Death Condition in Istralar | World Anvil


It takes a lifetime to learn how to die.
— Sir Terry Pratchett, Nation
  When a child is born, they have little awareness of the ticking clock that has begun with them. They dance through life with a smile, unaware of the fate that awaits them until the first whispers of it crash over the threshold of their minds. The glimmer of time on the horizon drives them as they step into their teenage years. Some find its embrace far too soon, their clocks halting in crimson tears, leaving their fellows to struggle on with the lost's fate looming over their achievements.   As teenagers fall onto the unkind plateau of adulthood, the chill of finality claims their minds. The most broken succumb. Luck and fate take their pickings of the rest, leaving wounded souls to struggle on through the hardships of the life they were gifted. Only those at the peak of health and luck can find their way to a peaceful end - to the expanse of black that has taken so many others in their lives. To the final step of their existence - death - and all that lays beyond it.   No matter the person, the fate remains the same. The cold grasp of death, and the judgement that follows.


Cause of death... laughing too hard at a joke. Seriously? Wow, what a way to go.
— anonymous cleric
  If it were easy to predict the cause of death, divination would be a far more popular school, and fools would flock to abjuration magic to prevent their final demise rather than immediately reaching for dangerous necromantic arts. Very few people are able to determine the manner in which any given being will die - and those that are tend to either be witches (who, upon becoming fully-fledged witches, gain an exact understanding of their own death and rarely seek to avert it) or have been granted the insight by powerful divine beings. Unless one is a divine being themselves, the latter should always be taken with a grain of salt.   This is not because the future is hard to predict, but because life is impossibly fragile. Stepping the wrong way in a hallway might trigger a chain reaction ending in any given person's brutal murder. Slipping on an icy pathway might snap a neck. A misspoken word might be the final confirmation of a soul's distress, culminating only in their loss. Any manner of malodorous factors can cause death, particularly those meant with no intent of malfeasance.   That being said, there are a few more common factors. Illness, starvation, war, and ignorance tend to lead to the majority of lives lost - with the last being the most significant contributor to Death's ledger. Too many mortals see their lives as playthings. It only takes a single moment for them to regret that. Unfortunately, it is a moment very few can reverse.


Tis but a scratch!
— the Black Knight, who refused to die
  Varies depending on species and cause of death. Some symptoms are:
  • Absence of heartbeat
  • Lack of vital organs (including brain, heart, and lungs)
  • Lack of vital body parts (particularly in the case of the head)
  • Complete lack of response to stimulus (not to be confused with idiocy or its associated conditions)
  • Significant injury (e.g. impaled on a spear - should not be considered certain)
  • Loss of corporeal form - not to be confused with astral projection
  • Pale blue-tinged skin - not to be confused with samsarans
  • Empty eyes (or empty eyesockets - verify with other symptoms before confirming)
  • Sudden transformation into a pile of ash or dust (see: Disintegrate )
  • Responses to spells that specifically contact the dead.
  • This is not an exhaustive list and should not be considered such. It is rare for an individual to need to identify their own death, but this list may be considered helpful in those cases.


    Stars wheeled overhead, and every day was as long as the life-age of the Earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again.
    — fictional wizard Gandalf, the Two Towers
      For the common peasant, death is permanent. Whilst the gods do watch over them, and whilst they're certain their prayers find answers, their ending is not negotiable.   Adventurers, rich folk, and those in the businesses of both healing and death know otherwise. Any divine caster skilled enough may play games with life, whether it be through use of Reincarnate or some other manner of resurrection spell. Only the most powerful of these may be performed without damage to the formerly dead person: Reincarnate, for instance, returns their soul to an entirely new body, whilst Raise Dead leaves them with a drastically decreased constitution until further magic is applied. All manners of divine resurrection (and that imitated by extremely powerful arcane magic) require some form of sacrifice, most often in the form of expensive gemstones.   There are two further limitations to divine magic: the soul must consent to the resurrection, and it may only be used to revert 'untimely' death.     This is not the only method of treating death - those versed in necromancy find many ways around the usual mortality of their bodies. Vampirism is one option to eternal life, as is lichdom. Whatever the necromancer's method of choice, it does carry the downside of permanently altering them towards an evil disposition and damning their soul to the lower planes.   In addition, most methods of undeath are flawed. Liches find themselves vulnerable via their phylactery and are prone to deteriorating into demiliches if they rest for far too long. Vampires have a number of weaknesses, chief amongst them being daylight. Zombies - and most other forms of minion - are usually mindless, smell awful, and decay. Religion and prayers tend to sting their skin, causing discomfort at best and destruction at worst. Finally, due to the negative energies binding souls to undead flesh, positive energy (common to paladins, clerics, and other divine casters) has an awful habit of destroying anyone who tries to play with undeath.   All this is without mentioning the threat of those who seek to eradicate undeath, be it on a mortal or immortal (in the case of the psychopomps) level. Even those using normal divine magic might find themselves dealing with irate hunters if they act too irresponsibility


    Generally fatal.


