Last Breath

  • 24 Replies
Last Breath
« on: February 20, 2012, 02:26:58 AM »
I think Last Breath works great for one-shots or short campaigns, but I think there's a little bit of an issue with it as written for long-term play.

7-9, statistically, is the outcome that is most likely to come up since there's now +stat to the roll.  This means that most people who have to take this move are going to get a bargain with Death.

In the short term, I love it. Great flavor. Great consequences. Just a really cool idea. In a more long-terms game, where Death will be making deals time after time after time I see two ways to approach it.

1) Death: The Master Manipulator - With PCs likely having multiple deals with Death, you can't just fall back on the whole alignment change option time after time.  You have to start having Death make deals that either cause the PC to keep giving up pieces of himself (boring after the first time) or basically give out quests. If you fully embrace the latter, you have to dismiss that Death itself is impartial and instead has an active influence in the world. This line of thought can lead to some really cool events in play, I think, when you start to imagine the repercussions, but it isn't normally how we think of Death. Just think of the awesomeness that could spawn from the PCs being forced to become Death's hand in the world each time they die.

2) Death: The Flux - Each time you get the bargain result you make a deal that changes something on your character sheet. Alignment. Stats. Whatever.  As mentioned above, this is something cool in the short term that would end up suffering as it came up, time and again, in the long term.  It gets old.

My point is that I think there needs to be some other option for Last Breath for campaign play. Making continual deals with Death, if you don't go the route of #1 up there, will eventually get trite...which it should never be.  I'm in favor of there being a more mundane 7-9 option for Last Breath for games that plan to go the long haul. 

What do you think?



  • 777
Re: Last Breath
« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2012, 04:33:55 AM »
I like your ideas Lucias. I haven't had much Defying Death -  Last Breath rolls in our games though. Maybe the players (who have had no experience with 4e) are more conservative? When they get down to a few HP, they always want to retreat and recuperate.

But yeah, for groups who like to throw themselves into the fray week after week, someone is bound to re-encounter the Last Breath conundrum.



  • 17
Re: Last Breath
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2012, 07:06:53 AM »
In my games Last Breath don't result in dealing directly with Death impersonated, but rather some extraplanar forces - depending on the adventure - that are in some way connected to Death. For example, specific ghost, death goddess or in my "The Goblin Hole" (based on the starter by Marshall Miller) it was collective consciousness of cavern rabbits.  :)

This way each bargain with Death is a separate thing, related to the current adventure. Multiple deals are not a problem because they most likely are concerned with very different issues.

Re: Last Breath
« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2012, 07:52:31 AM »
For more options with Death.  When you are about to die and are not ready for the afterlife offer something to Death (or whatever other forces you may have that influence this sort of thing).  This must be something valuable to you.  GM and other players are welcome to call BS if you offer something inconsequential. 

10+ Death accepts your offer, take +2 Forward on your Last Breath move
7-9  Death wants more and takes something else, make your Last Breath at +1

Re: Last Breath
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2012, 10:57:11 AM »
If the player is rolling for last breath after doing something epic, consider The Walking Dead.  

Thinking of craps,

When death knocks at your door a second time and you roll a 7-9, this time it's double or nothing.  Roll again.

DW design is generally against multiple roles for the same thing but it makes the exceptions all the more powerful.
« Last Edit: February 20, 2012, 11:54:26 AM by mease19 »

Re: Last Breath
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2012, 11:19:27 AM »
I've only played as I'm trying to get my Dungeon World Fu up to snuff. I think that when I do run a game, I won't do Last Breath. I'd rather just let the player choose whether he or she is actually dead or just knocked unconscious for the rest of the scene (or until healed).

Death is rarely interesting. When the rolls indicate someone does die, I think the player (or the group if it's a true shared storytelling moment) should be empowered to look at the situation, determine if he or she wants the character to go out that way, and then make the call. Being able to choose the level of epic in your death is a fantasy trope I'd like to play up, rather than leave it to the dice (and possibly wonky results). Nobody's going to remember the time their character died to a goblin's arrow. They will remember being swallowed whole by a red dragon or being utterly destroyed by a sphere of annihilation. That feels more true to the genre to me.

Re: Last Breath
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2012, 11:52:41 AM »
But they will remember that time with their friends, huddled over the table, dead silent, waiting to see the outcome of last breath's single unmodified roll!

As a counterpoint, I'd say that combat in RPGs is a lot like poker - if you're not playing for money its not the same game.  If you're not playing for HP, with death on the line, then you're playing a very different type of game from old school D&D.  

