He lost a 1st level half-orc fighter in the Labyrinth Lord game by charging into a pack of ten orcs. His 7th level bio-espionage robot was crushed by falling debris in Stars Without Numbers. Then a failsafe installed by his creators, the alien Methans, kicked in, creating a micro-black hole which wiped out a city block. Then in Spelljammer, his mil-wiz-black-ops spellsword maic-user fighter hybrid thing was gunned down by a squad of mind-flayer controlled, arquebus wielding, hippopotamus headed Giff.
Kaye lost three characters in eight days. Interestingly, he bounced back quickly and remained rather chipper.
In the same time frame, The Boy lost one character. He did not remain chipper.
I've been running a group of players through B1: In Search of the Unknown at the FLGS. It's a continuation of the Labyrinth Lord game I was running last year. The Boy was playing his favorite character - Ferrit the halfling thief.
So, Ferrit and the crew were running from the band of orcs who had sliced up Kaye's half-orc into tiny little pieces. Since you don't have to outrun the bear, you just have to outrun your friends, I asked about the characters' encumbrance. The rest of the characters were carrying little-to-nothing, as they had been newly created. But come to find out, Ferrit was laden with about three donkey's worth of stuff.
Ferrit was the last in line during the mad dash to the entrance of the dungeon. The orcs threw their clubs, hitting the halfling in the back. He kept on running, but they would be on him unless he loosened his load.
So, he began to toss stuff aside. The heaviest thing he had was his huge mass of coins - which he refused to part with. But he began throwing everything else.
The party suggested - strongly - that he get rid of his cash. He refused; instead letting go of his Morlock spears.
"How many Morlock spears do you have?" I asked.
"Nineteen," he said.
So, now the angry orcs were armed with spears. They rained death down on Ferrit, knocking him down into negative territory and bleeding out. The rest of the party raced on, got out of the dungeon, spiked the front door, and ran back to the fort.
I decided that it was not the time, quite yet, to tell The Boy that if he would have dumped the gold out behind him, the orcs would have stopped to pick it up.
My son was angry. Very angry. Ferrit the Halfling was his favorite character ever, and he was not taking it well.
I talked to him about it on the drive home, but you know, there is nothing to beneficial to say in these circumstances. When we got home, he broke down emotionally. He wanted Ferrit back.
"Ferrit wasn't dead when we last saw him. He was still bleeding. He could have survived. The orcs could have patched him up."
"I'm sorry," I shook my head, "The orcs were interested in the rest of the party."
"I know - I'll roll up a new character and call him Ferrit!" he said.
Now that is completely against my own style of playing. A character in the ground is a character in the ground. But he is not me, so there was little I could say. I nodded, "Sure."
"But," his faced dropped, "It's not the same Ferrit."
I scrunched up my lips and thought for a second.
"You know what?" I looked at The Boy. "As a DM in this case, I am primarily interested in mechanics."
He looked at me like I was speaking Orcish.
"The numbers. The numbers that make up this character sheet here. This numbers here died today. This character sheet is finished. That is the mechanics of it. The numbers died."
He looked at me blankly.
"Whatever Ferrit is - the spirit - the idea of Ferrit - he still lives on in your heart."
"I don't want him just in my heart."
I smiled. "Like I said, I am primarily interested in the mechanics here. The character sheet died. If you want to make a new character and call it Ferrit, then that is okay. If you want to make up a story about how Ferrit somehow survived the dungeon and crawled back to the fort - that is okay too. Remember, he doesn't have the same stats. He was 4th level and is now 1st level. He lost everything. He would have gone through something horrible that reduced his physical abilities and changed his very being."
The boy smiled.
"And remember, if he dies again, and he dies in front of people, this type of story really doesn't work. He went below ten hit points while no one was watching, so he's like Schrödinger’s cat. Ferrit's quantum state was uncertain."
He smiled again. He got the reference. He’s an eleven year old addicted to the Science Channel. "I think I can live with that," The Boy said.
So - Ferrit will be back. He's a lot weaker than he used to be. His body is covered in scars. He doesn't even remember how to be a thief anymore. He just knows how to be a fighter, since The Boy shose a new class for him. But, Ferrit is back.
And hey, I get to retain my Kind, Compassionate Dad Card and my Asshole DM Card - at the same time. Talk about quantum states.