Perma-Death in DDO

Most players to all MMORG have their roots in pen & paper (PnP) games from the 80’s and 90’s. While most MMO’s are the next step in PnP games they have to give up some of the elements that made players come to them in the first place.

Over the course of time, many players have longed for their favorite MMO to come back to more PnP roots. Part of this growing change has been the Perma-Death movement on several MMOs. In this article we will be looking at Perma-Death in the DDO:EU setting, as it still has millions of PnP players world wide.

On the Argonnessen server there is a Guild called “Mortal Voyage”. The have set up rules within the guild to recreate the feeling and enjoyment of PnP game play.

I was able to set down with the Guild Leader Parvo and let him explain the true meaning of Perma-Death play and why so many people are moving to this form of play.

1. What is a Perma-Death Guild?
At it’s essence, permadeath is a style of gaming where the character has one opportunity to progress through the game. If the character dies, it is deleted (or leaves the guild for non PD play) and the player starts over with a new character. A permadeath guild is a collection of like-minded players who have agreed on a specific rule set and work toward common goals. Different permadeath guilds have different rule sets that range from fairly easy to extremely challenging. In Mortal Voyage, our rules go beyond permadeath to capture the essence of classic paper and pencil dungeon crawls.

2. Why the need for a Perma-Death Guild?
Frankly, Dungeons and Dragons Online is a painfully easy game. The “normal” game has almost no penalty for failure. Any player (no matter how bad they play) can easily reach level cap. Loot, in the “normal” game, goes beyond Monty Haul. That leaves a lot of players without the challenge they expect while playing Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a shame really because DDO offers players more varied abilities and character customization than any MMO I’ve seen. But without challenge, there’s no reason to use most of those abilities. In the “normal” game you will see only a small fraction used. Necessity is the mother of all invention. In a challenging permadeath environment, you will use a lot more of your characters abilities. And that’s just fun. You will think your way through more encounters. A lot of us are not willing to spend many hours grinding through easy quests only for the sake of unfulfilling character advancement. I can honestly say almost every time I log on there is a serious adventure about to take place; one that will get my heart pounding and sometimes even get players screaming! At the end of the session, I might be really sad from a character loss or elated from a hard fought victory, but I’m not going to be bored. I crafted in Dark Age of Camelot, so I know boredom. I refuse to do boring again. I see too many players turning MMO’s into work. “If I put X number of hours in, I’ll get Y”. Are you kidding me? What’s more fun? Grinding riskless content for 3 hours for another +1 or fighting tooth and nail for your parties life? Veterans appreciate the challenge of permadeath play and because PD is generally slower pace with no-spoilers rules, new players enjoy the dungeons the way they were intended.

3. Do players in a Perma-Death Guild ever get to play end game content?
Different permadeath guilds have different rules that make end game content more or less likely. In Mortal Voyage the odds are stacked against it. However, that’s exactly what makes the attempt worthy! Part of the draw to permadeath is that high level characters are a genuine accomplishment. High level adventures are really special. Particularly in Mortal Voyage where we discourage advancing characters by taking the easy path. That’s not to say the end game is impossible. We certainly aspire to it. With the right mix of skill, personalities and luck, it could happen. Not everyone will get there but we have done some raids and higher level quests. We cherish our high level characters and when we complete a tough, unfamiliar, or high level adventure the feeling is unmatched by any other gaming experience.

4. What are the biggest challenges in running a Peram-Death Guild?
For me, there are three things that are difficult. The first is adjusting the rules to maintain challenge or when a new mod is launched. Every DDO mod introduces new easy buttons. Sometimes they are easily ignored, sometimes not. In any case, there is always internal debate on how to handle it. That debate can result in good players leaving the guild. However, the mission of Mortal Voyage is to create a challenging environment. I feel more obligated to provide that environment than anything else. Some players really appreciate that and some don’t. It can be tough when someone you’ve game-bonded with leaves. That leads to the second thing that can be difficult; occasionally encouraging someone to leave the guild. No matter how much I try to discourage it, there are a few players who come to the guild with the intention of progressing a character without risk. Perhaps it’s human nature to turn the game into work, but I fight it. In some cases those players are highly skilled, helpful and fantastic guildmates, but when they start regularly leading groups through riskless grinds for XP, I have to encourage them to go elsewhere. It’s the worst part of leading a guild like mine but I do it to preserve the original mission and integrity of permadeath play. When PD starts looking like the “normal” game, it has failed. The third thing is when someone asks “Is my character dead if <>?” Usually the answer is yes and that makes me feel like the bad guy.

