My wife and I had to make that last trip to the vet with Brenna, our almost 17 year old dachshund, yesterday. We’ve known it was coming, as she was extremely old for a standard dachshund and had inoperable cancer. but that hasn’t made it any easier. If you’ve ever had to do this, you know how bad it can feel. We were emotionally drained yesterday and still our today. We are just going through the motions of life because we have to.
What does this have to do with RPGs, you ask. Characters die in RPGs. If the character is a “red shirt” or one is playing through the first few levels old school style where beginning characters die left and right, it is probably not going to have any real effects on the other characters. However, what if the character who dies in a long time friend of the rest of the party, someone who has been on many adventures with the group?
Surely the characters aren’t going to easily shrug it off and keep right on going, at least not all the time? If they are in the middle of a dungeon or on a mission to rescue the prince before the Evil Archmage ™ sacrifices him to the lords of Chaos in two days, they will probably have no choice but to press on. However, in more normal circumstances where they can abandon what they are doing for a while and mourn, shouldn’t they? Sadly, I’ve been gaming since 1974 and I can only remember a few times — even in the most character-oriented campaigns — where characters have been so overwhelmed with grief at the loss of one of their long-term co-adventurers that they have taken a few days off to mourn.
Given how the death of a “mere” pet can affect us in real life, I really think that may be a case of bad roleplaying. What do you think? Note: I’m not suggesting that mourning be required by rules or any such nonsense, just that it might be good roleplaying to have have characters mourn the loss of their friends when circumstances allow.