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


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Rabulias

Adventurer
Perhaps it is a reward to elves. Maybe elves like they idea of experiencing existence (and differing existences) more than hanging out in Arvandor for eternity. Maybe Arvandor is a boring place and they get tired of it quickly. Maybe the elves pity the other races, wondering why their gods punish them with only a single mortal lifetime?
 

I remember reading somewhere that some racial gods accept outsiders, but you are 'reborn' as the race in question upon death. Might have been Dragon, or just my imagination. Either way, that's a weird bucket of worms. Great for the folks who want to be another race. Bad for folks who want to worship you while staying their own race.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Generally way I do it is soul goes to alignment plane.

Unless you have a patron deity/pantheon.

If you've signed your soul over to the 9 hells or worship a demon lord guess where you're going.

The racial deities aren't generally super strict on other races worshipping them although some gos may refuse clerics of other races if they're xenophobic/isolationist or just to alien.
 

Coroc

Hero
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.
Well that is discriminating, i am sure a "classic" gnoll wold feel perfectly fine in abyss, but won't do well in, let's say elysium.

To cite OP (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.)

Since you are a mod i hereby report myself for arguing and possibly derailing the thread, but also i tend to report OP for cancel culture, nah i am just joking, luckily i do not think and act like that.

If someone could convince me in debate and discussion (also called arguing, and that is what a thread is for, and you cannot convince me that this is not so, no matter what you argue, but still i will not report you for trying to do) that OPs view is better than my own than i happily adopt it.

There is the rule and the exception that confirms it as we say, since divine beings are quite omnipotent in D&D it is not exclded that a gnoll does go to elysium if he is somehow different to the classic stereotype, i do not see anywhere in the rules that this may not happen, so i do not see the problem OP has.
 

cbwjm

Hero
I like to think that the reincarnation aspect of the elves is due to the nature of their spirits rather than some sort of discriminatory nature and the elven afterlife. I actually like the way the afterlife works in FR. Generally though, in my homebrew world, I haven't even defined the afterlife. There are gods but they weren't around for a large portion of the history of the world, what happened to the souls of the dead at that time, I don't certainly don't know and I'm not sure what would happen now. Would each god bring their chosen followers to them? Have I actually thought of what happens but I can't recall what I did due to a drunken haze? Do souls reincarnate? Who can say, I could, but will I? Not right now, because I need to check my notes. I will say that I don't use the pantheons in generic DnD, it's all homebrew and, much like Dragonlance, there is one pantheon for all races.

Wall of the Faithless was Errata dropped from Sword Coast book. I dont think its even a thing anymore.
If that's true then Dndbeyond needs to know because it still shows up in their version. Even then, the wall of the faithless is probably a "Check with your DM" kind if thing, even if it normally doesn't matter.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
I like to think that the reincarnation aspect of the elves is due to the nature of their spirits rather than some sort of discriminatory nature and the elven afterlife. I actually like the way the afterlife works in FR. Generally though, in my homebrew world, I haven't even defined the afterlife. There are gods but they weren't around for a large portion of the history of the world, what happened to the souls of the dead at that time, I don't certainly don't know and I'm not sure what would happen now. Would each god bring their chosen followers to them? Have I actually thought of what happens but I can't recall what I did due to a drunken haze? Do souls reincarnate? Who can say, I could, but will I? Not right now, because I need to check my notes. I will say that I don't use the pantheons in generic DnD, it's all homebrew and, much like Dragonlance, there is one pantheon for all races.


If that's true then Dndbeyond needs to know because it still shows up in their version. Even then, the wall of the faithless is probably a "Check with your DM" kind if thing, even if it normally doesn't matter.

Wall doesn't matter except for 3E and raise dead.

If a race reincarnates eg elve and that deity takes non elves as followers in the afterlife I suppose they become elves and can then reincarnate after that as an Elf.

I don't use reincarnation personally but you could change race in the afterlife I suppose.
 

All souls are destined for Dolurrh, to lose their identity. If there is any spark that continues beyond to join the Sovereigns, it knows nothing of race.

There may be ways to try to stave off the inevitable used by different people and races, but the mechanism is eternal.
 


jgsugden

Legend
Birth, life, death, afterlife, resurrection, reincarnation - the D&D representations of these things are (generally) not intended to reflect the real world. They are part of the journey of a soul, and that journey is part of a fictional story. In many games, these things are ambiguous (either for story purposes or for lack of a need of specifying how they work - or to avoid offense to the religions of players).

