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Comic Book / DIE

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"I made this just for us. This is fantasy for grown-ups. Let’s play."

DIE is a comic series written by Kieron Gillen, illustrated by Stephanie Hans and lettered by Clayton Cowles.

In 1991, six teenagers sit down to play a tabletop RPG. They vanish. Two years later five of them reappear fifty miles away. One is missing an arm. They can’t seem to talk about what happened to them.

They try to resume their normal lives. They get jobs, get married and have kids of their own. And then, in 2018, the thing that happened to them comes back into their lives.

A role-playing game that is also called DIE which has players first create personas, who then create characters using Sol's homebrew (a game within a game). It was released when the first arc of the comic concluded; expansions may be released to accompany future arcs.


DIE contains examples of:

  • Addictive Magic:
    • Neo gear runs on Fair gold, a mix between this and Fantastic Drug. Neos, including Angela, need new Fair gold every morning to power their gear. Ash calls Angela an addict...
    • ...While, ironically, recognizing that the Dictator power of Compelling Voice is also somewhat psychologically addictive.
  • Adult Fear: Lots of it.
    • Angela is worried that she’ll lose custody of her children if she can’t immediately escape from Die.
    • When dwarfs ask Matt, the Grief Knight, to recount his bravest deed, it’s not a valiant battle. It’s hiding his own fears and reassuring his 5-year old daughter Dot before she goes into surgery, knowing that a much less risky surgery killed his mother.
  • Almighty Idiot: Isabelle runs rings around harvest god The Skywatcher, a gullible pessimist who’s not too bright. The other gods she barters with are generally far smarter...
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  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: In the real world, Ash lives as a middle-aged man in a seemingly conventional marriage to a woman. Yet he is seemingly also very comfortable living as a woman (who romances men) within the game. Ash's friends try to ask in issue #4, but Ash changes the subject.
  • Anti-Hero: Pretty much all the protagonist group end up acting as some variety of antihero along the way. They are initially on a heroic quest, and never want to be evil, but their various powers are all more or less designed to make them act ruthlessly or selfishly, while their antagonists try to force them to follow heroic clichés. Ash in particular is forever coming up with plans which are actually clever and effective — but which disgust everyone else (and often Ash too).
  • Anti-Hoarding: A nasty part of the Neo's game mechanic. Not only does the Neo's gear need to be activated with Fair gold on a daily basis, but the gold itself disappears overnight, making it impossible to hoard. This becomes a core plot problem in #6, with part of the party trapped by the Eternal Prussian army. Angela could sneak them out, but the feat requires more Fair gold than they can collect in a single day.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Angela lost her right arm at some point after the teenagers’ disappearance. As a Neo, it’s replaced by a prosthetic, but Angela herself doesn’t wear one. It may simply be that Angela gave her character a cybernetic arm, which she received on arrival in the DIE world. Only when the party escaped the game and re-entered the real world did she realize that this meant that she lost her flesh-and-blood arm.
  • The Bard: Both the Dictator and the Fool are Kieron Gillen’s take on this RPG class, with the Fool being the embodiment of the devil-may-care attitude while the Dictator is “like Bards, if everyone was fucking petrified of Bards.”
  • Bargain with Heaven: Isabelle's character is a "Godbinder," similar to a Cleric in that she has a relationship to a god and uses divine magic, but more like a demonologist in that she can invoke any god and barters for their favors, usually pretty bluntly.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: Matt’s Grief Knight abilities mean that he’s usually the key warrior in any battle, but we don’t directly see that on the page.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: A recurrent theme of the comic. Pretty much everybody in it who wishes for something (an interesting game, cool powers, the return of their culture heroes, sex, the return of a pet dog, a chance to see old friends...) gets it. The consequences then invariably range from "disturbing" through "horrific" to "apocalyptic".
  • Bilingual Bonus: The Fallen's binary in issue 2 translates to "wehunger" in ASCII.
  • Bi the Way: Angela has a girlfriend but was married to a man previously and dated another member of the group when they were younger.
