When your character decides it’s time for their adventure to
end, they should think about retiring. While most PCs retire their characters
after completing a campaign, a character can retire a bit early if the player
has become too tired of playing them.
This is a much better option than killing them off! I can’t
tell you how many times I’ve seen that question on the D&D 5e Facebook
group. “How should I kill off my character?” “My DM won’t let me kill my
character, what do I do?” “I want to change characters but I’m stuck as this
The answer is letting your character retire. There are
plenty of reasons you can come up with to write off a PC. Try one of the
following or come up with one of your own.
Reasons to Stop Adventuring
Family Needs: A character’s family might take precedence
from adventuring. Perhaps a loved one falls ill and you need to leave the main
quest to seek out a cure on your own. Maybe your family has had children that
need to be raised, and now you must leave after your brief escapade into
Fear: Perhaps an adventurer decides that a campaign is
beyond their means and is too afraid to proceed. A simple farmer that decided to
adventure because they were good at killing dire rats might back down when they
are told they have to slay a dragon. It’s perfectly acceptable for a hero to
decide that an adventure is too dangerous and leave their party.
Wealth Satiation: An adventurer’s life is one of wealth. A pouch
of gold pieces are enough for a peasant to live comfortably for a month. When
an adventurer comes across a magic item and sells it for a cool 50K gp, it
stands to reason that they no longer need to worry about a retirement plan. For
some, this is plenty of reason to stop putting themselves in danger by delving
Story Satiation: Your character may have finished its story
arc in the campaign. After this, they may find less reason to travel with the
party and more reason to leave them. Your character’s motivations and traits
have changed such that you no longer need to adventure.
Giving Up: After a great defeat where much is lost, an
adventurer might be irreparably broken. They might not believe they have
anything left to fight for, or any hope of success. With nothing left to drive
them, they could leave the adventure to hide from whatever calamity is
threatening the world.
Injury: There are some injuries that cannot be healed
normally. Your adventurer could lose a limb, or become blinded or deafened, or
suffer from a curse that cannot be healed. While many heroes overcome such
injuries to accomplish great things, it could still be a reason for an
adventurer to leave the party. Perhaps they are seeking a cure or a fix outside
of the main quest, or perhaps it has broken their spirit to throw themselves at
danger and they wish to retire to safety.
Love: Perhaps a hero meets the love of their life while out and abroad during an adventure. Rather than leaving them to face certain danger, they may opt to stay behind and be with them. Love is a great motivator. It can move people to face the odds, but it can also inspire them to leave their quest.
Once an adventurer retires, they become an NPC in the world.
When you retire your character, you can work with your DM to figure out what
happens to your former player-character once they leave the party and go about their
own way. Some of these are especially awesome to use for campaigns that follow
a previous one in the same setting.
Civilians: A humble hero might become a simple merchant,
farmer, barkeep or the like. This NPC might just be someone that the PCs can
check in on, buy things from, or just run into on return trips to town.
Plot Devices: A retired hero doesn’t always have to be
great, but perhaps they have a new role in the story that they have yet to
play. An old adventurer can have plenty of connections that let them weave into
a new storyline. Maybe they have a piece of information or lore that the other
players need later in the same story in a new campaign’s arc.
Leaders: An adventurer may become a leader within a society,
or may have started their own society to lead. Perhaps the once-paladin is now
a leader of the city guard. Maybe a wizard is now a wizened headmaster of a
magic school. A cleric could build a new temple to their deity and begin
gathering followers. Imagine being a low-level character in a new campaign and
meeting your previous character, now high-level and in a seat of power!
Legends: An adventurer from a previous campaign could have
become a hero of legend that disappeared or faded into myth. Some are unsure if
they ever existed. But their stories remain and they are talked about with a
sort of reverence. Locations or items could have been named after them, and the
new or surviving PCs can discover these little easter eggs.
A really cool idea for characters that had a signature item:
Hereditary Items. Not necessarily literally passed down through family, but a
character could encounter a magic item or weapon that belonged to a hero PC
from a previous campaign in the same setting. After their time with that hero,
the item has grown and evolved, becoming greater, and now a new aspiring hero
has picked it up. In time, it will become their own as well.
Don’t do this too often as it can get boring to keep finding
the same items over and over, but it can be nice to find one or two on an
adventure. Perhaps it is a new item that was not originally magical, but gained
magic powers over the course of the hero’s adventures. Maybe the same magic that gives bards power through stories also empowers weapons through being a part of a hero’s story.
Here are some powers that an existing item could have
- Imparts a weaker version of a class ability the old wielder had (like sneak attack, rage, an invocation, etc)
- Grants a feat that the old wielder used to have.
- A weapon deals additional damage of an elemental type
- A weapon gains a greater bonus to attacks/damage (+1 becomes
- A set of armor has a greater bonus to AC (+1 becomes +2,
- The item can now once per day cast a spell the old wielder
- Lets the attuned creature speak and understand a language
the previous wielder could
- An existing feature of the item is strengthened
- An ability of the item with limited uses gains more of them,
or gains additional charges, or lasts longer.
- The item is sentient and contains the soul of the previous owner.
Or make up your own! It’s a great way to tie one campaign to the next and make heroes into legends!