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(i didn't put the word in the title because i'm aware this subject can be potentially triggering for some users)

[TW] please, do not continue if the topic of death makes you uncomfortable; i'll be talking about it quite a bit in this thread.

what is your opinion on death in roleplay? more specifically: realism and death in roleplay.

a lot of roleplayers i've ran into, in the past, didn't apply much weight at all to death. their characters killed whoever they wanted and not much else was said about the victim or the victim's family. death just wasn't 'a big deal' in their personal world. it never really bothered me when my RP partners skimmed past an untimely end or played their character in an 'uncaring about killing' way... [TW] until i experienced the loss of a loved one in adulthood. i found myself 'put off' by characters who didn't seem to care where they were swinging their sword or the person behind the character didn't really put much weight behind it. i'm aware of the reason WHY my opinion shifted and i'm aware it became a little more personal for me in the months following those events... (please do not comment things like 'sorry for your loss', it'll make me uncomfortable)

but, i'm curious. how do you handle this topic in your own RPs? do you not touch on it at all or do you have some sort of personal moral code when it comes to the end of an NPC or OC? are NPCs simply fodder for your OC to look more evil/cool?

personally, i believe the death of a character should be 'saved' in the back of your RPer arsenal for a hard hitting moment and not overused. (but only if your partner is personally okay with this being on-scene. you should always ask about boundaries!)

i know this topic can get PRETTY heavy so i'd like it if a mod reached out to me if this isn't an okay thing to discuss openly... and also, if it is okay to discuss it, that users navigate it in a respectful and lighthearted way. nothing too detailed or heavy, please.

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I was in the same field, up until my grandfather passed away death just felt like this abstract idea, now it’s a very real pain. I’ve stopped making characters and situations so open to just kill people mindlessly, I still have time to time killed someone, but it never was just as simple as that. As much as I love video games I think that they have made us forget the narrative possibilities of death, anyone that isn’t the main character is just another addition to the shooting gallery. People think little of how killing will effect their character, effect others. That random NPC you offed may have a son who is gonna want to hunt you down, maybe your character shouldn’t be a psycho and just be chill with killing, maybe they are psycho and that needs to be explored. Death shouldn’t be handled with such disregard to its nature. I get not everyone wants to write that, some rps probably wouldn’t work thematically like that. But death is often not considered as a effective writing tool to truly bring out the humanity in your writing.

In fact one of my characters, Morgan, is fundamentally broken because of her being a product of war, someone born to kill. In her stories she has, and will kill but it’s never treated as something that is funny, cool, or heroic. There is never any excuse, no self defense or just cause, every time she kills someone I end the sentence with, “and another tally is added to feed the machine that created her, yet again revoking the soul she doesn’t deserve.”

I am inspired a lot by a game series I don’t think many people play anymore, Metal Gear. Those games often make you face the uncomfortable reality of all the death you bring, especially because in most games there is a choice to kill, and a choice to not. And it isn’t some stupid morality system, good ending bad ending, no when you slide a knife across someone’s neck it simply shows a very grotesque, horrifyingly realistic death, a harsh music motif plays, and you’re just left with that feeling of “ohhh gosh” but that feeling becomes easier the more you do it unless you’re like me and just hate watching it lol. In MGS3 one of the bosses literally makes you haunted with the ghosts of those you killed, every enemy they comes at you is a ghostly depiction of a enemy you murdered, if you played passively the boss fight is a cake walk, if you went on a rampage he is near impossible.

In MGSV there is a moment in the game where a virus breaks out across your base, and the only way to contain it is to put down the soldiers infected by it in the medical bay. In this game you build a army, each soldier isn’t just a random NPC it’s people you recruited, people you’re tasked to take care of. This scene isn’t done in a cutscene or brushed away, it makes you walk through the medical bay and kill your soldiers. They arnt acting like zombies, they are sitting there, either begging for their lives, or just accepting their fate. The game literally holds a mirror up to you in this moment saying, “what the hell is the problem? You’ve been killing people this whole time what’s the difference here? Just because their in your uniform?” The game up till that moment has been your typical fun heroic adventure, but after that Snake starts to break, his entire army folds in on itself having no one to fight anymore but themselves, they dissolve into husks as they start to battle a endless and confusing war with no end in sight only prolonging this fighting because it’s the only thing they gives them any reason to exist at this point. You can even go the entire game being passive but that moment still happens, you still kill innocent people, you still become a demon, because the only way to win in these sort of things is to just not even try at all.

