"games like classic Traveller, in which it’s actually possible to die during character creation!" tell me more
(With reference to this post here.)
Sure thing. In a nutshell, after rolling up your attributes (everything in Traveller is randomly generated), your character starts out as an 18-year-old with no skills or resources to speak of, and you have to pick a career path. Early versions of the game assumed that all player characters would be military veterans, so various types of military service were the only options available, while later iterations add post-secondary education, civilian career paths, and even being a “wanderer” (read: space pirate).
Your character’s life is then divided into four-year terms, and you play each term out as a simple minigame to determine what you learned, what you experienced - and yes, whether you survived. As you can imagine, there are lots of random tables. In the earliest versions of the game, blowing your survival roll simply means that your character is dead, so there’s a tension between staying in longer in order to gain more skills, and the risk of blowing a roll and having to start over. Later versions of the game offer a variety of potential consequences for failing a survival roll, including scandal, imprisonment, or simply being horribly maimed.
Here - I’ll walk us through a basic example right now. For reference, I’m using the second Mongoose Publishing edition of the game (there are several) - you can find a bit of prior discussion on that subject here.