I’ve been running a relatively high power 5 lp game with starting grays, and things have suddenly had a pretty large escalation. So far, the two heroes have been hunting down a necromancer for their own personal revenges, and after some 15 sessions, they hunted him and his summoner companion to the frigid north. Unfortunately, they were too late to prevent them from summoning the god of death, and more unfortunately, they killed them before they could complete the pact, setting a chief deity free for 555 days. There are a lot of different things I have in mind that’ll take some prep work, but the biggest thing I need right now are simple, dangerous, direct physical threats. With the knowledge I have, it seems like ghosts, or at least monsters with spirit nature, would be an excellent threat (Both players have the ability to harm spirits), but none of the books I can access have really any pointers on making ghosts without making something new from the ground up. Should I just suck it up and go through the whole monster burner (sorry for stealing, luke), or does anyone have any simpler methods for doing this? Any other thoughts on what should happen when the god of death stops doing her job?
I’d show the true horror of people not dying. Disease, starvation, mangling wounds that don’t kill people. Still have all the same effects as before, but don’t kill people. Show your players a child drowning in their own blood, forever.
Check out Terry Pratchett’s book, “Mort” to find out what happens when Death stops doing their job
If Death is away, surely the Reapers will come out to play.
Reapers are spirits bound by celestial law and the natural order to harvest mortal souls and ferry them to the afterlife. They don’t particularly care for this arrangement, and millennia of this grim service has taken a toll. Now, Death, their captor and slave-master, has vanished from his office in the spiritual realm, freeing the warped and anguished spirits from their torturous service.
The time of the living has ended–I shall bring about the end of all life!
I shall slay the living and build my kingdom upon the souls I have claimed.
If Death is returned to the Natural Order, my freedom will be lost; Death must remain free… Or else imprisoned.
If I encounter a human soul, reap it.
Always fight in Aggressive Stance.
Never give them a chance to beg.
Will B5 Perception G6 Power G4 Forte G6 Agility G5 Speed G6
Hesitation 5, Steel B7, Reflexes G5, Mortal Wound G11, Health B5, Circles B2, Resources B0, Spite B5 or Grief G5
Su–G4, Li–G7, Mi–G8, Se–G9, Tr–G10, MW–G11
Death-wise G6, Observation G5, Stealthy G6, Spirit-wise G3, Scythe G4, Tracking G6, Orienteering G6
Lawbreaker, Quiet, Manhunter, Broken, Cloaked and Shrouded, Grim and Somber, Morose, Aura of Fear, Spirit Nature, Harvest the Soul; Grief, Spite, or Dead to Pain
Long, Wicked Scythe: Longer, Speed 1, Pow G2, Add 2, VA -, Two-Handed
I: G3, M: G6, S: G9
Can be used to Push at Longer with +1D, +1D to Beat
Grim Reapers of Death, 1D
Grim Reaper Round-Up
(The goal for this layout is ease of reference in play; the more useful an item is at the table, the higher it is on this list–hopefully.)
Lawbreaker: In addition to the normal Lawbreaker goodness, those in the Presence of a Reaper are also moved to circumspection; they feel their deaths looming over them and are confronted by their regrets and, perhaps, reaffirmed by fond memories or proud accomplishments.
Harvest the Soul: A creature Locked up by a Reaper to the point of Incapacitation is killed, its soul stripped from its body by the spirit’s cold, cold hands. Likewise, the Reaper claims the soul of any creature it slays.
Cloaked and Shrouded: Grim Reapers wear black, light cloaks that shift and billow in unseen, ethereal winds. The coal-grey shrouds they wear obscure their visages to the view of those in the material realm–and help insulate them from the horrors they find and create there.
Manhunter–Reapers have spent a lot of time around people during very emotionally charged times. That has resulted in their developing keen emotional insight–Like it or not!
Quiet–Yup, as the Grave.
Broken–Reapers were enslaved and forced to do horrible things against their will… For millennia. If you can break the ice–Between Aura of Fear and their aggressive Instincts–you might be able to snipe in a rout.
Grief, Spite, or Dead to Pain: You might use this Trait selection as a complexity or sympathy gradient. The idea with Grief is to allow for Reapers as villain who are super anguished by their past, and they’re–deep down–just trying to make sure they never have to go pack to the status quo. For Grief, I would lean into the first and last sample Beliefs: They definitely don’t want Death back at the helm, and wiping out all life is the only way to make sure their anguish can end.
The Spite route is a less sympathetic one for me. In this instance, the Reapers are lashing out at the natural order–and life itself–to revenge themselves for the fate they’ve been subjected to. Death and Celestial law have made them slaves for the sake of their vision–They will tear that vision apart in revenge.