I am freaking rambling st this point, look I like Metal Gear, you can kill people in the games but the games will not pat you on the back for it, there are clear messages in play in regards to the murders you commit and it’s not afraid to make you uncomfortable. If you’re going to have themes of death or killing in your story, you should at least try to have hints of this, because fiction is a gateway to better understanding who we are, and if you abuse it to the point of no longer understanding what death means, then it might become who you are
I am a "full consequences" player and GM. If someone shoots my character in the head, the character will die. If someone kills a random NPC, there will be repercussions that may not be immediately apparent. If someone kills a guard in a settlement, there will be be extreme consequences the characters will have to deal with because you don't just walk into town and start killing people. I've killed off important side characters, characters that my partner has grown very attached to, hell, I've even killed main characters before. One of my current RPs is intended to end with the main character dying.

This is something that I think a lot of people have a hard time taking seriously because death is just so normalized in literature and media. Games make your character out to be a killing machine that executes indiscriminately and faces no consequences. Not once does said character stop to think about the impact they're having on other people's lives by showing up and shooting everyone in the face. I seem to see this a lot more in younger writers who have a penchant for wanting to write macho men who LIVE FOR THE HUNT, RIP AND TEAAAR and take pride in being a sadistic serial killer. Can't exactly fault them for it, since there's so many games catering to fulfilling that exact archetype out there.

It took me a long time to get accustomed to attaching actual consequences to death. Ekaterina struggles to find the difference between killing humankind and killing animal prey, because to her, the line has long since been blurred. Other characters view her as an asshole or even a straight up monster because of this, but she can't understand why it's bad since it's so normalized to her. Kill or be killed. Venus has to rationalize every violent act she takes as her not having any other choice. Dog eat dog world. I've actually had to write several scenes where she sort of has a mental breakdown because she's getting too used to killing people and had the realization that she just murdered someone without even thinking twice. Even more so for other characters who have never killed before. In the real world, that shit'll break someone.

...But I could go on for hours. In regard to how I handle the actual deed of killing a character off though, that largely just sorta depends on the scene. Not everyone needs a 3 hour long death montage where they see the light and flash through all the memories of their lives. Sometimes, the character is living one moment and then dead three sentences later. Grim, but realistic. Admittedly I've developed this as a habit of making people think twice before they do some stupidly dangerous stunt that would almost definitely get someone killed...I mean, come on. Average Joe running face-first into a swarm of oncoming assailants isn't going to pull a Rambo and beat them all with his bare fists. He's going to die in about 5 seconds, and it's almost certainly not going to be glorious. Pop. Oops. There goes his head. FATALITYYY.

Something about just bluntly killing someone off can really make their death hit that much harder, though. I'm sure we're all familiar with the overdone trope of a death scene being drawn on for way too long, and you eventually get to the point where you're like "ALRIGHT I GET IT JUST HURRY UP AND DIE ALREADY THIS CUTSCENE HAS GONE ON FOR FIVE MINUTES". Doing it suddenly can leave you with that sinking feeling as you reread the passage over and over again, realizing that yes, he's gone. He's not coming back. The danger is now real and fully realized. Nobody is immortal, nobody has plot armor, and everyone can die.

I should seriously shut up now. I've written like two mini essays just on RP related topics today alone.
I am so glad someone brought this up! It is something that I hadn't realized what my own stance was until I read these posts and considered where I stood. I pride myself on being "realistic" in my approach to stories, so for me to have overlooked something as vital as this subject was very eye-opening.

I think personally I have to agree with the majority of what has been said to this point. Death is a very serious subject and particularly more so when this intimate part of us (our characters) are behind the act. It should be treated with an appropriate level of gravity. I feel that one of the things that I most dislike personally about the "Edgy, dark, tough, cool" characters I see in looking for RP ads or in responses I get to my own is this attitude of them slaying enemies left and right. That they are almost always gods of death or demons of torment or *insert black clothes wearing archetype here*. I find it unattractive and unpleasant. Stories are vital to me and I tend to immerse myself in them fully. As such, when a character (even an NPC) dies I often have very visceral reactions. It sounds like some others here have had closer real life experience with death, so I won't pretend that I feel it as deeply as they do, but I do still feel it deeply for me.

