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D&D General [+] Racially-Discriminating Afterlife Systems

The title of the thread is pretty self-explanatory, but I should probably explain this thread a bit more. This thread is to discuss Afterlife-Systems of the various D&D worlds, particularly those that discriminate based on your race. For example, as of 5e's canon, in the Forgotten Realms, Elves reincarnate after dying, being temporarily sent back to Arvandor until one of the elven deities (I forget which one in particular) decides to send them back to Toril in a new elven form. The idea of different afterlife systems like this has always seemed an interesting idea to me, but they always put me off a bit. Orcs and Goblinoids go to Acheron and have to fight and endless war after they die, Gnoll souls presumably go to the Abyss, Dwarven souls go to Arcadia, and so on.

My main issue with this is, you know, the fact that the gods are so discriminatory in their afterlives. This could be fixed simply, by having a non-elf worshipper of Corellon or some other elven deity be "adopted" into their afterlife system as an "honorary elf", or similar situations for the different deities and their afterlife systems, but this still doesn't feel satisfying to me. I'm more inclined towards afterlife systems that don't discriminate based on race in any way, but more take anyone whose lives corresponded to the different planes of existence (a good person could go to a good plane of existence, a bad person would go to the Abyss, Hades, Gehanna, or Nine Hells, completely based off of their deeds instead of their race).

What do you think? Any suggestions to help would be nice.

(Disclaimer: This thread isn't for debate, it's for positive, constructive discussion. My opinion on not liking racially-discriminating afterlife systems will remain the same whether or not you argue. If you do argue, you will be reported for trying to derail the thread.)
 

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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
I think it makes sense, in a setting like Forgotten Realms where the various races were directly created by specific deities, often for specific purposes that these gods would want the souls of their people to go to their domains after the mortal shell dies. I personally prefer settings where the gods aren’t so directly involved in mortal affairs, but I think if you’ve got gods making races, it makes sense for those gods to have a say in what happens to the people of those races after death.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I think in a case like this, you can have both in the sense that you can have different afterlife structures by race (because mythologies like that contribute to the distinctness of the various cultures) and still have the variety of individuals going wherever their religion in life shuffles them. All you need to do is recognize that the vast bulk of NPCs from the respective races with their own afterlives will simply adhere to the religions indigenous to their cultures and will follow those paths after they die, while individuals (as many as you need plus any PCs) will go to the afterlives based on the gods whose worship they followed most closely.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
I think it’s important to remember the afterlife systems are chosen by the gods, not by the race itself. There are several realms that vary based on the alignment of the god. There is at least one Dwarf Gods domain in the Outlands for instance (though I forget which one, might be Durmathoin)

An elf who behaves wickedly, makes pacts with devils and generally behaves in a lawful evil way is going to the Nine Hells, irrespective of Arvandor. You can definitely have exceptions to the general rules.

It sounds like you think Archeron is a punishment, but for followers of Grumsh or Maglubiet it is a glorious reward. Just like Valhalla was for Vikings. A drow raised in the glory of Lolth wants to go to the Demonweb - presumably with their faith rewarded with power over their peers.

Focussing on the worship of gods would be my suggestion. You could certainly have a blessed Friend to Elvenkind reach Arvandor. I would make this the exception rather than the rule though. It sounds like a pretty cool character hook.

If you’re playing in a FR where you want to remove the Wall of the Faithless, for all the reasons discussed in other threads, then it’s easy enough to have folks go to the plane that best suits their temperament.
 

ninjayeti

Adventurer
It depends on rituals, not race. If the elf priests consecrate your body your spirit can be reborn. They usually only do that for elves, but could do it for other races if they chose to. Conversely, if the Norse priests think you have dishonored yourself in battle they don't give you a proper funeral and you can't get into Valhalla. Religions IRL have exerted power through the threat of excommunication and cultures have placed great importance on funeral rites for getting into the afterlife - this would justify those beliefs.
 

Scribe

Hero
If you’re playing in a FR where you want to remove the Wall of the Faithless, for all the reasons discussed in other threads, then it’s easy enough to have folks go to the plane that best suits their temperament.

Wall of the Faithless was Errata dropped from Sword Coast book. I dont think its even a thing anymore.
 

aco175

Legend
Wouldn't you play in another world where that cannon is different? I'm sure that Greyhawk or Dark Sun has other thoughts on the afterlife.

I'm also thinking of 3e where there was only several gods in the PHB and all the races worshiped them. If all the races worshipped only some gods, then race would not matter. Maybe each race sees the god as one of them or a particular side of the god. Perhaps the Sun god is seen by elves more from a nature side and the dwarves see him from a fire/forge side. They can even call him a separate name, but is the same god. This allows the gods to decide what happens to any race that worships them.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
If I am feeling dark, all souls get chopped up into 9 pieces (based on what you did in life) and distributed to the 9 main afterlives (Mt. Celestia, Elysium, Arborea, Limbo, the Abyss, the Grey Waste, 9 Hells, Mechanus, and the Outlands). Really big pieces become powerful outsiders, but most (like 99% of) outsider are made up of little bits of a bunch of souls that just spontaneously fuse together (often because of some event on the material plane). The gods and powers are trying to encourage people/elves/orcs/etc. to act certain ways (in order to get more big pieces), and for marketing purposes some outsiders look like people/elves/orcs/etc.

