We had another character death in this week's session. One player lost his 4th character since June 2009. In addition to this, we have had two other players lose a character each.
...the party encountered two wandering medusae, disguised as fair maidens. In the ensuing combat, the ranger was petrified. One of the medusae was reduced to 9 hit points and begged for her life, telling the party that she knew of a flower growing in the dungeon that could be rendered into an unguent that would restore the petrified ranger. The second medusa, laid low by the magic-user's stinking cloud spell, was bound and had a bag placed over her head. The party held the second medusa hostage while the first led the mutant fighter (who can see with echo vision and this did not fear her gaze) to find the plant.
...medusae are neutral evil. As the garden keepers of the citadel of Chaos, the sisters had adorned themselves with a special musk that rendered them immune to the more dangerous inhabitants of the garden. One such inhabitant was a variation of the amber creeper... a plant that moves in hypnotic patters to lure unsuspecting prey into its fronds, wherein their brains are sucked out and replaced with a new plant bulb. Well, guess what plant the medusa led the fighter to? He failed his saving throw.
Twenty five minutes later, the party decides they've been had, and escort the second medusa to the garden. They find their companion dead and the flower they originally sought mangled and cut. (By the first medusa, of course) They scraped together enough of the dead plant to make a paste that managed to revive the ranger, who had to make a die roll to come back normal. The party released the second medusa, but they still suffered the loss of a companion.
I have never had a campaign kill this many players. There are a number of reasons for it, I think... firstly, I do not fudge die rolls anymore. I don't fudge attack rolls, traps, etc. I use monsters that have poison, petrification, and even instant-kill attacks, though they are in the minority. I include situations where not putting two and two together can get you killed. My games do not have a pre-determined story, so I leave the players to keep themselves alive, rather than me trying to keep them alive.
...on the other hand, I allow my players the opportunity to gain fantastic boons as well. This last session, they found a book that they could use to alter the destinies of themselves and even their arch-enemy. They found lasers and grenades and other weird technology. They befriended a village full of mystical druid types who gave them a free place to stay for some time, as well as access to magic to remove curses and the like. I try to throw in wild, strange rewards to balance out the strange and deadly things they encounter.
...and yet, sometimes I think maybe I am too lethal and too capricious. My campaign has lost three players, though two of them left because they were a couple who had a baby.
Perhaps it was a stretch to call myself a killer DM, but I certainly am a lot more deadly than I was previously. In fact, the player who has lost several characters used to say I was one of the softest DMs he knew. (That was back in our 3.5 days, which are forever behind me.)
So Josh, if you're reading this... erm, sorry you got killed again!