When I went back over my existing characters with this topic freshly in mind, I found it interesting that for the most part I had subconsciously gone out of my way to either produce conflict without need to resort to death; or provided myself with "safe" enemies. Mindless monsters of pure evil, without family or friends or remorse for humanity. Enemies that could "safely" be disposed of.

I admit that even those "enemies" make me a little uncomfortable now. I don't want to become immune to the gravity of death. So I imagine that even in those settings my stories moving forward will look to explore different outcomes or have much more focus on the consequences of such action. So again I would really like to express how much I appreciate this topic being brought up!


XOXO
Cassie
I can be pretty inconsistent, I think.

I generally won't ever count deaths as meaningless or consequence-free (which has occasionally annoyed partners), but circumstances may reduce the visibility of the fallout, and there are times it's treated as a tool for plot or communicating something about a character (not necessarily murderous habits, either; it might be to show a severe negative reaction or something, too). I won't use it to make someone look "cool" - if I want to go for action-type "coolness," it's plenty to just pull off some neat moves or kick some butt (non-fatally), and I figure it's actually more impressive to subdue or overcome someone without killing or causing permanent damage.

Even my characters who are more likely to kill tend to still have some reason to be reluctant about it. Some just don't like to do it if they don't have to, both because it causes more problems and just feels bad, no matter how "used to it" they might be. My characters who are okay with killing are meant to be seen as bad people (or at least unable to comprehend that others, like, have feelings and stuff too) who should not be looked up to, and even they still generally recognize that indiscriminate murder would have consequences. Also, even when I have characters who are willing to or actively want to kill, and are not themselves hesitating to do so, I still prefer to usually find some way to prevent it. While I can understand that some may want to use fake death as a way of feeling more in control of something in their lives, I do personally believe that a death should be meaningful and should have an impact on the story, and there are times that things will come back to haunt people. And for the sake of perspective, I have characters who literally eat people (for differing reasons).

Some examples

As one example of someone who'd be expected to kill a lot, there's my criminal character The Black Orchid. She can be absolutely brutal, but she much prefers when she doesn't need to kill anyone. She'll threaten, evade, restrain, knock out, even cripple (in fact, in a game where she ended up with a son, there was a point where she told her own child that she would rather leave him with a significant permanent injury and hating her than to risk him dying or getting pulled into a criminal life himself), but she'll make the excuse that killing someone makes it more likely their associates will retaliate. The times she will most freely murder is in things like knowing who's behind some truly abhorrent crimes, and that will still add to her sense of being scum.

For another, very different example, I have a child character who I'd allowed to grow up a bit over the course of one RP, and the way she was being raised, the concept of death and especially of killing was becoming more and more distant. It wasn't that she was okay with them, just that they were becoming more unfathomable. She eventually snuck along on a task she wasn't supposed to, and so she wouldn't just be dead weight, was pulled into it after being caught. It lead up to a point where she had the opportunity to kill a man that she knew was causing a great deal of harm and was plenty willing to kill her - and she couldn't do it. She crumbled, someone else had to step in and get her out, and it took her a long time to recover from simply knowing she could have and was expected to kill someone.

Actually, I had another young character who was traumatized simply from seeing an animal be killed by other animals, and that experience left an impact on the rest of her life.

And at least one game I was in was actually focused around the concept of "just because you see someone as a criminal/sinner, that doesn't make it okay to kill them."

There are a lot of injuries and such that I tend to take pretty seriously, too (also mental health). My characters and the characters of some of my partners have not only acquired new scars, but have sometimes had to go through physical therapy or other long recovery processes. Probably one of the most severe (but also real-world-relatable) cases was actually with a partner's character; his dominant hand got crushed, and though little attention is brought to it anymore, recovery involved multiple surgeries, a long period of consistent, focused physical therapy, and the pins placed in his hand to help the bones heal in a more correct position are probably never going to be taken out. One of my characters also got to be the focus of a drug intervention/rehabilitation arc and is aware of ongoing observation for it.


