Sunday, January 24, 2021

Things Death Wants by Gygaxian Democracy

The following is a result of Gygaxian Democracy threads on both Reddit and Twitter. Many thanks to all the contributions. Y'all have the big brains. 


Pick up whatever rulebook you use. Flip to the spell section. Go to the entry for "Resurrection" (if one exists). Take a Sharpie. Mark through the spell description like an FBI censor returning a FOIA request about the aliens' role in the Kennedy assassination. 

Jot this down instead:

"The first time you cry over a dead body at a shrine, a church, or holy site, Death appears and offers you a bargain for the soul of the dead. 

Roll on the table below. Accept or reject Death's bargain. 

Anybody can call upon Death once. Afterwards, they will not answer your call again.

In the interim, the player of the dead character can play a henchman or roll a new character, as per usual." 

Roll 1d100

Death wants...

  1. Their hairy toe back.

  2. To tell a specific person that they are sorry.

  3. Everything listed in The Twelve Days of Christmas.

  4. An end to poverty.

  5. For you to complete the grieving process and know that it’s okay to cry.

  6. A decent pair of brogans.

  7. A day off. Here's your hit list (approved by deity so it won't affect your karma). Complete it within 24 hours and you get your favor. No special abilities, just go do what you do best. You can take your team with you.

  8. A replacement soul. The accounting daemon is exacting and quotas must be filled. You have to deliver a suitable replacement, someone who deserves to die for their crimes, and deliver it as a substitute. You can't just go murder them, you have to follow protocol: get a judgment angel to issue a death certificate for specific name and hour and day; reveal yourself secretly to the target three times in the 24 hours before so they know their time is up and can make peace with god or whatever; and then capture the soul at the appointed time using an official "ethereal death sickle." If you fail to fulfill the terms, the deal is off.

  9. An excuse they’ve never heard before. And they’ve pretty much heard them all.

  10. To create life, just once.

  11. Go down to Georgia and win a fiddling contest with some guy named Johnny, who has a lot of hubris.

  12. To harvest an innocent life that nobody wants to take. All the deaths drew lots and they got the short straw, but they just don’t have the heart to do it. Death has a cold cold heart, so you know this is going to be a gut-wrenching task.

  13. To experience death without waiting for a strange aeon. Of course when you kill death then nothing can die. 

  • Don't worry they’ll re-spawn in 24 hours, but it's gonna get crazy in the meantime. With some cleverness you might even use this to your advantage.

  1. A challenge. They’ll transform himself into a killer named Jack o’ Knives with knives for fingers, close their eyes, and count to 10, and you better run. They will hunt you in your dreams. If you can evade them for five days, your friend will be returned. Good luck!

  2. You have to win a riddle game.

  3. Listen to Death’s musical, and if you survive, give it your honest review.  They can take the criticism!

  4. Death animates your fallen comrade as a skeleton and opens the door to the positive energy plane. “Your friend must eat from that tree before they discorporate... forever”

  5. The head of a ghoul that hasn't eaten since it was reborn into undeath.

  6. Rubbings from the headstones of the oldest and newest graves in the burying ground of an abandoned village.

  7. Find and bury the body of a hero fallen and lost on the field of a forgotten battle.

  8. A dagger that has claimed only one life and still has blood on it. 

  9. Mundane herb, unrecognizably from its allegorical name in a dead language.

  10. 18 royals, 12 children, 6 peasants, 3 knights, 2 maidens, 1 PC.

  11. The requisite analogues for a full chess set.

  12. To be shown what 'fun' is.

  13. To know love.

  14. A perfect red rose from a famous garden.

  15. A date with a particular Medusa.

  16. A new handle for their scythe made from Entwood.

  17. About $1.50

  18. The extinction of a cultivar of bananas the Death really enjoys because they don’t want to share with mortals. (Death can only really enjoy things that are extinct. They really like dinosaurs.) 

  19. The perfect pet to go psychopomping with.

  20. The swaddling blanket of a newborn child.

  21. Go back in time and tell the mortal-who-has-become-Death to refuse the quest and profess their feelings to their one true love instead. (Yes, this means going back in time. Yes, this means there have been many Deaths. Yes, this means one of the party must accept the quest and risk becoming Death.)

