Question on Last Breath

Question on Last Breath

Question on Last Breath

I can’t work my head around the last breath move and making Death a common occurrence in the setting. It feels too terrypratcheresque to me.

How do you guys handle it once your characters keep meeting death? What does death ask of them? Why? Do the characters talk between them about it?

Does anyone use alternative rules?

16 thoughts on “Question on Last Breath”

  1. Well, I’ve only had one character die (it was a warforged who was building his own god) and so his Death was his god. I’d probably do something similar with faith based characters. In a game that Adam Koebel ran, his Death for one of our players was a ghost we were trying to save.

  2. nobody in my games has ever had to roll that move. Sadly. Honestly, I have a hard time imagining death having much of an agenda – but there might be other entities that intercede, and who you could make a bargain with. 

  3. I’ll probably go with the pratchetesque thing for my coming campaign cos snarky death entertains me. Either that or ask the party as a whole what they see .

  4. I think you could easily use the Last Breath rules as they stand, but easily run the fiction without actually personifying death. Basically, give the character a hard choice based on the circumstances they are in:

    “The Shadow Lord’s dagger of the Black Depths punctures your side. You can feel its evil coursing through your veins as your vision begins to fade. If you grit your teeth and fight against it, you’ll hold onto your life, but your soul will be tainted with a dark curse. If you let yourself succumb to a hero’s death, you will pass into the realm of legend. What do you do?”

    Or, slightly more mundane:

    “The orc’s axe cuts your arm clean off, and the sudden gush of blood has you knocking at heaven’s door.  You have enough time to wrap the wound, but then you’ll have to live your life as an amputee. What do you do?”

    In both these cases (which imagine a 7-9), the character meets death figuratively. The mechanical effect is by the book, but the character never has a chat with a cloaked guy with a scythe.

  5. I ask the player what their character’s people believe about death, and then that’s what I have death be.

    For the ratfolk, it was an endless chattering in the dark, which was pretty cool and terrifying.

  6. I usually ask a bit about Death when it gets close. Death is one area where I’m super willing to let players define what it’s like, because I like to have different aspects of it (kind of like Jonathan Walton). So if one player says it’s a robed skeleton and another says it’s a shining white figure you can’t even look at, no problem, aspects of the same thing.

    I also tend to think of the core Death that these are aspects of as some kind of capricious deity itself. It has Plans and while I don’t know what they are, any action will probably further them.

    When in doubt, I fall back on Death as greedy: adventurers tend to send more souls to Death, so it doesn’t mind giving them a bargain once in a while.

    It’s also utterly possible to rewrite Last Breath without Death, but I like giving a personification to that choice. 

  7. I like the hard choices and I like Jason’s ‘compelling’ option. How can death be compelling? The fame? You can utter a curse that becomes true? You can get some extras for a new character?

  8. Death is compelling if it is a good alternative. My favorite example – Death make an offer to the player, he could properly die and go through the black gates, or he could live on – but never let the sun touch his face again.

  9. In my Frozen North game (which is heavily influenced by Black Metal), Death plays a very important and crucial role. The “Sons of Northern Darkness” worship him and wear his face. Those who have met him have always been in awe. He comes and collects his own. He’s a pretty big deal.

    Also, the Black Gate is an actual place. Some have been beyond it and have come back with things. Death does not like that. 

    I think the goal of the mechanic is to make death (the concept, not the person) a big deal. Make it something that the players constantly flirt with and hope to not have to meet. Maybe you should not think of it as a state of being. It seems that characters have less of a desire for death, when they have to face it. Just my 2 copper.

  10. In my game one of my characters has died twice already and got a 7-9 on both rolls. The first time I cursed him to look like a mouse-person at all times because he kept shapeshifting into a mouse. In the last move, he was killed by the wizards fireball (which was similarly a 7-9 option to take out a group of 5 mercenaries). The fireball caught the attention of the greater fire elemental they were simultaneously trying to run away from, so death  just grinned at him and brought him back to life with 1 health to face the new threat.

    As far as new death moves go, they are working towards binding a crystal of power to the temple of their god, so he will overrule death’s embrace over dying for them. So long as it has charge they should resurrect there with no risk instead.

  11. There’s also a thing I’ve been thinking about a lot for Last Breath that isn’t really clear in the presentation. The trigger for the move is “when you’re dying” which is kind of important.

