A character is a complex mess of emotions, goals, and ideas. Every character you will ever make will more than likely have a piece of yourself in them regardless of if you intend it or not. Your emotions will more than likely become intertwined with your character's. It is important to remember that as you create them and also acknowledge that while you may be deeply attached to said character, they can be gone in a single game or even a single encounter. You need to be able to remove yourself in stressful times or even in their deaths so that you do not suffer from their suffering. Your character may have many plans in life, but they may never reach them due to unforeseen circumstances. This in many ways is very accurate to real life because life is a strange journey with its ending never known until it is there in front of you. All you can do is enjoy the fun, the tears, and the journey you go on until that ending.
Meet Johnathan aka Skotos. This character was written by me personally for a superhero campaign set in modern times years ago. Skotos was a hero from the Age of Gods sent forward in time to help lead a company of heroes in the face of the Apocalypse that they delayed during his time. Being the loyal soldier he was he did whatever was asked of him if it meant that long term it would help save the world. A true hero through and through he had no idea how to behave in the modern world, but he knew that as long as he drew breath he would follow orders to the letter to ensure that the world that he loved would continue for at least another day. No matter what the order may be.
Even if that order was simply protecting his leader's wife much to her annoyance. She was a great hero in her own right and she did not appreciate a babysitter being assigned by her scared husband who was always doting and worried over her despite her strength. He was told to always follow her and make sure she was safe and secure. Eventually the two developed a weird friendship of understanding that led to her actually caring for him greatly and him caring for her in return beyond being a mission. They fought alongside one another to help save the world with the rest of the party. When I was writing this character I expected him to be there until the very end of the plot. I expected him to last all 3 planned Arcs of the story and be right there to finish his final mission of saving the world from the apocalypse. Funny how I expected this, but in reality I was assuming it. You know what they say about when you assume right?
Yeah I didn't expect it either. During a very large climactic battle to cap off the second arc of the narrative his friend and target of his protection was overwhelmed. She was at risk of being seriously injured or even killed and when the blow was coming to end her life Skotos chose to follow one mission over the mission he dedicated his life to. He chose to protect his friend over saving the world. Skotos died that day and as someone who loved this character, and even made him with the basis of a dear friend of mine's character that I am no longer able to play with, it hurt like hell. The game went on and the heroes saved the world, but Skotos was not there at the end. This grand character with lore and deep history had died long before the final battle took place. Honestly though? I am glad it went this way in hindsight. The character was great and his death marked a significant moment in the story. His life, actions and love for others led him to sacrifice himself for something he saw greater than the world itself: his friend.
This is what a D&D character is to me. It is not one that goes through the journey as you expect. It is a creation that forms its own ideals and thoughts of what they should do. Even if their decision lead to their untimely end it does not mean that their story is not fulfilled. All it means is that their story has ended and it can mean so much more than you think long term. D&D is the creation of grand stories and lives of people that will never exist except within their own worlds. When you make a D&D character you will always put a piece of yourself in them, but do not be sad when they are gone because as long as you had fun playing them and enjoyed the game then they have lived a story worth living.