Dead to Pain is the option to go with if you just want, you know, simple, monstrous Bad Guys. They’re empathy is poor, and they’re super tough (cool boss monsters that help hammer home that the players done goofed). With Grief and Spite, there’s tragedy and an emotional core through which the players might reach them. With Dead to Pain, the Reapers just don’t care. You might nix Manhunter and maybe add Hard Hearted and/or Cold Blooded.
Long, Wicked Scythe: The Reaper’s Scythe is a pale, bone-white haft, crooked and twisted as the Reaper’s own heart. Its blade is black as obsidian, but reflects no light.
The Reaper’s Scythe. Classic, right? It deals Gray damage because meeting the Reaper’s Scythe is a death-sentence for mortal folk. It’s Longer because I find that evocative, and I feel like Longer weapons are often underrepresented in my games. The extra positioning dice are quite handy for the Reaper’s purposes. That said, amongst the truly Heroic, it’s rather lackluster: The Reaper’s Scythe isn’t really a weapon; it’s a tool. It’s a tool of capital D Death, for sure, but it’s not really designed for fighting. It’s slow and that Power Exponent is low. The curved blade lets you perform some neat trick–like hooking and sweeping the opponent (Push with +1D) or futz with your opponent’s weapon (+1D to Beat)–but once you get passed the Gray shade Power, it’s easy to pass up.
These Instincts are highly aggressive. But they also belie the hardship Reapers experience in performing their ordained task: Kill the mortal; do it quickly; don’t let them speak to you. Rip off the band-aid quickly. The combat instinct can also aid in the Reaper’s already impressive positioning ability, or make up a Weapon Skill gap. It also speaks to the Reaper’s “combat experience”. Thanks to Spirit Nature, Reapers cannot be harmed in combat–as far as they know–so, why not put it all into offense? It also, helpfully, makes them more predictable for your players, especially if they use the dice for positioning.
Yeah, Scythe is their weapon skill. Exponent 4 might be too high for the concept. They’ve had, presumably, a lot of time to practice cutting folks down, but they aren’t warriors. But, they are meant to be challenging, so, modulate as you see fit.
Observation and Tracking are high because you can’t hide from death (easily). Death-wise is a no-brainer. Spirit-wise is there because I imagine spirits know a bit about each other and themselves. Stealthy is in there because no one sees the Reaper coming for them. And also Reapers move unseen when going about their work.
I feel like the skills here are maybe a bit weak. Both in terms of not being super powerful, but also being lack-luster. They’ve got a lot of Orienteering, so they won’t get lost easily–hurray. :-/ On the other hand, Reapers are kind of a fish out of water here: Yeah, they’re not the best fighters… They generally don’t have to fight! They just kill people who don’t/can’t generally fight back. Other than that, they’ve been confined to a pretty limited role, and their limited skill-set reflects that.
Reapers are formidable agents of Death. Hence the Grays across the board (almost). Their isolated, subjugated status has repressed them in terms of empathy and willpower. They’re pretty fast, because you can’t run from death, and they’re pretty resilient to the very death they deal, but they aren’t particularly strong.
I like 6 as an exponent cap for these guys as powerful servants and foes. I like 4 as a floor for the same reason. They’re statted out to be quick and tough in combat, but without much stopping power if you can get around that nasty Gray-shaded scythe of theirs.
Their Hesitation and Steel result in them being not particularly resistant to morale shock, assuming you can overcome (or undermine) their scary PTGS (and they don’t have Dead to Pain).
If you can overcome their PTGS, their modest Health does them little favor in terms of recovery; as being of death, they are hard to bring to death, but they are also difficult to escape him when he does come calling.
Frankly, I more or less eye-balled the Emotional Attributes. I like Spite being less potent than Grief if they’ve gone they’ve undergone that change–Isn’t that relief the drive of the mutation?
I gave them a weak Affiliation. I like the idea that there is some organization and maybe camaraderie amongst the Reapers. But the Reapers were a slave class serving largely individually. So, even though the Affiliation is something as far-reaching and ubiquitous as Death, they only get a single die out of it.
Maybe I should give them the Loner trait.
This is my first time burning up a monster like this. I pretty much did it on a whim, and got further into it than I expected. I hope it was useful, and I’m interested to hear about where I’ve gone wrong.
All feedback welcome!
My gut instinct was that this is way too hard for me to bust out, but upon further inspection, this is perfect for my purposes. The enchanter is rushing on horseback to the large city in the setting, and this is the perfect thing to be waiting for him. Utter chaos and destruction, but oh the antecedent if they come back and win. I love the detail about them being poor fighters with bad weapons that happen to kill every person in one hit
Hey, I’m glad you liked it!
I wondered if they were too tough when I was putting them together, but I’m glad you find that’s not the case! Do the players have Gray shade weapons?
They don’t, but the enchanter has gray enchanting, so it’s not far off, they just need an appropriate antecedent. The other one has gray power though, so he’s honestly not far off from being able to tangle with them
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