The comments that flowed from my permadeath example in the consequences post should not have surprised me. Nothing provokes a firestorm like mentioning the magic word permadeath. However something struck me. Opinvu and Thrym’s remarks focused on the gamists/achievers (gamists if you are using the GNS model and achievers if you are using Bartle types) rather than the simulationists (GNS model), dramists (again GNS model) and socializers (Bartle type).
A survey of the most popular (by player numbers) NWN1 and NWN2 roleplay persistent worlds shows a list where most of the worlds have permadeath in some form. It might be “softened” PD, where death becomes permanent after the tenth time, or is only in force for certain character types (usually those with special abilities). Prof1515’s listing of the 19 common features of “roleplay intensive” (RPI) MUDS lists permadeath at number 10:
10. Permanent death. Not “soft” permadeath or other such concepts.
The biggest RP danger from not having permadeath is a logical inconsistency in the lore of the world. That is, players return from the dead, but NPCs don’t. Players tend to prefer this variant of non-PD as it gives them a sense that their character can impact the world. If all of the goblins in the local cave also come back to life, what is the point in killing them off? In this case, your actions have no effect and you might as well stay home. The flip side of this coin is the creation of a subset of characters in the world (the player characters) who cannot be killed. If they do die violently, they return from the grave. If you follow this to its logical conclusion – that some in the world are effectively immortal – you’ll end up with an oligarchy with these immortals at the top and the rest in a position that is more or less at the whim of the immortals. If real life is any guide; that position would not likely be pleasant. Most players don’t want to play a top dog in a dreary, oppression filled world, so lore almost never goes there.
The arguments for permadeath are strong. However, is it really a requirement for immersion? Let’s presume that we don’t want PD because we don’t want to limit our potential playerbase to that subset of roleplayer who will tolerate a PD world. I’ll freely admit that I’m not really any further than when I fiddled with these ideas on Etilica. Are there are ways to encase non-PD in the lore that is both consistent and non-dreary? (presuming that the ultraphysics required to come back from the dead is available in the genre)