Sunday, 1 August 2021

Statting a God: Death

This post follows up my earlier post on Aziza, Queen of Dawn, wherein I tried to turn an encounter with a goddess into a different kind of mini-game rather than a combat encounter. Using this as a template for each of the "ruling spirits" of the the other realms of Pariah, I set to work on Death...

Nergal: a Sumerian death god

Note: I almost immediately reneged on my original brief and ended providing options for turning this into a combat encounter... if only because the death of death is a fun and familiar trope.

Death in their Own Domain

Death is Dawn's antithesis, Dusk's greatest fear and Moon's sometimes-lover. The Sun & Heavens hold them in no regard, and there is rumoured to lurk a Death of Death in the void beyond that. Mostly death gnaws at the edges of the Here & Now, the complex interface of the spirit realms, stacked atop one another like a folded up fabric.

Though manifest in many aspects—feminine, masculine, androgynous and more—Death is most often referred to as Lord, as He, as Him

What else the elders can tell you (D6):

  1. Death can be denied be staring Him in the eye and declaring: “No!” (false)
  2. Do not utter His title when wandering the realm of the dead, for you will bring Him to you (false)
  3. He can return dead souls to life (usually, see below)
  4. If Death follows you back to the Here & Now, he’ll take your spirit or that of one you love within 7 days (true)
  5. He can grant eternal life to those that promise to serve him faithfully (partially true)
  6. If he is destroyed, Aziza will take her place as the ruler of the Here & Now and we shall live in eternal paradise (sort of?)

Death's 'True' Form (D6):

  1. Swarm of bluebottles, shaped roughly like an enormous human skull. 
    Speaks via the buzzing of one thousand wings. 
  2. Great chieftain, flesh desiccated, carrying an enormous spear.
  3. Huge vulture glitching into vaguely harpy-like forms.
  4. Robed skeleton with vulture wings.
  5. Old woman, cloaked, carrying an adze.
  6. Raven the colour of ash, pecking at the corpse of the above. 

First Contact

The following occur immediately when in the presence of Death:
  • Any spell spirits and elementals of death, and any souls picked up while exploring the realm… He absorbs.
  • Nameless Ones are annihilated: “you whom others call [~] yet carry no True Name… you belong to me”
Having possibly weakened and reduced the party, He asks them to relate times when they have cheated death. For each hit die a pariah possesses, they will be expected to relate a short account of a time they narrowly escaped death.

Pariahs are under no obligation to answer, but the Lord of Death will perceive it as disrespectful and respond with violence (see “fighting and killing death”, below).

However, once these obligations are met, the Lord of Death is mostly reasonable, and is prepared to listen to the pariahs request.

Typical Requests

To return a dead soul to life

He requires like payment. Assuming the spirit dwells in his realm, he can return it to life if the supplicants are willing to do one of the following:

Give up their own life in place.
Take the life of another 
(someone dangerous or powerful)
Become an undead servant in the Here and Now

If terms are agreed, the spirit will return to the body it once occupied: if the body is corrupted or destroyed,  the spirit will possess the body of the nearest living human, as per the spirit-touched ghost walk ability.

To put a wandering ghost to rest
Given sufficient information, He will see that it is done. If there is conflict with another realm, He will provide instructions as to how the ghost can be freed.

To destroy a powerful enemy
The Lord of the Dead is happy to take lives, but knows that his power in the Here & Now is constrained. 

Firstly, He will not take the life of any spirit of the Dawn, Dusk, Moon, or Sun.

A request to destroy an Undead Champion (i.e. the King of Many Mouths) will be granted IF a pariah is willing to take their place. In campaign terms, this will have the effect of only temporarily removing the threat as ultimately the character will be NPCed and take the villains place.

A request to destroy an ordinary human will mean that to maintain balance, He will allow someone to live who should have died. Either:
  • A deceased villain returns to life
  • Pariah elder incurs The Hunger (they were going to die, but now they’re immortal)
  • A sickly infant survives, grows up to become a powerful sorcerer...
If asked to destroy a spirit of the Here & Now or The Beyond, He will only reveal the location of a weapon (or means to make a weapon). Usually,  the destruction of a nature spirit will have dire consequences. At the very least it will turn the entire natural world- and Dawn-against the PCs.

To learn the fate of a missing soul
The Lord of the Dead will provide information if the pariahs agree to a) retrieve the soul and b) shepherd it back to Him within one week. 

This usually means murder. Failure to comply has dire consequences...

To rid oneself of a malevolent spirit
Usually these are spirits of the dead haunting PCs, and they would have been sucked right out of them already. Other varieties may remain, and the Lord may assist in their eradication - for a price, of course.

In return for an easy life, that life will be shortened. The pariah rolls with disadvantage on any saving throw where their life is immediately at stake. The spirit is gone, however.

To cheat death, to gain immortality
There are only 2 ways to achieve this here. The first is to become an Undead Champion of the Lord of the Dead. Of course, this means regularly shepherding spirits to His kingdom, as a ghoul, a blood-drinker… or something worse.

There is another way... (see Fighting and Killing Death, below)


If negotiations proceed satisfactorily to the Lord of the Dead, then the effects of the sorcerers’ sage (or other ritual that brought the pariahs here) begin to fade and the pariahs return to the mist and eventually to the Here & Now. Regardless of the outcome of their meeting, each pariah must roll on the table below: 
  1. Chilled to the bone: pariah never truly feels warm again.
  2. Hair turns white: ALL hair.
  3. Unsmiling: The pariah can no longer smile or laugh. This may have consequences for CHA and reaction rolls.
  4. Dead Ally: Pariah gains a bound spell-spirit of death. 
  5. The Conjuring: Pariah can summon a elemental of the Realm of Death once per day.
  6. Followed back: For one week, at any time when their life is immediately at stake, the Pariah will  fail all saves. If they somehow survive, at the end of that week an NPC close to them dies.