It's a big part of why I struggle so much with comedic-focused or silly RP, actually. It's really hard for me to turn off the idea that actions have consequences.
Tar

I think I agree with most of what has been said so far! While I enjoy dramatic scenarios in my roleplay and have certainly killed off my fair share of supporting characters, I’ve never been comfortable treating their deaths as something of no consequence: they died because their death served a narrative purpose. While that purpose may be at times to bolster the image of a villain, the reality of their actions are not something I want glossed over. I introduce darker themes because I want to incite both character and audience by painting an ugly picture. I want the subject engaged with.

It’s okay for characters to treat death with indifference: this has meaning in how it colors our perceptions of them and is often a key feature of a villainous mindset. A wicked character callously taking the lives of others lets us know just how removed from morality they are. This is a tool I've used plentifully, but with it comes a desire for acknowledgement of the lives lost - otherwise it wouldn't even be effective.

However, it’s certainly uncomfortable for players to make excuses for the character and not acknowledge their wickedness or at least the weight of their actions, especially when accompanied with statements of disregard like 'it's just fiction' when the topic is breached. When we write we’re exploring our reality through a reflection of it. There’s nothing about fiction that’s truly fictional, we’re always making observations and commentary through our storytelling. In large part this is what roleplay is: exploring life through hypothetical experiences. In much the same way that most art is a conversation between audience and artist, roleplay is a conversation between players.

I think there are plenty of us who have a problem with how normalized some media has made the treatment of certain topics: including the killing of ‘non-player’ characters, which is why game titles that bring attention to the actions of who you’re playing (e.g. Undertale, Metal Gear, Mass Effect, Last of Us, etc.) tend to be notable in that regard. They've all inspired strong conversations relating to our relationships with media and what kind of responsibilities creators (and players) have.

I think it's important that players recognize the narratives they place on the table and how those reflect on their characters.

While NPC might be vital and even disposable tools from the perspective of a narrator, other characters treating them in the same way is failing to engage honestly. It’s frequent that the main character is the only one that truly matters, but I’d argue that such stories rarely come with compelling narratives. This is why games that do differently tend to be lauded for their storytelling: even if they don't always hit every note, there was an effort made to consider the interactions of those worlds at depth.

I would also consider myself a ‘full consequences’ player and believe that serious topics - death, torture, abuse, trauma, etc. - do need to be handled with care. These are real things that affect real people, but they're also important to discuss. They are entirely valid subjects of exploration, but their inclusion needs to carry some amount of weight. They need to be treated with ‘an appropriate level of gravity’, like fullmarvelalchemist said. That doesn’t mean they need to be treated delicately, just mindfully - even past tense or sidelined death should serve some purpose. It should tell us something meaningful about the characters or the world they live in. I find it pretty tasteless when violence is glorified for player gratification - don't think it turns gamers into shooters, but I do think it's pretty lazy and narratively dissatisfying.
natjust

I'm pretty much on the same page as most of what is being said here. I've always found on screen violence to be a bit much for me, I don't like excessive violence and gore it makes me sick to my stomach, I think I just have a lot of empathy.

That said I think I do have a slightly nuanced take to add to the discussion. I feel like while most the time I avoid killing characters or NPCs in rps in general, there are points where it makes sense in an RP and as long as you discuss it beforehand, it can add weight and gravitas to a situation.

It also depends on the character I am using. My main characters are all pretty good hearted Characters and tend towards doing the right things, bit even among them their views on life differ. Like Iggy is extremely pacifistic, he will fight, but he won't kill under any circumstances. Then I have Rydale, (who I need to put up) who will kill in self defense or for the better good of the majority, and has made bad mistakes that have killed people before and weigh on his mind.

Then there are Characters like Ronnie, a mafia robot crime lord, who it would be silly to never kill anyone at all with. I feel like where it differs from Characters intended to be bad and seen as bad, and the dark cloak lone wolf edgelords is intention and self awareness. I make an evil character knowing he is evil, he isn't supposed to be sympathized with or seen as super cool and edgy.

