On this month's Design and Development is about character death and how the 4E designers decided to deal with it.
As some of us may already know that the death mechanic from 3E is quite different than 4E.
After reading this, they have answered why they have decided to take this approach of 'fixing' death in 4E. So here are some quotes that I personally find interesting.
On Death and Dying
"No one looks forward to his or her character dying. But when it happens, it had better be memorable and offer glimmers of hope. It has to involve something other than crushing despair."
"When the character gets back up, there should be a sigh of relief. The worst is over, but the character isn't out of the woods yet. On one hand, we don't want the punching clown effect, where one hit takes the newly revived character back down. On the other hand, we don't want the character back at full strength, ready to take on the world again."
On Save vs. Death in 3E
"Third Edition's save-or-die effects were one of the major influences on our philosophy of character death in 4th Edition. We referred to any effect or attack that could take a PC out of the game for more than a round with a single die roll as a save-or-die effect, even when the consequence wasn't death. Paralysis, confusion, stun, and charm -- all these 3E effects frequently functioned as save-or-die effects. They made a player's enjoyment of an encounter, or an entire evening, hinge on a single saving throw.
I thought of save-or-die effects as one of the subtle game design problems that were capable of killing entire 3E campaigns. When one or two 3E PCs couldn't fail a particular saving throw without rolling a 1, and the other PCs in the group could hardly make that same save, campaigns had a way of stuttering and halting. From the beginning of our work on 4th Edition, we knew that we weren't going to use save-or-die effects that could take out PCs with a single die roll."
On Coming Back in 3E
"Coming back from the dead was punishing in past editions -- from losing a point of Constitution to losing a level. The logical consequence of that punishment is that players preferred making up a new character to raising the dead one. In that environment, character death means you can kiss your campaign's story continuity good-bye. Or you can welcome a new character named Bob II who's virtually identical to poor, deceased Bob."