For those of you who have lost a character or four, courtesy of -C on his blog Hack & Slash.
There will be a pain, or you will feel strange or dizzy and find yourself looking up at the ceiling. Or a wound or accident will occur, your awareness causing a sinking feeling as you realize the outcome.
What this means is that what we choose to do with our time is important. The characters you roll up in a simple moment for your D&D game are different from any other character created, because for a short while they exist.
Death, character death, and the possibility of it is what makes gaming matter. If there is no threat of failure, then the activity carries no risk. With no risk it can still be a fun activity, but it loses value. If we take on the arch-dracolich and know we are going to win, then we hung out and rolled some dice with friends for a few hours to come to a known conclusion.
If we did it and we know we can lose, a real meaningful thing happened.
When the life we led flashes before our eyes what I want to see are the things that I accomplished that might not have been. You can’t have that without failure, without character death.
So the next time a player complains about character death, validate their feelings. “Yes, that is very frustrating.” Let them roll up a new character. They will learn to play more intelligently. And when they accomplish something, determined not to be killed this time, it will have real meaning. Because their accomplishment might not have happened.
And that will be a session to remember.