The problem I see a lot is people take "killing" in rp as short hand for being a bada##, or as a way to demonstrate their Character's crazy op abilities, without any self awareness or understanding. So, they come off looking like children whose "light saber is deadlier then your machine gun" and it's childish and kind of drops any and all of the actual understanding of death and it's levity.

I guess that's just a long way of saying, yeah killing NPCs in rp has its purpose, but it's people who lack experience or self awareness that kind of spoil the well for the rest of us.
The thread already has some solid replies. I think it's pretty normal to sour on mindless killing as life experience (and good stories) make you think twice, but I don't judge either way as it's no secret at this point most of our role models were awful.

I don't usually write hyperviolence because I don't think it's an interesting way for characters to solve problems. Sometimes I have it in backstories to see how well (or badly) they move on, and the best storywriting advice I ever got on this was to make consequences as external as possible. Since we're sharing, I once played an ex-raider in the Fallout universe trapped in such a cycle of violence: too battle-scarred to pass as a normal person, mistrusted everywhere he went, kept to the fringes of society where trouble always found him, solved it in ways that got him more battle scars, rinse and repeat. "He feels bad about killing" was a non-consequence next to the real ones (and RP hooks) that came about every time he wasn't brave enough to try and break the cycle.

Others may disagree and that's group RP for you. Since no two people will see eye-to-eye on what violent actions deserve which consequences, I just focus on being a fair storyteller and give plenty of narrative warning if my partner's/players' escalations are coming back to bite someone they care about. Sometimes it makes narrative sense for characters to die, but I'm not out to be a sadist or a victim mill for murderhobos. Real world's bad enough.
I can understand the viewpoints people are coming from. I've had a lot of loss especially in recently. But I tend to disconnect rw and rp/d&d. So How I feel about things rl don't really affect rp or other roleplay.

That being said I have always gone the route that killing has consequences (good (like with some villains) and bad depending on situation or both.) And many times the option for a different non-violent solution might give a better result.

I am a dm and I always have rewards and consequences in general. I've lost players who don't like consequences (and I mean for anything) from their actions but to me for every action there is a reaction (whether good or bad). I follow the same principle in rp.

I think some see it like it is just 'pretend' that no one is really dying, they don't exist. Then I think some people see rp how they would a video game.

In many video games the main character and group kill their way to victory. They may suffer loss but most games don't dwell on the after affects or how it hits the families, towns, world, etc. Especially when it's minions, soldiers, townsfolk (I mean you might get little nods to it but its dismissed fairly quickly never to come up again.) It's like red shirts from star trek or storm troopers from star wars or monsters in most things or unnamed characters in general. I see that in players all the time. One even told me. "But I'm the hero!" and had to tell them. "Hero's still experience repercussions for their actions to. Sorry tangent.

Anyways, I know though that sometimes that stuff can get to people or trigger certain feels/emotions or just make them uncomfortable and it is completely understandable. When rp partners have a lack of interest in other characters lives or ignore the gravity of killing/death in rp it can be off putting . I also know some people don't like considering the weight of character death or killing as they feel it downs their mood or enjoyment or just makes them uncomfortable and it could be for the same reasons some rw situation. And as others have similarly said I think the mindless death in what we watch/play has desensitized many.
OwlGryphon Topic Starter

i would just like to sit down and thank everyone who has responded to my inquiry so far. it feels so fulfilling to have so many writers reach out to help me sate my curiosity and round out my perspective about this particular topic. it can be a rough subject to sit down and face one on one; hence why introspection (through writing) can be difficult for some people. i find myself agreeing with others here: death is meant to be uncomfortable in some way. it feels very human.

again, a big thank you to everyone who has shared their thoughts and experiences. i've had a moment with myself reading over the passages left here by others. despite the topic? this community is as lively as ever. it's nice to hear from others.
My opinion on death in roleplay is simple. No one is safe from it, don't act like you think you're immortal.
It’s nice to be able to talk about it and challenge perspectives over these things and it’s a joy that you decided to start this conversation, I think one thing I defiantly took from some peoples responses is there are at times RPs and stories where death shouldn’t have to be too much of a huge deal because that’s not the theme and story they want, and that’s really true because there is a time and place for everything. I don’t watch a John Wick movie to discover the complex feelings of death and the effects it has on each goon he kills, I wanna see vengeance for the puppy killers lol.
RoundTableKing wrote:
My opinion on death in roleplay is simple. No one is safe from it, don't act like you think you're immortal.

