Follow TV Tropes


Fate Worse Than Death / Tabletop Games

Go To

  • Warhammer:
    • Almost everyone who serves Chaos eventually mutates into a mindless beast. But a particularly notable instance is Count Mordrek the Damned. As he's a chaos warrior, "the Damned" would usually be redundant. He constantly and violently mutates within his unremovable armor suit, and every time he dies the chaos gods bring him back to life. And unlike most people they do things like this to, he still appears to be sane and thinking, and remorseful over what they make him do.
    • Advertisement:
    • Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay:
      • Gain more mutations than your body can stand? You permanently devolve into an insane nightmare of malformed flesh known as a Chaos Spawn; have fun rolling up a new character while your friends fight off what remains of your last one.
      • Particularly bad bout of Tzeentch's Curse or displease the Chaos Gods after pledging to serve them? You are plucked from physical reality and thrown to the Realm of Chaos to be gored and tormented by Chaos daemons until the stars die.
      • The titular villain from Castle Drachenfels has devised a number of ways to torment people forever while keeping them alive, including a courtesan who was a beautiful Femme Fatale in life, now reduced to an animated skeleton who isn't even aware of her state.
      • The Imperial Colleges of Magic reserve "Pacification" for wizards who commit gross misconduct or treason so blatant that they can't just be quietly executed. The specifics aren't described, but it involves excising their soul's capacity for magic in a way that generally leaves them begging for death, which might or might not follow.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • Happens to everyone, one way or another, who runs afoul of Chaos, whether it's being consumed by its endless hordes of daemons, a "mishap" while traveling though the Warp or going anywhere near one of its Negative Space Wedgies. (Unless you're an Ork, in which case it's the best afterlife ever.) Even its servants don't avoid it, as their final fate is either dying (and then a daemon or five comes to collect on its contracts), transforming into a mindless, deformed Chaos Spawn, or achieving immortality as a Daemon Prince, only to spend the rest of eternity fighting the Endless Game between the Chaos Gods.
    • This is inevitable for all Eldar, as if they die and their soulstones are destroyed their souls are immediately consumed and tormented for the remainder of eternity by the Chaos God Slaanesh.
    • Advertisement:
    • This is the Hat of the Dark Eldar. Their souls are constantly being sucked away by Slaanesh, and to stay alive they must feed on the pain and agony of others. So they've become very good at causing incomprehensible pain, while at the same time keeping the victim alive. (One novel describes the victim of a Homunculus' attentions as a collection of skin and organs hanging individually from the ceiling on metal hooks... and the poor guy was still alive.) The torture may go on for millennia before the victim is finally given the mercy of death. There's a reason why the blurb on the back of their codex reads "Pray that they do not take you alive".
    • Isha, one of the few surviving Eldar gods, was spared from death by Slaanesh because he/she/it wanted to "claim" her. Her fate got better ever so slightly, for she was rescued by Nurgle who's smitten with her. However, Nurgle keeps her in a cage and loves to give her "presents", and since this is Nurgle, all of his "presents" are horrible mutations and diseases. (Nurgle's servants don't count because they enjoy this sort of thing.)
    • One of the novels has a variation on this. A Chaos Marine, feeling remorseful about abandoning his loyalty to the Emperor, decides to kill the leader of the warband he is in. However, the attempted assassination is botched and the traitor is knocked unconscious and captured. He awakes in total darkness, unable to move or speak. He awaits his coming torture and interrogation, but it never arrives. The story ends as he realises he has been placed inside a Dreadnaught coffin, effectively granting him immortality but sealing him off from the world forever.
    • The God-Emperor has been entombed on the golden throne for the last 10 millennia, fully conscious, and fully aware of the collapse of his vision of humanity into a barbarous, mindlessly fanatical totalitarian nightmare.
    • Arco-Flagellation, a punishment The Ecclesiarchy and The Inquisition inflict on certain heretic and blasphemers. The condemned have both their hands lopped off and replaced with some nasty weaponry, followed by getting a back full of combat drug dispensers, and a healthy dose of Mind Rape. The result is a wasted, wiry cyborg who wears a hood displaying calming religious images, but with the right command word the visor retracts, the stim-packs activate, and the former heretic goes berserk.
