Spooky action at a distance

You Are Already Dead

Still from Dead Man (1995)

So your character did something not so smart huh? Angered a local faction leader? Summoned a vengeful demon? Either way they are probably not going to live for much longer. If only there was some procedure you could use to track the process.

Prepare to Die

Take a 52 card deck. Player picks a card (not jokers!) and everyone around the table may shuffle the deck. If multiple characters are doomed, everyone picks a different card. Note it down so you don’t forget your mark of death.

Pick a time scale. Do you want the haunting of death to unfold over a campaign? In the span of a couple of dungeons?

  • Short and sweet: draw 3 cards every exploration turn.
  • Standard arrangement: draw a card every exploration turn.
  • In for the long haul: draw 3 cards every downtime turn.

When your card is drawn, you will make the final gasp. One cool thing however is that you cannot die until you draw that card. Useful isn’t it? Getting into a critical condition will still shorten your lifespan though. Draw twice the cards when you have less than half health.

Who Is After Your Guts?

1 - Classic Bounty Hunters. They got their revolvers, they got their hats. They are methodical. They follow your footprints everywhere you go.

2 - Demons Demons Demons. Hell wants you down underground, so they sent an army after you. Just hope you get one of the more comfortable circles.

3 - Yourself from a Parallel Dimension. They probably have a goatee. That’s just how evil dimensions are. If you two come into contact that will probably annihilate you both, or maybe the whole universe.

4 - Big Alien Worm. An eternal being capable of shattering worlds. Its only goal is to consume your mortal flesh.

5 - Nasty Time Cops. They need to get rid of you before you mess with the timeline in the future. Don’t ask how it works or you will get a headache.

6 - Death Itself. Self explanatory.

Cheating Death

You of course have some tricks up your sleeve. Below I present you with some ways to prolong your suffering. You may perform these once per session.

  • Split the deck in half and swap the top and bottom. Perform a feat of inhuman power.
  • See the future by visiting an oracle of gaining a vision. Draw 3 cards from the top of the deck and choose to leave the at the top or shuffle into the deck.
  • Summon death by drawing cards until you see yours. You may either accept it, or flee by shuffling the card into the rest of the deck.
  • If you draw a joker you can use it later to shuffle your card back into the deck.

Every time you cheat death destroy a card. Yes I mean like really destroy it. Rip it apart. Burn it (safely). Messing with death has its material consequences.

Final Gasp

When your card is ultimately drawn, your time has come. There is no way to avoid your death. Say a few final words and describe with the GM the details of your final moments. Roll up a new character.

Published on August 10, 2022.

Tagged: death   mechanics  


Spooky action at a distance is a blog run by emmy verte, to muse on sci-fi, fantasy location exploration and short fiction. You can donate to support Ukraine here.