HOW TO PROPERLY KILL OFF A MINOR CHARACTER

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Porkate42
Goes inactive at least every 2 weeks
1869
(I dunno if this should be in help or game design so help seems like the best answer).

So I have this character that pretty much shows up a couple of times in my game.
He's not a party member, just a important NPC.
And I want to kill him, but how?

Killing off a party member is pretty easy to do well (formeanywaysbutIdigress). But not a minor character, they don't have much screen time as the main crew. So how can I kill off this character well? Make him have an impact and not just "Oh he died, alright."
If you want an example on how I did it (aka tried), I pretty much adding a short flashback before the "emotional scene." But I feel like it's forced.

I need help killing someone in a good way please.
"And I want to kill him, but how?"

This mindset is a mistake. Does the story call for killing him? Saying "I want so and so to die, let's build a story around it" is a really poor way of crafting a story.

What do you mean by "how" in this context? Like... how did he die? Murder? Car accident? Beheaded? None of that solves your problem.

Do you mean, how to handle it from a narrative perspective? Are you just having trouble writing a cutscene that fits?

Put the character in a dangerous situation that fits with the story. Kill the character. Think about what people would really do and how they would really react in that situation. Figure out a way to give them closure (resolve to avenge them? funeral? accepting their fate?)

It really is that simple. Just asking yourself, "how would real people react in this situation" will solve most of your issues.
Porkate42
Goes inactive at least every 2 weeks
1869
Tbh I should've worded this a lot better.
I'm mainly talking about development, how much development does this character need to make the death more "sadder" as people put it. It takes place in the middle of the game but how much screen time does this minor character need in order to make the player feel sad for the character dying.

Maybe I should stop making bad jokes in my help me topics.
InfectionFiles
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
4690
If he's some minor NPC, then for me it'd be pretty hard to feel sad about at his death. He would have to be REALLY well written and be there from beginning to end and probably not be an NPC for it to be sad.
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
28545
InfectionFiles
If he's some minor NPC, then for me it'd be pretty hard to feel sad about at his death. He would have to be REALLY well written and be there from beginning to end and probably not be an NPC for it to be sad.


Well, think of Chrono Trigger. How did you feel when Luca's mom got her legs crushed? Wasn't that a minor character?
InfectionFiles
the world ends in whatever my makerscore currently is
4690
author=pianotm
InfectionFiles
If he's some minor NPC, then for me it'd be pretty hard to feel sad about at his death. He would have to be REALLY well written and be there from beginning to end and probably not be an NPC for it to be sad.
Well, think of Chrono Trigger. How did you feel when Luca's mom got her legs crushed? Wasn't that a minor character?
Can't say I was sad, but yeah a minor character.

That's just my opinion, I feel it'd be hard to actually get sad over something in a game. I can however sit through a forced sad moment and get ready to continue playing the game.
In order for any character death to feel meaningful, two things are usually needed: 1) the character must have had some use and 2) the player must witness it happening at the very least, preferably even having a hand (unwittingly or unintentionally) in it.

Say some useless soldier you've bumped into dies off screen and the player is told about it. Nobody is going to care, right? But what if that soldier had served some useful function in the past? Maybe he helped the characters slip into the castle, or he distracted some baddies long enough for the player to focus on the real nuisance. Maybe he takes a villain you capture into custody for you, freeing you up to go on your journey. It doesn't have to be huge, but it does have to be useful.

Now, onto part 2... Say you're captured as you infiltrate the castle, and the soldier is dragged before you, a traitor because he helped you, and he's killed in front of you while you watch helplessly. Your actions led to that. Maybe, after putting up a good fight and saving the players' hides, he gets swarmed by all the lesser evils you ignored in your fight, and he holds them back just long enough for you to get through the gate and seal it behind you. The last you see of him, he's being torn apart by the minions he helped you fight. Maybe the prisoner he was transporting broke free, and he's been hunting him ever since. You stumble upon him as he is breathing is last breaths, having failed to redeem himself, dying in the attempt. He apologizes, tells you where the bad guy went, and slumps over, dead in your arms.

Just remember that these minor schlubs have lives of their own outside the camera's eye. A momentary mention of past history with an enigmatic character can speak to their importance. A friend to someone who does not make friends easily, even if we know nothing about them.

I find minor characters fascinating. Sometimes, they're more interesting to me than the major characters. What happened to the chancellor of Doma Castle in FF6? He survived the poison, but you never see him again (if I recall correctly). Did he survive the end of the world, wandering off to settle into a life of quiet reflection? Did he begin a quest to find other survivours from Doma, travellers who were out in the field on that dreadful day?