Where two realms meet, there is a transition zone (Archeron between the 9 Hells and Mechanus for example) where material from one realm mixes with material from another realm. Gods, in particular, like to hang out in these zones, since they are easily shaped by deities and you don't have to compete with demon lords, empyreals, or large bureaucracies.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Wall of the Faithless was Errata dropped from Sword Coast book. I dont think its even a thing anymore.
It’s mention was removed from SCAG but it’s a well known piece of FR lore across several editions with pdf products. So it’s a thing if people want it to be a thing. I suspect WOC just didn’t want an argument.

That said, it’s easy to ignore if people don’t like the idea of it.
 

Scribe

Hero
It’s mention was removed from SCAG but it’s a well known piece of FR lore across several editions with pdf products. So it’s a thing if people want it to be a thing. I suspect WOC just didn’t want an argument.

That said, it’s easy to ignore if people don’t like the idea of it.
Yes, but considering it was a tiny piece of the book and was intentionally removed? I would say its as good as gone moving forward.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What do you think? Any suggestions to help would be nice.

So, FR gives us a direction to go, because it strongly expects individuals to venerate a god. So, you make the afterlife you go to associated with the god you venerate, not your race. Then, make sure there's at least one god in each racial pantheon that doesn't send people to a crappy place.
 

TheSword

Legend
Supporter
Yes, but considering it was a tiny piece of the book and was intentionally removed? I would say its as good as gone moving forward.
Really don’t want to start a conflict about the wall of the faithless. Is it enough to agree that while it’s a well known piece of FR Lore the writers chose to remove its mention from SCAG? Rather than speculate on what that means?

It was a small drop in, to my post, where I said it wasn’t necessary.
 

I always want to know how the afterlife works in fantasy settings, so this is something I pay attention to lol. I wasn't too happy with the 5e change in MToF where elves are essentially forced to reincarnate. Arvandor used to be a reward, not a temporary waystation. But anyway...

It makes sense that most races/species would go to the afterlife of their respective deities, as they are most likely to worship said deities. Most elves in FR worship the Seldarine, for example, and the pull to Arvandor is very strong.

Since Faerun is a polytheistic world, most will pray to a number of gods throughout their lives, though will end up leaning towards one above the other (however slightly). This is the deity that is most likely to take them in--the one that is best aligned with their morals, ethics, and how they lived their life (see Ed Greenwood Presents: Elminster's Forgotten Realms).

Even though certain species tend to worship their respective deities, this doesn't mean others can't, as well (few gods would turn away followers).
 



MGibster

Legend
If you want to get rid of speciesist afterlives, you're probably best off starting by getting rid of species-specific deities.
That's what I did. I took a page from Greek myth in that the gods were the gods and all creatures, centaurs, fauns, humans, harpies, giants, etc., etc. recognize them as such.
 

Stormonu

Legend
In my Amberos, the elves and goblinoids return to the dreamlands; they don't have gods (instead being made of the daydreams and dark desires of the deities); dragons likewise are a manifestion of magic and return to the "source" upon death. All other sentients are judged after death by Jhalah, who sends them to their "final reward" based on a codified section of laws - ranging from Hades for the malevolent to the Seven Heavens for the saintly. Save for Hades (which is "guarded/patrolled" by the Yugoloths), each of the other outer realms is the court of one of the Amberosian gods, and most sentients go to the court/plane of the power they venerated in life. Those who made contracts with demons or devils in life are toted off to the Nine Hells or the Abyss at the end of their contract; if the person can actually die before the contract is collected on, they can pass on to their "final reward" - the gods do not respect the claims of Hell or the Abyss, and treat those realms as "abberent" and filled with godly servants that rebelled against the celestial order (though there are a lot of "unexplained" disappearances in Hades, expanding the ranks of Hell and the Abyss respectively).
 

Shroompunk Warlord

Archdruid of the Warp Zones
I feel like there is a conceptual problem of calling different afterlives for different races "discriminatory" when, in D&D terms, beings of different races are very different kinds of beings altogether-- I mean, by all means it is perfectly reasonable to assume that a soul is a soul is a soul in D&D... but it's far from a given, when those races are canonically created differently, at different times, by different gods.

I mean, perhaps human souls do go to the halls of their patron deities upon death-- as one assumes-- but maybe elf souls reincarnate endlessly because they cannot do otherwise, because what an elf calls their "soul" is not at all the same thing as a human soul.

Maybe different human religions have different afterlives, even; maybe it is the humans of druidic cultures that reincarnate endlessly, while the humans of deific cultures proceed to "the afterlife". These cultures view each other with terrible pity, the latter seeing the former as trapped in the material plane, while the former see the latter as being stolen from the birth cycle.

The Great Wheel that's been forcibly inserted into every pre-3.X D&D setting is fine, it is one perfectly okay way to categorize the spiritual elements of your setting... but it's a very specific way of doing things that isn't particularly compatible with any Earthlike religion and is especially poorly suited to worlds that assume multiple (generally correct) religious faiths. This is never more apparent than when trying to reconcile the Great Wheel's concept of alignment planes with the existence of multiple pantheons of gods, and racial pantheons that reside in the domains of their leaders.

If you want it to make sense, you're going to have to build it, purposefully, from scratch. And the nature of the different kinds of humanoid souls is a design decision that you would have to make for yourself, purposefully, and build your cosmology around it.
 

Ixal

Explorer
It really should depend how your pantheons are structured. When you have racial gods, i.e. X created elves, Y created dwarves then it just logical that races also have different afterlives. If on the other hand you do not have creator gods but gods for specific concepts then they should all be mixed together. After all, a soul is a soul and doesn't really have a race anymore after their death.

The problem comes when a setting mixes types of gods which is all of them? Creator gods for nonhumans was and still are very common but no one designing a setting wants to open the can of worms of giving humans a creator god, too. So they get concept gods instead.
 

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