Here's another question: what if I have a folklore tale but there is no entry on that, but there is only an entry on the modern (and far better known adaption) of the folklore? Can I link to the new version of what was once a myth only retold?
Or, more specifically, can I use fairytales from the Brother's Grimm as my Wiki reference? They're all inspired by folklore but I'm not certain if people still believed them when they wrote them down, even though they certainly believed them when they were first told.
Epic Dungeon Master
Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!
They're all inspired by folklore but I'm not certain if people still believed them when they wrote them down, even though they certainly believed them when they were first told.
The definition of myth is one that "would likely not have been considered a work of fiction by the original audience". The original audience of folklore is the oral audience, not the written ones. Folklore is fair game, even if the only evidence we have of it was written down after people stopped believing it.
For people's convenience, I have been compiling the various questions and answers from the thread into the "Q&A" post, which is the second post of the thread. If you think I missed an exchange that should be included, please let me know.
This entry is based upon a fairytale by the Brother's Grimm, which itself is based on ancient German folklore. For the wikipedia entry, see here
Summary of the myth
There once lived a man with 12 sons, who could only barely feed them. When his 13th son was born, the father feared he could not feed him, and so he saught a godfather for him. Death himself presented himself to the man, and offered to take the job. The father accepted, and the youngest son had Death as a Godfather.
As he grew up, Death showed him a special herb and told the boy that he would become a famous physician. When he approached a sick person, Death would be there. If he stood at the head of the person, then by rubbing the herb on the sick's forehead he would heal him. But, if Death stood at his feet, then the person would surely die and no man in the world could save him.
In short time, the boy became a rich and respected physician, the best in the world. So it was that when the king himself fell ill, the boy was called over. Death stood at the king's feet, and he was surely doomed. However, the boy decided to cheat Death this time, and lifted the king from his bed, turning him so that Death now stood at his head. The king healed and rewarded him, but Death was furious and threatened that if the boy ever did this again, he would take him away.
Soon after, the King's daughter fell ill as well. The boy was again called, and Death was at her feet as well. However, the beauty of the daughter had captivated the boy, and he cheated Death again, turning the daughter in her bed so that she would live.
A furious Death then took the boy to his realm, where he showed him thousands upon thousands of candles. He explained that each stood for a life, and when a candle went out, that person's life was over. Then, he took out the physician's candle, which was nearly empty. And no matter how the boy pleaded with Death to move his flame to a new candle, Death would not do it. As the boy watched, the flame faded, and he collapsed on the ground, dead.
Adapted Mechanics: Death and his Realm of Candles
Known by many names, from the simple "Death", to "The Grim Reaper", "Angel of Darkness" and sometimes by his ancient and long forgotten name "Thanatos", this ancient Primal Spirit has kept watch over the world since the dawn of time. His place is it to guide the mortals from their place of death to the afterlife, transferring the soul of the deceased.
Death is mostly visualised as either a skeleton wearing a dark cloak and a scythe, or a great black raven. He is always there when a person dies, and knows the fate of each living person in the world. While not an evil creature, Death is meticulous and uncorruptable, he cannot be reasoned with and will always finds his mark and takes him away.
Death's Realm is a large cave network, hidden from mortal eyes. Within these caves, there are candles. They are stacked on tables, placed in cabinets, hanging from the ceiling, truly everywhere. Each of these candles is the life of a mortal, burning slowly until no wax remains. With the snuffing of a candle, comes the snuffing of a life. Some candles have not yet been lighted; these "unborn" candles belong to nobody yet, and will be lighted when a child is born.
For each living creature, a candle burns, and Death guards his candles closely. When one is close to burning down, he knows, and will visit the mortal world to take this creature to the other side. However, though few people but wise old Druids and powerful Shaman even know about the Realm of Death, if one were to take a nearly burned down candle and refreshed the flame upon another candle, one could extend life... and if one were to relight a previously burned down candle, one could restore life. And ultimately, if one were to blow out a candle, and could take life.
Death does not share this knowledge freely, nor does he take kindly upon those who know this. He accepts no trespassers upon his realm for fear that it upsets the balance of the world. But sometimes, very powerful and cunning creatures can slip into his realm, escape his notice, and tamper with the fate of the living, and the dead...