  • Breaking the Fellowship: The second arc kicks up when two of the party break away because one likes their life in the world of Die and the other doesn't think it's right to abandon that world in such dire straits.
  • Call-Back: Doubles as a Title Drop:
    • At the start of the first arc, back in 1991, Ash asks if “you only get one dice”. Isabelle and Sol correct him as the singular is “die”.
    • Later in the same issue, 27 years later, Sol’s d20 reappears and Ash returns the favour, reminding Isabelle that “the word is die”.
    • ...and in the final issue of that arc, there’s a darker callback. After Chuck and Isabelle refuse to leave, Ash suggests that “if they all die” then the rest of the party can still go home. Sol corrects her, stating that “the word is murder”.
  • Cavalry Betrayal: An unintentional case. According to the dwarfs of Glass Town, the archmage of the Dreaming Lands fell prey to this. The spells he used to rescue his cursed and kidnapped children devoured his memories until he forgot who he was actually rescuing, with fatal results.
  • Comes Great Responsibility: Isabelle holds this view, especially after sacrificing Glass Town to lure Sol out of Twenty. The rest of the party aren’t so insistent about it.
  • Compelling Voice: Dictators, including Ash, effectively have this power — although in their case it’s via emotion control, not direct mind control. The end result is much the same, though. Wise people don’t want to be alone with a Dictator — and, notably, even Ash has clearly come to regard the power as a low-key form of Mind Rape, and hates what it can do while finding it addictively useful.
  • Critical Failure: Mistress Woe describes herself as “Goddess of the Natural One”. When her power’s used to curse (or, as Isabelle puts it, “play with”) a target, this happens a lot. As Chuck and Isabelle discover, anyone around the intended target may also be caught up in this...
  • Cross Player: Ash’s RPG character is female.
  • Curbstomp Battle: Most battles involving Matt. When he’s emotional, he deals an awful lot of damage...
  • Cyber Punk: Angela’s class, the Neo, are explicitly cyberpunk rogues. The Fair, the folk who grant the Neo their powers, are described in-universe as “What if William Gibson designed elves?”.
  • Dark Is Not Evil / Light Is Not Good: An Emotion Knight's favored passion does not define their goodness of being a person, and the pinnacle of ability requires them to actually remove some of it from the world; a Love Knight can take away the love a married couple feels, a Fear Knight can obliterate a crippling phobia.
  • Destructive Saviour: Isabelle is seen as this after Glass Town is deliberately destroyed to lure Sol out to face the party. The people accept the loss and still idolise her. Even one of her gods, who doesn’t realise her exact role in this, thanks her for saving the people who lived there. Isabelle is not at all comfortable with this.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Sol. He’s initially set up as the main threat, but Ash kills him at the end of the first arc. At which point the plot shifts to the disagreements between the remaining party members. He revives as a Fallen, but by that point he's not as controlling.
  • Do Wrong, Right: played with, including a touch of Wrong Insult Offence. The Chamberlain of Glass Town attempts to reassure and compliment Ash, acknowledging the general distrust of her class but stating that she’s “not the same thing as just a common or garden Dictator”. Ash agrees, because “other Dictators are amateurs”. And then she takes over his mind. Possibly also a Shout-Out to Die Hard.
  • Emotion Control: The basis of a Dictator’s powerset.
  • Emotional Powers: The Emotion Knights, DIE's version of the traditional RPG Paladin, work like this. Instead of the traditional Character Alignment, they choose a specific emotion and use it to power their abilities.
  • Escapism: Naturally a theme in a story about living a RPG. For most of the party it's deconstructed through the horrors of actually living through a campaign, and when they're brought back they'd had to leave the lives they built behind. Chuck and Isabelle however are all for staying because they respectively don't care or are disappointed about their lives back home. This is a sticking point because the game can only be left by unanimous decision.
  • Evil Me Scares Me: One of the reasons Ash desperately wants to escape Die. Dictators aren’t generally nice people, and Ash is aware that she’s finding it increasingly easy to use those powers to manipulate people.
  • Exact Words: Sir Lane dares Ash to put a geas on him, to not rest until he sees her face again. And she does. Ash then escapes Die, so it’s unexpectedly 25 years until they meet again. By which point Lane is a worm-infested walking corpse who’s been dead for many years. His eyes have rotted away, so even meeting Ash doesn’t let him rest...
  • Eye Scream: a recurring theme in the first arc.
