Thursday, September 8, 2011

The End

I've been racking my brain, trying to come up with examples of any effect in any version of old school D&D that results in permanent and irrevocable death. The only one that immediately leaps to mind is drawing the Skull card from a deck of many things, but I am sure there must be others. If you can cite some others, I'd be greatly appreciative.

45 comments:

  1. Guessing here without looking at the books… death by old age? sphere of annihilation?

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  2. Good examples both. I can't believe I forgot either of them till now.

    Thanks.

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  3. Um, poison? Or is that too obvious? It's for sure the most controversial. In my own games I stopped having it be insta-kill long ago, although I went back to it for my recent white box games.

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  4. I think the sphere of annihilation counts. Or at least, as I read it "direct intervention by a major deity" is different than the miracle that the skull card forbids since the miracle is mediated through a cleric...

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  5. No books at hand, but maybe Wand of Orcus? Was not the Finger of Death absolute?

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  6. The Disintegrate spell? (Or was it "disintegration"?)

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  7. I'd wager browsing through Deities & Demigods would turn up a few.

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  8. The DoMT's Skull card forced you to fight a minor Death. The Donjon card stripped you of everything and imprisoned you. The Void card robbed you of your soul and it was left to the rest of fellow adventurers to rescue you somehow. None were "instant death".

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  9. Regarding poisons: one of the many hidden gems of miscellany in the 1st Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide:

    "There are exceptions to the death (or damage) rule for poison. Any creature with a thick layer of fat (where blood vessels and nerves are virtually non-existent) will be totally immune to poison from creatures which are not able to penetrate this fat layer when injecting their poison. All swine, wereboars included, will be in this protected class.

    Similarly, very large creatures poisoned by very small ones are not likely to be affected. Even the poison of the deadly coral snake would not be likely to harm an apatosaurus. Giants would simply smash giant centipedes without fear of their poison—which would cause a swelling and rash, perhaps, at worst. Whenever a situation arises where poison is involved, consider both of these cases in reaching a decision."

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  10. TOMB OF HORRORS!

    Aside from the Sphere of Annihilation, here was a dungeon whose very entrance couldn’t be crossed without the heroes risking their lives. Two false entrances meant that if you picked the tunnel on the left, you faced a collapsing ceiling (5d10 damage, and no saving throw). Pick the tunnel on the right, and you’d be sealed shut forever within a false corridor.

    Pick the correct entrance in the middle, and you still might encounter the following within the tomb:

    •Locked Oaken Door: Thereafter they are plunged into a pit of flames and molten lava that will absolutely snuff them out.

    •The Agitated Chamber: If (the tapestries) are torn, they instantly turn into green slime and cover each and every player character standing before them. Covered characters are turned to green slime and are gone, with no recourse possible due to the amount of slime.

    •False/True Door: A stone juggernaut (rather like a steam roller) comes out of the 20-foot by 20-foot room to the north and rolls 1–6 spaces (10 feet to 60 feet). Everything it rolls over is squashed to a pulp. There is no appeal.

    •The Pillared Throne Room: The stone then explodes, absolutely killing any character within a 15-foot radius with a wave of searing radiations and flames... If the silver end (of the scepter) is touched to the crown, the wearer is instantly snuffed out, turning to a fetid powder that cannot be brought back to life no matter what (wishes notwithstanding).

    •The Crypt of Acererak the Demi-Lich: Any character upon the south 15 feet of the floor at the end of the count has risen upward with the ascending vault and has been squashed to jelly against the arched roof!

    There are other non-saves for less than death results.

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  11. ITo clarify: what I am interested in are not necessarily save-or-die effects so much as effects whose result (however achieved) results in irrevocable death beyond the reach of any spell or magic.

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  12. Becoming an undead was irreversible death. You could kill the undead, but using raise dead on it did not bring back the original character.

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  13. If my faulty memory serves, the Catoblepas had a death gaze? Also, the Beholder had a Death ray? Pretty sure that both allowed a Save.

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  14. Anything that didn't leave a corpse behind, right? I mean, you have to have something to resurrect.

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  15. My recollection (based on AD&D, not D&D) is that Raise Dead required part of the body, but Resurrection did not. But I might be wrong, or the D&D spells might be different, or I might be remembering 2nd or 3rd edition.

    If Resurrection does not require the body then the only permanent death effects are those that specifically state as much, usually by destroying the soul along with the body.

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  16. Grendelwulf got it; Tomb baby Tomb.

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  17. If any minion, servant or deity is slain on its home plane, it is permanently, irrevocably destroyed.

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  18. Oh...isn't there a consequence like this if a magic users body is destroyed while casting Astral Spell? I may be off on that. I just remember another player losing a character permanently that way a long time ago, but I can't remember if that was because we couldn't (by rule) do anything or weren't able within the setting (i.e. no remedies available).

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  19. I think at least hinted in MM, that death from a Demon or Devil was supposed to be permanent (in other words, they took your soul upon death).

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  20. The Level Drain ability of a Wraith, does NOT allow a saving throw to be made against it, i.e. could result in death.