  22. The killing hand of a murderous child, red with the blood of one it’s slain.

  23. A "Goddam minute of peace and quiet". 

  24. A day off as a human, you'll need to find a replacement Death.

  25. Kittens.

  26. The calm before a storm.

  27. The silence between lighting and thunder.

  28. A shooting star that hasn’t landed.

  29. A pen pal.

  30. A whetstone formed from a meteorite (for his scythe). 

  31. A magical dowsing rod that can locate lost spirits. 

  32. An assortment of eyes to try out. 

  33. Extra pockets. 

  34. An earring that fits. 

  35. Death wants one perfect souffle, as prepared by someone currently imprisoned by a cruel dark lord.

  36. Exactly 37 teeth from different creatures. 

  37. A really big frog (you must make your case for why your subjective standard of rally big should match theirs). 

  38. An antique tea set cursed, then blessed, then cursed again. 

  39. A very fine chess set. 

  40. One of your memories, either:

    1. Your favorite smell 

    2. Your happiest time

    3. The names of your parents

  41. An oath to take no life for a year and a day.

  42. A vestige of your form: burn an ability score off your sheet. (It no longer exists for your character.)

  43. Flowers from the grave of the recently passed queen.

  44. The true name of a newborn child at a specific address in the beggar's corner.

  45. A soul of one who has committed lethal defenestration.

  46. Shoes for Death's horse, Binky. The only iron that will last must be forged in the heat of the deep earth by the Ur-Dwarves.

  47. Advice on a gift that Death wants to get for a potential romantic interest.

  48. There is a child recently born to a destitute family in a nearby city. He will die in twelve days. Death has taken a liking for this child and doesn't want him to die, but cannot affect the fate of humans directly. Death will not touch you as long as the boy lives.

  49. Lich marrow for his pipe.

  50. The tears of a long-dead saint.

  51. A vampire's reflection.

  52. An ode to the sunset, written by a blind man, sung by a deaf man.

  53. A woman with a foot in two different oceans.

  54. An engagement ring from a broken betrothal.

  55. Death is sick of chess, but their preferred game went out of fashion three centuries ago. You're going to make it the hot new thing and spread it far and wide, aren't you?

  56. One of your kidneys (gotta find a doctor or some means to remove it).

  57. Flowers from the grave of the recently deceased queen.

  58. A single drop of blood from the crown prince.

  59. The collar of a black dog that was buried under the cornerstone of a church.

  60. Their favorite comfort food from a tiny store in the middle of nowhere.

  61. Tears of a creature that doesn’t have tear ducts.

  62. A really good cup of coffee.

  63. A sunflower.

  64. A letter written from an ill pregnant woman to the child she shall never meet.

  65. The ax of an executioner who used their own blade to kill themselves.

  66. A shroud used to swaddle a stillbirth. 

  67. The incorruptible heart of a saint.

  68. A rigged game of chance (marked cards, weighted dice, etc)

  69. Death wants the souls of those who refused to go. It can be:

    1. The soul of a powerful lich

    2. A clever wizard

    3. The souls of twenty undead minions

    4. The soul of a dragon or other immortal beasts

    5. The End of a Love Most Cherished

    6. The Birth of a Tyrant's Aspiration

    7. The Dream of an Innocent, Smothered but Alive

    8. The Reversal of Fortunes between Man & Beast

    9. The Awakening of a Long Dormant Wail

    10. The Revelation of the Obsessed and their Quarry

  70. To take another deity’s domain 

  71. A pearl from the deepest sea.

  72. To kill their nephew, a demigod.

  73. Death snaps their fingers and another 1d6 parties appear, each with their own dead companion in tow. The lot of you must plead your case as to which of your companions should be saved.

  74. The PC's favorite magic item.

  75. A hole.

  76. Mother's milk

  77. A really good bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich with real mayo--not that Miracle Whip crap.

  78. To make the royal executioner laugh.

  79. Arrange a pardon for a guilty man and a death sentence for an innocent one. 

  80. Obtain a type of meat that Cerberus has never tasted. 

  81. Help them convince a mad titan they’re just not into him.

  82. A translation of a poem written in an extinct language.

  83. Moss upon which a dying man slept.

  84. The year’s first born goat.

  85. A widowers wedding ring.

  86. Fancy cloak and skull polish.

  87. Don't worry about it this time, someone else already paid your way back...


  1. Thank you for devoting pixels to this!

    Many of these smell like folklore, or fairy tales (e.g. #65) or like literature (#75 reminds of William S. Burroughs' 1995 My Education: A Book of Dreams, in which he dreams of the Land of the Dead, which is a lot like normally functioning American towns and cities circa 1910, except nobody can get a decent breakfast).

    1. That's awesome. I've never read that one, but want to now.

  2. Noice, but em, you got a formatting problem...

    1. Yeah, blogger is often bad. I don't know how much time I want to spend yelling at it, though.