D&D Ideas — Beyond Death
Welcome once again to the weekly newsletter. This week’s topic is beyond death, which we discussed in our live chat. We hangout every Monday evening at 8 p.m. EST and talk about D&D, RPGs, gaming, life and whatever nerdy stuff comes up. beyond death, in Dance Macabre adventurers encounter an old ruin whose dark legacy tethers its former guests to the site well beyond their deaths. This and 54 other dynamic encounters ready to drop right into your game come straight Out of the Box here. You can get the Nerdarchy Newsletter delivered to your inbox each week, along with updates and info on how to game with Nerdarchy, by signing up here. Our second channel continues to grow and evolve! Nerdarchy Live joins the flagship Nerdarchy the YouTube channel as the new home for our long form video content like Live Chat Revivified and live game plays. Learn more about Nerdarchy Live and how to make sure you don’t miss a thing right here.
Quiver with delight at the week that was! From taking your game too seriously to taking on side quests plus live chats with creative professionals and live play RPGs we ran the gamut y’all. Oh, and the new D&D adventure got announced too. We round up what’s been happening in our corner of the RPG world all in one place so you don’t miss a thing. Check out this week’s Nerdy News here.
Delving Dave’s Dungeon
This week we reach beyond the mortal world to the realm of death. This got my juices flowing for what this could mean in a Dungeons & Dragons game.
First up it got me thinking about using death or the idea of reaching beyond the veil of death to create hazards and mini adventures.
Spirit Haunt. Not actually an undead but an echo of a tragedy. Long ago in meadow, glade or clearing a young couple would meet for regular trysts. As so many tragedies go their love was not to be. The young woman was promised to a noble in an arranged marriage. When this noble discovered the truth they promised to have revenge for this slight upon their honor. He followed the young lady and waylaid the lovers.
At they time of their murder the lovers return to reenact the last scene of their lives. They will repeat this attack and murder from an unseen assailant until dawn. Making camp in this area makes getting a good night’s rest impossible.
These aren’t actual spirits and can’t be interacted with any way. These are more like psychic echos tied to the remains of the couple.
A character who succeeds on a DC 15 Intelligence (Investigation) check locates an unmarked grave of the couple. Characters who succeed on a DC 12 Intelligence (Religion) can conduct a Blessing of the Bones burial ceremony in proper graves that will disperse the echoes as they’re laid to rest.
Mirror of the Otherside
Wondrous item, rare
You can use a mirror of the otherside as a spell focus for casting speak with dead. As long as you know the name of the dead person you wish to use the spell on you can ignore the requirements of the spell pertaining to the corpse. After completing the spell the mirror shatters and is no longer magical.
From Ted’s Head
Death need not be the end for your adventures. With all the ways to bring creatures back from the dead in Dungeons & Dragons it is actually kind of easy. Fifth edition D&D actually has the earliest level of spells to bring people back. But when we are only limited by our imaginations, we can go so much farther than that.
If a character dies why not do as the legends say and venture to the realm of death to bring their soul back to the body? You could even start the story off with death. When planning a backstory has your character already died? Now, having seen the other side they’re not afraid to do crazy things. One of the Unearthed Arcana actually had this as a potential story for a subclass design. I thought it was amazing to have that option.
Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount has a Supernatural Gift called Hollow One that seems like it makes your character undead, but you actually are not. You die but the body keeps going on. I played an Echo Knight fighter that was a Hollow One. Their backstory is they summoned an echo, but died in the fight. Somehow the echo stayed. It had the original character’s memories, so it picked up their gear and lived on. You can do so much more with death than you previously thought.
Several of the Supernatural Gifts in Mythic Odysseys of Theros incorporate elements of returning to life after death too.
Third edition D&D released a campaign setting I had fallen in love with right away. If you have not heard of it, I highly recommend looking for it. The book is called Ghostwalk. The premise is you are adventurers who have died and are adventuring in the realm of spirit. Perhaps you are looking for lost lore or perhaps you are merely looking for a way to come back to life in the real world or one of any number of potential plot lines. But the book is amazing, one of the great game changers I think Dungeon Masters should have. When those sessions go bad and a TPK happens, the game need not end just the adventure changes.
So take it from Gandalf — death is just another path.
From the Nerditor’s desk
Existence beyond death has been part of Dungeons & Dragons since the very beginning, when the souls of living creatures moved on to specific planes depending on their alignment. Because these planes are places adventurers can go this one simple conceit of the D&D experience creates endless storytelling possibilities.
From the highest peaks of the Seven Heavens of Mount Celestia to the lowest pits of the Windswept Depths of Pandemonium, creatures and the souls of those from the Material Plane carry on. If you consider the places where adventures take place set dressing, one plane is as good as the next for a campaign, each with fresh approaches to playing some D&D.
If you could travel to the Blessed Fields of Elysium and see an animal companion you lost long ago, would you make the trip? After you learn the fiendish villain you defeated early in your adventuring career simply reformed within the Tarterian Depths of Carceri, are you brave enough to go there and finish them for eternity or live the rest of your life looking over your shoulder?
Considering there are entire dimensions solely for souls to carry on beyond death opens a lot of roads to fantastic storytelling.
Even from the Material Plane living characters with all their hit points have many ways of engaging beyond death. Speak with dead comes to mind of course, but also things like Path of the Ancestral Guardian and Path of the Zealot barbarians, Grave Domain clerics and Way of the Long Death monks have powerful connections to way lies beyond death too.
In 5E D&D what lies beyond death enters the realm of reality. No longer a conceptual or philosophical discussion, it becomes a tool for players and Dungeon Masters to incorporate into their games as a way to broaden the boundaries of what is possible. The heart of any adventure or campaign — any story — is conflict, tension and resolution and even in the Olympian Glades of Arborea things can happen to disrupt the chaotic good flow. That’s where adventure lies, whether it’s brimming with life or beyond death.