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  21. Not irrevocable death though, unless I'm remembering wrong. Or else we cheated once! ;-)

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  22. Ghosts, of course:

    Any human - including dwarves, elves, gnomes, and halflings - killed by a ghost is forever dead. (MM, p. 43).

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  23. Your character dies (unfairly in your opinion).

    You scream, stand up and shred your character sheet and set it on fire.

    DM says "You know there's resurrection magic, right? Oh well. Too bad."

    You're not coming back from that one.

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  24. In AD&D, a few monsters are stated to digest the bodies of their victims in such a way that resurrection is impossible, e.g. the purple worm. Green slime kills irrevocably. Any "human - including dwarves, elves, gnomes and halflings" killed by a ghost is forever dead. If you go into the MM2 and FF there are other examples - e.g. the vargouille, which does permanent HP damage (although that can be fixed by a wish).

    The Sphere of Annihilation has been mentioned. You mentioned the skull card. Anything eaten by a Bag of Devouring is "forever gone". If you browse the artefacts section there are a few things that kill you permanently, but those hardly count.

    Death by energy drain is implied to be irreversible - the energy-drained character is first reduced to a "0 level person never capable of gaining experience again", so even if it isn't it's not like the player would want their character back anyway.

    The Death Spell kills its targets "instantly and irrevocably" with no saving throw.

    Disintegration is "permanent". Destruction, the reverse of resurrection, is implied to be permanent as the victim is dead and turned to dust.

    That's all I can come up with.

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  25. Whew! I saw the title in my RSS feed and thought Grognardia was coming to an end. Right then I realized how much I look forward to your posts... Thanks.

    So glad that it was just about permantly slaying PCs.

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  26. I am late in commenting, and in being late I got beaten to the punch. However, I would be remiss if I didn't third the motion on Tomb of Horrors, egad the deaths were ugly.

    Zach

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  27. In 1E and 2E, if you failed your resurrection survival roll, you were dead and beyond the power of anything but divine intervention. Since your Con dropped by 1 each time you were resurrected, something could effectively be killed permanently by killing it and resurrecting it until it failed a survival roll. We accomplished this more than once by wrapping a villain in chains, putting a ring of resurrection on his finger, and then tossing him into 10 feet of water. Half an hour later, you fish out the body and retrieve your ring. Problem solved.

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  28. James, is this to do with your complaint about how you regret allowing raise dead spells in Dwimmermount?

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  29. AD&D says, "When a death spell is cast, it slays creatures in the area of effect instantly and irrevocably." [AD&D 1E PHB, p. 83]

    Granted that there's not even a save allowed, it's pretty hardcore.

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  30. Getting your soul sucked out by a Demi-Lich.

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  31. The only restriction on Reincarnation is that the character be dead less than a week. Unlike the other back-from-the-dead spells you don't even need a body (or part thereof if you include regenerate and clone spells) to bring back the character. And even being a furry-little-critter isn't a disadvantage in a world where there exists Polymorph Other.*

    To defeat this you would need something that will destroy the soul/spirit/hoodoo/whatever, which is an area of discussion that D&D tended to avoid totally in order to avoid mundane religious entanglements. I believe that only the AD&D version of the sword Stormbringer explicitly mentions that "[a]ny creature killed by Stormbringer has it's soul or spirit as well as it's energy levels sucked out and devoured. No creature killed by Stormbringer can be raised, ressurected, reincarnated, or brought back by any method whatsoever." [The OD&D version just drained energy levels. The implication here is that the soul and energy levels drained are not synonomous.]

    Apart from this exception, that leaves only one method of irrevocanble death in my mind: the ritual shredding or burning of the character sheet.

    [* Although that can lead to amusing complications.]

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  32. Failing your resurrection survival chance.

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  33. "...what I am interested in are...effects whose result (however achieved) results in irrevocable death beyond the reach of any spell or magic."

    The Time of Marriage. THAT kills a character deader than hell.

    Tex
    (see if it don't)

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  34. Arguably any kind of transformation into an undead monster (by being killed by one). I can't think of any "canonincal" spell which can undo that, except perhaps wish.

    And that's interesting to hear that death spell is irrevocable and doesn't allow a save in AD&D! Labyrinth Lord is my current D&D of choice, and that does allow a save and doesn't mention anything to imply that the victim(s) can't be raised.

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  35. So glad this blog isn't dead (that was the first thought I had as well).

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  36. Although the unhealthy architecture of his tomb has been mentioned, we wouldn't want to forget Acererak's nasty dental work. It allowed no save, and gave a 50% likelihood that the victim's soul had drained away forever.

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  37. If I am remembering correctly, an elf that dies by any means (in AD&D) is forever dead.

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  38. Duglas, in AD&D elves may be reincarnated.

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  39. To get rid of an Arch Enemy permanently, we always talked about burning the body and putting the ashes in a bag of holding and the shooting a hole through the bag at range with an arrow.

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  40. @Gordon Cooper: Ah, thanks! Forgot about that one as it so rarely got used around are table (like, never).

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  41. New one I just found -- "Any creature killed by a mummy rots and cannot be raised from death unless a cure disease and raise dead spell are used within 6 turns." [AD&D MM, p. 72]

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