DMs Guild Review – Playing Dead

Class feature replacements, along with new subclasses, spells, and items for transforming and creating undead player characters.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher. Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Designed by: Steve Fidler, with Alex TannerAndrew T. Ha (LeukuDnD)BornToDoStuffCaitlin Bradbury (NotTheSmoooze)Elias Garoufalias (Aevilok)heavyarmsIsrael MoreiraProphRain-JunkieRyan MillerRyan Rose (flashpointbrews)Yorviing

Death in D&D typically leads to one of two scenarios: revive them through magic, or roll up a new character. Playing Dead presents a third option: transforming the player character into a uniquely undead version, with brilliantly themed new subclasses, spells, and adventuring gear.

The 100-page supplement features three chapters covering new undead class options, new items, feats, and spells (Morbid Miscellany), and upgrading your PCs into high-powered undead monsters (Greater Undeath).

A brief but helpful introduction explains how and when PCs are given a new lease on un-life – or if the player wishes to play an undead character right from the start. As a reanimated undead, the PC gains Darkvision, immunity to disease and poison, and no longer requires food, air, or sleep (you’ll still need to long rest though, because DnD).

In chapter one, each class (including Artificer) is given replacement abilities to better reflect their uniquely undead state, such as Turn the Unliving instead of Turn Undead, Requiem for the Restless instead of Song of Rest, and Unholy Smite instead of, well, you get the idea.

The real excitement comes from all the new subclass options available for undead PCs. Playing Dead includes 20 new undead-themed subclasses, with one or two for each class.

Even if you don’t plan on allowing undead PCs, this supplement features some of the most intriguing designs I’ve seen. Rip off your own arms and legs and beat enemies with them with the Path of the Grave Barbarian. Use your body as a hive for a swarm of insects with Circle of the Host Druid. Balance your hunger between two different modes with the Damned Hunter Fighter, augment your undead with Corpsecrafting Warlock invocations, and transform into a wraith and pass through enemies as the Light Trapper Ranger.

Even the Cleric, a class I normally couldn’t find more thematically boring in D&D, gets a neat feature with the Undeath Domain. With the first level feature Deathly Absolution,  enemy souls can be harvested as tiny spirits that project darkness around you, and can be spent to deal additional necrotic damage when casting spells.

Those are some of my favorites, but all the subclasses are high-quality and well-designed. I didn’t come across a single one that felt weird or boring.

damned hunter playing dead

The first chapter alone is nearly 60 pages long, and would be plenty of content to justify an immediate recommendation based on its excellent subclasses alone. But we’re not done yet.

Greater Undeath is an optional way of introducing prestige classes via undead monsters, ultimately allowing your players to transform into vampires, liches, revenants, and more.

As you can imagine, these abilities and traits are quite a bit more powerful than just having a unique subclass. And yes, there are rules for creating your own phylactery, including dropping a solid 100 gold pieces. Immortality doesn’t come cheap! I could see how an all-undead PC campaign could make these transformations really fun goals to attain later in their careers.

The chapter on Morbid Miscellany includes a few new feats, mostly drawing from new features introduced in chapter one, as well as new undead-appropriate magic items, adventuring gear, and spells.

You like necromancy? You are in for a bone-ified treat with these incredible spell designs, thanks in part to the Wizard’s new Osteomancy subclass. Summon skeletal hands from the ground to charm and restrain enemies, use Ghost Rider’s patented Penance Stare to showcase an enemy’s sins against them, summon an unholy chapel to provide respite for you and your life-challenged friends. And the bone spells – my goodness! Summon a swirling cloud of bones, trap your enemies in a bone prison, grow skeletal wings, use your own spinal chord as a whip, and melt your own flesh off to become a super-powered bone warrior.

And my favorite spell: channel your inner Dr. Frankenstein to summon a monstrosity, rolling random d4s for its head, body, tail, and breath attack. It’s a messed-up Pokéball combined with a wheel of chance, and I freaking love it.

The supplement is lovingly stitched together with wonderful writing and concise editing throughout, layered in an attractive gray, black, and red art design. On top of everything else, there’s a helpful acknowledgement table for attributing individual sections to the myriad of designers who helped contribute, and a detailed content warning page for the bevy of dark themes such as cannibalism, suicide, and, er, humanoid leatherworking.

With this level of production quality, variety of clever subclasses and spells, and compelling reasons and rules for making undead PCs, Playing Dead should quickly make you an undead convert.

Pros:

  • Variant undead replacement features for all 13 classes.
  • 20 new undead-themed subclasses (1-2 per class)
  • Greater Undeath rules and stats for transforming PCs into familiar undead threats.
  • Over two dozen deliciously dark-themed spells.
  • Acknowledgement table and detailed content warnings.

Cons:

  • None!

The Verdict: With 100 pages of replacement class features, subclasses, feats, and spells for Undead Player Characters, Playing Dead is a remarkably compreshenisve and expertly written guide where death is only the beginning.

This review has been sponsored by the publisher Find more reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work by using affiliate links for shopping and pledging via Patreon.

Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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