Anyway, I digress. Hopefully my suggestions help.
Mirak
Stand back. Artist at work. I paint with enthusiasm if not with talent.
9490
Make someone rocket launch the npc and then make the protagonist shout the npc's name. Works a lot better if the protagonist has shared barely two minutes worth of dialogue between them and the npc. I cry everytime.
Anvil
Grand Piano
TNT
An exploding pie
Giant mallet

There's a good list to start with.
What Badluck said and Kaempfer said,

The easiest way to kill off a character, even a minor character, effectively is not to focus on the character's death itself, but to use it in order increasingly tease the idea that the hero might not make it.

Like, if you watch TV shows or Movies - it's usually in a situation where the heros are about to get out of a hairy situation by the skin of their teeth, but the villain or situation for that very brief moment, gets really lucky and takes the upper hand - so the hero loses something

Like, don't think about how the character dies. Think about where in the story it would be the most interesting - make it challenge your hero's motivation - when you do this, you don't have to play up the death with flashbacks or sappy music, in order to make it memorable, emotional or important, because the death will prove a point, it will make your audience realize how hard it is for your hero to achieve their goal, they will feel this

Example:

InfectionFiles, pianotm and Ebeth take a 3 hour gruelling bus ride over the dessert to go see Aerosmith Live. Half way there, the bus stops at a gas station.

pianotm laments how crazy it is to take a 3 hour drive across the middle of the dessert just to see a concert, while InfectionFiles, whose bought tickets years in advance, exclaims how close they are to actually seeing AeroSmith in person.

As Ebeth goes in to grab a bag of chips, all of a sudden out of no where, a huge fucking strong wind blows InfectionFiles ticket out of their hands. InfectionFiles attempts to grab it, only for the ticket to land by pianotm, who attempts to snatch it as well. It eventually blows by Ebeth and in a last ditch attempt, the three, reach out into the sky, trying to rescue InfectionFiles' Aerosmith Ticket.

A Vulture, out of the blue, swoops down and snatches the ticket out of the air and flies away. That ticket is long gone.

The Bus is about to leave. They're now down to 2 Tickets. Ebeth knowing how bad InfectionFiles wants to go to this concert looks at both pianotm and InfectionFiles and makes the ultimate sacrifice: Ebeth hands InfectionFiles their ticket. InfectionFiles, on the bus, mixed with emotions doesn't want to leave Ebeth, the wicked cool friend behind.

But as the door to the bus closes on Ebeth, Ebeth reveals. that it's okay, they never really liked AeroSmith anyways. As the bus rolls out of the crummy vulture filled gas station, InfectionFiles wonders if they'll ever actually make it to the concert in time.

...Something like that.

Like, It's the not the characters death you should be concerned about, it's what the loss means in the story, It's everything else surrounding that, that's important, it's a reminder to your audience that there's an extremely good chance that your hero might screw up, that if they're not careful, against all odds they can still fail.

Like, Kaempfer's is a good example - I think there's this moment in Berserk where there is this minor character, a soldier, that informs the captain of what's going on throughout the episode - the captain finally leaves to deal with this conflict only to return to find the minor character now dead.

This minor character's death, is not only a realization that the captain has failed, but a reminder of how much more he could fail, if he doesn't take action soon.

Minor character's death are minor warnings, towards the hero's failed actions toward their goals - that's how you should treat it as, that it's a loss and they're about to lose more if they don't act soon - for major characters deaths, it's a much more urgent and frantic event against the hero finishing their goals. etc.

EDIT: ..Like, if Badluck had plans to see Mirak and then suddenly meets a flowergirl and the flowergirl hands Badluck a flower and then gets shot - Don't do a cheesy flashback of the moment the flowergirl gave Badluck the flower. Focus instead, on what the flowergirl's death means to Badluck's current goal - that Badluck had plans to see Mirak and not seeing Mirak immediately, has only made the need to fulfill this plan more urgent.
Cap_H
DIGITAL IDENTITY CRISIS
6615
Kill a random character off screen. Then let your party have nightmares about the character.
Don't do it. NPC LIVES MATTER.
halibabica
RMN's Official Reviewmonger
14893
How have we not mentioned sympathy yet? If you want the player to care about the person being killed, sympathy is required. The character's death only feels significant if it was important for them to continue living. Even if it's just a side character, there are ways you can make it such that the player would be rooting for this person unconsciously. It should evoke a sentiment like "They didn't deserve that." The ramifications of their death should be obvious, too. Maybe the hero encountering his widowed family and kids later would tug some heart strings.

