Wait a minute… I’ve seen that door before! Not only did it soundly defeat The Anti-Party, it’s now dealt a mortal blow to Wizard! One can only surmise who’s next, or what infernal enticement would tempt so many adventurers to folly and doom. (Take it away, Vox Machina!)

We’re not here to talk about eldritch joinery though. We’re here to talk about the fine art of famous last words. And in particular, why it’s absent in your game.

No doubt some of you have already sussed out the point, but it’s all to do with the mechanical divide between alive/aliven’t. In game terms, you are either up and fighting at 100%, unconscious and dying, or dead. Nowhere in there is room for Theoden to gasp out his tragic farewell. The game state is always an either/or between “not dying” and “incapable of speech.” The leaves precisely zero room for speechifying.

One common solution to this biz is to jump outside the system for the sake of the narrative. You might see a GM pause initiative to say, “You’ve been fatally wounded. Do you have any last words before you succumb?” But this mess strains credulity. The Clerics of the multiverse are generally on hand to shoot healing juice into your veins. If you’re alive enough to talk, you’re alive enough to be saved by cure light word. And while it’s possible to suspend your disbelief for the sake of drama, it’s all manner of obnoxious when players miss the memo.

If a player is still in “initiative mindset,” they’re going to be confused by the suddenly-altered nature of reality. “What do you mean it’s too late? Dude’s alive enough to read his last will and testament at us. Why isn’t he alive enough to receive healing?” And just like all the pathos is sucked out of the moment, drained away by a flood or rules lawyering. If Wizard wasn’t already dying, she’d want to.

So what do you think, Handbook-World? Are you happy with the “extra-mechanical death speech” approach? Or does it grind your gears that there’s no RAW way to get in your famous last words? And by the same token, have you ever managed to deliver a satisfying death speech? Whatever your epitaph, let’s hear all about it down in the comments!


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