The idea basically is to have there be mechanical incentives to retire a character before they die.
I think my main initial inspiration was Blades in the Dark. A character got their final trauma box filled, and in Blades in the Dark, that means they retire. You can no longer play them. Their fate is determined by the amount of coin they have. In this particular game, it occurred to me that perhaps this was the best possible fate for this character: she left the cult before it was too late. In more OSR-ish games, a happy retirement is also probably the best possible outcome for a cahracter. Adventuring is dangerous, and tends to lead to an untimely and likely unpleasant death.
I'm also guessing I'm not the first to have this idea, I'd be interested in hearing if someone has done this before.
I have also been looking into how to make O/NSR games with more ties to the community. D&D has often been a very individualistic game. You have characters that often have no real family ties, no ties at all really, which facilitates them going wandering off wherever and putting themselves in danger. But in reality most people live more complicated lives than that. Even if you don't have a family, you grew up in a community. Even if you have a complicated relationship with that community, it's a relationship.
The actual idea
The idea is that you can retire your character to make your community stronger, which benefits future characters you might play. For instance, they might:
- Pick up a useful profession. Bring some useful skills you picked up in your travels back to the town.
- Provide mentorship and training for new characters. They can start out a little more skilled.
- Wisdom and experience. They've learned the wards to keep out the undead, and the rituals to placate the gods. These are resources future characters can use in-game.
- Take the resources they gained in adventuring and probably poured into adventuring gear and make something useful from them.
Maybe it's a whole thing where young people in the town go off and adventure and then come back and settle down.
This leads to a sort of interesting press-your-luck mini-game. Do you pull out your strongest character for One Last Job, or do you let them retire and make your town stronger?
Some thoughts on death
Maybe you can also do something with dead characters who have gained enough renown. You die doing something famous enough and you become a Legend. Maybe new characters can choose a Legend to emulate and from them gain courage, or the will to keep going, or something. Only the dead can truly become heroes, because then they can never disappoint you.
Or maybe, for an adventuring party, the manner in which a character dies has important in-game social impact. A death is a big deal. People remember how someone dies, and those stories get repeated more than any other. Do you die honorably or bravely? Do you die as a consequence of a bad decision - recklessness, greed, in the commission of a crime? This gives your group a reputation.
Written February 21 2023