[Fantasy Craft] Cheating Death (with Example!)

Another subsystem unique to the Fantasy Craft ruleset is the Cheating Death mechanic.  Cheating Death, as the name implies is a subsystem that may help in bringing a dead PC back to life without the need for scrolls of resurrection or paying a boatload of the party’s money to the local temple.  Instead, Cheating Death imparts rules mechanics to what is normally the province of the more Narrative style of play.

Whenever a player character dies, the player (with GM permission) may ask to Cheat Death.  Assuming that the GM agrees that the character’s death was not due to recklessness, stupidity and disruptive play, the Player then proposes a plausible explanation of his character’s survival, as well as the effects this has on his character’s background and the campaign world.

All the players then vote on the story (in secret or out in the open, depending on the group), with scores ranging from 1 (horrible) to 5 (brilliant), the scores are then averaged, and the final result is recorded.  Next, the GM rolls 1d20 on a Cheating Death table to determine just how the Character’s return has affected him, and the result of the voting is then used to determine the severity of this fate.

For Example:

Lu Huang, the Physician had attempted to draw the attention of the Emperor’s troops to himself in order to buy time for his injured companions to escape from his home.  Knowing full well that he was not a combatant, he rushed to his study, where he began mixing volatile compounds together to make an unstable chemical bomb all the while telling his friends to leave as he will follow them shortly.

As soon as the Emperor’s troops kicked the door down and surrounded him, Lu Huang then sparked a flame, turning his entire home into a blazing inferno.  Lu Huang fought as hard as he could, trying to make his escape even as his home burned about them, chemical fumes burning his lungs and his throat, smoke blinding him as surely as it was incapacitating the guards.

It was much later that night that his friends returned to the site to find that everything had burned down, and nothing but ashes remained.  Lu Huang, the Physician was dead.


At this point Lu Huang’s player asks if he could Cheat Death.  The GM, seeing no cause to stop him allows for it.  Composing himself a moment, the player launches into a narrative.


Lu Huang awakens, feeling a terrible burning pain over his body and his lungs.  Breathing was agony as he forced himself to look around, peering through a layer of bandages over his face to find that he was in an unfamiliar place.  He could not remember much about what happened, only that as the house came down around him, he was barely able to leap free from the falling structure, and that he was on fire.  In a mad thought to save himself, Lu Huang threw himself off a cliff and into the river… only to be fished out much later by a kindly fisherman, and brought to the a nearby village.


The two other players consider the matter.  Lu Huang’s selfless sacrifice was one thing, but this didn’t stir the blood as far as resurrection tales go  That said, they place their votes.  The GM, willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, votes 4.  Lu Huang’s player, knowing that he’s not exactly done a stellar job, also votes 4.  The other two players vote 3 and 2 respectively.  The results are then averaged (rounding up) for a result of 3, a Tragic Result.

The GM then rolls 1d20 to determine how Cheating Death has changed Lu Huang, and rolls a 9.  Consulting the table, the GM sees that Lu Huang suffers a terrible physical injury.  Furthermore a Tragic result on this table means that Lu Huang has lost an eye, suffering a -4 to all Ranged Attack rolls as well as Notice and Search checks


Lu Huang stumbles out of the cot, the rough clothing they gave him chafing and irritating the burns all over his body as he began to take off the bandages, realizing with a growing horror that he had become blind with one eye.  Could it have been because of the chemical fumes?  Some injury from the fire?  Maybe the fall into the river? Lu Huang reeled, trying to compose himself.  He was alive, and his friends were safe.  He would need to find them… and then perhaps then he could start to plan his revenge!


Cheating Death is an interesting system for me as it actually prompts players to save their own hides by impressing the group.  It’s a step in the same direction as Exalted’s Stunt Mechanics, encouraging the fact that players are not meant to be a passive audience to a game, but rather active participants.

That said, it’s still better to avoid Death than Cheating it, as the results of the table can get pretty devastating to those who had long term plans.  Dying doesn’t mean you roll up a new character, only that your character just got a lot more complicated.  As long as players view the results of the Cheating Death table as something to benefit their play (by giving them more complications) rather than hampering their build, then this system will work swimmingly.

11 thoughts on “[Fantasy Craft] Cheating Death (with Example!)

  1. Yeah, one of my favorite parts of Fantasy Craft (and you’ll see me use that phrase a lot because I really like Fantasy Craft) is the cheating death system. It kind of falls in line Mouse Guard’s twists (not that I know Mouse Guard that well): why let your players suffer immediate consequences when you could make them suffer for a much longer time instead, and in a much more interesting way?

    1. Hey Aaron!

      Precisely, as long as players recognize and acknowledge the fact that Complications are a *good* thing, then this system is awesome. There will always be some players who feel that any sort of change from their starting concept is a violation of their concept and is unforgivable, but that kind of thinking is clearly not for Fantasy Craft.

  2. With my Catapult Turtle, I can launch my Dragon Champion toward your castle, shattering its Flotation Ring thereby causing it to collapse on top of your monsters!

  3. @ Pointyman — As much as a character would hate to have a build/plan ruined by losing an eye, or whatnot, it’s probably better than the alternative…

    1. Hey there DBV,

      Sadly, speaking from personal experience, I’ve had some players literally consign their characters to death than to deviate even an iota from their initial concept.

      “If I can’t play him with both eyes, I WON’T PLAY HIM!” *rips character sheet*

      Disturbing, but true.

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