I’ve been playing modded Skyrim again recently, so it’s reminded me about something that irks me in video games. It’s easy in Skyrim to get suddenly overwhelmed by enemies and swiftly killed… and then the game loads the last save and you start over. The worst things that can happen are:
- forgetting to save for a long while and losing a lot of progress,
- getting killed so close to your last save point that you get stuck in a “death loop” and have to abandon that save, rolling back to a previous save.
Sometimes, it’s even better to die in a couple situations to gather information about coming dangers. All of this can break immersion, if that’s what you’re looking for in your game experience. Dying really doesn’t matter.
Which brings us to a point many OSR bloggers have made before: dying has to matter in old-school games. This is why there’s so much pushback against “fixes” like negative hit points, healing surges, or eliminating save or die situations. There’s certainly room for discussing proper GM practice, or giving players a few more options to avoid instant murder. And honestly, old school play isn’t really more deadly than other RPGs, as long as you play smart. But the general feeling among the members of the OSR community is that play should be thoughtful and cautious, and death should be a constant threat. Remove too much of the threat and you turn the game into a meaningless adventure simulator.