      • This is actually intended as an inversion; arco-flagellation is a method of penitence. As bad as the torture is, they aren't kept around for very long and are used as extra cannon fodder/bayonet rushers for the actual military. The idea is, through death in battle the heretic's soul is considered redeemed and the human will find his final judgement before the Emperor.
    • Perpetuals. The ability to regenerate from your constituent atoms, nearly unkillable with only a few things can finally kill you. Sounds great... But this is WH40k we're talking about. See, this means you cannot die and you are essentially eternally stuck in this horrific world, probably doomed to fight for eternity, until you finally are killed by having your soul annihilated, getting killed with exceedingly rare materials, or some other obscure form of killing you. Also, it is implied the UNIVERSE ITSELF hates you because by rights you should not exist.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Several spells and abilities, for example, one spell in the Sandstorm book can turn a victim into a voiceless gust of wind or trap them as sand in the desert until released. An Epic spell, "Damnation", teleports the target to Hell, and screws with their thoughts to the point where they believe they deserve the punishment. This says nothing at all yet about some truly unpleasant spells found in the 3.5 edition Spell Compendium.
    • There are spells like Cast in Stone and Flesh to Stone that can, depending on how you understand it, leave someone a conscious statue for all eternity, even if they're eroded away to a pebble or shattered.
    • In the beginning, this was considered to be the case for Drow transformed into Driders (a dark elf centaur, only replace "horse" with "giant spider"), and the transformation was a punishment by Lloth. Driders are much stronger and tougher then ordinary dark elves, have more spell-like abilities, and these abilities are more potent then the ones that ordinary drow have. Additionally, Lolth has had various drider-like forms (when she was first introduced to the game, she resembled a huge spider whose head had been replaced with that of a female drow). If you're thinking this doesn't make sense, you aren't the only one; since 4th edition, becoming a Drider is now a blessing from Lolth, and they are respected and admired by Drow instead of being chased out of the city. It's reserved for those who fail a loyalty test. And sort of brings them closer to her. For extra fun, Lolth "copyrighted" this shape (if a drow is polymorphed into a drider without her handmaiden's authorization, the spell is soon reverted, presumably attracting her attention in process).
      • That it was a punishment earlier was The Artifact — it made perfect sense when introduced, as driders couldn't gain class levels, and so were stuck at their level of power, well below what a drow could potentially achieve (even if only the smallest fraction actually did) — a terrible fate in a Social Darwinist society. The problem was that it eventually became possible for driders to grow in power and even gain class levels.
    • There is a sword in Book of Vile Darkness that on a critical hit or killing blow rips the soul from the victims body and tortures it until it is released. And in terms of spells, it's hard to beat "Eternity of Torture," which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
    • There is a spell used against vampires called Sunfire Tomb. It makes them feel as if constantly being burned by the light of the sun, without dying.
    • The Physical God Torog was cursed by a primordial with eternal imprisonment in the Underdark and grievous wounds that never heal. Despite his vast powers, many consider his existence to be a fate worse than death.
    • Ravenloft:
    • Planescape; piss off the Lady of Pain too much and she might apply this trope by trapping you in the Mazes, an eternal prison she can create. (Or she might flay you alive, which may or may not be worse.)
    • Scarred Lands: Zig-zagged in Hollowfaust, where the highest legal punishment is "Final Forfeiture", i.e.: the condemned's body becomes the property of a random member of The Magocracy. If they're lucky, they're immediately killed and their body is used for Human Resources. If they're unlucky, they're not killed.
  • In Mutant Chronicles, the Dark Legion has a metric crapload of different kinds of Fate Worse Than Death. Having your motor functions shut down while you can still see and hear everything, being driven to madness, tortured, possessed, turned into a zombie grunt...
