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GM Lessons from Phoenix: Dawn Command – Handling Immortal Player Characters
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GM Lessons from Phoenix: Dawn Command – Handling Immortal Player Characters

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Death is often one of the biggest challenges in a tabletop RPG. Most RPGs design complex systems like hit points of plot points to represent the tension of a difficult situation. Losing a character can bring the energy of a game down. A lot of time and effort went into developing the character and now most of that energy is gone. The characters of Phoenix: Dawn Command are different. Death is welcomed by a Phoenix because it gives them a chance to return to the Crucible and emerge with a more powerful form. By the time a Phoenix has hit their seventh and final transformation, they wield the powers of a god. What challenges exist for them to conquer if the #1 consequence in most RPGs is taken off the table? Let’s look at a few ideas the Marshal can use to keep conflicts dramatic.

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Moral Quandaries

With great power comes great responsibility. This central theme of Spider-Man comics also applies to godlike beings. A Phoenix is meant to be a good character battling against the ultimate evil Dread, but there are a lot of grey areas to explore in stories. What about an Imperial soldier unwilling to submit to the wisdom of the Phoenix in defense of unarmed civilians? What about a shape-shifting member of the Dread claiming to be a hero long returned? There’s still ample opportunity for epic butt-kicking, but the middle of the story full of intrigue can draw out juicy roleplaying as the Wing discusses their options.

Endanger Mortals

The Wing may die and be reborn, but plenty of mortals in the world are not. Players have connections to the mortal world like lovers, friends and mentors that are vulnerable. This tactic is best used with discretion to keep players from not investing any emotion in allies and friends. Keep an eye on what characters plays enjoy encountering and use those characters to complicate battle scenes. Innocents caught in the crossfire or battles that might destroy a favorite location will cause the Wing to use their powers more carefully, which often means not hitting with their full force all the time.

Play To Their Weaknesses

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Each type of Phoenix is built to a particular play style very well. Sometimes, switching up the task a Phoenix must accomplish in a story can teach them something about their characters. Not being able to use their full strength once in a while makes the player considers other solutions that help define their character. A Devout Phoenix forced to follow rather than lead could learn something about the subtleties of power. Storylines like these can also rely on a strength but in a different way. A Durant Phoenix used to withstanding waves of arrows might have to show her strength instead to help a grieving husband bury his wife on their farmstead claimed by the Dread.

Lasting Consequences

Although the Phoenix are reborn into new forms with new powers, the world around them is not. Villains may return with new scars and new grudges. A freshly minted soldier might be a battle scarred veteran by the end of the campaign. Players love callbacks to earlier moments in their story and sometimes, showing how early mistakes play out into later troubles fit the mythic style of this game perfectly.

Have you played an immortal character in your RPGs? Share your tips with tackling this challenge in the comments! And be sure to tune into Starter Kit to learn to get into Phoenix Dawn Command yourself – you can catch the show exclusively on ProjectAlpha.com.

More RPG Goodness!

Images Credits: Twogether Press

Rob Wieland is an author, game designer and professional nerd. He’s worked on dozens of different tabletop games ranging from Star Wars and Firefly to his own creations like CAMELOT Trigger. He can be hired as a professional Dungeon Master for in-person or remote games. His Twitter is here. You can watch him livestream RPGs here. His meat body can be found in scenic Milwaukee, WI.

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