Epic Level Skill Challenge: Snuffing the Candle
The perfect murder has often been attempted, and many a book has been dedicated to the concept. But now, you and your allies have truly found it. The crime that is by many perceived to be impossible. You will break into Death's Realm of Candles, find the candle of your victim, and snuff it. You will sever his connection to the world of the living. Untracable assassination.
After having broken into Death's Realm of Candles, your party must now quickly work to find the right candle and leave, before Death finds you. Because he is certainly looking.
Complexity 5 Skill Challenge (12 successes before 3 failures)
Each round, at least one success must be had with a Distractive skill in order to make sure Death does not interrupt the attempt. If not a single Distraction is succesful for an entire round, the Skill Challenge automatically fails.
Primary Skills: Perception: you run through Death's Realm, reading names on candles in an attempt to find the right candle. Dungeoneering: You comb out the Realm, making very sure not to get lost and not to check any area twice Arcana: You use your magical talent to try and feel the direction to the right candle Nature: Remembering the lore on Death, you try to figure out how the Realm is organised to cut quickly to the right area
Distractive Skills: Stealth: You make sure your friends work switfly and silently, so that Death does not notice your approach. Bluff: You attempt to keep Death busy chasing you and hide from him the others at work in his realm. Athletics: You fly into full sprint and try to evade Death's clutches and lure him as far from your party members as possible
Secondary Skills: Insight: You try to think ahead of Death, granting a +2 bonus to anyone attempting a Distractive skill during this round.
The Moral Choice: During this Skill Challenge any character may opt to distract Death by quickly snuffing a large number of candles near him. This will cause many people around the world to die suddenly, and will force Death to go collect their souls. This counts as an automatic success for a Distraction during this turn and removes one Failure from the challenge. Roll a die; on a roll of 1-5, a character close to one of the PCs dies.
Snuffing the Candle: when the party has collected 11 of their 12 successes, they find the candle belonging to their victim. They can now make a Hard Thievery check to snuff it, if this check succeeds then they will snuff it such that not even Death can trace the crime back to them. If they fail this last check, they will have earned the enmity of Death. From this point out, until the next time they die, each character takes a -4 penalty when interacting with Death (see Death and the Dying, below)
Regardless of the result of this check, the target immediately dies for no apparent reason.
Failing the Challenge: If the party acrues 3 failures or fails to distract Death during any turn, he finds them. Death cannot be battled, nor reasoned with. Each character must make an immediate saving throw to escape his clutches; those that make the save escape the Realm alive, those that fail the check die.
Adaption: Rekindling the Flame. Rather then snuffing a candle, you can also use the above Skill Challenge to let the PCs find a candle belonging to someone and rekindling it. This will allow them to bring the target back to life. There are no restrictions on who or what can be brought back this way. Death's power is greater then any mortal's magic. Any magic preventing Raise Dead from working is overcome this way. There is no time limit for how long since somebody has died. Nothing short of Divine Intervention can prevent the Raise from working. (Alternatively you can scrap the Raise Dead ritual completely and allow only this option to restore someone to life, meaning that it's impossible to raise anyone from the dead unless you are Epic)
As a final check, rather then making a Thievery check, a Heal check must be made. If this check fails, Death will notice that this character escaped from his clutches before and it will take a -2 penalty on any future checks to interact with Death. (see: Death and the Dying, below)
Ritual: Death's Judgement This powerful ritual once belonged to a miracle healer. They say this youngest son of 13 siblings travelled the land with it, healing many injured. Eventually the boy healed a king and his beautiful daughter, but upon healing the daughter he was never seen again. The ritual was lost to the times, until you recovered it.
Death's Judgement You summon forth the Reaper himself to judge whether a sick or injured person lives, or is restored. Level: 22 Category: Restoration Time: 1 hour Duration: Instantaneous Component Cost: 13.000gp Market Price: 65.000gp Key Skill: Religion
Upon completing this ritual, you summon the Reaper himself to judge the fate of a living creature. The creature must be within a ritual circle you drew before the ritual began. Make a Religion check versus the Hard DC for the creature's level. If you pass the check, the Reaper will appear at the target's head. The target is immediately cured of all diseases it is afflicted with, restored to full health, regains all healing surges and any other injuries or things that afflict it are removed. If you fail the check, the Reaper appears at the character's feet, and beckons him to come with him. The target immediately dies.
