We’re going to assume the players are represented by mortals in the game world, and that as mortals, those representations, or characters, can be harmed, rendered immobile, and potentially slain. The killing of a character should have some dramatic impact on the game, because it’s been that way from the beginning. I remember I said a few times that character death should be dictated by the will of the players and not the dice, but was shouted down for suggesting it.

So again, we’ll assume that the characters representing the players are mortal and can be slain. From a narrative perspective, its probably best if the only time a character can be defeated is by a superior opponent, or when the character is in a position of weakness. Dungeons & Dragons utilizes a hit point system that represents exactly this. A character who runs out of hit points is vulnerable to removal.

Once a character has been reduced to zero hit points, they are down for the count and a sort of “three strikes” rule is in effect. If the player is unlucky or their character isn’t aided by another quickly, the character will die and be removed from play. For removal from play to be meaningful to the players, it should be a part of regular play. Players should be able to remove their opponents from play as well.

Loss of hit points might not always be equated with death, though I see no need to create separate systems for removal from play now: hit points might be represented by physical or mental health, social standing, or emotional or spiritual well-being. It’s possible that a character might die, go insane, be run out of town, or fall into a state that otherwise renders them incapable of contributing to the group’s success.

It should also be possible for characters to be brought back into play, via effects like the traditional raise dead or resurrection spells prevalent in all editions of the game. It might be time-consuming, but it should be possible, especially if the players work together to pull off such a feat. Bringing a character back into the game should reward all players — but hopefully not such that they abuse the system.