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Recently, a reoccurring antagonist in my campaign has stolen a reward from my players. The reward was meant to be gold, and an extremely potent and rare poison that kills on contact. I am planning to save this piece of information for a later date and have this evil guild use the poison to assassinate an important figure.

One of the possible candidates is Apollo, for he's the only deity worshiped by a party member. He also blessed the country so that despite its continental location, it never experiences winter, and thus his passing or absence would result in an intense freeze.

That said, how exactly does one kill a deity? Would they have to be weakened to a mortal state? Would things that would kill a mortal end up simply disabling a deity? I understand that there are many factors depending on the setting, but is there any conclusive information on killing a deity in the available material?

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There are many factors depending on the setting. Although there is lore common to many D&D settings, even that lore is subject to change—possibly radically so—in any given campaign or setting. When it comes to settings DMs make themselves, that is doubly true.

In this case, there may be precedents set by other campaigns and other settings, but there is no universal lore on how to kill a god. Certainly, there is none that automatically and officially applies to your home setting.

So the question becomes: what is the lore in your setting for how to kill a god?


You have some good ideas already that I'd encourage you to follow up. They accord with some ideas that others have had about how deicide can be accomplished, so you can at least take comfort in like minds having walked similar paths before.

  • Making a god mortal first is a common idea. This is how gods in the Forgotten Realms have been killed before.
  • Similarly, a dead god is rarely completely dead, just mostly dead. There is Planescape canon of dead gods floating through the astral, just waiting to have devotees perform some great cosmic rite to awaken them.

Just remember that plausibility doesn't enter into it. How a god can be killed in your setting is simply a cosmic truth—it is what it is—with no need to justify itself to the sense of plausibility of mere mortals. Make it interesting and revelatory to your players, and that should be enough.

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From what I have read, there are only two ways to truly kill a D&D deity. There is a common theme within the Sundering novels, that deities long thought dead, were in fact, not dead.

  1. Remove all faith in the deity. That is, if a god is forgotten and has no followers, they become a dead god in the astral sea.

    DMG on page 46-47

    Visitors occasionally stumble upon the petrified corpses of a dead god or other chunks of rock drifting forever in the silvery void.

    DMG on page 11 (Divine Rank box)

    Vestiges are deities who have lost nearly all their worshipers and are considered dead, from a mortal perspective. Esoteric rituals can sometimes contact these beings and draw on their latent power.

  2. Another deity (or mortal which will become a deity) steals the essence or divine nature of a deity, or some similar thing happens causing the essence to be stolen. This is a key part of the plot in the Godborn, Sundering novels.

However, it sounds like you only need to remove the influence or power of the deity or for the blessing to be annulled for your plot to work. I think it's reasonable to have the poison weaken the deity to a state where it's as if he is dead, and his influence on the prime world is removed. The Rise of Tiamat plot line uses a similar mechanic where the deity Tiamat is trapped in hell and has limited influence.

Of course, as the DM you can decide anything you want for the worlds you create/populate. As the DMG says, each home game is a sort of parallel universe even of the established settings, and you might do things differently.

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We now have irrefutable official rules about the possibility that mere mortals can indeed kill a god.

In the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide page 20:

Dead and Resurrected Gods

Over and over, mourning bells have tolled for some of the deities of the Realms. Gods were struck down during the Time of Troubles, when the Spellplague wrought its destruction and most recently when Netheril felt. Some deities have even been slain by mortals wielding impossibly powerful magic.

So it is still viewed as possible, only a formidable task.

However, as I mentioned in my other answer killing a god on the material plane is relatively easy compared with completely destroying a god out of the realm. So just poisoning the god on the material plane will just send it back to his plane for a while.

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There isn't really anything written on this for 5e yet. However, you might find some inspiration in the 3.5e Forgotten Realms book Faiths and Pantheons. That book does provide stat blocks for the gods, and they are killable, though usually it is another god that kills a god.

In the 5e world, gods would certainly have Legendary Actions as described in MM p. 11:

Legendary Actions: A legendary creature can take a certain number of special actions - called legendary actions - outside its turn. Only one legendary action option can be used at a time and only at the end of another creature's turn. A legendary creature regains spent legendary actions at the start of its turn. It isn't required to use its legendary actions, and it can't use legendary actions while incapacitated.

Gods would also certainly have Legendary Resistance such as a dragon has. (See for example the Ancient Black Dragon on p. 87 of the MM):

Legendary Resistance (X/day) If the [god] fails a saving throw, it can choose to succeed instead.

I'd give a god a very large number of these per day. A god should be virtually unkillable by mortals.

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The Rise of Tiamat is an adventure that ends with the killing of the dragon queen who happens to be a god.

Now, they do not say kill Tiamat, but they do say banish (The Rise of Tiamat p. 88). Yet, from what I am reading in your question, it sounds like your god is currently living in the material plane and the bad guys want to destroy that corporeal manifestation, rather than destroy the god for good.

In that case, killing a god is the same as killing any monster, only way more difficult when directly fighting one on one with such. Actually, you are not likely to survive an upfront assault with a god, just like with an ancient dragon. Yet, a nice poisoned drink, as suggested, should work just fine! (assuming the god is not immune, so not an ex-Paladin...)

But the rule present there clearly says that when Tiamat reaches 0 hit points, it transfers back to Avernus.

Now, if you want to kill a god for good, as its essence go, you have to kill it on its plane of existence. Note that this is similar to killing a Dragon, Lich, or Mummy Lord in its lair...

The reference of killing a god can be found in MM p. 67:

If it [a Devil] dies outside the Nine Hells, a devil disappears in a cloud of sulfurous smoke or dissolves into a pool of ichor, instantly returning to its home layer, where it reforms at full strength. Devils that die in the Nine Hells are destroyed forever—a fate that even Asmodeus fears.

Asmodeus is considered to be a god (Deities & Demigods¹, p. 90) at the same level as is Tiamat.

An interesting addition from the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, p. 20, by the Sage of Shadowdale, in case a Revenge was sought:

"If the gods can grant the power to raise mortals from death, why do ye assume they should be laid low by it forever?"


¹ Reference to AD&D (1e) with lore that has not changed very much over the ages. From what I see in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide and MM 5e, this is most certainly not going to be different in 5e.

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Back in the old days, a God or Demon had to be on its plane of existence to be killed - i.e., if a God was met on the prime material plane, then they could only really be "banished" back to its home plane. The god/demon/devil would be in a "weakened" state on the prime material plane (but still incredibly tough). If a party decided to venture to a deity's home plane to destroy that deity, it would be a huge multiplier in difficulty. On its home plane, the deity has full control over local plane of existence - and could conceivably summon large numbers of followers, bend matter to its will, etc. etc.

If a deity is killed on the prime material plane, I could see that a large number of followers would have a sudden loss of faith. If a deity is killed outright on its home plane, then it would be natural that all followers would automatically have a complete loss of faith, and that deity would be sent to the astral sea, awaiting a sudden re-emergence.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you put in a bit of work to show how these observations are (or can be made to be) relevant to a D&D 5e campaign? It is a different game, after all. \$\endgroup\$ Dec 1 '15 at 0:48

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