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Episode 1897: Don’t Let the Sand Go Down on Me


Back in the early days of roleplaying games, starting characters were notoriously fragile. A single hit from an orc or a goblin could easily kill a first level D&D magic user or thief, and possibly even a cleric or fighter.

Starting characters died a lot, and life was cheap. You'd have to create a bunch of first level characters and send them into the starting adventure one after the other as each one died in sequence, until miraculously one of them survived to gain a level and some more hit points, and be a little tougher to kill. And then you stood a better chance of having them survive to third level, and eventually you'd have a character who had an actual adventuring career.

Modern games generally make it more difficult for PCs to die. One side effect of this is that players might not be as prepared to take PC death in their stride.

But there are some modern games deliberately designed with a retro style, for example Dungeon Crawl Classics, which has the concept of a "zero-level funnel". This is a beginning scenario in which players must create several characters each, all of them budding heroes keen to go on their very first adventure. The monsters and traps in the scenario are designed to kill a large fraction of the heroes who tackle the adventure, leaving only the strongest (and luckiest) to graduate to becoming a first level PC, who would then be expected to have a better chance of surviving subsequent adventures. Not only does this give the game an old-fashioned feel, it also gets players more used to the idea of their characters dying, so it may not seem so bad later on.

Commentary by Keybounce (who has not seen the movie)

ROFL. Called it?

So we've got a big kaboom, a callback to four deaths in four sessions, and a "no one can possibly survive that!" scene.

Clearly, though, what we have is Poe's quick thinking: Since he was about to be buried, he figured the only way to get out alive was to make a big explosion and ride the shockwave up to the top on some sort of makeshift shield. Which we'll find in the next comic, and that shield—whatever it was that kept him alive from a massive engine explosion blast to get him up to the surface—will undoubtably be critically important later on.

After all, when has this series ever not used all the Chekhov's guns it leaves around? I mean, advanced genetics, cloning, shape shifters, disguise nets, ultra-fast reaction times, super-tall buildings that don't collapse under their own weight, massive power generators for lasers that allow something the size of a small moon to be that powerful, ghosts able to interact with the living, super-luminal thought transmission via the Force, massive battle -droid armies that can only be defeated by no-longer-present Jedi armies, floating cities to provide plenty of living space to eliminate crowded slums, ... I must have missed something, right?

Possible title: One Again, Into the Beach.

Commentary by memnarch (who has not seen the movie)

Oh dear. So much for the idea that Poe might crawl up out of the sand gasping for breath or something. Only hope now is that we haven't seen the body, which is usually good odds of survival in fiction. I can't think why Poe might have left his jacket behind though, so that's definitely a strike against that narrative trope.

Hmm, I think this might be the third player character death Corey has experienced, assuming no surprise Poe later. First was Obi-Wan, second was Darth Vader. And this one was a lot more sudden, which is probably not a pleasant feeling. Games, tabletop or videogame, usually have a sense of fairness built in where players can avoid failure or death. Even when the dice seem to be always against success, that still feels better than fiated failure. I hope Corey takes this well.


GM: The fighter is dragged completely under the sand.
Finn: Poe! Poe! How am I going to get him out??
GM: <roll>... An explosion geysers scalding hot sand into the air.
[SFX]: Kaboom!
Rey: The real question is: How are you going to get his pieces back together?
BB-8: So that’s it? Jim’s character is dead?!
General Hux: Just like old times.
Rey: Not quite. He still needs another three or four deaths.

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Published: Sunday, 27 September, 2020; 03:11:18 PDT.
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