Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Immortality

Men are mortal; this is an indisputable fact. This has not stopped many Men throughout history of seeking perpetual life, either through magic or other means. So far as anyone knows, only one Man has ever succeeded in achieving immortality -- Turms Termax -- and the truth of even this claim is doubted by many. For if, as the story goes, Turms found an alchemical means of transcending his mortal flesh, why, then, did he not share this secret with his closest followers, many of whom instead turned to undeath as an alternative means of immortality?

Admittedly, this hasn't stopped many from trying to discover the Termaxian method and recreate it, but, to date, there have been no successes, which only further strengthens the notion that the legends about Turms are just that -- legends. Other supposed means of achieving immortality include:
  • A gift of the gods to their most devoted followers, though such a reward is usually taken to be granted in an otherworldly realm removed from the material world and is thus of little interest to those who seek to persist in the here and now.
  • Lost magical spells from the days of the Ancients that grant the ability to warp all reality, including the aging process.
  • The transference of one's soul into a vessel that is incorporated into an automaton, golem, or other artificial body.
  • The seizure of the elven "secret" to immortality, based on the notion that unending life is not natural to elves but rather a process of some sort that they undergo while very young.
The only tried and true path to immortality, though, is the aforementioned undeath. There are many different specific ways to this end, from the involved formulae that lead to lichdom to the prolonged cannibalism that turns one into a ghoul. In general, such methods are viewed with distaste, given the widespread belief that the undead are the spawn of demons and agents of Chaos, but for many, fearful of death and unable to uncover other means, if they even exist, decide that continued existence as a rotting corpse is preferable to the possibility of permanent extinction.


  1. Immortality is such a stretched word. There is so many flavors of it out there. You have elven immortality which is live forever barring accidents, Specialized immortality like vampires and liches where you need specific things to happen, and the gods with their own type.

    Concerning Turms Termax I think even if he did achieve it he would not share it and be more like the Ori of stargate. The fewer immortals the more overall power they would probably have and Turms doesn't seem like the type that would want to share.

  2. There is also the Jonathan Swift immortality: immortality without perpetual youth, where the being continues to decay into senility and decrepitude.

  3. And while we're on it: do trolls die of old age? Or is it that their ability to regenerate almost every wound will also negate their aging? Just curious to hear your take on this...

  4. Interesting. I'm curious James, if you have a clear answer already in mind regarding Turms Termax (if he truly discovered immortality or not) or if it's still up in the air? Might it be discovered by players in future gaming sessions or left a permanent mystery?

  5. I finally went back and read the original entry on Turms Termax. Regarding immortality, it seems to me that a promise being fulfilled is way more powerful than the promise coming to fruition. It's like carrot and stick, but Turms (if he's really there) gets to say, "I'm offering you immortality, but you just aren't worthy yet. And that's your fault, unworthy but belovedly loyal follower."

  6. Immortality ended up being a rather important theme in my campaign, since the staggered nature of it often meant that characters could benefit from it for themselves, and not in an abstract sense. These are some of the methods they devised to achieve immortality. [There are so few choices for I when doing an A to Z of a fantasy campaign...]

    [I also liked the approach taken in Mythic China that the only path to true immortality was to receive a notice from the Yama Kings to say that your appearance before them had been postponed indefinitely. Any other method of achieving immortality (and there were a few) tended to anger them. Now if only my campaign had of had actual gods...]

  7. @Russ: A most excellent consideration.

  8. @Reverance Payne: [There are so few choices for I when doing an A to Z of a fantasy campaign...]

    Well, you could design a whole campaign around Ixitxachitl...