[RPG] Giving a mechanical penalty to traumatized character


I'm currently DMing a campaign with a time loop, and to keep players from charging around willy nilly I'm going to implement penalties for getting themselves killed in awful ways. In our last session they made some poor decisions and the group's wizard burned to death, which I feel would be traumatizing enough to affect the character.

I've been trying to figure out a good way to manifest this as a mechanical penalty as my players are new and don't fully play in character. I also don't want to nail them too hard as this will be their first introduction to the fact that dying still affects them.

Ideas I've had:

  • Cut back on the character's ability to use fire spells

  • Will checks (wisdom saving throws?) to prevent panic when taking fire

  • Disadvantage when making skill checks involving fire

That's about it, I'm just looking for feedback or if anyone has any better ideas on handling this situation. I will definitely be pushing the player to accept their new fear of fire, but I'm afraid they're going to end up ignoring it.

Best Answer

This is a bit of a frame change, but if you want this to be an interesting and fun part of the character and the game, I wouldn't actually use a mechanical penalty for it. Instead, I would take an idea from the game Fate.

They have something called a "Compel", which basically says that if your character is known to be bad at / vulnerable to something and the player decides to roll with it and let it hurt him, they actually get a bonus for it.

And D&D actually already has a mechanic that is a little similar... Inspiration.

I would ask the player if they'd enjoy roleplaying being traumatized by burning to death, and then tell them that every time they roleplay the trauma in a way that hurts them, they'll get Inspiration to compensate.

It'll be a much more fun experience to actually see the player roleplay being traumatized and look for chances to show how the burning death affected them, then it will be to see the player desperately avoid trying to roleplay being traumatized because it will just hurt them twice (once in their choice of action and once in their mechanical penalty).

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