    The intention here is that you’ve got to be in the process of dying, with some reasonable (within this cray magical world) way to come back. If your head is just chopped off, you don’t get a last breath. Turned to dust? No last breath.

    Not that anybody here has messed it up, I’ve just been thinking about it for a while.

  12. Sage LaTorra,  I always make my players make the roll before I describe how they die in the fiction. Expecting the die roll to shape the fiction. Not that I’m better at your game than you, but I’m pretty sure I’m better at your game than you. 😀

  13. When a character reaches 0 hp I’ve been having them die in some way that leaves death open ended…I describe the near death experience appropriate for their religion, and then have them roll to see what the bargain is.  We’ve had a few deaths this year…

    Thief: smacked down by iron golem…dragged through the streets in the afterlife by all the people he ever stole from.  death is wearing a wig and judges robes awaiting him.  His crimes are listed, in detail by the court.  He rolls a 7-9 and death lets him return if he promises never to steal again, on  penalty of death…he agrees.  He has stolen something again in game on two separate occasions dropping dead immediately in the process.  The second time he rolled 7-9 and death forced him to change his class, so he was no longer a thief by trade (negotiated cleverly by his afterlife lawyer), and the third time he rolled a 10+ and escaped the gallows and made it back.  He’s actually decided that defying death as an act of rebellion is his characters motivation now.

    Minotaur: bitten by a giant poison spider/drow thing…he plods through the great labyrinth of baphomet and meets his deity in the center.  Rolls a 7-9 and is given the choice of continuing to live out eternity as a bull in the Rlysian Fields or as a human back in the mortal world.  He chooses to come back as a human, but he must not find a new deity as he can no longer return to the minotaur afterlife.  Unfortunately it doesn’t occur to him to find a new faith before this happens and goes straight to purgatory where he hangs out with death, who on his 7-9 roll allows him to return if he becomes a bone knight and pledges himself to death’s service.  As he was a good minotaur who is now a good human death knight this causes some interesting moral complications in the course of things that arise in game.

    Ranger: pushed off a high tower by a chaos overlord…goes to the Elysian Fields.  The dryads there tell him that he can stay there forever.  Rolls a 7-9 and they say that his animal companion can take his place but the creature will have to die.  He chooses to remain there saving the life of his animal companion.

    Barbarian:  after defeating a giant snake god thing named Serpentor, he is stabbed in the back by the party’s thief who is currently possessed by the recently departed spirit of the terrible sorcerer who summoned said snake god thing.  Since his barbarian tribe eschews convention of civilization: Pants, all members of his tribe who die violently and pantless go to pantless Valhalla where they can feast and fight until the end of time.  No bargain or roll is necessary as this is his characters ambition in life.  However the party, not realizing this, actually has him resurrected by an sketchy priestess of the desert god of sands, camels, and lovemaking.  He comes back to the land of the living but is enraged when he finds he has necrotic pants fused to his legs that he cannot remove by mundane means.  So now he is on a quest to find a way to remove his necropants (it’s a thing, you can google it) before he dies again and denied his rightful place in pantless Valhalla with his ancestors and kin.

  14. Ivan Vaghi So far all my games have been high-fantasy/divine games, so resurrection and strange juju is part of an adventurer’s life. Still, I don’t feel that they should keep getting free get out of jail free. Usually, they get some sort of boon or strength if they make it out alive, but they also leave something behind or are required to do something else. After cheating death too many times, one of my heroes straight up died. Yes, he went out in a blaze of glory fighting a dwarf ‘King’ and changing the valley forever, but he’s definitely gone now. I like having ‘the fate’s demand your death’. Or maybe beings of the underworld/Hell/the Gods will come to collect you as you have no business being a live. 

    However, for a lower fantasy setting there are several good options I might use. (Or even like a funnel world type deal.) 

    1. Good old D&D death saving throw. You’re unconscious and bleeding out: let’s see if you live or die.

    2. Death can’t see you now. Join the lines at either the obsidian or pearly gates.

    3. You’re dead at 0 hp. No take-backs. 

    4. Death (or whoever you see or believe in) in the afterlife is a tough bargainer. Instead of rolling, you have to convince, trick or overwhelm them to get a chance at life.

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