Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Everything shall be splintered

If my read of the OSR is right Trollsmyth's "Shields Shall Be Splintered" is one of the more popular houserules the scene has come up with in the past few years, though not everyone approves of it.  E.G. Palmer makes a case for broadening the basic concept, while over on Planet Algol people who show up after the session starts may end up being splintered.

I haven't used Trollsmyth's specific rule much, but the thinking behind it resonates with me. The basic concept behind the Shields Shall Be Splintered rule is dirt simple: instead of dying, you offer the DM a sacrifice of some sort.  A substitute.  A scapegoat for your sin of getting killed, if I want to be egomaniacal about it.  Blood for the blood god lurking behind the screen.  Whether that means your precious magic sword just broke blocking the deadly blow or you pushed your shield carrier in front of the monster matters little to me, as long it has actual value to the player and the escape is at least slightly plausible.

Thinking about this leads me to one of the key reasons some players in my groups tend to always end up with the highest level characters.  Some players take "You are dead" as a reason to immediately crumple up the old charsheet and reach for a fresh one.  I respect that.  But the canny players see the declaration of their demise as a challenge, the opening salvo in a high stakes negotation.  I won't stand for outright bickering with the DM, but I'll gladly listen to brief argument outlining special circumstances I might have overlooked.  And I love any clever excuse to give a PC one last die roll to save their necks.

So next time your DM tells you that your PC is dead take a quick mental survey.  Is there anything, anything at all that could save your PC?  Look over your equipment lists and magic items.  Double check your spell, class and racial abilities.  Think about clever ways to use those resources.  Find an NPC to take the fall.  Hell, suggest breaking the rules as you understand them.  For example, by the rules there's no way you could cast a Fly spell in the brief period it takes to fall 30' onto some poisonous spikes.  But why not try "I mumble the Words of Flight as fast as possible before I hit the bottom of the pit"?  Even if you only get a 1% chance of success out of the DM, you've at least turned death into a chance for life.