Basically, make the guy likeable and make it feel like his death matters.
Make them likable, make it so every time they show up, the player thinks "Oh this is a fun scene!" And then have him be brutally killed, preferably all he'll wanna be doing is help the protagonists in the scene, so the player feels like it's their own fault.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
Have you tried letting him live?

No, wait, I'm not just being snide! Hold on!

If the character dies, then they're off-screen for the rest of the game. If the player didn't already care by the time they died, then it's too late. You ran out of chances to make their death meaningful.

But what if the character survives the attack but is paralyzed from the waist down, or brain-damaged, or blinded, or covered in visible burns? And afterwards, they remain in the game, still showing up just as often as before, maybe even more? Then the player feels sorry for them every time they appear. People are way more likely to form emotional connections to characters than to blank spaces where characters used to be.
Cap_H
DIGITAL IDENTITY CRISIS
6615
Frankly, i think that it's damn hard to make a death in an RM game matter. Especially if it is a rpg. For me the best way is to have a character, who is alreasy dead or is dying and you just read notes about it's tragedy or explore environments.

I agree with LockeZ too.
author=LockeZ
Have you tried letting him live?

No, wait, I'm not just being snide! Hold on!

If the character dies, then they're off-screen for the rest of the game. If the player didn't already care by the time they died, then it's too late. You ran out of chances to make their death meaningful.

But what if the character survives the attack but is paralyzed from the waist down, or brain-damaged, or blinded, or covered in visible burns? And afterwards, they remain in the game, still showing up just as often as before, maybe even more? Then the player feels sorry for them every time they appear. People are way more likely to form emotional connections to characters than to blank spaces where characters used to be.


I'm not sure I agree 100% with that. If they did something that mattered in the long-run then their memory is still around. Think Aeris saving the world with Holy. She died halfway through the game, but she was still present in how the crew dealt with Sephiroth and ultimately it was thanks to her final actions that the world was saved from meteor.

Just because they're dead, doesn't mean you can't relive memories of them (flashbacks) or that their actions stop having consequences in the plot. It's all about how you use and present them.

Honestly, though, the best way to make a death sad is to make the player care about them in some way. This can be done by making them likeable or interesting, or touch home about something personal in the players' life. Of course, you can't know what the player has experienced in their past, but there's a lot of things in our lives that overlap with others which you can play on.

Lives cut short when something wonderful was about to happen, for example. Say a couple were about to get married and you expect that you'll meet them afterwards, only to find out that one of them died before their wedding day. A child who got lost in the woods - you got to know her before she went missing, and the expectation of the sidequest is that you'll manage to save her but nope, by the time you set out she was already dead.

It can be pretty dark but honestly, making it a little bit of a shock can help. Twist those expectations a bit and make stuff sudden. That's how it works in the real world. (You can trust me on that. :< )
pianotm
The TM is for Totally Magical.
28545
Yeah, Libby, but Aeris was anything but a minor character. In most ways, she was every bit as much the main character as Cloud.

To be honest, I don't think you can have a case where a character's death can have a major impact on the player, and still be able to call it a minor character.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
6003
True, you can absolutely make a character death matter, if you do enough to attach the player to the character before they die, or if the story continues to be about them afterwards. Sometimes you can't though, either because they die too early in the game, or because they're just not an important character, or because you're a bad writer.

One of the more common ways to do it badly is how you end up with something like Agent Coulson's "death" in the Avengers movie. Where nobody in the audience even knew his name, he was just this random yes-man walking around in the background in a couple scenes, and then he dies and all the characters completely ham it up for the next ten minutes talking about his hopes and his dreams and his favorite playing cards that are covered in his blood. Like who the fuck even was that guy? The party members talking about how sad they are is a poor substitute for making the player sad, especially when it's not believable because the NPC who died was just some random mook.

@pianotm: I think Biggs/Wedge/Jessie's deaths from FF7 are a good model to follow. They serve no plot purpose beyond dying so that the pillar collapse hits the player in a more personal way, and have little personality, so I think they're very close to what Porkate is trying to do. But they feel like "part of your party" because they follow you around at every step, guiding you like tutorial arrows through several areas, and that causes the player to care about their deaths.
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