Some ideas about character death and curbing PVP in MMOs
What if character death is “permanent”, in the sense that you don’t respawn. Instead, when you die, you’re actually dead- a ghost or spirit. As a spirit, you have some options. First, you get to view the last several minutes before you died from a 3rd person perspective. You can probably watch this as many times as you like before deciding.
1. You can pass into the Beyond, the next life, and continue your adventures there. Is the Beyond a spiritual world or a physical one? Is there a way back from Beyond? Is there something else beyond the Beyond?
2. You can be reincarnated into a new body, with some kind of bonuses based on your level* at the time of death. (*assuming the game has levels, which is not a given). This is not a respawn of your old character, it’s a completely new and different character. How does the time frame work? Maybe PCs are all specially Chosen, and accept an Adventurer’s Spirit at the age of majority? Is that basically what the fiction of RIFT is? If so, it was boring and poorly handled.
3. You can haunt the area where you died as an invisible, intangible spirit. Maybe you and other spirits or spiritual entities there can interact, maybe not. Maybe PCs & NPCs with some kind of Sight or whatever can interact with spirits too. As a spirit, you can go anywhere within the area, pass through solid objects and creatures. You can maybe taunt or whisper in anyone’s ear once every ten minutes or something. Maybe what you can do as a spirit depends on what “level” you were, or maybe not. (Levels are a whole ‘nother discussion). Maybe you can possess monsters/NPCs. Maybe you can throw objects around like a poltergeist. Maybe you can curse an object. Or haunt/possess an object, and then be carried outside the area by anyone who takes it.
4. You can haunt your killer (if you didn’t die from some environmental effect or poison or something). You become tethered to that character and follow them everywhere. You can whisper in their ear, and all that same stuff from above. You can annoy nearby monsters and provoke them to attack the character, or even possess them and make them act outside their natures. Try to trigger traps or obscure clues/switches, distract them, basically anything to make them regret killing you. This is the first thing I thought of, basically a deterrent to PVP nonsense- if you kill someone, they are free to make your life difficult or annoying. If you kill a bunch of people, you are going to be pretty miserable. You’re still free to do it. There are just consequences.
I don’t play MMOs a lot because I find them annoying and badly designed. My ideas may not be any better, but nobody is offering me money for them, so it’s kind of a moot point.