In my primary homebrew setting, I took a practical, but problematic, approach. The Heavens are a series of 9 finite Realms. Each is controlled by a Greater God. The Hells consist of countless realms, with the 9 Realms of Asmodeus at the center, and a countless number of Abyssal Realms surrounding the 9 Hells (and waging the Blood War upon the 9 Hells to get to the center of the Hells where Asmodeus rules).

When a creature with a soul dies, their soul is taken by the Raven Queen and offered to the Gods of the Heavens. The Gods in the Heavens, which are not all goodly beings (There are 9 Realms, and my equivalents of Gruumsh and Bane control one realm each), have to contend with a finite Heavenly realm with space for only so many souls. Some of those Gods strive to cram as many souls in as possible to keep them from the hells, while others provide space to only a select few souls.

The Gods can either 1.) accept the soul into the Heavens, 2.) claim it and then immediately send it for reincarnation, or 3.) (if all reject it) send it to the Hells where most will either become a Lemure, or a Manes (Demon Lords or Archfiends may intervene). When a Lemure is killed in the Hells, it rises as a Manes in the Abyssal portion of my Hells. When a Manes is killed in the Hells, the soul essence is returned to the Negative Energy Plane (and nobody but the Raven Queen knows what happens there).

The Gods can also elect to send a soul that has been in the Heavens (potentially for a long time) back to the mortal world via reincarnation, sometimes at the request of the soul, other times at the whim of the God.

It is almost entirely an unfair system, but it is useful in storytelling.
 

There's no reason all species should have the same souls beyond that it makes things a lot more straightforward and consistent, and means you don't get into weird situations where some kind of soul-eating monster wouldn't want to eat PC X because he has "the wrong kind of soul" or whatever.

However, if you don't have everyone sort of roughly sharing souls, it does raise an enormous number of questions re: half-races and derived races and potentially re: lineages and so on. I'm surprised no-one has brought this up already. Would half-elves be reincarnated or operate like humans, for example? If one or the other, why? Can they change it? (I'd be surprised if the FR had a consistent answer on that!).

Basically having different souls and thus different afterlives for different beings is kind of a can of worms, and it's up to you to decide if you want to open it, and if you do, how far you open it and how many worms get out (but it's probably gonna be a lot if you open it at all!). There may be benefits to opening it, of course, as with so many cans of worms.
 

the Jester

Legend
(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.)
Not sure if you're aware, but you can designate a thread as a +thread in order to accomplish this. If you do, I think you can expect a different tone and style of moderation than for a standard thread (which usually allows for plenty of disagreement and debate).
 

the Jester

Legend
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 whTat an elf calls their "soul" is not at all the same thing as a human soul.
This was explicitly the case in 1e. See: Deities and Demigods; elves not being subject to raise dead; etc.
 

the Jester

Legend
Would half-elves be reincarnated or operate like humans, for example? If one or the other, why? Can they change it? (I'd be surprised if the FR had a consistent answer on that!).
In 1e, half-elves could be raised and therefore had souls, not spirits like elves.

As to why, my guess would be it's derived from Tolkien- with "true" elves being functionally immortal spirit-beings and not really humanoids in the same sense that humans and hobbits are. There's the whole "choosing Middle-Earth and mortality" thing. But I'm just guessing.

As for consistency, I'll just go over there and whistle.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
In 1e, half-elves could be raised and therefore had souls, not spirits like elves.
This was the case in 2E also, as the text for raise dead is identical to the 1E spell in terms of who it can bring back: dwarves, gnomes, halflings, half-elves, and humans.

Interestingly, half-orcs apparently can't be brought back this way either, something which - while almost certainly coincidental - dovetails with what I wrote before about half-orcs being spiritually unclean in AD&D 1E.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
If someone could convince me in debate and discussion (also called arguing, and that is what a thread is for, and you cannot convince me that this is not so, no matter what you argue, but still i will not report you for trying to do) that OPs view is better than my own than i happily adopt it.
This is a [+] thread, which means it's not open for debate. If this is a topic you'd like to debate, you are welcome to start your own thread and debate to your heart's content, but [+] threads are for engaging positively with the OP.
 

Faolyn

Hero
Or keep the different Pantheons of Gods and just create a single Afterlife, Greco-Roman style. You die? You go down the River Styx to Hades and live in the Underworld.

No need to have 2 dozen different heavenly demiplanes, after all.
With the gods (or their servitors) occasionally recruiting lesser servitors and the like from this one afterlife, possibly. But then it's not a reward or punishment for the soul; it's a job.
 