I believe this is asking more about being murder-hobos, not about a player's own character dying. ^^;

But I'll toss in that sometimes, depending on context and such, I will do my best to accommodate keeping someone alive. But it definitely is pretty context-dependent. (And I pretty much exclusively do play-by-post with little to no dice involved, which makes it a bit easier to help people stay alive.)
How I handle the topic depends on which kind of game I'm playing.

However, I tend to frequently do more tabletop RPGs (like DnD) over freeform. (On a scale of I do DnD much, much more than freeform).

It bores me a bit that so much of DnD culture is mindless hack and slash. Which is fine, but just not for me.

It is my observation that many DnD groups tend to be "rule breakers", not taking sides with the nearest town guard. And that many GMs do the same, not even showing that "knocking out and delivering to the guards" is an acceptable option.
This is a kinda personal subject for me so I am spoilering my answer: TW trauma, TW triggers, TW death.

Alright, this is kind of convoluted and IDK how well I'll be able to explain - but in a nutshell, death for me is a big trigger and something I just don't want in roleplays. In the past I was branded as a "snowflake" for my triggers (not on RPR; on a toxic now-exintct board) but while I'm not comfortable going over details, I'll just say my reasons are very similar to what the OP mentioned, with loss of loved ones that I never really processed and became unhealed trauma. (Please don't lecture me on how "it's on you to fix yourself" like those people did; everyone copes in different ways. I went through a serious depression because of my traumas, so it's not that I'm not fixing myself because I'm "lazy" or "don't want it enough". Also sorry i f I get instinctively defensive on this, it's a heavy topic for me and one I won't dwell on further. Please, respect my comfort zone.)

Now, let me clarify - I have *nothing* against battle scenes in which a certain number of redshirts die (even on-screen) - but only in so long as they are that, redshirts. Like Vinny from Atlantis said: "Someone got hurt, but we didn't know them." Yeah, I know it's selfish, maybe I'm not even a good writer for taking such a cop out, but the point is that if the characters are generic background NPCs, while it's implicit and certain that they will have people mourning them, the effect of their deaths on the "main" characters will be - I don't know how to explain - less direct? Naturally a character with good orientation will be touched by the death of people they don't know - it can convey the horror of a combat situation, the feeling of danger and hopelessness, the low to which a villain/antagonist will stoop - but that's it. It doesn't force me to sit down and churn out the emotional, the personal impact of death of a friend or loved one. Because if I were to do that, it'd reopen wounds, and it'd not be fun, and I roleplay to have fun, not to end up feeling miserable and heartbroken and crying because of my stupid unhealed trauma and my triggers.

it's the same reason why I tend to prefer if no "main" character (regardless of whether it's played by me or another character) dies in the RPs I'm part of. Even villains, if they are expanded to the point where they become characters I care reading about (so not the generic evil minion who is esentially cannon fodder - that much I can take on); I'd much rather prefer a "loose ending" where bodies aren't found and there is mystery as to whether the villain really died or is still out and about. Not only it gives room for further stories but it still makes for a satisfactory climax without flat out involving my taking part in a death scene.

"Disney deaths"... it DEPENDS. If a character is *presumed* dead, lethally injured and left to die, and then Comes Back kicking, that much is alright with me. It can lead to drama, and enough emotional impact on characters, while at the same time playing out for the best in the end, happy ending and all. I'm all for that; drama is good if I know beforehand (even though the characters don't) that it pays off eventually. Actual factual "character dies, we see them die, they are absolutely dead in all the ways a character can be dead" and then they got brought back and returned to their loved ones by magical means... that's a big no for me. Because again, trigger; it's something that can't happen in real life no matter how desperately the survivors wish for it, and even if I'm meant to accept that in a fantasy world things work differently, it's just going to rub salt in *my* own personal wounds that I'll never see my loved ones again (I'm not religious, and I don't want to embark in a religious talk. Please respect it.) It' the reason why I have a super strong knee-jerk reaction against many films like "Coco" (which I haven't seen and don't plan to see) and something that I'm not keen about RPing.

