You Are Dead

This game explores the idea of what happens to the aged adventurers of other gaming realms, and how one could model the more intangible afterlife in a traditional RPG format. This was a group endeavor, with other fellow designers Jeff McNab, Christopher Schmidt, and Darren Malley. I had the real honor of being the lead of this intrepid bunch, responsible for writing the GM's guide, fleshing out two of the religions, working out about half of the combat and skill mechanics, making the playable campaing included in the box, and just good old general oversight.

You Are Dead differs perhaps from other popular table-top role-playing-games (RPGs) in that it places more emphasis on role-playing, team building, interaction between players, and (most importantly) non-combative skills and powers.  While combat is a part of the system, it is not a main focus of the game.  Also, as the Afterlife is lacking a true ‘physical’ plane present in all other RPGs, there is a unique way of dealing with visual properties, movement, and time. 

Basic Information Exceprt:
Spirits in the Afterlife have four base statistics which govern their æthereal makeup and actions on the immortal plane.  Two of the statistics, Piety and Corruption, describe a spirit’s drive to perform either a good or evil action.  Everything in the Afterlife can be described as being either Pious or Corrupted, from Items to the Environment itself. The last two describe over all how strong and resistant to change a spirit is. 

Base Stats:

Piety and Corruption:  These two stats define the moral holdings and capabilities of each player character, Piety defining the will and intent to do something “good”, with Corruption defining the will to do “evil”.  Moral classifications of different actions are not listed, but are rather context specific and ultimately GM decided, i.e., killing another spirit is not innately an evil action, but is dependent upon the context of the action.  A character with a low rating in either does not have the embedded integrity to perform an action of either kind, while a character with a high rating shows no qualms about such actions.  Thus a character with a 0 in both ranks would be completely apathetic and those with high numbers in each would be equivalent to a ‘chaotic neutral’ alignment in other well-known d20 systems. Piety and Corruption are not leveled up like other stats with experience points (XP), but rather only change at the end of each play session based on the actual player’s actions during play.

Piety and Corruption are the two most important stats in the Afterlife and govern a player’s abilities, the environments they can enter, the items they can use, and even the deities they can support.  Careful attention should always be given to the two stats and players should be attempting to role-play accordingly.  The GM should feel free at the end of every session to adjust the Piety and Corruption stat of any player who acted differently than the stats describe. 

Players may not have less than 0 in a stat, as this equates to a level of motivation less than complete apathy.

Will:  Will is the overall resolve a player character has, basically ‘strength-of-character’.  Will is determined at creation by taking the character’s Piety and Corruption and averaging the two values, rounded down.  A starting character then with a Piety of 4 and a Corruption of 2 would have a Will stat equal to 3, or (4 + 2)/2.  A player’s will determines both his ability to perform an action, and his ability to resist actions being performed against him.  Will is recalculated every time Piety and Corruption changes, and is not leveled up with gained experience points. 

For a normal human character, Will ranges between 3 and 10, and based upon the actual number, the player receives a different kind of die for making any saving rolls utilizing their Will stat.    These dice are as follows:


Will Stat

Roll Will Die









If a character’s Will stat ever falls below 3 (such as through debuffs or falling Piety and Corruption stats from role-playing), they still use the 1d4 to roll their Will Save.  However, they may find certain skills and powers are more difficult or impossible to use with such a low score.

More accomplished and higher ranking spirits may have higher Will Stats than 10, such as Avatars or Demi-Gods.

Reservoir:  Reservoir is the stat governing how much Æther a player character can hold at once.  It represents his life points, his hit points, and is used as an energy pool as well – any power a player takes which manipulates Æther in some way uses Æther.  Reservoir also holds all the accumulated XP for the player, making it a multi-purpose stat which the player will have to carefully manage.

The entire Afterlife is made up of Æther, the spirits, the environments, even the Gods.  It is the most important substance to control and manage for every denizen of the Afterlife.

If a player’s Reservoir is ever 0, they are sent back to the Mortal Realm to their place of burial for a GM determined amount of time, until they are able to recover at least 1 point of Reservoir back.  They may not interact with anyone there or in the Afterlife until then.

If a character’s Reservoir and Will every both reach 0 concurrently, they have effectively “died” once again, and they return to the back of the line at the E.M.O.(Eternal Management Offices).  See Dying for more information. 

There are four main stats governing the use of powers – both neutral and Deity specific.  These are Projection, Diffusion, Absorption, and Stabilization, or PDAS for short.  Powers basically describe the specific ways player characters can interact with the Æther around them. PDAS points are assigned at character creation like the other main stats, but can be leveled up at the end of each session if desired. These points determine the kinds of Archetypes and Powers a player character may select upon leveling and growing.   Some powers only require points in one area, such as Projection, while many stronger ones will require the player to level up all four of the stats.  More information on Powers and Archetypes are available in their respective chapters.

Descriptions of the Power Stats are as follows:

Projection:  A power which uses Æther to launch an attack or action at another player, character, or environment feature. Affects exterior targets and not the player himself. 

Diffusion: A power which draws Æther from an external source such as an item or the environment and uses it by manipulating it and changing it into a new form. 

Absorption: A power which uses Æther to collect it and store it for later use, whether in a player’s Reservoir or other form of holding device such as an artifact. 

Stabilization:  A power which uses Æther to crystallize it into a new permanent or semi-permanent form – Artifacts are crafted used stabilization powers. 

More information continues in the GM guide.

More Resources:

Abridged Design Doc PDF for print | 1 mb |

Abridged Design Doc PDF for on screen reading | 1 mb |

Archetype Powers List PDF | 33 KB|

Religion Powers List PDF |20 KB|

We are currently doing more rounds of testing and balancing and perhaps looking into self publishing. Hopefully more information on that soon.