Aaron B. writes in with a question:
“Okay, that frequency of deaths is new to me, so I’m intrigued. I really like this idea of not seeing a new character as a hero with a destiny that the player is immediately attached to. As a practical matter, though, what do you do when it happens? Roll a new character, who….pops out of the bushes and suddenly offers to take Deadmeat’s place?”
This will play out in a variety of ways depending on the scenario.
In B2: Keep on the Borderlands, players start off at the titular keep. With the Moldvay Basic rules, it takes one hour to roll up characters and explain the game and about two hours to play out the first trip to the Caves of Chaos. In the time it takes for the players to hash out their next move and purchase equipment, replacement characters will have been rolled up. Subsequent delves will take between one and two hours each and will have a wild range of outcomes, from utter disaster to minimal loot to epic success. Any new adventurers that join the hijinx are deemed to have just shown up to the borderlands in order to get in on the gold-rush and may enter play any time that the party returns to their home base at the Keep.
In X1: Isle of Dread, the players have arrived to a remote island. Replacement characters are harder to justify, so you end up with friendly cat-men, cave men, and tribal peoples joining up as hirelings and replacement PCs as characters succumb to the meatgrinder. Contemporary players expect to either “clean out” the island or else to have exactly the amount of resources to find the inevitable “end game” fight and win the prize… but in reality, they need to scout around looking for any reasonably lucrative opportunity, pull the D&D equivalent of a heist, and then hustle back to civilization to declare that leveling up two or three characters is sufficiently awesome no matter what ever else happened. Alternately, players could settle in to their matriarchal village with the intent of hanging around for a calculated and systematic domain-building exercise. But as with retreating, out-of-the-box thinking rarely seems to cross contemporary players’ minds. New school players expect to be shown the rails directly and then play a part in a de facto script. They’re just not used to having to make a decision about what an adventure objective really ought to be, whether in the dungeon or the wilderness.