I'm playing an assassin-ish rogue in a 3.5 with Nerull (the god of death) as his deity and decided to build his essential character around the internal struggle of justifying his chosen profession to himself. Assassination is his life's passion but he still knows that what he is doing is horrible and that a lot of the people he kills might not deserve it, and may have families and children.

I've done a lot of thinking about it in character, but I need to know what happens to the people my character kills. Since this is a world where it is proven that gods do exist, shouldn't we also know what happens after death? There must be something because ghosts exist and you can resurrect a dead person sometimes.

What happens to you after you die in D&D 3.5?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site, Circusfreak. Could you tell us more about what setting you're playing in? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 21:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ AFAIK, the default D&D cosmology has souls going to abide with their god (or a place like Limbo for the godless). Greyhawk may be different (but I would be surprised). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 21:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ok, so each god has their own "heaven" realm which you go to if you follow them? if so, can i read about these realms somewhere? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 21:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ First of all, congratulations for being keen to develop this side of your character - it will give you and the group a more subtle and developed kind of fun, rather than having a "juggernaut" attitude. Secondly, the answer to your question is that "it depends": if you are an evil character serving an evil god, that's all fine in your conscience.... but maybe, when you were a young kid, your mother worshipped a more balanced pantheon and spoke to you about being "a good boy"... and that's still in part in your subconscious... not completely disappeared... \$\endgroup\$
    – Yaztromo
    Commented Apr 1, 2012 at 21:11

4 Answers 4


Fundamentally, it is a philosophically unsound extrapolation and pastiche of normal earth religious afterlife myths mapped onto a system that allows for fairly trivial rezzing. The morality of death, when subjected to rigorous philosophical analysis, does not make for particularly good drama or narrative arcs. Determine the philosophy of your universe to suit your character goals.


Cosmology and the Afterlife:

Greyhawk uses the classic "Great Wheel" cosmology as defined in the Manual of the Planes and the Planescape setting. After death, the souls of the dead travel to the plane of their deity and become petitioners. The souls of those who die believing in no deity vanish from existence, although it is rumored that a dark power is secretly harvesting these souls for some awful purpose.

Therefore, souls become petitioners after death:

Upon its death, a mortal creature that served a deity faithfully will reform on the home plane of that deity. If the new petitioner continues to serve its deity, it can be made even more powerful. Most petitioners, however, are content to simply live out their eternity in whatever form their god has chosen for them.

In Planescape a petitioner loses all knowledge of their previous life. They are also unable to advance beyond the zeroth or first level of experience.

In Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition (also referred to as 3.0) and 3.5 edition, Petitioner is a template from the Deities and Demigods book. The template uses the base stats of a creature and remakes it so that it has 2 HD and nothing more. A deity can have an unlimited number of such templates servants.

Note, however that this rather undermines the punishment-fantasy role of the afterlife, as Frank and K note:

In D&D, creatures do not "fall" into Evil. Being Evil is a valid choice that is fully supported by half the gods just as Good is. Those who follow the tenets of Evil throughout their lives are judged by Evil Gods when they die, and can gain rewards at least as enticing as those offered to those who follow the path of Good (who, after all, are judged by Good Gods after they die). So when sahuagin run around on land snatching children to use as slaves or sacrifices to Baatorians, they aren't putting their soul in danger. They are actually keeping their soul safe. Once you step down the path of villainy, you get a better deal in the afterlife by being more evil.

The only people who get screwed in the D&D afterlife are traitors and failures. A traitor gets a bad deal in the afterlife because whichever side of the fence they ended up on is going to remember their deeds on the other side of the fence. A failure gets a bad deal because they end up judged by gods who wanted them to succeed. As such, it is really hard to get people to change alignment in D&D. Unless you can otherwise assure that someone will die as a failure to their alignment, there's absolutely no incentive you could possibly give them that would entice them to betray it.

You are essentially struggling with the morality of death in D&D. There is no "one" answer. I urge you to choose what flavour of morality and law you want in your world from this excellent discussion, as that will inform whether or not assassinating a chaotic evil overlord is a good act.

Also, if considering the implications of death and souls, this quote from HP:MoR is quite relevant:

"All right," Harry said, trying to keep his voice calm, "I'll hear out your evidence, because that's what a scientist does. But first, Headmaster, let me tell you a little story." Harry's voice was trembling. "You know, when I got here, when I got off the train from King's Cross, I don't mean yesterday but back in September, when I got off the train then, Headmaster, I'd never seen a ghost. I wasn't expecting ghosts. So when I saw them, Headmaster, I did something really dumb. I jumped to conclusions. I, I thought there was an afterlife, I thought no one had ever really died, I thought that everyone the human species had ever lost was really fine after all, I thought that wizards could talk to people who'd passed on, that it just took the right spell to summon them, that wizards could do that, I thought I could meet my parents who died for me, and tell them that I'd heard about their sacrifice and that I'd begun to call them my mother and father -"


