One of the many things which could be taken from Dawnfire is interesting afterlife/underworld and how it sets the undead. This setup is especially in a good contrast with 3.0/PF DnD which ties knowledge (religion) with undead mechanically, but doesn't explain it in-world much. There is Black, the true ruler of the underworld: 'kind-hearted god who protects the interests of children [and himself] is childlike in many ways; [...] whose souls whom he precedes over are treated fairly". I can practically hear 'We all fade to black' as the equivalent of saying 'ashes to ashes', which is why I can't think of such name as of just a joke. Black's undead are Living Dead: creatures of the underworld that never truly lived, and some spirits of the dead. Specter is a god who represents death, life, the boundary between and the balance of two realms. What is interesting, unlike in so many other settings, Specter is not a subordinate of Black, but equal, and given his responsibilities and more serious attitude, I can easily envision him being in odds with Black, as well as exasperatingly working with him. Specter's undead are Raised, once living who returned from underworld for various purposes, and occasional unliving creatures of boundaries. He also employs a group of, I guess, Reaper Knights, to serve as psychopomps or executors, which is good because these Reaper Knights presented as actual characters and you can, very probably, bargain with them. The last death god is Stealth, who is said to be formerly trustworthy god of safety and protection ('safety in Stealth' is another of possible in-world sayings), who committed a great but never explained betrayal (his worshippers contend that the situation was misunderstood) and now is the god of darkness, protection and death. Stealth is a contender for underworld, hiding in darkness, waving secrets and offering protection to anybody who seeks his help. He has enough power to prevent death, and if people don't want to die or on a bad terms with Black, he takes such people in (which probably doesn't help his public image either, given that to be on bad terms with Black practically means to be a bad person). Undying undead of Stealth are those who refuse to die, or afraid to die, or not even allowed to die. Why this setup is good? None of the gods is flawless omniscient boring death, and neither they are monsters; they have defined (and thus exploitable), often benevolent, characteristics and relations between them that might go from teeth-clenched teamwork to strange bedfellows to actual antagonism. Basically, factions, and it is possible to play one against the other or to ally with - and it allows players themselves to use their judgement. Knowledge of religion and burial rites actually means something mechanically as well, as each undead is of one sort or another and it can be discerned; eventually players themselves might gather enough such understanding to discern undead as the character in the world would do, by appearances and signs of burial rites. Multiple possible interpretation of whatever Stealth did, and his established but currently not strong enough ambition to get at least piece of afterlife for himself. Overworked Specter might have a job for adventurers in exchange of postponding their demise. Childish antics of Black could be antagonistic, despite him being fair and generally benevolent. It is a simple setup but I think it is good.
๐Ÿ˜Š Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-25 16:35:13
I like it and use similar multiplicity in my campaign: Nergal for the dead; Orcus the trickster who cheats death, ie undeath being something that Orcus takes from Nergal. Also resurrection. He delays the arrival of the dead. Also Set for all the assassins: these are people sending victims to the underworld ahead of time. Itโ€™s all about the balance or imbalance of it; itโ€™s about finding a common foe (all the death cults); each with their use (who doesnโ€™t need the rich to die of old age, political enemies to fall to the knife, loved ones to be recovered from the underworld); the ability to set them against each other: each disturbing the status quo if they act.
๐Ÿ˜Š K Yani @ 2019-04-25 20:20:45
I like here that all gods in Dawnfire create undead and all undead created only by gods of the underworld; it is just different kinds of undead. Very straightforward, none of those Pathfinder nonsense where goddess of the underworld Pharasma hates undead because they mess her paperwork. I like that Dawnfire major underworld god is, is, basically, good, and the contender is not overtly evil (although he gives sanctuary to unwanted and probably some evil people), so you can side with pretty much any god and still be a mostly decent person.
๐Ÿ˜Š Adam Thornton @ 2019-04-26 15:34:39
As part of my _Tomb Of Horrors_ survey I read the 4E Tomb Of Horrors. I had not previously realized that canonically in 4E, Satan _won_! Asmodeus rebelled and destroyed "He Who Was" who is clearly "I Am That I Am". Pretty fucking metal.

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