them down in the first place. Either way, it should be temporary but especially if it’s Cursed; a permanent debuff is quite likely to lead to permanent death and/or the player not wanting to play the character any more.

Use one of these if you like, or come up with your own. Don’t attach too much rules baggage though. Two distinct mechanics at most, the simpler the better. Remember that the goal is to encourage the player to come back to the same character; if you make a harsh punishment mechanic they’re likely to either write the character off and make a new one, or just stop coming to your sessions.

Additional Comments

Hopefully you’ll find a use for this interesting house rule. It’s not a fit for every game, but I’ve certainly found it a helpful tool to have in my back pocket in case the worst happens during one of my campaigns. If you're worried your players might abuse this rule, then you don't have to tell them it's in place; just bring it up the first time one of them fails a Fortitude save on a Finishing Blow. If the method of death is such that there's no way they could conceivably have survived (however unlikely), such as total bodily destruction or having their soul eaten, then you can rule that they just die instead of triggering this rule.

Attributions

The idea for this mechanic was taken from the Apocalypse World RPG System written by D. Vincent Baker.

GM Tech is a series of articles written by Open Legend developer and community moderator Sam Wilby. He can be reached for questions and suggestions through the Open Legend Discord or Forums

License Notice

This product was created under the Open Legend Community License and contains material that is copyright to Seventh Sphere Entertainment. Such use of Seventh Sphere Entertainment materials in this product is in accordance with the Open Legend Community License and shall not be construed as a challenge to the intellectual property rights reserved by Seventh Sphere Entertainment. Seventh Sphere Entertainment and Open Legend RPG and their respective logos are trademarks of Seventh Sphere Entertainment in the U.S.A. and other countries.

The full-text Open Legend Community License can be found at http://www.openlegendrpg.com/community-license.