    As covered in the Treatment section, methods of preventing death are often flawed (see Lichdom in particular). The only immortal beings to get away with being considered immortal for any length of time are those who ascended to godhood, or who passed away and transcended into outsider form. Psychopomps and other denizens of the outer planes will often hunt down disallowed immortals to end their existence if it is permitted for too long.   Deific rumour suggests that even the gods themselves are not truly immortal - that only Pharasma herself knows the lengths of their lifespans, and that Groetus will descend when the end is nigh.


    Heresy has taken root in the souls of these sinners. You will rid this country of their stain, else you too shall be deemed tainted.
    — Queen Friederike of Gothadrun, circa 2412
      Epidemics of death have many causes and champions. In some cases, the Four Horsemen of Abaddon will spread their respective aspects across the corners of the affected land. In others, mortals might take manners of death into their own hands. Even the good-aligned gods seek the spread of death at times, usually to purge whatever they consider immoral from existence.

    Cultural Reception

    Death is perhaps the most impactful event on the many cultures of Istralar. No two groups receive it in the same manner. The gnomes of Soniuch Zan use the opportunity to honour the dead via Gnomish Doomfests, whilst the Polyhedral Gnomes prefer to commemorate their fallen on the Spherical's memorial walls. Gildómar utilises Memory's Pathway for those it has lost, and many other dwarven cultures have continued this tradition in their own manner.   It is rare for any culture to disrespect their dead. Even Seiðrkolva, infamous lich of Foldauth, respects who her minions once were - it's said that she intentionally masks them to prevent any offence on behalf of living family who might see her servants.   That being said, all bets are off when it comes to the dead of other cultures. The Lost Empire of Meihua made active sport of their enemies' bodies, and a common trait amongst nearly all drow is a complete and utter lack of respect for any person not associated with them, living or dead. Gnome punting shares these roots: the vicious orcs who began the brutal sport didn't care for the expiry date of their gnomeballs.
    Chronic, Congenital
    Affected Groups
    All living beings.
    Header image from Mali Maeder on Pexels.

    Articles under Death

    Cover image: Cemetery by Mali Maeder


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    Jul 23, 2019 10:42 by Alex (TheDumbOwl)

    Fool! Thanks to this handy list you have provided I shall simply avoid these symptoms and live FOREVER!   Cracking read Han.

    Ahoy hoy! Have a happy day! Check out my world Vertinall!
    Jul 23, 2019 18:38 by Snake Venom

    This is one of the best articles I've read. "Prognosis: generally fatal" You had me laughing or chuckling throughout.

    Jul 24, 2019 09:09

    some many damn good one liners in here. my personal favorites are: -"It is rare for an individual to need to identify their own death, but this list may be considered helpful in those cases." -"Prognosis: generally fatal." -the entire list symptoms if i'm being honest.

    Jul 29, 2019 07:02 by Ademal

    This is an article I didn't know I needed, but now think everyone should have for their worlds.

    CSS Whisperer • Community Admin • Author of Ethnis
    Aug 1, 2019 06:38 by William Belley

    There is something in this. I can't tell if it's a meta troll/shitpost, a clever use, a practical choice, a stroke of genius. But it works.   I like the many references in quotes and examples of death.   Unsure if i seen it but, if you reincarnate, does it keeps "soul age" to avoid looping it with shady druids ? Cause i know for sure i'd abuse it to my heart's content given the materials. (i know some lore like pathfinder used LN soul warden that hunts undead and people that cheat their death).   Nonetheless a fun read, and a good choice !   Happy end of SC !

    Aug 1, 2019 08:32 by Han

    Reincarnate doesn't allow immortality/living past your intended lifespan, no ^^ I should maybe rule how it actually works before it comes up... I feel it'd put you in your equivalent age of a new body then live to the end of that lifespan.

    welcome to my signature! check out istralar!
    May 8, 2020 02:09 by Geoff Washam

    Hilarious! I love it!