Tag Archives: Death

Dungeon World – Last Breath

Dungeon World


One of the special moves in Dungeon Worlds happens when you’re reduced to 0 hp. This move is called Last Breath. The move is described below:

Last Breath

When you’re dying you catch a glimpse of what lies beyond the Black Gates of Death’s Kingdom (the GM will describe it).  Then roll (just roll, +nothing – year, Death doesn’t care how tough or cool you are).

*On a 10+, you’ve cheated Death – you’re in a bad spot but you’re still alive.  *On a 7-9, Death himself will offer you a bargain.  Take it and stabilize or refuse and pass beyond the Black Gates into whatever fate awaits you.  *6-, your fate is sealed.  You’re marked as Death’s own and you’ll cross the threshold soon.  The GM will tell you when.

On one hand, this certainly seems deadly. 50% of the time that your character is reduced to 0 hp, you’re going to die. Other systems have you make death saves over and over, and you have to fail a bunch of them before you actually pass away. Not so here.

On the other hand, the 6- death gives a specific example of the GM allowing the character to continue on with death hanging over their head. Basically, the game seems lethal, but gives everyone room to maneuver if the character death is either not convenient to the story of the game, or not popular with the player whose character died.

While I kind of like the Last Breath mechanic as a lethal but interesting hook for adventure, resurrection is also included in the rules, and seems like an option specifically encouraged a bit in the text. The text even recommends that the GM not make things too difficult on the players around this, and maybe let them go to the next town and drop some coin donation on the temple in return for a resurrection.

“GM, when you tell the players what needs to be done to bring their comrade back, don’t feel like it has to derail the flow of the current game.  Weave it in to what you know of the world.  This is a great opportunity to change focus or introduce an element you’ve been waiting to show off.  Don’t feel, either, that is has to be some great and epic quest.  If the character died at the end of a goblin pike, maybe all it takes is an awkward walk home and a few thousand gold pieces donated to a local temple.”

The game even make some allusion, although doesn’t specifically mechanize, a group “decision” for Resurrection.

“If your character dies you can ask the GM and the other players to try and resurrect you.  The GM will tell them what it will cost to return your poor, dead character to life.  If you fulfill the GM’s conditions the character is returned to life.  The Resurrection spell is a special case of this: the magic of the spell gives you an easier way to get a companion back, but the GM still has a say.”

When I first looked for the resurrection spell, I couldn’t find it.  That’s because I made the mistake of looking at the end of the cleric spell list.  Instead, I found it in the list of 3rd level spells!  So, while death is common, overcoming death seems pretty easy.  I have a real hard time with this, because it seems like on one hand, it encourages players to play various characters and get people used to character death a bit, but on the other, it make character death pretty weak and creates a situation that’s hard to explain into the rest of the world fiction!

I get this is a story game and many of the rewards are based around building and playing a dynamic character, but why not follow through with being an ode to old-school gaming and let those characters die. Surely the rest of the party will experience more depth and change if comrades perish and new characters are thrown into the mix. Of course, the system does not specify this game mode, but it does feel a bit wishy-washy, and a little pulp, around character death.

Some day you are going to die

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.

Limit Breaks

A mechanic that has been pretty popular over the years has been the concept of Limit Breaks.  I believe this stems originally from the Final Fantasy Series, and the Final Fantasy Wikia confirms that the term was first coined for Final Fantasy VII, but the concept originated with Final Fantasy VI as “Desperation Attacks.”  From the same source:

Limit Breaks are often among the most damaging moves at a player’s disposal, typically capable of destroying enemies. Several Limit Breaks have developed into various characters’ signature moves… Limit Breaks usually rely on the damage the player takes in some way. When the player takes enough damage to fill up a power meter, or they enter critical status, they may perform their Limit Break.

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