Character Death As A Story Arc: Death is not the end

Character death in a game of D&D is often an inevitable occurrence.  Dungeons are dangerous places, and eventually someone is going to step wrong or act dumb and they will pay the penalty.  A lot of players dread being killed (who doesn’t?) as it pulls them from the game till they get resurrected or raised or whatever.  Some DM’s enjoy killing off the party just to make things hard or scary.  I can get behind this but I feel it’s better to keep things fun for everyone, so when a character in one of my games eventually does shed their mortal coil, it just becomes another facet of their character and a whole new adventure.

The afterlife has been described in many ways, but in D&D the religious implications of death number in the hundreds.  What god you worship completely effects the way you pass into the afterlife, be it through the Demonwebs, or Mount Celestia, or through the plains of Elysium. This is where the story comes in.  As your character dies, you can be given the choice to allow yourself to pass on or to fight it and break back into the ethereal plane with a series of will checks.  Once free, you can allow your player to work through a series of challenges to find their way back to the physical world or even directly back to their body.

Beyond allowing this to be another method of resurrection for your players, this can be an entire story arc, where not only can the spirit of your recently deceased can bring themselves back, but inversely your group can travel to the ethereal realm and face terrible dangers to bring their friend and party member back to the material realm. Due to the inherent dangers of this though, this method of revival should wait till the party is at least paragon tier.

Now when a party member dies take into account their religious beliefs, actions and alignment.  If they’ve done wrong and dark acts, perhaps instead of heading towards a land of light and peace, they find themselves lost in the ethereal plane, adrift and confused, perhaps even the quarry of demons and agents seeking lost souls to harvest. Or perhaps they can form alliances while in the realm of the dead, taking on missions for an entity that can aid them on their way back to their body.  Even more so, if they do come back, they might not come back whole, or they may bring something back with them, changing their physical body subtly or altering their personality in some way.

This form of after-life adventure can be difficult to run in a party style grouping so perhaps it can be run at the end of the session or even with the player alone.  Unless they’re helping out, willing to wait, or even take turns describing their actions, it can become a real drag to listen to someone else fight their way back to the world of the living while you twiddle your thumbs.

Not much else to this, just an interesting idea for those who run across character death on a regular or semi-regular basis.  Now this probably won’t work very well with fourthcore games, since you’re likely to have at least one player death per game, but it makes a dramatic and very fun addition to an already well developed game.


~ by darkpatu on May 6, 2011.

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