Save-or-die is one of those subjects which brings out ardent partisans for and against its inclusion in roleplaying games. Some gamers like the frisson of imminent danger that save-or-die brings to actual play. Others object to save-or-die for a variety of reasons, from attachment to their characters to the continuity of the adventure to the chore of making new characters in complex games to being sidelined during the game to the idea that death should only occur when it's suitably dramatic or when the player decides it's okay.
Another of the objections I read pretty routinely is that it encourages disposable characters. Why become invested in a character, goes the argument, if she can die on an unlucky roll?
For me, the answer is uncertainty. Maybe my character is Rob Roy, or maybe he's Alasdair MacGregor - I don't know which he may turn out to be at the outset, but either one is fun to play and harbors the same potential for success, whether or not that potential is realized in the campaign.
I was reminded of this the other day when reading Amanda's post at Drama, Dice, and Damsons on the end of her run as Maria in Twelfth Night. Amanda has this to say about the close of a show.
I won't miss it, but I will enjoy the memory.Amanda's perspective on a role and a show closely mirrors my own with respect to roleplaying games. I played a fighting man in an OD&D one-shot last March, and I was bummed when he got punked by a giant spider on a failed save against poison about an hour into the game. I liked Sir Guilbert de Roncevalles, le Dragon d'Aragonne; sure, he was a preening, arrogant git, but at the same time he was noble and courageous, and ultimately a bit foolhardy. For his short time in the gaming 'verse, he was fun to play, and I was sorry to lose him.
The business of not missing a part or a play is important. I spent far too many years being devastated by the ends of shows and finally schooled myself to let go. This, I may add, was a huge improvement on the month- long grieving period I used to find myself indulging in. Now I can put it down at once, smile or wince at the memories and move on.
None of that prevented me from immediately taking over his squire, Jacques, as my new first-level character and playing on from there.
Being disappointed is fine; letting disappointment become a show-stopper, on the other hand, well, that can be a real problem.
I play my characters to the hilt, with the full expectation that any one of them can rise to greatness. And sometimes they achieve that greatness, and sometimes they get shot by a sneaky fusilier with a pistol, and it's all good. I smile, or wince, and reach for a blank character sheet.