Ameron wrote a great post about suicide missions in roleplaying games. While (almost) no one likes to be surprised by a TPK, planning on a suicide mission can be a great way to amp up the tension. Heroic sacrifice is a traditional part of high fantasy, and there’s no reason you can’t make it part of a mission or even a campaign.

Of course, sacrifice need not be heroic. Knowingly going to one’s death is terrifying, to say the least. It may provide valuable perspective, and will certainly change the player’s outlook. Will they laugh in the face of death and live life to the fullest while taking heedless risks? Or will they take no risks and assure a meaningful sacrifice?

Add religion or ideology and a sacrifice can resonate for campaigns to come. Future characters might even be devotees of the famous martyr/saint from a previous campaign. Of course, this idea touches on a whole lot of social and political issues from the present time, so be sensitive and respect all points of view.