    • Issue #1 - Sol has replaced his eyes with magical dice. The sockets are bleeding. He doesn’t seem to care much.
    • Issue #2 - Sir Lane the Joy Knight, who playfully teased Ash into binding him with a geas. Even dead, he cannot rest until he sees her again. And now his eyes are rotted and filled with maggots...
    • Issue #3 - the soldier of Little England who tried to rescue his friends and was caught in a gas attack. As Ash puts it, “his eyes ran down his cheeks like tears”
    • Issue #4 - the Archmage of the Dreaming Lands, who appparently “plucked his eyes out in woe” after failing to save his children.
    • Issue #5 - Ash comments on the Glass Town golems with eyeless sockets. She also calls out the eye injury theme as Sol's doing, driven by his fear. It’s implied that if he follows the party back to the ‘real’ world he’ll spend the rest of his life eyeless and blind.
  • The Fair Folk: Neo gear is a gift from the Fair and come with a stipulation: each morning the gear is dead until the Neo pays the tithe of Fair gold.
  • Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: The war between Little England and Eternal Prussia is explicitly based on World War I.
  • Finger Snap Lighter: In issue 4, Angela lights up Chuck's bidi with one of her fingers.
  • The Fool: Subverted a little by Chuck. It’s his character class, and he reaps the benefits, but he’s not exactly good or nice.
  • The Game Come to Life: The core concept of the series; six teenagers vanish into the game while playing a tabletop RPG. Gillen describes it as “Goth Jumanji”.
  • Game Master: Sol takes this role while also being a Player Character from a class called the Master. When Ash comments on this, Sol explains “it’s an unusual game. We’re all in this together.” When the party returns to the game world, Sol has taken over the role of Grandmaster, the main antagonist.
  • Geas: Twenty five years ago, Ash commanded the others to never speak of what happened in the game. The power is a key part of a Dictator’s powerset.
  • Glowing Eyes: Ash the Dictator’s left eye blazes with fire and light when using her powers.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Sol in the present day. One eye’s been replaced by his own d20; the other eye’s replaced by the die he took from the previous Grandmaster. Both glow menacingly.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: The Plot Coupon plot which Sol has created for his old friends apparently fits this pattern. They aren’t impressed.
  • Home Field Advantage: The Masters (and Grandmaster) of Die are said to be most powerful when in their own realms.
  • Insert Payment to Use: Sol has changed the rules of magic so that every spell cast by the wizards of the Dreaming Lands eats one of the caster’s memories. The consequences can be pretty horrible.
  • Jerkass: Chuck. Not helped by the fact that the attitude partly fuels his powers...
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Sir Lane the Joy Knight. However, much with the rest of the series, his is a Deconstructed Character Archetype. They are explicitly "some of the worst people you will ever meet". It's implied that Lane only was in a relationship with Ash because it would fuel his powers.
    Kieron Gillen: "I've taken your feelings towards your wife, and I've used them to kill this bad guy. Unfortunately, those feelings are now gone. I've used your relationship to kill this Balrog" That’s the Knight of Joy.
  • Literal Metaphor: When asked about where the group disappeared to and what happened while they were gone, they can only reply, “I can’t say.” Turns out Ash’s Dictator character placed a geas on the group, with their consent, and they literally could not talk about what happened, even when they tried.
  • Magitek: The Fair's bread and butter, and seen in the Fallen cybernetic zombies.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Due to her powers, Ash is seen this way by almost everyone, including the other players.
  • Non-Action Guy: Ash doesn't seem to carry a weapon or have any physical combat abilities. When a battle breaks out, she stands back and gives orders. Subverted a little in that she does actually have a ‘death touch’ ability - but doesn’t use it much.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: In-universe. In his role as The Fool, Chuck’s powers are linked to his state of mind. If he starts taking things seriously, luck stops twisting in his favour and he becomes more vulnerable.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The steel dragons of Eternal Prussia are shaped like traditional fantasy dragons, but seem to be constructs that breathe fire and poison gas.
  • Peek-a-Bangs: Ash’s left eye is almost always hidden by hair. Except when she’s using her powers.