(Conversely, traumatic backstories are okay because it's something that happened to characters in the past and made them who they are, but it's not *shown*)

Mind you, these are the triggers and feelings of 2022 me. It's entirely possible that in a year, or two year, or five years, or ten years I'll feel differently. But in general, death is not something I enjoy playing, and since roleplaying should be about having fun first and foremost; if it becomes painful it's not longer worth it. Just my two cents!
OwlGryphon wrote:
are NPCs simply fodder for your OC to look more evil/cool?
I think this line really hits the nail on the head. I do want to preface this by saying everyone writes differently, everyone deserves to have fun and write what they want. There are action junkies and anime settings where wanton killing is common and regularly lacks repercussion, both psychologically and legally for the character. While there's nothing wrong with that, for me personally, I can empathize with it being a turnoff. I take consideration before taking a life in any scenario. That definitely doesn't mean I dislike violence- I'm a fiend for horror and have a handful of killer characters! But I have no love for murderhoboing. In writing violence, I try to emphasize the horrific aspects, and it always has consequences. Maybe the character will struggle under the weight of their guilt, or question their own humanity. Maybe it is an excuse for a friend of the deceased to seek revenge, or for a lawful figure to hunt them down. It's easiest to justify when the one being killed was causing harm, distress, or death to others.

A good example from my latest D&D session: our party wanted to enter into a coliseum battle for quick cash and renown. There were three options for opponents: humans, creatures/animals, or automatons/constructs. They went for the latter. Their reasoning? They didn't want to take the lives of other living, thinking, feeling beings just for fame and fortune, or beasts that were corralled for entertainment. Though they were told blood sports were considered "cooler" to the crowd, our characters had enough compassion and morality to pick the option that wouldn't involve inflicting unnecessary pain. That's another key term to consider- is the killing necessary?

Before killing a character or NPC, like most every aspect in a story, consider what we're trying to convey. What does it say about the killer? "they kill because they're cool" brings us back to over-the-top action or anime.
TV Tropes wrote:
Rule of Cool: The limit of the Willing Suspension of Disbelief for a given element is directly proportional to its awesomeness. Stated another way, all but the most pedantic of viewers will forgive liberties with reality as long as the result is wicked sweet or awesome.
In other words, it doesn't need to have a purpose, it just needs to be 𝔯𝔞𝔡. While it's usually done for comedic effect, a trope I've come to love these days is when a nameless goon of the "bad guy" gets taken out by the "good guys", then we get a scene of said goon's loving family finding out and grieving. This consequence shows that the world doesn't completely revolve around them and their radness. So what are we trying to say when our OC takes lives? Did they have no other option? Are they willing to take on that burden to save others? Are they a socio/psychopath? Are they a creature with treacherous instincts?

I've been in two lines of work that involved carrying a firearm. In both of these occupations, we underwent psychological analysis to determine whether or not we were fit to do so. Our supervisors couldn't stress it enough, questions along the lines of "In what scenario would you draw your weapon? When would you fire your weapon? What were your options? Would you be able to cope with harming someone?" In both the military and security, the lads that try to come in like "I can't wait to kick some ass!!1!" usually either don't make it in, or get treated as mad cringy (if not reported to supervisors as a possible liability). In security especially, our policy states that lethal force can only be used "in a life-threatening situation, only to unholster the firearm or chamber a round if the target is armed and loss of a life is imminent". When detaining someone, we aren't allowed to beat the tar out of them, but to try restraining them to prevent injury. Hurting people, even more so taking lives, should always be a last resort. If it isn't, what are we saying about our character? In most "realism" scenarios, it certainly isn't to say that they are cool. It could be that they have control issues, or lack empathy, or even as a means to create inner turmoil for them. It typically isn't to be treated as a "positive".
tldr; before a character kills, I prefer to consider why they're doing it, whether that reason is good/bad/convoluted, and what effect that action should have- not just on the character, but on the world around them. failing to do so strains realism, which is fine if one is going for something toonish

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