In my high school D&D group, this was kind of taboo. When I was younger, I didn't understand why. After all, if one player liked their character SO MUCH to basically bring them back from the dead, shouldn't they get to keep playing them? Don't they have a right to play who THEY want to play?
And this, dear reader, is where the veil of childish naïveté is removed.
Dungeons & Dragons is a social game with a lot of unwritten rules. No two groups are the same. One rule of my group was that our main DM, Alice, made her die rolls behind a screen. This heightened suspense when the going got tough, but it also meant that we players had to trust Alice to be honest.
Teenagers are not honest.
It's not their fault*. Teenagers are young people thrown into a prison by their parents and are forced to fend for themselves. They act like animals -- bullying anyone who is different, fighting over mates, establishing a pecking order. Most of them have no choice but to act like animals.
My friends and I prided ourselves on being different. We were the geeks, after all. We let anyone who wanted to hang out with us do so, and subtly, gently and politely asked them to go away if they didn't fit in. So I thought, back then.
When we played D&D, we all trusted Alice to make those die rolls behind her screen and be honest. We were above those jocks and jerks in our school, we were heroes. Looking back now, I realize that trust is power, and everyone reacts to power in different ways.
I, for example, feel uncomfortable when given any kind of power. When I graduated high school, my destiny was placed in my hands and I didn't know what to do. Eventually, my mom forced me to attend a community college. As I went there, I jumped from odd job to odd job, dropped out of college, went back, got my transfer degree, then decided not to do anything again (there are a lot of manchildren like me, society calls us names like NEET, beta male, parasite single, herbivore male, etc.) Basically, when given power, people like me sort of say, "fuck it" and shrug it off. We're not comfortable with power, trust or responsibility, because with those things come all sorts of risk. We like to take it easy. Others, like Alice, ABUSE THE HOLY FUCKING HELL OUT OF THOSE THINGS.
Here's an example. One game, a player named Bob, who was basically the "weird one," made a character named Carol. Carol was an obvious self-insert of Bob, except with reversed sex and gender. Our group didn't take too kindly to this kind of behavior, and Bob made it totally creepy, trying to hit on other players' characters. As a group of sexually insecure teenage virgins, this behavior was as uncomfortable being in a cramped elevator. Naked. And none of the people in the elevator are sexy. Something had to be done about Carol.
An interesting thing about D&D is that it gives geeks a steam valve to let out their pent-up passive aggression. Gary Gygax (may he rest in peace,) D&D's creator, was famous for this. Any time one of his playtesters suggested something that he didn't like, instead of just saying, "no," he'd give them a warped version of their request, like a Genie would. One example of this is Psionics, which one of Gygax's friends suggested**. Gygax didn't think it fit the flavor of his game, but instead of saying "no," he made a set of rules for it that was, for all practical purposes, incompatible with the rest of the game (it worked on a different time schedule, if I recall correctly.) His friend probably got the idea and kept his mouth shut from there.
So, D&D has a long history of solving problems with passive-aggressive shaming tactics instead of talking your problems out. Alice, presented with the problem of Bob's character Carol, did what Gary Gygax would have done: kill off Bob's character.
Alice could have just taken Bob aside and gently told him that Carol was creeping the group out. She would have done so if she were an adult and not a teenager. Instead, Alice betrayed our trust and had Carol "mysteriously" get killed by a long chain of critical hits from a band of gnolls that ambushed Carol in her sleep. Critical hits (especially long strings of them) have an extremely low chance of occurring***; but behind that DM screen, they can occur whenever an unscrupulous DM like Alice wanted them to happen. Carol's death was bloody and swift.
Bob was dismayed, but accepted that the dice were just against him that night and rolled up another character. This one was named Eve. Eve met our party in a tavern and started hitting on all of our characters. Eve tragically died to a rogue's poisoned dagger soon afterward. It becomes some kind of sick necrogenealogy after that:
After Eve came Mallory, who died to a Dragon just passing by who decided on whimsy to scorch her to death. After Mallory came Trudy, who died by falling into a pit trap she failed to detect. And after Trudy came Peggy, who mysteriously choked to death on her food at the Tavern when we met her. After Peggy, came... -- The Book of my Fucking Evil DM, Ch 11 Verses 10 - infinity
At some point, Alice got tired of killing Bob's characters and told us all to leave. Bob never played D&D with us again, and we had two unwritten rules etched into our minds:
RULE THE FIRST: No playing opposite sex characters.
RULE THE SECOND: No restarting a player after his character dies.
We're all adults now, and we realize that we acted like douches back then. We were young, so we were fucking around and making stupid mistakes. Alice doesn't cheat on die rolls anymore or arbitrarily kill characters, she knows now that adults solve their problems by working them out with each other. I've grown up a bit and am looking for work. Bob? He's going to school too. Whenever we have chances to get together and play D&D, we have a great time. We no longer wear the veil of childish naïveté.
* Paul Graham's essay "Why Nerds are Unpopular" is pretty insightful regarding this matter. http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html
** "There's a number of things in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons that I never should have done. I shouldn't have put Psionics in there, but somebody talked me into it." - Gary Gygax http://pc.gamespy.com/articles/538/538820p3.html
On another note, I don't hate the man. There's controversy over things that he's done, but almost all trailblazers are controversial. Gary Gygax, like all humans, was a flawed man, but he created something beautiful in spite of his flaws.
*** Usually 5%, up to 25% with the right amount of min-maxing. Two critical hits in a row is not unheard of, but uncommon. Six gnolls all critting the same target in one round of combat is something extremely rare. You've got a better chance of being struck by lightning in real life.