Death in D&D

I’ve been thinking about death in Dungeons & Dragons, partly because of a funeral I went to a little while ago. My understanding is that the person whose funeral we were attending shouldn’t have died. He wasn’t very old. There’s a suspect being tried in relation to the death later in the year. So you would be able to understand, there was a lot of grief.

Reflecting on the funeral got me thinking, How is it that we can sometimes approach death so blithely in a game? Normally what you do is just write up another character sheet and continue the adventure with a new character. If you put a lot of work and time into the character you’d proabbly be annoyed, but that’s it. I wonder if there are any ways that we could remind ourselves of the gravity of death when we play?


These are a few ideas I had:

  • We could suggest that surviving adventurers attempt to return the dead to their relatives. This would probably mean having to face the anger and grief of bereaved loved ones.
  • We could roleplay a funeral for the deceased character.
  • We could have each surviving character make a speech about the deceased.
  • We could roleplay a wake after the funeral where the characters speculate about what happens to the souls of the dead.
  • We could allow the death of an adventurer to direct the future path of the story, by having the surviving characters drawn into a quest for restribution.

One of the reasons I’ve been thinking about this is because of Henri Nouwen’s ideas about the illusion of immortality. He believed that our society often tries to avoid recognising the transience of life. Just like attending a funeral should help us to come to terms with our own mortality (as well as expressing our grief for the dead), roleplaying could give us opportunities to reflect on our own mortality. (Not everyone’s game needs to do that – but the opportunity is there.)

Can you think of any other ways to make death carry weight in the game?

Faerieland and escapism

On Saturdays I’m normally posting monster illustrations that I make for Dungeons & Dragons games. Yesterday I thought I’d ask on Twitter what folks thought I should draw:

In the tiebreaker, fey ended up coming out on top, so this post contains some fey creatures I’ve drawn. (Two are from Tales from the Yawning Portal. Two are from Tales Trees Tell, which is probably the next adventure I’ll run.)

In D&D, fey are creatures from a parallel plane of existance (called the Feywild), which mirrors the material world, but in a more extreme and spectatular way. Adventurers from the material plane who travel to the Feywild often find that when they return home inordinate amounts of time have passed. Some find that they are so enchanted by the wondrous surroundings that they never return home.

I think this could lead us to ask a question about gaming and fantasy literature: Is it a form of escapism that enables us to avoid everyday life? Do we become so absorbed fantasy worlds that we allow real life to move on without us?

Nereid: 


Siren:

Green hag:

Pixie: