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No, I'm not referring to suggestions about playing D&D after I die.

I'm referring to playing a D&D campaign with a plot centered on the afterlife. Particularly, the concept of a petitioner in Planescape/Forgotten Realms. (Warning: Rilmani is an amazing planar time sink.)

This has a few promising perks:

  1. Petitioners don't remember their former lives. This is the perfect background for classic Amnesia-style tropes and an easy way to bring the PCs together.
  2. Petitioners usually have similar alignments and beliefs. This also is an easy way to bring PCs together.
  3. Adventuring in the afterlife would be quite unique and interesting.

That said, I have a couple of problems.

As the article hints at, how do I make amnesiac PCs in an afterlife scenario have sufficient motivation to pursue a plot? After all, they are already in heaven...what more can you want?

Are there any obvious alterations that must be made to the game rules in an afterlife scenario that I should be aware of?

I'm planning to use D&D 5e. Also, the party, plane, and their deity will be good-aligned.

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That article doesn't come out and say it, but the ultimate goal of petitioners is to become their deity. Sort of, anyway. See, a petitioner who dies faithfully following their deities' precepts loses their memories, like you've read; What you haven't read is that the memory-less soul that's left has the sole goal of pursuing that deities' philosophy. Eventually, the petitioner comes to understand, embrace and embody that philosophy so completely that they think about and react to things exactly the same way their deity would - and that's the point at which they merge into them.

This means that petitioners of the same Power all have a simple and easy-to-understand goal, and only differ in what they're "missing" to reach it. You could say there's just one question you have to yourself about each player character to determine whether they'll have a motivation to pick up your plot hooks: "Will doing this bring her closer to who she's trying to become?"

You're therefore going to want to pick a Power for the PCs who is broad enough to support a wide variety of classes while still allowing all the PCs to gradually progress towards the same kind of personal ideal. That ideal also has to be compatible with adventuring, so something like a deity of protection or community might be a good bet.

When petitioners go in the dead-book, they're deader-than-dead. As in, the bashers are gone. Forever. No way to bring 'em back. If they're still on the plane they went to when they died, they merge with their deity or plane a little ahead of schedule; If they're on any other plane, the poor sods cease to exist. Oblivion embraces 'em, and whatnot. In other words, no matter what plane a petitioner is on when it shuffles off the post-mortal coil, raise dead and resurrection are off the table.

You might want to modify that for your campaign, or you might not. It's something to think about.

Other than that, the only special rules changes relevant to running an afterlife game are the standard Planescape ones, and rather too extensive to replicate here. They mostly affect magic items and spell casters.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If I recall correctly were most of the planescape rules for PCs that weren't specifically dead themselves? \$\endgroup\$ – Jim B Jul 29 '15 at 21:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JimB Indeed; That's why I didn't call them out here. The Planescape setting even explicitly state that Petitioners tend to fill the role of NPC commoners in most campaigns: The commoners of most powers are so bent on their spiritual development that they have no interest in adventuring. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jul 30 '15 at 0:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Very good answer, thank you. Would Lathander perhaps be a pretty good deity for this purpose? He is good-aligned and seems to support a wide-range of classes, and focuses on challenge and self-improvement. \$\endgroup\$ – Tanthos Jul 30 '15 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Tanthos I'm not familiar enough with the Forgotten Realms setting to know what Lathlander stands for - but in any case, if you have a follow-up question, you should post it as a new question instead of asking in a comment. \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jul 31 '15 at 1:00
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In order to develop a plot, I recommend you have something encroaching in your heaven that is slowly but surely corrupting and destroying it. Have creatures become more and more aggressive over the course of the campaign, while having portions of the world subverted to malicious, dark causes.

An excellent primer for this would be if a celestial decided they were tired of whatever god you put in place, and found the Book of Vile Darkness. Upon touching it the book corrupted the celestial's soul completely, and he/she now seeks to undue the realm of heaven and destroy the Book of Exalted Deeds.

The Book of Vile Darkness brings with it access to powerful plagues, curses and forbidden evil magics. So you could easily spin the story to say that paradise itself is being threatened and the last hope for the universe, the Book of Exalted Deeds, is in dire peril of being destroyed forever.

Obvious alterations: Death. This would be pretty tricky. I would recommend making the first death an alteration of a player's character to a neutral, leaning to evil, alignment. This would emphasize the hold the Book of Vile Darkness is exerting over PC's as well. From there, if a player died again, you could have that character become an NPC looking to thwart the party unless he/she is dealt with.

You would need some form of ability to convert things that have been corrupted back to a cleansed state. I would add a magical enhancement to all weapons that cleanses corruption. In addition, any divine magic users should be able to channel curative magics in order to help repair corruption as well.

Just some thoughts. Run with them if you like.

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