5. Can you share a great Perma-Death story with us?

Honestly, there are great permadeath stories unfolding every session. I’ve been doing this for three years, so I have lots of fond memories. To me, those extraordinary moments are what give the game value. I’ll oblige you with one of my favorites. I was in a duo with a guy that I had game-bonded with pretty well (Mort). He was one of those fearless PD players that never said no to a tough challenge. He was playing a multiclass rogue type and I was a cleric balanced for fighting and healing. We approached an area that had three Earth Elementals, one that is particularly nasty, named Landslide. These guys hit like freight trains and neither of our characters were well suited for the battle. We moved in and were able to take one out but both of us were taking huge damage. It didn’t look good. I was hit with an earth grab attack and incapacitated (below 0 hit points and helplessly bleeding to death). I told Mort to run and save himself but he wouldn’t. While getting bashed around, he used a healing wand and got me back up. Then he went incap and the Elementals moved back to attacking me. I was able to heal him back to his feet before being incapacitated again myself. The elementals then incaped Mort again and we knew all was lost. At that point in the game, characters did not stabilize. If you were between 0 and -9 HP, with no one providing a heal, you would helplessly bleed to death. So, with the elementals walking away, we shared a brief moment in silence staring down at our bleeding incaped forms. Suddenly, Mort jumped up! He immediately grabbed a wand and healed me up and the fight was back on! We frantically fought and healed ourselves, eventually defeating Landslide. Later, we realized, sometime during the battle I had instinctively hit Mort with Divine Healing (heal over time effect). So instead of bleeding to death he was slowly healing back up! Just enough to get on his feet. It was really the most amazing and heroic moment. The only time I’ve ever seen the party concurrently incap and still survive.

6. What would you tell a new person who is thinking about joining a Perma-Death Guild?
First, find a guild that has rules and a culture you can enjoy. You don’t want to join a guild and potentially progress a character only to find it’s not what you expected. Talk to the leader of the guild and ask questions, maybe talk about how you like to play and see if it’s a good fit. We support each other and if I have a player I know would be a good fit in another guild, I have no problem suggesting it. Next, make a character you really enjoy playing. Synergistic abilities are nice but permadeath players don’t need “perfect” groups. Those of us that have been around a while remember a time when we were happy to see one or two other members online. It’s different now with more active guilds but we still do a lot of questing with less than “perfect” groups. It’s just not worth playing a character you’re not into. Third, be prepared to learn (and teach). I don’t care how 133t you think you are, you’re going to learn something from PD play. The permies can probably learn something from you as well.

7. Can you please list the Pro’s and Con’s for being in a Perma-Death Guild?
I could list Pro’s all day long. Instead I’ll list ten.
1) Exciting play
2) Extends game life
3) Balanced PvE
4) Balanced Loot
5) Teamwork
6) Accomplishment
7) Heroics
9) Community
10) Novelty of high level play

Let’s not pretend it’s perfect though. Losing a high level character can be tough. Of course, mortality is what makes the character’s life valuable in the first place. If your characters die a lot you can spend a lot of time in the lowbie areas and that gets old. It pays to learn from your mistake and remember with every adventure, it’s your life on the line.Thank you for those inspiring words. For all you players that are really looking for a great challenge and gaming more back to your PnP roots give Perma-Death a try.

For more information about “Mortal Voyage” check out their website at:

Aka: Chris Molsbee

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