Furthermore, in DW, you play to find out what happens.  Taking death off the line seems counter to that cornerstone of DW play.  If it happens, it happens.  You can make bringing them back from the dead a campaign goal, players could go to the realm of the dead looking for their comrade, you could use The Walking Dead mini-class.  Also consider:

One Foot in the Grave
When you take your last breath and no one is there to witness it, on a miss, hold 1.  Holds can be spent, 1 for 1, to:
-Bring your dying character back into play at a crucial moment
-Bring your corpse into back into play at a crucial moment
-Bring word of your death back into play at a crucial moment

Re: Last Breath
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2012, 12:02:54 PM »
Furthermore, in DW, you play to find out what happens.  Taking death off the line seems counter to that cornerstone of DW play.  If it happens, it happens.

That's a fair point that I hadn't considered. I'll rethink my position. I'm not in love with Last Breath though. It needs... I don't know... something. Maybe once I've played more, I'll have some better ideas.

Re: Last Breath
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2012, 12:48:12 PM »
There are potentially plenty of second-chance-granters other than "Death," though. This past weekend, f'rinstance, we had second-chance bargains offered by Graz'zt the Demon Prince and Blackrazor.



  • 330
Re: Last Breath
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2012, 04:59:17 PM »
Yeah, what Mike said.

After our Barb sold her soul to Death for ritual sacrifice into perpetuity (More skulls for the skull throne!) I wrote her this GM love-letter:

You're death-contract with was recently acquired by the Raven Queen, for a price only comprehensable to gods. The terms seem laxer but broader in scope. Write down “Debt: My Soul, to the Raven Queen.

Please kindly roll two six-sided dice. On a 10+, pick one. On a 7-9, pick two. On a miss, I'll pick three for you.

• You murdered a sexton at in a neighbouring church. There's currently a price on your head.
• The Raven Queen has marked you with leucism; you've taken to wearing a veil to prevent sunburn.
• The Contract now includes service, in addition to sacrifice.
• You have to take an additional taboo to appease your ancestors.
• The ancestral spirits have abandoned you, lose Shamanism, but gain Haunted.

Love and Kisses,
Your GM

She missed the roll, became Haunted, marked and cast out by her family-spirits. She seems to be turning into a sort of wyrd bloodthirsty acolyte of death. Much fun for all.

The Last Breath thing allows you as a GM renegotiate the terms of the characters existence. Make it interesting.



  • 777
Re: Last Breath
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2012, 05:20:36 PM »
Nathan, that is GOLD. There needs to be section on advanced Delving in the rulebook that deals with writing Letters from the GM. This is one such example of how awesome (and completely tied to your specific DW) they can be!



  • 549
Re: Last Breath
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2012, 06:21:52 PM »
Like Marshall/mease points out, there's a reason for it being that way.

That said, with the new Party rules and hirelings we're adding easier ways to bring a backup character into play.

We've considered some PC insurance. Something like:

When you would otherwise make a Last Breath roll, you can instead take an injury appropriate to your circumstances (adjust modifier based on new score) to stabalize at 0 HP:
-If the injury is something that just isn't right deep inside, -2 Constitution
-If the injury reduces your mobility, -2 Dexterity
-If the injury weakens you, -2 Strength
-If the injury impairs your senses, -2 Wisdom
-If the injury clouds your thoughts, -2 Intelligence
-If the injury hampers communication, -2 Charisma

And yes, you can even take the same one more than once, though your character will eventually be hopeless. At least you can see the downward slide and get a new idea ready.

The reason this isn't a core rule in some form is that it felt too gritty for the game. We just didn't think that D&D characters should be so burdened down by their past wounds. That said it's a pretty workable rule.

Re: Last Breath
« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2012, 06:34:13 PM »
Those injuries sound really painful.  I bet a healing potion wouldn't help, would it.  I wonder where you'd have to go and what you'd have to give them to heal that type of injury?

I bet a death could cut you a deal to heal that kind of injury, I wonder how one gets that kind of audience?



  • 330
Re: Last Breath
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2012, 07:20:53 PM »
So, like, Joe does this thing in MH's where he just strait quotes the goods from AW. MH, DW and AW are all very different games, but they share a lot too. With some rigorous thought, principles and rules can be imported between the three (not all or just anything, mind you). I don't think DW needs a section on Love-Letters but when I GM DW, I write Love-Letters.

All the good stuff about custom moves is in AW - I mean, how do you think DW came into being?

Re: Last Breath
« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2012, 07:47:37 PM »
Those injuries sound really painful.

On the contrary, you could hit your 15 your 11 and your 8 stat the first three times you "died" and feel zero mechanical effect to any of your modifiers.

Not saying that as an argument for or against a rule like that, but simply to clarify what it is doing.