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11 Bizarre Ways To Die

Updated on January 9, 2012

A fun and interesting guide to killing off those annoying, pesky and/or irritating PCs (and NPCs) that surface in your campaign in interesting (and fun!) ways. 

1. Bad Brew:

This could be a poorly constructed potion, a batch of food made with ingredients that just happen to be bad or merely past their expiration date, or an innocent substitution that has dire consequences (like a can of old dog food used to make a casserole – botulism alert!) It could also be an invention that the character is experimenting with that blows up in his/her face despite any number of tests or re-checking. Could be an error in the math, a misplaced part, you name it. People make mistakes, and as we’ve seen over and over again with accidents like the sinking of the Titanic or the detonation of the Challenger, sometimes those accidents can have deadly consequences.


2. A Really bad trip:

Somehow, a character begins to hallucinate. (Maybe the food was drugged, maybe he/she took something willingly, or perhaps it’s a spell or a side-effect from some covert sci-fi weapon.) The hallucinations are very vivid and very real, and the character should be subtly encouraged to follow them. (Maybe a talking cat says he’ll lead the character to a pot of gold, or a gorgeous butterfly flutters away, always just out of reach, etc.) End it with the character suddenly tripping and falling down a deep well, or diving off a wall onto a spear, or maybe just waking up in the feeding pit of some horrible, horrible beast so you can savor the look on the player’s face when his/her character gets munched.


3. A Bizarre Disease:

Somewhere along the way, the offending character picks up an infection (There are a ton of possible vectors to choose from– spider bite, blood spray from felled foes/innocents, bad hookers, polluted food/water, unsterile transfusions, exposure to exotic radiation, unfamiliar bacteria, etc.) and it goes unnoticed and untreated (or is untreatable/pretends remission) until it gets totally out of hand. There are a lot of fun things you can do with this– think flesh-eating viruses, wasting diseases, AIDS, cholera, the plague, or any of the weirder biological threats you’ve seen in shows like Star Trek or Doctor Who. Heck, maybe it’s a nanogenic pathogen, like Grey Death (Deus Ex) or the nanoprobes used by the Borg. There are a ton of ways to play with this idea.


4. The Stranger:

This one’s great for teaching players to exercise some discretion, and get them to do things that are a little more sane or reasonable than murdering or harassing (or doing worse to) everything they see. Make the encounter happen somewhere isolated, where the character will be more inclined to act on his or her baser impulses. A man walks past the party, simply wishing to be left alone, but if any of the characters do anything offensive to him, ZAP! They’ve been hit by a bolt of lightning, or turned into a baby hippopotamus, or been given an extra set of genitalia somewhere obvious and hard to cover. Of course, the stranger could just zork the offending character for somewhere in the neighborhood of 5d20 points of damage right off the bat and then move along, leaving the other characters shocked and confused next to the pile of ashes that had once been their compatriot.


5. The Pyrrhus Way:

While the roof-tile thrown by an old-lady didn’t kill the once-famous conqueror Pyrrhus exactly, its impact was enough to stun him and give a local soldier the chance to shank him. This is great for characters who run into towns all gungho– let them take on and take down the whole town, let them have their way for a little while, and then throw a miffed old lady in their path who’s a crackshot with something humiliatingly common, like a cobblestone, a roof tile, or a plate. Watch as the bigshot warrior goes down, knocked out cold (or killed outright) by granny and her flying frying pan. There are a lot of fun things you can do with this one too.


6. The Old Standby:

You’ve done it or seen it done before. A character gets out of hand, and BAM! The “hand of God” tosses a flaming chunk of meteor their way, fifty tons of rock collapse above the character and crush them to death, or they become another victim to Bluebolt, etc. It’s the freak accident. It’s the airplane that loses control and crashes into your sailboat, the sudden heart attack, the blown seal on your starship or submarine that suddenly and violently depressurizes the cabin, etc. When all else fails or you just don’t feel like being too creative about disposing of that problem character, use the old standby and get rid of that problem in a way that’s quick, easy, and refreshingly decisive.


7. Mistaken Identity:

The inquisition always gets it’s man! ...or maybe not. Somehow, somewhere, men with power (government agents, religious zealots, evil druids, etc.) swoop in and seize the irritating character, claiming he/she is someone else entirely, and must be brought in (for torture, questioning, execution, etc.) Either it’s a case of mistaken identity, or maybe the inquisitor types just don’t care... everyone has a quota to meet. If you want to get really brutal with it, give the whole thing an Aztech/temple of doom twist and add in an evil priest who rips out the character’s heart and eats it as a sacrifice to the sun god, or something like that. This can be a pretty satisfying one to really play up if you have the time– other characters might try to break the offending character out, and maybe he or she will learn their lesson with a good enough scare, but if not, hey, there’s always the elaborate ritual that ends with the wire cage descending into the flaming pit of doom.


8. Mistaken Identity #2:

In a lot of ways, this can be worse than having men in power after you. Think simple, low-power and sneaky. A little girl loses her big brother to an outlander with a beard, and one of the characters (who just happens to be getting on your nerves) is an outlander with a beard. Suddenly she becomes convinced that he’s the culprit who killed her brother (maybe he was!) and now she’ll try anything to kill him for her brother’s sake. Play off his weaknesses– if he’s a glutton, make it poison in the food or ale. If he’s a lecherous pervert, then make the instrument of his demise a street walker with a hidden dagger who’s suave enough to know when to use it without getting caught. For more modern or sci-fi settings, maybe the little guy trying to get revenge is a whiz with computers or machines, suddenly turning pipes, consoles and airlocks into deadly weapons.


9. Thousand Hands:

This is a great standby for horror games. Have the character get rushed by an angry mob and be trampled and/or torn apart into little bits. Make the mob a mass of flesh eating zombies for extra spice and fun! If zombies aren’t your thing, you can still use this device by making it the reaction to something heinous the character you’re targeting has done (or is suspected of doing). There’s a lot of potential for pairing this with Mistaken Identity– maybe the character breaks some local taboo and suddenly becomes the victim of a mob stoning.


10. The History Of The Future Demands It!:

As a Sci-Fi geek with a love for time travel episodes, this has got to be one of my personal favorites. At some point in the future (distant or not-so-distant, it’s up to you) the character becomes an instrumental part of something so huge, so destructive, that the people are left bitter, cursing the character’s name forevermore. Well, except one guy, and not only has he figured out how to travel back in time, he’s pissed. Or maybe the character destined for extra-temporal murder himself comes back from the future and kills his past self to prevent some atrocity. You might even offer the player this new, improved future self (stuck in the present– his past) if he/she doesn’t take it too hard, and then remind them that with age, their character has become mellower, and less likely to act like an indiscriminate Viking with more weapons and no sense of honor.


11. The “Oh yeah, didn’t we tell you?” Method:

Quick, simple, easy, and great for use between gaming days. Start the session like normal, ask each player in turn what their character was doing during the break between dungeon runs, and when the player with the offending character starts to go into what he or she was doing, just stare blankly, shake your head in confusion and say “wait... who? Dude, your character died last week from (Insert fitting cause here)” and then hand them a new character sheet. I don’t recommend using this method except as a last resort– it’s the kind of thing that tends to make players leave groups.


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