12 Reasons Why Someone Might Not Be Dead
By : Jesse C Cohoon
By : Jesse C Cohoon
Surprise! The person coming out of the shadows is not dead. Here are a dozen reasons why this might have happened, and the reasons for their return. Keep in mind with this list, that there may be significant overlap between these items.
1. Faked Death: In a fantasy setting the faking could be done with an illusion, a golem crafted to look like the individual who was supposedly dead. In modern times it becomes considerably more difficult in that you have to change medical and dental records of the person.
2. Kidnapped: This can show up in a few ways:
a. Unable to return: Maybe they’re being held in some sort of zoo for others to go and stare at. Perhaps they’re chained to the wall, their life force being used as some sort of magical battery. Or, worse yet, they’re being kept as someone’s personal play thing.
b. Stockholm Syndrome: In this case the kidnapped feels sympathy or may even wish to stay on their own accord. They may watch their family from afar and see that they have moved on and not wish to cause the heartache that their return would cause after the length of time they’ve been gone.
c. Accidental kidnapping: as the name implies, it wasn’t the plan of the kidnapper to take away the individual kidnapped. In modern day cases this can be seen with a carjacking, and there’s a baby in the back steat. A fantasy example is Valka in Dreamwork’s How to Train Your Dragon 2, where she is taken away by the dragons. The accidental can turn into either of the two, above
3. Trapped Somewhere: This could be as simple as being trapped in a landslide or avalanche, taking a fall that would be impossible to survive, or in the case of Gandalf the Grey being caught by an implacable foe.
4. Mistaken Identity: The antagonist might have an identical twin or cast a glamour on someone to look like them or it could be that someone happens to look enough like them to fool the players.
5. Left: Consider these 3 options:
a. Didn't realize they were missed. Maybe someone has been gone so long that everyone assumed they were dead because they had too much there to leave behind. If they were alive, why haven't they returned by now?
b. Unable to return: Maybe they were a part of a group of survivors from a flood, a war, or a fire and they felt that it wasn’t safe to return, but there wasn’t a “safe meeting area” to determine who got out alive and who didn’t.
c. Unwilling to return: Maybe the character just had a bad argument and has determined that they’d never return home. Perhaps the character has too many bad memories of the place. It could also be that there’s nothing there for them, and thus going back would be useless.
6. Resurrected/ Reincarnated:
a. With Full memories: The person remembers everything that has happened in their present life until now
b. As a totally new individual: Sometimes fate “wipes the slate clean,” and the ‘core’ of the person remains the same, but everything else, including memories, are different.
7. Badly Injured/ Sick & Left to die: maybe someone was left to die because they were badly injured or so sick that others thought it impossible that they could survive, and they were rescued/ healed somehow.
8. Amnesiac: a person who doesn't remember their identity, could easily wander off and become someone else, never running into anyone they previously knew. Can overlap with being badly injured.
9. No longer Seen/ Recluse: If a person’s decided to abandon society and live in a creepy old house that has seen better days, eventually people are going to declare you dead and your house may become a target of vandals
10. No Body Found: Maybe the character survived a shipwreck (or other mode of transportation), botched teleportation spell, or a building’s fire and it’s presumed that the person is dead.
11. Undead: The character has survived as some sort of intelligent undead: a vampire, lich, ghost, etc.
12. Final Shot/ Dying speech: after a character is thought to be dead they are able to give one final telling blow, or give a parting speech/ piece of advice before passing away. If an enemy does this once, the PCs will make *sure* that their enemy is dead before moving on!
Why are they back?
1-2 Revenge: They are miffed at the characters for some reason. Maybe they were left for dead. Maybe they felt abandoned. Or it could be that they are dying and the characters are the cause of it. Or perhaps it could be that they misread the situation.
3-4 Wants/ needs to reconnect: They are gone for awhile and they have a desire to reconnect to their roots. Maybe they heard news of a wedding or death in the family. Maybe they’re sickly and need to reconnect for medical reasons to get treatment for a debilitating disease.
5-6 Accident: They run into people they know/ knew from before totally by accident
7-8 Something Changed: Something changed internally, maybe they stopped being mad at the people. Maybe they wanted to let them know they weren't really dead. Or maybe they're BACK from the dead! Or, conversely something changed externally – in that there was a job loss, a sickness that they could cure if they were “alive” again, etc.