I was really excited by Johnn’s post announcing the March carnival because: 1) life and death in RPGs offers a lot to play around with, and 2) his examples really sparked my imagination. To be honest, death doesn’t feature very heavily in my games. Nor does undeath, in fact. I’ve stayed away from vampires, liches, and zombies and I’ve never had a character death from one of my players.

However, in the near future I expect a shift toward death. I’m preparing a new campaign setting based in a city on the border with Morgau and Doresh, the realms detailed in Kobold Quarterly’s Imperial Gazeteer: The Principality of Morgau and Doresh, and Realms Subterranean. Here are a couple of ways I plan to include death:

  • The base city will be in contested territory—Morgau and Doresh to the northwest, Wyte and Tele to the south and southeast. The princes of the nearby realms have fought over it for centuries. About 70 years ago (1370), several powerful merchants declared an independent oligarchy and a bloody shadow war ensued, now called the Glorious Uprising. Morgau and Doresh used the opportunity to mount an offensive, using the defenders’ own corpses for fodder. The oligarchs rallied the city to fight the undead, using the external threat to solidify their power. While the oligarchy has relaxed in recent years and there is even some trade across the border, the fear of enemy agents is constant.
  • One artifact to be found during the campaign is the Axe of Imshandra. Imshandra was a holy warrior of Pharasma during the Third Human Empire, known for her devotion and fearlessness in battle. Ultimately slain during the assault on Lotherion, her reputation lived on, as did her weapon. Anyone who strikes the killing blow to a creature of at least equal prowess may shout, “I dedicate this death to Pharasma!” and receive the blessing of the goddess in the next encounter.
  • Few know that the city is on the edge of the long extinct First Human Empire. Exactly how and why the Empire perished is lost to time, but there is a small but active cult trying to revive it. The cult believes that the Empire is merely sleeping, waiting to be awoken by its loyal descendants. While they are active in several other cities, the cultists have begun to gather in this city. One of their prophets (actually a manifestation of the demigod Hos) wrote of a cataclysm to take place in the near future that would allow the cultists to perform the rituals necessary to raise the Empire. The appointed time approaches, and the cultists watch for omens. Little do the cultists know, of course, that they are being played by the demigods who plan to use the cultists to pierce the planar veil and manifest fully on the material plain.

So, that’s coming along. Sound exciting?