Am I a killer DM?
Tonight I'm running the 9th session of my Expeditions in the Northlands Campaign, which I restarted back in May. So far, we've had at least 20 character deaths! That's an average of 2-3 deaths per session. I have a stack of deceased character index cards to prove it. And I'm not even counting the handful of hirelings who've met their demise along the way.
This is either a resounding success or an unmitigated disaster, depending your point of view.
Yet I sort-of expected this. I'm using the character "funneling" system from Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. Every player starts off with 2-3 0-level characters, depending on the size of the party. We're using Swords & Wizardry pretty much straight-up (roll 3d6 for each ability score). I'm also running the campaign "West Marches-style" with a pool of about a dozen players, some committed, some casual.
Overall though, the players are enjoy the campaign. And I'm enjoying running it--it's a relief from developing and running a "plot-based" campaign.
Here are my observations:
--Most character deaths occur at 0-level, which is to be expected.
--Character death doesn't bother the players as much as it would in a "plot-based" campaign or in more "rules heavy" RPGs (later editions of D&D included). Sure, it sucks when your surviving character who made it to first level dies, but you can always roll up 2-3 more 0-level chararacters in about 15 minutes.
--1st level characters have a slightly higher survival rate, because they often have better equipment than they're zero level counterparts. But they are still fragile.
--"Above average" factors into the probabilities a lot more than it does in later versions of D&D. For example: one player has a 1st level fighter with with above average strength and constitution. He rolled up maximum hit points at 0-level and 1st level for 14 hit points total. Even with a dexterity of 8 (-1 to AC), he is the "tank" of the group, especially now that he's traded in his chainmail for platemail, giving him an AC of 17 (plate +6, large shield +2, -1 dex). Most low-level monsters will have a hard time hitting him.
--Magic is "magical" again and potent. I've watched a single magic missile turn the tide of a battle. A sleep spell, cast by the party's Witch, once saved the group from complete annihilation.
--The players themselves are being more active, rather than passively sitting back and letting the story take them along. There are no stories, except for the ones they have their characters develop.
--I've been playing and running RPGs for almost 25 years, this is my deadliest campaign by far, yet so far my players are enjoying, and I am, too.
What's the most deadliest campaign you've played in?