Fighting and Killing Death

The Lord has the following stats:

No. App: Unique
HD             20 HP
Defence: 20 
Attack: 24; see below
Morale: n/a
Speed: see below
Size: see below
Mind: Alien, god-like, opaque, sapient

He may only be harmed by enchanted weapons not corresponding to the realm of death. At the end of each round, he automatically regenerates 2d10 HP. If reduced to 0 HP, He assumes his next form. 

His current form dictates the manner in which he attacks, and with each change of form, the pariahs must make a save vs. spells (20) to avoid being paralysed with fear for the initial round.

Swarm of bluebottles: 

Coats one pariah in a  cloak of flies, which lay 1d12 eggs each round. The eggs hatch 3 rounds later, causing 1d4 damage each. The swarm flies at 30’ round, and may divided up to 3 times (reducing no. of eggs laid per swarm to 1d6 and then 1d4). Unhatched eggs are destroyed if He is forced to change form.

Great chieftain 

Makes two spear attacks each round, 2d12 damage. On a crit or any damage die rolling “12”, the pariah becomes skewered on His spear. The chieftain is huge, moves at 40’ per round and may attack anyone within 15’

Huge vulture 

Makes beak/wing/wing attacks for 3d6/2d6/2d6 or one swooping beak attack for 6d6. Walks at 20’, flies at 50’/round, swoop is at 150’/round (must have moved at least 50’ to get full damage)

Robed skeleton with vulture wings

Levitates a few inches off the ground, moves at 20’/round but lashes out with dual wing attacks (2d8 each) with a range of 15’. At 3rd round produces arms clutching two-handed metal sword, may make additional sword attack (2d10) each round, but only at those immediately in front of Him.

Old woman 

Cloaked, carrying an adze. Walks casually at 30’/ round, leaning on her adze. Effortlessly dodges blows (defence 30), makes casual melee attacks with Adze for 2d4 damage. Disincorporates if attempts to grapple her are made, reappearing within 30’. 

Raven the colour of ash

Pecking at the corpse of the above. Flies at 60’/round, makes a pecking attack for 1d4 damage each round, before dividing itself into 2 crows sharing HP between them.  Crows only regenerate only in lieu of an attack, and only 1d10 HP. They may divide further, but each time the regenerative power drops by one die. There may never be more than eight crows in play.

If the party destroy death in all His forms, He crumbles to dust and is scattered across the Here & Now by the 4 winds. All  spirits and Nameless Ones annihilated in this encounter are returned to the party, and, until He can reassemble himself (2d4 days), nothing can die (see below) 

Even Death May Die?

The destruction of Death leads to the PCs re-incorporating in the Here & Now. It will seem somehow brighter: the sun or moon will shine with a gentle benevolence, and the wind that blows is light and refreshing. Flowers will bloom with great vigour, the air filled with the fragrance and the buzzing of bees...

...but the greatest change is the company: loved ones and remembered ancestors return to life and seek out the family and friends they left behind. Old bones are knitted back together by regenerating flesh, ashes scattered to the winds somehow reassemble, and plastered skulls chatter casually and incessantly from beneath the hearth stones. The initial alarm is superseded by a greater concern: how to feed all these new mouths?

Food running out soon becomes a weirder sort of problem... it has become impossible to hunt: animals regenerate their wounds rapidly, and vegetables refuse to cook. But the hunger... ceases. Ghouls and blood-drinkers revert to their original forms, and humanity comes together in a great celebration, eating fruit that won't ferment, drunk only on drumming and dance...

But death cannot die, can he? After sufficient time has passed for Him to recompose himself, he sets to reclaiming all those spirits taken from him.

Meanwhile the party seems to last for a week, and everyone falls into a deep sleep. They awaken to find a landscape littered with corpses and the disinterred dead, and scavengers come to feed on the carrion. Only the Lord of Death manages a grim laugh amid the carnage

The Morning Star

Aziza has a weapon, forged in the age of chaos, that she sometimes shows in the light of the dawn, when the Morning Star is risen. This weapon was made to destroy her twin: a horrible crime, but so none may ever again know of loss. It sits in her hand most mornings, but she never follows through: besides, she has no way of reaching him.

Were she to bestow this weapon upon a champion, and were they to journey to the Realm of Death itself, and there face battle then it truly would mean the death of Death... events would proceed as above, but the party would never end.

In time, Dawn & Dusk would overwhelm the Here & Now, becoming locked in an endless battle of assimilation and construction, with Dawn's trees and Dusk's spires towering up into the heavens themselves. Sun would find himself unable to defend his kingdom and, finding sister Moon unwilling to help, would turn to the Beyond for assistance...

In time, all would come to learn that a world without loss is not a world without pain, and slowly the Here & Now would transform into The Not Here Never...

...unless, of course, anyone was brave enough to reach into the Great Void and rescue Death Himself from the Death Beyond Death...


Adventures in the Realm of Death:

Ancestral Shrines:


Free PARIAH Bestiary:


Print edition of PARIAH from Soul Muppet and Exalted Funeral:


  1. This is very, very good. I especially like how it ties Here and There to The Not Here Never at the end. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, it was (mostly) fun to write. I'm going to do a few more of them for the other realms I think.