Dungeon Master Tips Dungeons and Dragons Stuff for Dungeon Masters

Making character death a memorable and magical event in Dungeons & Dragons

My wife got me a pretty awesome limited edition Grim Reaper miniature from Reaper miniatures and it really got me thinking about character deaths in Dungeons & Dragons an d how to make them more special and epic.

The first character death we faced since I restarted my D&D hobby in 2018, was pretty epic. The party decided to pick a fight with a dragon far out of their league and in the end our Rogue died, the rest of the party bar one unconscious, last hero standing surrendered.

The player was happy to create a new character, but it was quite a moment in we had played a year at this point in time.

It’s not that I shy away from character deaths, but they do have an impact.

So with the Grim Reaper miniature I was toying with the idea of rather than having Death Saves, a downed character would somehow have to fight The Grim Reaper himself!

I couldn’t get it quite right so I left the idea in the back of my brain.

Serendipity and Total Party Kill

Chance would have it, that I randomly picked the Grim Reaper mini to paint before a game where the party would met the super villain: A Baroness who bathe in Fey blood to keep young.

I wanted her to be out of reach of the party so I set up their first meeting with her with her very strong personal guards protecting her.

Having foreshadowed the might of the experienced guards in advance, I expected the party, massively “outgunned”, to grudgingly flee the scene.

They did not!

The guards gently, but firmly, steered them out of the room, but the party kept trying to find a way out, and the fight broke out and I let it play out, but the result was far worse that I expected: A Total Party Kill, our first one since this group started playing together more than two years earlier.

The Grim Reaper appears

“You and your fellow adventurers find yourself in a barren, cold, colourless wasteland surrounded by four old looking pillars.

You realise you are dead and this is the place before you take the final step into the realm of the dead.

A cloaked figure moving almost in slow-motion appears in the horizon. With each step it seems to move at impossible speed moving miles at a time.

Roll your final initiative to fight Death himself!

Yes, I used the Grim Reaper miniature to give the party one last epic, heroic chance to defeat Death and return to the land of the living.

I used these D&D 5E stats for the Grim Reaper with a few modifications:

  • He can use his Scythe once against each creature within range.
  • If not in Close Combate, he can move to where ever he wants.
  • His Life Reap ability I turned into a ranged attack.

It was a tough fight and in the end 2 out of 4 heroes died for good, while 2 returned to the world of the living with scars on their souls.

But what an absolute joy it was to see the players faces, thinking they had been TPKed suddenly getting another chance. In D&D  it ain’t over till its over…