"And then," spat Harry, the fury coming fully into his voice, the cold rage at the universe for being like that and at himself for being so stupid, "I asked Hermione and she said that they were just afterimages, burned into the stone of the castle by the death of a wizard, like the silhouettes left on the walls of Hiroshima. And I should have known! I should have known without even having to ask! I shouldn't have believed it even for all of thirty seconds! Because if people had souls there wouldn't be any such thing as brain damage, if your soul could go on speaking after your whole brain was gone, how could damage to the left cerebral hemisphere take away your ability to talk? And Professor McGonagall, when she told me about how my parents had died, she didn't act like they'd just gone away on a long trip to another country, like they'd emigrated to Australia back in the days of sailing ships, which is the way people would act if they actually knew that death was just going somewhere else, if they had hard evidence for an afterlife, instead of making stuff up to console themselves, it would change everything, it wouldn't matter that everyone had lost someone in the war, it would be a little sad but not horrible! And I'd already seen that people in the wizarding world didn't act like that! So I should have known better! And that was when I knew that my parents were really dead and gone forever and ever, that there wasn't anything left of them, that I'd never get a chance to meet them and, and, and the other children thought I was crying because I was scared of ghosts -"

If you're actually struggling with whether destroying the mortal shell of an immortal soul is immoral, considering the implications of how people should act with the fundamental knowledge of souls and their existence is a fun philosophical problem. On the other hand, I doubt that your DM really wants to consider how peoples' behaviour changes when they understand and can prove an entity separate from the meatbag exists, as the triviality of resurrection and the implications of animating grandfather to have another farmhand are... not particularly interesting to most groups.

At the end of the day, I would choose whichever options give you an interesting moral question without making your choices either trivial ("Meatbags? Who cares?") or stupid ("Wow, I know my soul will be devoured if I do this. I can watch this process in action. Maybe I shouldn't do this.")

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    \$\begingroup\$ One quibble with the Frank and K analysis: the denizens and gods of evil planes regularly use petitioners as fodder for various things, effectively "consuming" the unlucky masses. Evil isn't actually a safe bet for the soul. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ At the same time, I believe that good souls gradually "rejoin" the plane that they stem from (I can't cite the source because I don't have a copy of deities and demigods handy) but... yeah. Being half-arsedly evil is probably a bad idea. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 31, 2012 at 22:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ hmm. very interesting, but I suppose that you could say that the dead go to wherever the dead go (some super-afterlife perhaps) and what the 'gods' get is a lump of the energy said souls used to use to animate themselves. This means the gods the characters know are really just powerful beings, and that the dead are not the actual dead people. On the other hand, we have had the dead actually inhabit an afterworld - think of Orpheus travelling down to the underworld to rescue Eurydice. \$\endgroup\$
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 23:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ How people react to the possibility of an afterlife... just look to history for examples. People were happy to die back then, as they "knew" there was a saviour or a heaven. We've lost this faith in modern times (as we only know how much the latest shiny toy costs, Muslim terrorists excluded), but sacrificing yourself in battle or execution happened far too often. Google Forlorn Hope or Martyr for examples. \$\endgroup\$
    – gbjbaanb
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 23:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @gbjbaanb I think you are oversimplifying. Even in more religious times, people were generally far from happy to die and tried hard to avoid it. Even if your faith in an afterlife is very solid, you probably are not eager to get there because 1. You probbly have people that still depend on you now 2. You still have more work to do 3. Even if you expect it to be paradise, that paradise is likely to be very different from what is here now, and change, even positive change, can be frightening for most people. And that is if your beleif is absolute, even a sliver of doubt changes the equation. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 24, 2012 at 22:39

Before anything else, check that your DM didn't decide that already. Even if you're playing an existing setting, your DM may be depending on it working in a particular way for the story to work, and nothing we say to you here will trump that. When deciding these kind of things, DM's opinion > RAW (or closest) > Other people's opinions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This seems more like a comment than an answer to me... \$\endgroup\$
    – Jasper
    Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 9:56

The bottom line comes down to "how do you want it to work?" This is one of those gray areas that even in a more fleshed out universe such as Greyhawk can easily be interpreted and warped even to a given character's perceptions as to how it should work. If there is a plot in place that relies on certain mechanics then just sift through some planar-related spells just in case of overlap. In some of the books (I believe Deities & Demigods specifically) lists how some of these places are laid out even if the exact mechanics are a bit off however I am going from memory and if that memory serves it's more related by alignment than deity.


He worships the God of Death so take a hint from other gods of death - they are a 'necessary evil', as if everyone lived forever, there'd be a lot of people about and a significant amount of suffering as competition for resources took place.

Better to die well when needed for the benefit of the species as a whole. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the individual, as someone said in a movie once.

So a death worshipper shouldn't worry much about killing individuals, or their families. sure, there's personal hardship, but life is a hardship all the time anyway.

Note that there is little difference between 'death' and 'time', when your time has come, it's come, and your character should be there acting as the means of moving them on, quickly and painlessly. A public servant almost, or a Thuggee at least, as (from wikipedia):

"According to some sources, especially old colonial sources, Thuggee believe they have a positive role, saving humans' lives. Without Thuggee's sacred service, Kali might destroy all the human kind:"

Anyhow, I added a comment to Brian Ballsun-Stanton's answer about life after death. there are many ways to interpret what happens, depending on the world you run, gods could be 'gods' (not Gods) similar to the gods that we had in the Fafhrd and Grey Mouser Lankhmar stories, or they could be Gods like in Greek or Christian myth along with a real underworld. The difference is down to the world your GM runs.


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