Perhaps it is a reward to elves. Maybe elves like they idea of experiencing existence (and differing existences) more than hanging out in Arvandor for eternity. Maybe Arvandor is a boring place and they get tired of it quickly. Maybe the elves pity the other races, wondering why their gods punish them with only a single mortal lifetime?
Elves have strong ties to Arvandor, and it has always been seen as a reward (so I don't think they would view it as boring). However, elves have also believed in reincarnation, but, at least until MToF, it was never something that was forced on them (MToF presents the reincarnation as a punishment, because they are denied permeant residence in Arvandor, due to what the "primal elves" did).

But your last sentence (which I put in bold) got me thinking--elven "souls" have long been called spirits, and, as seeing themselves as creatures of the natural world, reincarnation is something elves can experience--it just wasn't forced on them. But you make an interesting point--even if it was optional, elves could experience another lifetime if they wanted.
 

Dire Bare

Legend
Supporter
Some points of thought: fantasy (and sci-fi) "races" are really supercharged ethnicities or cultures. If you have a fantasy human culture based on Norse mythology, you'd expect members of that culture who venerate the Norse gods to go to Valhalla when they die. Members of a culture based on Greek mythology might go to Olympus.

So, for elves to go to Arvandor, orcs to Acheron, and dwarves to . . . wherever dwarves go . . . makes sense in that regard. In my own world-building, I wouldn't lock in those choices . . . a mortal who wasn't born of the Norsefolk, but was raised by them, or perhaps came to venerate the Norse pantheon later in life . . . would also go to Valhalla. I also would make sure that each "racial afterlife" would make sense, and have both heaven (reward) and hell (punishment) . . . or perhaps a neutral Hades-like realm (the Shadowfell?).

The nature of any cultural or racial afterlifes would track closely with the design of any cultures or races in the game, of course. Make sure you don't design always-evil and/or always-savage orcs, and the orcish ideas of heaven/hell shouldn't be standard D&D tropes either. Don't ditch Acheron, but perhaps reimagine it to be an interesting place a warrior just might like to end up in after death, much like Valhalla or Stovokor.

And of course, the afterlife doesn't have to be fair or even offer a "reward" option. Real life cultures often have very unfairly designed afterlifes, at least to modern sensibilities. A great adventure seed straight out of Greek myth (and probably others too) is for the heroes to travel to an unpleasant afterlife to rescue a companion unfairly sent there (or even fairly sent there, by the rules of that belief system).

Some other points of thought: Do you distinguish between "spirit" races and "mortal" races in your campaign? They might have different kinds of souls, or no souls at all, and the rules might be different due to metaphysics. In D&D canon (not that it is consistent), devils, demons, celestials and other "outsiders" don't (usually) have individual souls, but rather are animated by the force of their plane of existence. And when they die, their lifeforces simply return to the plane and their individual existence is over. If a devil is slain in the hells, it's "soul" is simply reabsorbed into the planescape. Sometimes powerful outsiders develop unique souls over time, or acquire them through other means.

Whereas mortal souls are different, they persist after death and are independent of the planar orrerry. Which is what makes them so valuable to planar beings and the gods. Hence the competition for worshippers and the collection of mortal souls in the various heavens and hells of the D&D multiverse.

Are elves mortal? Or are they immortal spirits? Elves are descended from the eladrin (I know, what exactly eladrin are has evolved significantly), celestial spirits of Arvandor, who were thrown out of elvish heaven and set upon the earth to live mortal lives . . . . making elves (or other fantastical races) a different class of being than other races is an okay choice, or ditching that idea and making them follow the same rules is okay too.

I liked how elves were treated in the Ghostwalk setting (3E era), when the elves died, their souls were absorbed into trees and overtime these spirit trees took on a sleepy sentience made of the collective spirits of deceased elves. Using that idea . . . is that the natural thing to happen to an elven soul? Or is there an elven ritual that bonds deceased souls to trees, to prevent them from passing naturally into the afterlife?
 

It's weird that elves only go to Arvandor and might not stay with their friends or non-elven loved ones. But it's also odd that a NG husband and LG wife would be separated on death. Or be separated from a child for similar reasons

You can justify it more with elves as they're going to their creator. It's elven heaven. Corellon called dibs on their souls
Although, deities might have arrangements with other allied gods. Such as Moradin taking an elf that follows him. Which feels unlikely, and something the gods hash out individually
 

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