Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Do you want to live forever?" Immortality in the Game

I've never used the Immortal Rules that Frank Mentzer created.  Heck, it's only recently that I even had a look at them on .pdf, and I've never read them all the way through.

I doubt I ever will.

But recently, in his review of JB's BX Companion (sold out, by the way, congrats JB!), James Maliszewski mentioned in passing that he doesn't like the idea of quests for immortality in his games.  I believe he said it doesn't fit the source literature he prefers.

I enjoy the same S&S stuff James does, but I also had a lot of my early gaming inspired by mythology of various sorts.  And there, the idea of the quest for immortality stretches back as far as Gilgamesh.

Not to mention Hercules being granted immortality as the fruits of his labors, Qin Shi Huang Di (first emperor of historical China in the 3rd century BC) and plenty of Taoists searching for it, Egyptians mummifying their pharaohs, Norsemen trying to die heroic deaths so they could live on as einherjar at least until Ragnarok, and the twisted immortality sought by some vampires. 

Not to say that Chevsky is wrong--it's purely subjective whether this sort of thing should belong in your game or not--but I think there's plenty of inspiration from real world sources that it should be an option.

Besides, what the heck else is there worth doing at levels above 30?


  1. I agree with you wholeheartedly. The quest for immortality is a fairly common theme in old mythology as far as such myths are counted.

    If you're interested in the Immortals rules, a good way to wrap your head around it is Dark Dungeons, the BECMI retro-clone. It makes the Immortality rules simpler and strips out the endless tasks and more byzantine requirements that are more "campaign specific" and just presents the rules in its bizarre and brilliant glory.

  2. I think it has a place, but I'd handle it on a case-by-case basis, not as a set of mechanical rules for how to achieve immortality once you reach X level, just like all adventurers do eventually...

  3. I'd hardly say all adventurers eventually reach the 'Master' levels, actually. In the 10 years I played my original campaign, from getting the Basic Set for my 11th birthday on, I think the highest one of my characters got was Level 24 (my main Thief).

    Campaigns die out, adventurers die and aren't or can't be resurrected, or they go into retirement. Happens a lot. There's no guarantee than any character will get up high enough to challenge for Immortality.

    And the guidelines in the Master Set/RC about how to actually achieve immortality are pretty vague. It's not set in stone 'do X, Y and Z and you gain immortality.' it pretty much tells you four ways you could go about it, and then says design each course on a case-by-case basis.

  4. You make some excellent points here LG! There are plenty of examples of such quests in mythology. The Master Rules handle this in a brilliant way too. Achieving Immortality is incredibly diffiult, and far from a matter of simply gaming XPs and adventuring on like any old game. Furthermore, I like the fact of having something to aspire to, even if very few campaigns ever reach this level. BECMI rocks.

  5. Not only is the quest for immortality on firm mythological group, but it fits the D&D acquisitive motif. My longest running campaign setting (the world of Arn) employs it for exactly that reason.