Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Eternal Darkness of Eberron, Part 2

Recently, the big talk in D&D Next land has been about Save or Die effects.  I could go on about my feelings on Save or Die, but I thought I would use this as an opportunity to talk about character death.  It's a thing that comes up and different people have different reactions.

Some people consider character death a part of the maturation process.  How often does one hear the old line, "I don't even name my characters until 3rd level."  On the other hand, sometimes death is just an obstacle.  The proliferation of Raise Dead and its ilk in 3rd Edition and 4E is a good example.  Also take a look at every D&D computer game ever made.  I can remember raising dead party members in the caverns underneath the Temple of Darkmoon (Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon).  You know, because in situ resurrections are a thing that happens in the Forgotten Realms.

There is a third group, people who see death as... well, death.  Characters die.  It is a tragedy that sometimes comes up in a story.  In my first 4E campaign, I had created a Tiefling Warlord in a campaign based on the fall of Bael Turath.  Gaius Valerius Oresteus, only son of pure-blooded Senator Marcus Valerius and his treacherous Tiefling wife, Gaia Valeria Tyrania.  When he unceremoniously died in a battle with a sub-boss, I talked to the DM about bringing him back a little different.  "We can rebuild him. We have the technology."  From that, Gaius Valerius Mechanus, Warforged Warlord was born.  A few sessions after his death, Gaius returned as a mechanical man.  His "soul" intact but now shaken, he had to cope with the idea of being less than man.  Thus, death was an opportunity to try something new.

Yesterday, I posted a character card for my Eberron character, Harlan Lagrasse.  Many adventures later, Harlan faced a group of monstrous warriors, remnants of an Emerald Claw invasion of northern Breland.  During the battle, most of the party was grievously wounded.  The party's leader, a dwarven leader named Borik Mroranon, was killed.  Harlan hovered at death's door.  Seeing this as a similar opportunity, I talked to the DM and decided that those brief moments while Harlan lay dying, something happened.  His soul found its way to a strange and uncomfortable place where he was offered a somewhat sinister deal.  From that, I created the new image of Harlan Lagrasse.

Harlan Lagrasse, now very much less than Human.
A Level 7 character all fits on one 5.5 x 8.5 card.
Harlan came back a little bit less than human.  Yet, he had discovered how to better wield the power of the Elder Gods in order to combat the coming invasion from Xoriat.  Seeing his near death as the ultimate failure, he decided that he must do what was necessary to combat the coming tide of darkness.
So, character death sometimes creates an interesting opportunity to change things up, assuming your DM is comfortable with those choices.  Granted, sometimes it is just death.  Borik Mroranon came back from death once but, dying a second time, did not come back again.  Of course, that player could very well have chosen any number of peculiar options (for example, Borik had previously been inflicted with vampirism while helping King Kaius III cure himself of the disease).  But, maybe that will come up in the future...

As an aside, I posted the character card here more as a proof of concept.  I had been asked if a higher level character would readily fit on a character card.  Granted, it starts to get tight (especially for difficult classes like the Wizard).  However, it is completely doable.  I have actually started thinking that the 8.5" x 5.5" character card is my favorite presentation of a D&D character I have seen yet.

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