Last month I wrote a four part series called Imperishable Fame that outlined some thoughts I had for a campaign set in mythical pseudo-historical Indo-European times. Last week I got an email from Gameblog reader Nick reminding me that I hadn't quite finished saying everything I wanted to say. Particularly, I want to talk about Death and Remembrance.
I like a pretty high body count in my RPGs. Not out of some sense of sadistic glee at killing PCs, but because the threat of death around every corner keeps the suspense taut even in the kind of silly game I run. To avoid overly bumming people out with constant grim reapering, I tend to try to keep character generation as fast as possible (though I am holding back a radical idea or two about how to make chargen even faster, but that's another post for another day) and when in doubt I tend to give the PCs the opportunity to wriggle their way out of a tight spot. Or at least I give them a 2 in 6 chance of their cockamamie scheme working.
But one side effect of going through so many PCs plue fast chargen is that folks can become extremely blasé about the party dead. "Oh, you're dead? Got any good stuff?" Is the prevailing attitude. Though I must grant that last run my party showed some proper respect for dead NPCs. Down in the dungeons under Verbosh they found the corpse of a knight and his henchman. They brought the bodies back up to the surface and gave them proper burials. At least the burials were proper if those dead guys were worshippers of Tyr. Still, they tried.
In my draft Cinder house rules PCs can score XP by giving their dead big showy heroic send-offs. At the time I introduced that rule no one seemed interested. Carousing is a much more upbeat way to score some extra experience points. For Imperishable Fame part of me wants to replace the carrot with the stick, changing the rule to a penalty. "No XP can be scored until all your dead companions are properly buried." Something like that. Burying the dead isn't a happy occassion for scoring points, but a moral obligation the glaunting of which blocks personal development.
That's the Death part. As far as Remembrance goes, here's my rough thoughts on Remembrance. When your PC is properly buried or retired from play, roll 1d20. If you get under your character level (perhaps modified by heroic deeds, bards singing your fame in your lifetime, etc.) then your PC has become one of the Heroes of Myth. Since fame is a fickle thing, you'd then roll on a chart something like this:
Imperishable Fame Results (d20)
1) A single passing reference in an epic poem.
2) Minor references in multiple epics.
3) Protagonist of an epic poem.
4) Protagonist of an epic poem, but it's a lost work and you're only known via secondary sources.
5) Local hero-cult at your tomb or some other place relevant to your deeds.
6) Widespread Hercules-type hero-cult with multiple tombs and home towns.
7) Annual festival to honor your deeds.
8) Remembered in wildly inaccurate and contradictory tall tales by the campfire.
9) Remembered as the central figure/founder of a mystery cult or secret society
10) Constellation renamed after you
11) Planet renamed after you
12) Remembered as founder of a dynasty
13) Remembered as legendary parent of an entire tribe or people
14) Remembered as legendary founder of a city
15) Your earthly deeds are distorted and/or forgotten, but future generations count you among the high gods.
16) Your legend is eventually re-purposed as the life of a local saint
17) Centuries later you are the subject of a great artist's masterpiece
18) Demographic and political shifts result in you being re-cast as a bogey-man or demon
19) Taken up as hero of the people by an oppressed underclass
20) Get your own comic book like Kirby's Thor
The list of heroes would be remembered by displaying it as one of the panels on my super-rad custom Gm screen, as a real, permanent tribute.