[RPG] Handling a dead PC in D&D 5e Starter Kit adventure


I'm trying to introduce roleplaying to a few younger members of my family. I figured that the D&D 5e starter kit would be the best place to start.

A couple of sessions into The Lost Mine of Phandelver and I'm already faced with my first PC death at the hands (or paws) of a couple of wolves. This is my first experience with being a GM and with the DnD ruleset.

The party was made up of four characters (two fighters, a cleric and a rogue) and they were facing three wolves, two of which were still tied up. The first wolf managed to break its chain and had the highest initiative and so took the first attack at the rogue. The rogue was only 1 or 2 hit points below his maximum, however the wolfs attack roll took the rest of his hit points. Once the rest of the party had a chance to act, they made quick work of the wolf.

Is combat usually this brutal for a first level party? I have not modified anything from the stats provided in the rule book. Are there any suggestions on 'house rules' I can apply so that characters do not die from the standard encounters or is this expected and the player will just need to reappear sometime later in the adventure with an eerily similar character (since there are no rules for character generation in the starter kit)?

Please note that I am aware I can fluff my way in to bringing a character back to life via a number of different methods, but I would rather not be in that situation in the first place, especially for such a minor encounter compared to the rest of the adventure.

Best Answer

D&D 5e is not as lethal as you think. The rules on dropping to 0 hit points are on page 13 of the Starter Set rulebook. I won't write them all out here, but I'll summarise the important points:

  • When you drop to 0 hit points, you're not dead yet.
  • Every time you begin your turn with 0 hit points, you make a death saving throw, which is a d20 roll with no modifiers. A 10 or higher is a success, and a 9 or lower is a failure.
  • After 3 successes, you are stabilized, and will be ok as long as you're left alone for an hour. It takes 3 failures for you to actually die.
  • Perhaps most importantly, during this time your allies are free to save your life, either by magically healing you or by using a Medicine check to stabilize you.

So, given that you said the rest of the party made short work of the wolves, they would almost certainly have saved the rogue's life without difficulty. Under the circumstances, it's probably appropriate to retcon that to say that he didn't actually die, since he wouldn't have if it weren't for your mistake.

In general, as long as you don't give your players harder encounters than they are capable of defeating, it's quite difficult for a player to die unless they make bad choices and their party doesn't try to save them.