Dungeons and Dragons players discuss fate worse than death

Dungeons and Dragons players discuss ways Dungeons Masters have created effects worse than death for their characters.

Dungeons and Dragons players are deeply familiar with the threat of in-game death. That characters with days, if not weeks of fighting, storytelling, and knowledge invested in them, can die permanently is part of what makes play Dungeons and Dragons meaningful. Dungeon Masters know this, of course, and the best DMs are very careful with the death of player characters. DMs also know that sometimes death is not enough. Dungeons and Dragons players recently shared their experiences of when DMs gave their characters a fate worse than death.


In a Reddit thread titled “Other than dying, what’s the one thing you’re afraid of your DM doing to your character?” Dungeons & Dragon players share their greatest fears and most terrifying experiences. The thread is full of the horrible ways a campaign has turned into a nightmare for their character, be it a fitting ending, a DM going overboard, or something completely unexpected.

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The top comment in the Reddit thread captures the basic idea behind a fate worse than death. Dungeons and Dragons Player _Squint explains that their “happy Gnome Dad of 4” loved to tell little stories about their wife and children during his adventures. That is, he loved to tell stories about his family for the villain of theā€¦ DnD campaign “stole every memory of the wife from my pc.” That’s the kind of tragedy that lingers, especially for the player who remembers how much their Gnome character loved his wife.

An example of a fate worse than death, which is based more on the Dungeon Master error than on storytelling, is summed up in a short sentence: “Let them survive when they should have died.” Sometimes the death of a player-character is either the natural conclusion of a story or perfectly suited to a particular scenario. Failure to die can take the teeth out of an adventure, derail a character’s arc, and reduce players’ investments in general. Doing what may seem nice is perhaps a DM’s biggest mistake.

There are also many examples given of DMs who are just jerks, whether they are bad at their job or because they think it’s funny. Examples include “undermining” a Dungeons and Dragons motivation or personality trait of the player’s character, which makes a PC unable to control the volume of their voice, dominate wrongful decisions in the background, or determine the end of a character’s storyline without the player’s involvement. One particularly terrible decision by a DM is to use a player’s character as an NPC, at least without asking for approval first.

Many answers to the question ultimately boiled down to: Dungeons and Dragons players see a poorly executed game as worse than their character dying, which is completely understandable. But the ways a campaign can go wrong also reveals the ways it can go right. Communication and creativity are at the heart of any great Dungeons and Dragons decision, to the point where they can even make for great moments where a fate worse than death is just the right thing to do.

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