Sooner or later, it is going to happen. Your Players' favourite Adventurers are going to enter a battle too far, and one of them will receive a critical injury, which turns into a fatal one when they fail their Endurance check and bleed out on the cold, unforgiving ground.
And you, as the Games Master, are going to have to tell your tearful Player that their beloved character has died.
There are many ways a character can die. They can suffer a Serious or Major Wound in a critical Hit Location, and fail an Endurance check; they can contract a disease, or take poison; or they can suffer fatal blood loss, and even exhaust themselves to death. There are even magical effects which are fatal, such as the Transmogrify sorcery spells.
The Combat section of Mythras, from page 86, outlines the most common form of character death. The book points out that combat is -
- A very deadly business
- Need not end in death
- Both abstract and tactical
- Either gritty or cinematic
Amid the fog of war, there are always bound to be casualties, and I have it on good authority that the aim of the game is to make sure that the casualties are all on the other side. However, sometimes one or more of the enemy may get in a good strike, and it can get very bad for the Adventurer who is the recipient of such a blow.
As Games Master, what can you do to minimise the risk to your Adventurers?
Peril, Not Automatic Mortality
You do not measure death in Mythras as "being reduced to zero Hit Points." Page 94 of Mythras, Damage Reduction, provides your Adventurers with one possible mechanism to reduce damage, providing that they have something large enough to deflect the blow. Armour also helps to reduce damage, as do various spells.
The Hit Locations section on page 109 goes into detail about what one can expect from a Light, Serious, or Major Wound in the various Hit Locations. Page 81 of Mythras details how long it takes to recover from injuries, and there is the possibility of an injury being permanent.
As Games Master, you have the option of being able to keep your Players on tenterhooks, asking the questions Will my Adventurer die? and If they live, will there be permanent damage?
Adventurers have access to a resource mere mortals do not: Luck Points. Page 81 of Mythras describes the procedure for mitigating Major Wounds by spending a Luck Point to reduce one Major Wound to a Serious Wound.
Ignore the "one Hit Point damage shy of a Major Wound" rule. Your Adventurer's Luck Point can be ruled as reducing damage sustained to a Light Wound. You're the Games Master. Every rule in the core rulebook is optional, except for the one about having fun.
Worst Case Scenario
So let's look at the worst case scenario. Your Player has their Adventurer engage with an opponent half their size. An easy match, but for the fact that the Player's dice just won't roll low - their rolls keep landing in the 96-00 range, even if they change the dice around. And the opponent, despite their clear weakness and poor stats, just keeps rolling crits.
As a Games Master myself ... I've been in this situation. Nothing can prepare you for the howls of anguish, or the hurling of miscreant dice across the room as the frustrated Player vents their frustrations on those insubordinate little blobs of plastic.
Remember - your Non-Player Characters aren't there to kill the Adventurers. Mythras is a simulationist game, not an Arcade style game. Even if the dice just aren't behaving for your Player, things don't all have to go the enemy's way. They can make mistakes, tactical misjudgments and be plain old sloppy.
But even if you use NPC Bad Luck Points on your little hench characters, and still they manage to get the upper hand on the Adventurers, what can you do?
Awareness Of Surroundings
Ask yourself, as Games Master, what this encounter is supposed to accomplish. Is this combat scene something essential to the plot, a showdown with an important hireling of the bad guys, or just a random wandering monster encounter you just threw in?
If it's the latter, that's the worst place to put in something that wants to kill the Adventurers and won't take no for an answer. Why throw in a random deadly combat just because the encounter tables tell you to? Again, random wilderness combats are just senseless in a simulationist game like Mythras. Save the deadly battle scenes for pivotal points which advance the story.
And try not to kill the player characters with a random wilderness encounter. A TPK from a random group of kobolds is no victory for you as the Games Master.
Access To Healers
Adventurers who know First Aid and Healing skills, particularly those backed by a Lore skill such as Lore (Field Medicine) or Lore (Surgery) to augment the Healing and First Aid checks, can stave off the Angel of Death for a little while. Their fellow Adventurers can thank you later. Thing is, if you succeed in a Healing check, chances are they will be able to thank you later.
If you have done everything you can to keep the Adventurer alive, and they are beyond even Luck Points, and it looks as though it's The End for your Adventurer, and not even a Games Master Deus Ex Machina can save them ("Wait a minute ... is that a bottle of healing potion underneath that dresser unit over there?") ... then you have the option of making the Adventurer's final moments count for something.
Maybe there is an enemy force trying to beat down the door your Adventurers barricaded, and it looks as if they are about to get through it, and all your party needs is for someone to stay behind and buy a few lousy seconds for the team to escape through the secret door. Something like that. Your Adventurer can perform one last heroic action, as per the Heroic Last Actions section on page 111,
Again, something to ignore - no need to have your expiring Adventurer burn a Luck Point. Assume they burn all their Luck Points, and that they automatically succeed with a critical roll. After all, if they are on their way out, they might as well make their exit a good one.
Just ask Vasquez and Gorman.
Death doesn't have to be the end for an Adventurer. An encounter which turns fatal doesn't even have to end in death. As Games Master, you can always, always, set up some sort of twist - and bring the expired Adventurer back to rude health.
That amulet they picked up from an adventure three sessions before might have the Hide Life sorcery power, which activates the moment the wearer reaches the end of their time. Or they might wake up in chains in the baddie's dungeon, with the baddie gloating at the inhuman pleasures she is about to indulge in, before that chapter fades to black, with the promise that the Adventurer will return some day ...
... after having probably played a lot of games of Backgammon with the baddie.
Or you could pull a cutscene where the Adventurer thinks they are going to spend their last moments being heroic, only to wake up after the adventure is over, surrounded by the party, who'd risked their lives to come back and collect their fallen comrade because they leave nobody behind or something - and they'd found a healer who restored the Adventurer to full health. Or perhaps Atropos took pity on the Adventurer and stayed Her blades, keeping the threads of the Adventurer's Fate intact when they ought to have been cut.
There is always something you can do, as Games Master, even for a Player whose Adventurer is facing certain doom. Until the Player themselves wants to bring their Adventurer to an end, of course - in which case, make it a good ending and give them a Viking funeral.
The Adventurer, that is.
Edited by Alex Greene