Turning the Gears: The Tinge of Death

I talk about games a lot and critique how well they’re designed, balanced, etc. but I’ve yet to put anything of my own design up to be critiqued by my readers.  This seems like a lousy way to do things because calling out other people for their work is easy, and it’s actually easier if you’ve never tried to make anything yourself.  So I’ve decided to start “Turning the Gears,” a new segment in my blog where I put something of my design on display, whether it be a mechanic you can use to augment an existing game or, perhaps in the future, the core for an entirely new RPG.  Today I’m going to start with a mechanic for 3.5 D&D/Pathfinder that I call “Tinge of Death” or simply “Tinge.”


If you read my article about house rules, then you know that I believe every rule should serve a purpose.  If you’re going to make a house rule, you should make sure you know what you’re changing and the broader effects of what you’re doing as well.

The purpose of Tinge is to add a consequence to creature death.  In 3.x editions of D&D, including Pathfinder creature death either means a lost creature (at early levels) or a mild inconvenience (at the higher levels).  By the time your creatures reach around level 12, death really has no meaning.

I want to have a consequence for creature death that is significant enough that the player feels it, but not so drastic that they will just decide to play a different creature.  The idea is that a creature will be permanently changed by death, but not less playable.


Death leaves a mark on you.  Even if you return from the afterlife compliments of the magic that gets tossed about your world like so many dwarfs, you’re never quite the same.  Some people might call it a corruption, or a taint, but to those who experience it it’s more like a stain.  A tinge of death that never quite comes off of you.  Those who have it are constantly aware of it, and while some are disturbed by it others may choose to embrace it.


When using this mechanic, each creature has a Tinge value.  This value starts at zero and increases whenever a creature dies and is brought back to life.  As a creature’s tinge value increases, they will experience different effects, some positive and some negative.

Gaining Tinge

Tinge is gained when a creature dies and is brought back from the dead.  The amount of tinge a creature gains is based on the method used to revive them and how long they remained dead.  Below is a list of methods of resurrection and the tinge a character gains when subjected to them.

Raise Dead:  1d6 + 1 for every day the character remained dead.

Resurrection: 1d4 + 1 for every two days the character remained dead.

Reincarnation: 1d4

True Resurrection: 1d4

Tinge gained should replace the negative levels associated with these spells as the consequence of returning from the dead.

Tinge Scores and Effects

These are the effects that a player will experience as their Tinge value increases.

Tinge 1 – Even the slightest tinge leaves a lingering presence of death on someone.  A creature with a tinge of at least 1 is detectable via the spell detect undead as an undead creature with hit dice equal to their Tinge score.

Tinge 5 – When a creature has a tinge of 5 or higher they are treated as undead for purposes of the spell hide from undead or spells such as consecrate or desecrate, which have passive effects on undead in their area.

Tinge 10 – A creature with a tinge of 10 or higher may have physical signs of their escaped death showing.  These creatures are treated as undead for purposes of spells that exclusively affect undead such as command undead and spells or abilities that have additional effects on the undead such as chill touch.  They also gain a +2 bonus to saves against mind-affecting effects and ability drain, energy drain, and ability damage.

Tinge 15 – A creature with a tinge of 15 or higher gains low-light vision and do not need to sleep, though they may still need to rest in order to recover spells.  They gain a +2 bonus on saves against paralysis, sleep effects, and stunning.

Tinge 20 – A creature with tinge of 20 or higher gains darkvision.  They cannot be affected by morale effects from sources other than themselves (for example: a barbarian with Tinge 20 could still rage, but could not be affected by a bard’s inspire courage ability).

Tinge 25 – A creature with a tinge of 25 or higher no longer needs to eat, sleep, or breathe and are immune to morale effects.  However, death seems to be constantly trying to pull them back.  They can no longer heal naturally, even through abilities such as fast-healing or regeneration unless those abilities are magical in nature.  They also suffer a -4 penalty to saves against bleed, disease, poison and death effects.


The intended effect is that the creature gaining tinge slowly starts to seem less and less alive.  The effects are permanent and cannot be removed, but are not all negative mechanically.  Tinge should build slowly and is designed to be significant enough that a hero does not wish to gain more, but it is not designed to cripple a character so much that they cannot keep up if the player chooses to bring them back.

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  1. kaferserene · · Reply

    I like it and look forward to your revisions.

    Since there’s been quite lively discussion on Reddit, I thought it was worth commenting a link you your post there: https://www.reddit.com/r/Pathfinder_RPG/comments/3bvro8/a_game_mechanic_that_i_designed_to_add_some_extra/

    1. Thank you! I should also point out that the Reddit community has been wonderful in providing feedback and discussion!

  2. […] Here’s one I did for an independently published D&D adventure, and here’s one of my attempts at game mechanic design. If neither of those suit your fancy, here’s a list article I did about awesome monsters in […]

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