It's interesting. In the local gaming store they run a D&D 4e encounters session each week, for people to drop into and try out the game. Encounters typically run from level 1 to level 3 and shortly after end. They are there to whet the appetite (and they do)
Previously what exactly happened when a PC died was kind of ... not talked about!
This time around though, actually there is a rule and...if you die, next session your down four healing surges. And that's it!
It's interesting to see an actual engagement of the scenario (a scenario one presumes is possible) and what they'd actually do with it (rather than just speculating what they'd do).
It kind of shows exactly how much death there is, rather than leaving an ambiguous mystery about the whole thing and leaving people to think their assumptions (like, maybe, that you just die and the characters gone) are true. When they aren't. But how can you prove that when you can only speculate what WOTC would do? So yeah, interesting to actually know.
I was thinking about the last post on risk of death in AD&D. And it just didn't quite satisfy me, on reflection. The reduction in max HP just wasn't an impact. So I thought about it more and have this idea, which both combines random risk and player choice.
Some monsters attacks are more vicious than others. If they reduce you to negative hitpoints, you have a 1% chance of instantly dying from the extensive wounds delivered by the attack! This is a Survival Roll! But in town you can buy Survival Potions for 500 gold. Indeed, if you have some reputation as having done good deeds, the towns folk will even let you return unused potions and receive the 500 gold back (so it's like a deposit!). If a Survival Potion is fed to a character reduced to negatives, they do not have to make the Survival Roll.
So, make your choice - lose gold! Or take a risk!
Further, for each Survival Potion used or Survival Roll made, the GM secretly rolls percentile. There is a 10% chance that the character, unbeknown to the player, gains a survival point (the GM keeps a record of this). If they have a survival point and make a survival roll and fail, the survival point is used up and they instead pass! However, the chance of failure is increased from 1% to 10% (the GM does not tell the player this unless the roll is within that range)! A character can only have one survival point at a time.