The Grim Reaper
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Basic Information

In folklore, The Grim Reaper is the personification of Death. He is usually dictated as carrying a scythe and is a skeleton wearing a black cloak.

In this form, Death is not seen as the Judge of Souls, but merely the harvester. There is nothing personal about the way he takes the souls of the living; it's just a job that needs to be done.

See Also


1. book various Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett; esp. Mort and Reaper Man
2. book The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
3. movie The Seventh Seal (1957, dir. Ingmar Bergman): A medieval knight tries to beat Death in a game of chess
4. movie Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991): Has a scene parodying the chess game in The Seventh Seal
5. movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988, dr. Terry Gilliam) Death has a non-speaking, but significant role. His visual portrayal here is majorly creepy and based off of medieval depictions.
6. comics Sandman and Death: The High Cost of Living (Vertigo Comics) Portrays Death as an attractive goth girl
7. anime Soul Eater: Too weird to be described

Game and Story Use

  • Death, personified as an NPC, makes an implacable, and ultimately unbeatable, adversary
    • In the short run, however, Death can be bargained with, or tricked. Sometimes.
      • Sisyphus managed to pull this off… for a while.
  • On the other hand, Death might make an interesting Patron in a fantasy campaign; the PC's could be "assistant reapers", or hired to do specific missions for Death.
  • In some folk tales, mortals whom Death takes a liking to are granted powers over disease or extended life; but if they dare to transgress upon Death's prerogative, misfortune is bound to follow.
  • One recurring fantasy trope tells what happens when Death Takes a Holiday.
  • Suppose Death is busy with something (a war, a plague, a very long game for someone's soul, chasing someone who didn't want to go on the cart) when someone's time is up, and can't come collect them. Said person figures this out, and decides to keep Death very busy.
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