  • Plot Coupon: It turns out that Sol has adjusted the world to force his old friends into an extended quest for a whole bunch of plot coupons. Not wishing to get bogged down in an extended cliché that is doubtless ultimately weighted against them, but still wishing to get home, they decide to Take a Third Option — rather brutally.
  • Poor Communication Kills: A bit. Chuck and Isabelle wait until the last possible moment - i.e. when Glass Town is in ruins and the group is surrounded by soldiers from Eternal Prussia - to tell the rest of the group that they don't intend on returning home. As a result, as opposed to a rational discussion on the topic that could have been had in calmer circumstances, Isabelle warps her and Chuck away with her powers, and Ash decides that the two of them have to die for him, Angela, and Matt to go home.
  • Power Nullifier: Sol twists reality to prevent any use of Dictatorship in Glass Town during daylight hours. It’s unclear if the nullifier field died with him, or if this will become a permanent feature.
  • The Prophecy: The folk of Glass Town believe that the party are ‘Paragons’ and fated to deliver them from “the dominion of the devil boy”. This is technically true, but Glass Town itself doesn’t survive the experience.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: The climax of the first arc is reached when Ash reminds the rest of the group that Sol is a GM that likes to railroad the game world, so the plan is to cause so much chaos that he has to confront them personally. This is deconstructed when Isabelle objects to leaving the world screwed up so badly, because it and its people are real.
  • Railroading: Sol has mapped out a path to Twenty that can only be followed if the party retrieve three keys from three dungeons. Each key is guarded by twelve perils. The party are not impressed — and Chuck specifically calls it out as railroading.
  • Reality Warper: The Masters and Grandmasters. They still have their limits, but they can rewrite the rules of magic and physics.
  • RPG-Mechanics Verse: Deconstructed. Die runs on the rules of a tabletop game... including the fact a Master can homebrew aspects into it. Nor are the classes things you'd necessarily want to be stuck with, as a fellow party member or as one, such as the Dictator.
  • Secret Diary: The Mourner and her followers have obtained Isabelle’s diaries from her first visit to Die, which are now treated as the ‘Great Books’ of the faith. Isabelle is extremely uncomfortable with this.
  • Sophisticated as Hell: Upon reentering the game world, Ash's line to undo the geas:
    "To speak of this place is no more shit upon the tongue.''
  • Spoiler Cover: The second printing of issue #2, which shows the elven princess with her real, ‘fallen’, face partly revealed.
  • Time Skip: The first issue begins in 1991, skips forward two years, then skips forward an additional 25 years to 2018.
  • Tongue-Tied: It turns out that at the end of their first visit, Ash magically bound the entire party from telling anyone on Earth about Die. There were good reasons for this, and they all agreed; if Earth found out about Die, the former Grandmaster could have started pulling more victims through.
  • Touch of Death: Dictators have a ‘death touch’ ability, but as it’s such short range Ash rarely uses it. It’s pretty effective when she does, though...
  • Tragic Monster: The Fallen are the revived, cybernetic corpses of previous players who are desperately seeking to steal the life of living players to go back to normal. As the RPG points out, Fallen that a Master's captured friends don't know are likely too far gone for any hope of resurrection.
  • Trapped in Another World: Once the characters enter Die, they're unable to leave until their quest is complete or until all of them agree to leave. The first time they escaped Sol got trapped by the Grandmaster and left behind along with Angela's arm. The second time they're about to go when Chuck and Isabelle change their minds and decide to stay behind, to the dismay of the rest.
  • Vancian Magic: It's briefly implied that the wizards of the Dreaming Lands used to use this system before Sol warped the rules and made them feed off personal memories instead. The new system does better match the generally-costly way powers work in Die.
  • War Is Hell: Issue 3 is about J. R. R. Tolkien, World War I, and The Lord of the Rings.
  • Was Once a Man: The Fallen are the undead remnants of all the previous players who died within the world of Die. And after issue #5, that includes Sol.
  • We Have Reserves: The wizards of Little England send entire generations of hobbits to die in the trenches as part of their endless war against Eternal Prussia.
  • 0% Approval Rating: Sol. Nobody has anything positive to say about his reign as Grandmaster.
  • X Meets Y: Chuck describes it in-universe as "those movies where a serial killer locks people in a room with a trap that's about to grind them into pâté" and Narnia.


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