We all die, sooner or later. But Dungeons and Dragons offers us the pleasure of experiencing death multiple times from the safety of the gaming table. None of us want our beloved characters to die, but the possibility keeps things interesting.
Not every character gets to go out in a blaze of glory. If the dice don't favor you, your character can be cut down by monsters, poisoned, burned, petrified, crushed, disintegrated, etc. But some potential deaths in Dungeons and Dragons stand out as the most ridiculous, embarrassing or downright absurd. We've rounded up the dumbest ways to die in D&D here for your schadenfreude.
10 System Shock
System shock appeared in AD&D as a stat derived from Constitution. It's a percentage chance of surviving a traumatic physical change like being polymorphed, un-petrified or magically aged. Fail the system shock check, and you die. Sources of magic aging included being hasted (by spell or potion), casting a wish spell, being hit by a ghost, and more. All kinds of useful effects came with the added risk of bursting your heart.
Next to system shock was another percentage stat usually differing by just a couple of points, called resurrection survival. That's right, you could die immediately after being brought back from the dead. Tough luck.
9 Teleport Error
The teleport spell in Dungeons and Dragons is fantastically useful but has some unpredictability built in to prevent abuse. In the current 5th edition of D&D, the teleport can malfunction and drop you in a place nearby or similar to your intended destination. You can suffer 3D10 damage on the way, so it's entirely possible to end up dead on arrival.
The player's handbook even warns of the dangers of aiming for a coastal down and dropping over the ocean. But in older versions of the teleport spell, where you could end up off target vertically. Emerge below ground level in solid rock? Instant fossil.
8 Potion Explosion
An oft-forgotten rule in early Dungeons and Dragons was that of potion miscibility. This was basically the idea that it was dangerous to mix two active potions inside of you. If you chugged a potion while under the effect of a previous one, the DM would roll on a random table to see what happened.
The random results included diminishing or enhancing potion effects, even bestowing them permanently. More likely was death by poison or even more spectacularly, turning into a human bomb as unstable magic potions react violently, exploding you from the inside.
7 Drawing The Skull
The deck of many things has a reputation of being a ''campaign killer''. Every card drawn from this magic item bestows a very powerful baneful or beneficial magical effect. It's famous for disabling characters, even if the worst cards don't outright kill. For example, the character's soul or body could become trapped in another plane.
But it earns its place here for the skull card, equally silly and scary. Drawing this one conjures an actual grim reaper, whom you must defeat. This one doesn't play chess, either. Get ready to eat scythe. In earlier editions, this minor avatar of death always struck first and never missed!
Society may have largely moved past the stereotype of the loveless nerd, but Dungeons and Dragons can give the impression that kissing is really dangerous. Famously, the succubus and the vampire can both drain your energy levels with a kiss, potentially killing you. Even if you realize it was a bad idea to kiss the sexy monster, they have charm powers to keep you locking lips until you expire.
The kiss of the nereid (an aquatic nymph) is even more dangerous, causing an instant death save with a penalty. Having said that, they do not give kisses willingly, so the player has no one else to blame.
Illusion magic has been the subject of much debate over the long history of Dungeons and Dragons. The crux of the matter is...can an illusion actually kill a creature that believes it has suffered fatal damage?
Modern 5e limits damage by illusion to a fixed range of psychic damage but earlier editions were much more open to DM interpretation. Depending on how the DM viewed illusions, it could be possible to die from believing an illusion that you fell down a deep pit, for example. That's the power of psychosomatics.
4 Cat Scratch
Dungeons and Dragons' tendency to stat up everything can lead to some odd results. AD&D's Monster Manual 2 raised eyebrows with the stats for ordinary cats. Even the average housecat could attack 3 times, doing 1-2 points of damage with claws, enough to tear apart the average townsperson or first level wizard or rogue.
Wild cats were even more dangerous, able to go toe to paw with orcs and first-level fighters. Some low-level characters, confident in their abilities after being up the local goblin den, may have been tempted to tease a cat or two in town. This was likely the last mistake they ever made.
The original Monster Manual introduced some horribly unfair killer creatures like the ear seeker. But it also had some questionable interpretations of normal animals. The generic entry for herd animal was meant to describe a variety of non-aggressive animals such as cattle.
So far, so harmless, but threatening these docile critters would cause them to stampede in the opposite direction...and any man-sized creature caught in the path of a stampede was instantly killed. Your 20th level fighter with hundreds of HP and +4 everything? Wrong place, wrong time. Killed by 10 frightened cows.
2 Friendly Fireball
Chances are this has happened to all of us at least once. The party is adventuring in the dungeon or other confined space, and someone detects danger ahead. The wizard panics and declares ''I cast fireball''. With a sinking feeling, you realize they're aiming too close...and fireball expands to fill out its area.
In 5e, it deals 8d6 damage in a 20-foot radius. In previous editions, the volume and damage increased with every spellcaster level. High-level wizards had to be very careful with it or the player would risk some very angry stares from their friends at the table.
1 Head of Vecna
The hand of Vecna and the Eye of Vecna are both famously powerful items in Dungeons and Dragons. To gain the power of these relics one must replace their own hand or eye with the respective artifact, typically a gruesome process.
The head of Vecna, on the other hand, doesn't exist. But that didn't stop some crafty players from spreading rumors to tempt other power-hungry players in one campaign. The temptation was so great that several adventurers cut their own heads off so that the fake head of Vecna could be placed on their shoulders. Naturally, they didn't end up anywhere but dead. This trollish move became famous among DMs, so be warned.