  • Vajra Enterprises has a whole game named Fates Worse Than Death. The setting isn't the prettiest place imaginable. Then again, sourcebooks get funny names: "Fates Worse Than Death: Cheerleader".
  • Old World of Darkness:
    • Wraith: The Oblivion: As all inhabitants of the underworld have all already died, one might think that the worst has already happened. Unfortunately, given the setting, that's just the beginning. Common fates include being torn apart by angry, eternally damned spectres, trapped in an endless maze full of angry, eternally damned spectres, becoming an angry, eternally damned spectre, and being boiled alive in molten ore to be forged into weapons and or objects. Which doesn't end your existence. And you still might end up being used by an angry, eternally damned spectre.
    • Mage: The Ascension: The Avatar, the portion of the mage's soul that allows them to perform magic, will reincarnate ordinarily. Thus, gilgul, the destruction of the Avatar, is considered the worst fate possible, as it ends a reincarnation cycle and drives the current (thus, last) one rather insane in the process. Even at their most antagonistic, the Traditions and the Technocracy generally avoid doing this to each other (after all, the Avatar in question may reincarnate as one of their own next time). The only time it generally gets pulled out is when a Nephandus is caught alive - as they've deliberately inverted their Avatars such that it will always reincarnate evil, destroying it is the only way to make sure the Nephandus is destroyed for good.
  • New World of Darkness:
    • Geist: The Sin-Eaters depicts something similarly to what becomes of the dead in the Underworld, especially with the depiction of some of the Dead Dominions. One of the worst is the Ocean of Fragments, a place where all memory and identity is gradually washed away. ...Except that isn't so bad at all. The Ocean actually washes away identifiers, the memories that define who you are as a person. Thus, a mechanic who had his memories of being a mechanic would still know engineering, he just wouldn't have the memories of ever having used them. Thus, it can easily wash away "I was horribly abused as a child" and "I am a sociopath". This, combined with the ultimate goal of washing away the ego itself - and with it, the ability to feel pain, as you are no longer a person to hurt - means that, in a way, the Ocean is actually one of the few things that can truly improve a ghost's lot.
      • That said, the game never actually specifies what happens to those who reach the bottom of the Ocean. Some say that they go to their next life, and the wiping of their memories is thus needed to allow them to be reborn. Some say they go on to Heaven, and it's meant to make them pure enough to enter it. Some say that it just leads to oblivion - that the ghosts who make it down there disappear entirely, their essence flowing back into the cosmos. In any case, their time - being the person they are - in the World of Darkness is finally, after many long centuries, finished.
      • Strongly recommended, if not enforced, as the risks of playing a Sin-Eater. They've tasted death and came back, and their Geist can bring them Back from the Dead further still. Death is nothing to them, you have to step things up a notch to deter them.Examples 
    • In Changeling: The Lost, Changelings who get recaptured and taken back to Arcadia are never seen again. Considering the insanity and torture they escaped from to begin with, a swift death rather than life under one of the True Fae is probably the best outcome they can hope for.
      • Depending on who you ask, ending up in the Hedge in the first place is a fate worse than death in and of itself, especially if you weren't a normal human first or if you ended up there on purpose rather than a stroke of (bad) luck. One of the many things that might befall a Mage who manages to get themselves into the Hedge is the gradual degradation of their entire being, including their magic. They eventually end up as thin, genderless, mindless humanoid things with whom even the True Fae don't bother, because with no mind and no identity, they're not even interesting enough to be worth killing.
  • Exalted has more than a few of these. From the Monstrances of Celestial Portion, to the Organ of Agonies, to the horrific Mind Rape certain social Charms can allow, the villains of the setting can do a lot worse than merely kill you.
    • The Ebon Dragon has a particular line in it. For example, one of his Charm tree branches permits him to meticulously defile each and every one of your most precious memories, possibly in alphabetical order if he feels like it.
  • The Aftermath table in Fiasco has "The worst thing in the world" (with a statement that death would generally be merciful) as the entry if your dice totally cancel each other out, and encourages you to skip the first hideous fate you think of and go for something nastier.

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: