Saga of Jaraah
Players invest a lot of time into developing their characters. Character death is unpleasant. However, risk of death needs to be non-zero in order to give meaning to achievements. As DM, I will not design encounters intended to result in the gratuitous death of player characters. Encounters that seem unbalanced will be the result of accumulated mistakes on the parts of players. In some cases, where a particular character’s death might advance the overall plot in dramatic fashion, I may deliberately make a specific encounter particularly difficult.
All this is well and good, but character death still sucks especially for the player whose character has died. Even when the party achieves enough wealth and influence to convince powerful priests to cast Raise Dead, Reincarnation, or Resurrection, such acts still take time during which the player needs to have another character to play.
In the event of character death, players are welcome to create new characters from scratch. Alternatively, they may create a character compatible with the deceased who finds the party and substantially picks up where the deceased character has left off. For example, Sasurai meets an untimely end. The player can play Sasurai’s younger cousin (offspring of a female aunt who married out of Clan Takumi) who has been searching for Sasurai all these years and finally catches up with the party, but only after Sasurai has died. Replacement characters start with xp to be negotiated with the DM. The goal is not to punish players for character death (that’s its own punishment) while not unbalancing the game. In other words, replacement characters will start with substantially the same XP as the dead characters.
Players are also welcome to create a secondary character and rotate it into and out of the party from time to time. I would prefer players not play multiple characters at the same time unless the number of players in the party is low. XP for secondary characters will be negotiated with the DM with the same goal of game balance and not punishing players for trying something a little different.