So, the other day, I got to thinking: What if death wasn't necessarily the absolute end of a character?
Anyone who has read my columns or perused the Top MUD Sites roleplaying forum with any regularity or who has participated at OtherSpace should know I have always considered death to be a necessary consequence for characters in a roleplaying environment.
That hasn't changed.
But part of the kill 'em/don't-kill-'em debate boils down to one fairly simple premise: Players who invest a great deal of effort into their characters suffer when a character is killed, regardless of whether it's because of a black hole, an assassin's pulse blast or their own foolish actions.
For the past three years, I've pushed the "dead is dead" philosophy. If you lost a character, he/she/it got erased from the database. End of story. Go re-app.
Then I came up with the idea of a +luckroll - those who save their experience points earned through roleplaying can invest those points in the RP version of a Hail Mary pass - a deus ex machina circumstance that lets a character evade death one time during an RP session. A character could effectively make their own luck.
That has been a very useful tool in putting life or death more into the hands of the players, and has taken some of the sting out of having to kill off a character.
Still, when good (and when I say good, I mean interesting and complex) characters die, it can have a profound effect on the player, the staff, and the MU** as a whole. The player is abruptly deprived of a character they've come to enjoy - as are the players who enjoyed interacted with them. And what about consequences for the assassin who thinks he got away with murder?
What if death became something other than the sudden roaring silence of a character's extinguishment?
What if it became just another RP opportunity?
With that in mind, I created the Realm of the Dead: An afterlife for characters who earn a place in the Great Beyond.
Did I say "earn?" Yes.
Is it possible that even after dying, a character still might be lost forever? Yes.
Stealing an idea from Albert Brooks' "Defending Your Life," OtherSpace characters now go to a middle ground between the Realm of the Living and the Realm of the Dead, where they must face a gatekeeper and state their justifications for passing into the next level.
Even after death, actions should have consequences.
If they fail, they are gone for good.
If they succeed in persuading the gatekeeper, not through combat or a test of skills, but through *really good RP*, then they will continue to exist beyond the grave.
Characters in the OtherSpace afterlife can interact with each other and, in some limited fashion, will occasionally be able to interact with the Realm of the Living. It might be possible, for example, to haunt the person who killed you, or communicate with the living through a medium.
By making death just another "world," we create demand for new character types such as ghost hunters, theologists and paranormal investigators.
The experiment has just started, but I have great expectations for it. Stay tuned!
Brody (Wes Platt) is the creator and chief storyteller at OtherSpace MUSH. He has been MUSHing for about six years (four as a player and two as the top staffer at OtherSpace). Although he is part of the OS staff, Brody continues to stay involved in roleplaying - he can often be found playing a variety of characters from his RP repertoire at OtherSpace. He's also responsible for the OS website (www.otherspace.org), news updates, the OtherSpace Observer Monthly E-Zine (www.otherspace.org/osob.htm), Yahoo mailing list, RP log archives, and OtherSpace Originals MU** Library (www.otherspace.org/osorlib.htm) and Online Escapes MU** List (www.online-escapes.com). Additionally, he moderates the Roleplaying forum at Top Mud Sites. Besides that, he has written "The Stolen Warriors" serialized novel based on the original OS story arc, the first book in a planned trilogy. Send email to him at email@example.com. You can visit the MUSH at otherspace.org:1790.