Has a gamer heard any words more sweet than those? And now that I’m writing in worlds that are governed by the mechanics of games, the way death is dealt with is at the very core of everything.
And I do mean everything…
As anyone who knows anything will tell you, if death doesn’t bring with it some inconvenience, than it really isn’t doing its job.
Most games will punish you for daring to die by taking away your time. If you want pick that herb or get back to that sniper position so that you can resume picking off the enemy’s flankers, well, you’re going to have to run back there. You might even stare at a countdown screen for a while as you wait for the chance to even start your corpse run.
Once you do, it may be thirty seconds or five minutes. However much time the game steals, it’s gone for good.
But in litrpg, there’s a bigger issue at stake. I can’t take your fun away, at least not if I want you to keep reading. The main characters have to actively prevent their own death (although now I just want to make myself a liar and write a book about a guy who Leroy Jenkinses his way through a game…) or the whole thing become a joke.
And, while I might like reading the funny litrpgs out there, I haven’t been (yet) moved to write one.
So, there’s the issue. The characters have to do what they can to avoid their death whilst in the game without being immortal. There has to be a constant threat of something. This mysterious other threat is why some games let the corpses of players who die in Player vs. Player combat be looted. You thought you were a badass with all of that gear? Good. Well, now it’s gone. What are you going to do about it?
Of course, that just means that there are a lot of PvPers who aren’t wearing their best stuff when they gank you…
I don’t really want to read about main characters who go backwards, at least not unless they have an interesting way of regaining the lost ground without making me relive it with them. I certainly don’t want to watch the same enemy beat the poor schmuck we’re supposed to be rooting for into the ground a few times in a row.
Fortunately, there a lot of ways to play with this. And I just know, before I even type them out, that I’m going to do something stupid like find a way to work each of them into a book or two.
1.Death is merely a stumbling block – Sure, it sucks that you died, but gather your strength, drink your potions, swap your gear around and try again.
2.Death is something to be feared – Now that you’re dead, you’re going to lose something. And you won’t be getting it back…
3.Death is permanent – Too bad, so sad. Time to try again, but as a different character. Hope your friends are patient, because you won’t be going on that raid any time soon. You have a bunch of rats to kill, and then you have to learn how to make leather scraps from their hide. Not only are your skills gone, but you aren’t even the same character you were.
Anyway, this career is a sort of respawn for me, so let’s keep the corpse runs to a minimum and get cracking, shall we?
What do you guys think? How best should death be dealt with, in a field of literature based around games?