Special: if you roll a 1 on this check, you always fail the check.
Death and the Dying This rule is designed to replace the normal rules for making Death Saves, and to make Dying more interesting.
When men fall bleeding to the ground and Death comes for them, some refuse to go with him willingly. They resist his clutches as long they can, in whatever way comes most naturally to them.
When a character is Dying, he will partially transfer to the spirit world. In this spirit world, time around him flows slowly, and he can see his allies contuining the battle around him in slow-motion, while he sees his own body bleed out. Then, Death shows up and beckons him to join him. At this point; the Hero can opt to refuse him (if he doesn't, he dies immediately, no saves) and try to evade his clutches. To do so, he must roll a skill check each round (and explain how that skill helps him evade Death, obviously) and pass a Hard DC for his level. If he succeeds, then nothing happens and Death will not take him yet. If he fails, then he takes a "strike" as if he failed a Death save and he cannot use that skill again to refuse Death until he has taken a short rest. Death grabs him and drags him off if he fails 3 checks; as normal. If the character has a bonus to death saving throws from an item, feat, or other source, that bonus applies to all skill checks to stave off Death. In the spirit world, the character can hear his allies, but he cannot interact with them in any way. If at any time the character is healed, he immediately recovers from the spirit world as normal and Death vanishes.
Death never forgets and he will occcasionally remark on other times he has seen the character almost die, encouraging him to give up the struggles and the pain and just embrace him.
Background: Godfather Death When you were young, you nearly died. And when you did, Death came to you. Nobody knows why, but he decided not to take you that day and you lived, barely. And though you still carry the scars of that encounter, you feel strengthened knowing that Death seems to have a soft spot for you, and that he wants you to live. Benefit: You gain a +2 bonus to all skill checks when dealing with Death.
Using Death and his Realm of Candles So honestly, I don't really know what to put here. In order to use Death and the Dying, you must put your characters in dangerous situations, which I think will work out just fine. The Skill Challenges can be used when the characters have to raise someone who cannot be raised by the Raise Dead ritual (ie; soul gemmed, long dead, no parts remain, etc) or when they really want someone dead. There's basically no surviving that attempt unless the plot demands it (I wouldn't let it work on Deities for example, since Death is a Primal Spirit and has no power over them)
As for the Ritual, you could find in a long abandoned castle, from a long gone kingdom. Or perhaps upon the boy vanishing, the princess moved his bag (and the ritual) to a shrine dedicated to him. Or maybe Death himself has the ritual, and the characters stumble upon it as they sneak through his Realm.
Also, simply finding Death's Realm of Candles, even before the Skill Challenge begins, could be an Epic undertaking by itself. Few people know how to find the entrance and it is guarded by powerful magic and fierce creatures.
Of course these rules become a lot more fun when you actually roleplay Death. As a Primal Spirit, Death has seen it all and heard it all. He's been around. Death is not inherently evil, he is simply doing his job in keeping the balance. He is polite and professional when dealing with the dying, although he can get a little annoyed when people try to evade his clutches. Especially if they've done it a dozen times before.
Eventually, he will pick up on the names of people who he visited many times, and will great them by name when they drop to 0. He might make comments on the last time the character almost died. If the character is talkative and chats with Death while evading him, he might even come to think of it as a game and ask about their quest is going as he tries to catch the character.
Should a character manage to actually befriend Death in this game of life and death, he might even occasionally drop a tidbit of interesting knowledge (he has a very good History bonus) for the characters, which could help them out when in trouble as the character recovers.
Characters that invaded his Realm and messed with the candles on the other will be met with fury. He will scowl at them as they are dying and curse them if they escape. He will accuse them of tampering with the balance of the world.
Remember to give Death an interesting speech pattern. As an eternal being who visits all the locales of the world at the same time, he is bound to use sayings that the character doesn't understand, lets out the occasional expletive in an unknown language or references things that happened ages ago that the character never heard about. When the character doesn't understand he could be surprised, embarassed about getting the age or area wrong, or make things worse by explaining, using even more terms the character doesn't know.
Epic Dungeon Master
Want to give your players a kingdom of their own? I made a 4e rule system to make it happen!
All this talk about Lovecraft makes me think that a future anniversary competition might have as a topic, adapting an element from a popular work of fiction. I'm not sure how we'd ensure that the work is sufficiently popular, though.