Probably Bad Podcast 4: Afterlife Pyramid Scheme, Bigger Bears, and Metaghosts

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Pencil: Welcome to the Probably Bad Podcast, a podcast which is definitely bad. I’m Pencil
Paper: I’m Paper. Today’s probably bad rpg idea is
dice rolling noise
When a character drops to zero hitpoints, they can automatically succeed a death saving throw by trading in a level. You survive, but you go down levels
Pencil: Submitted by tumblr user “daydreaming fox”
Paper: So, I really like this? ‘Cause it’s a good way to have kind of lasting damage from, obviously quite serious harm if you’re down to zero hitpoints
Pencil: Yeah like I think it’s a good way to do disability without kind of, some of the clunkiness that’s been done when people try to mechanically do specific disabilities. Like you have permanent injuries and that’s represented as not being able to do things you used to do beforehand and then you recover over time
Paper: Mmm. It’s kind of…levelling back up is almost like finishing your physio
Pencil: Mmm.
Paper: Although that said do…considering you get specialisations at certain levels in Dungeons and Dragons, I’m just really enjoying the idea of someone almost dying as a cleric and going back before they specialise…before specialisation and just being like “ok you know what? Fuck that god, I almost died”
Pencil: Like, I personally like the idea of levelling up into a different class. “I got beaten up so thoroughly that now I have the blood of dragons, I’m a sorcerer”
Paper: I mean I guess you could fluff it? If you almost died of magic damage? Or maybe like it’s one of those things like your superpowers only get activated when you almost die
Pencil: The other way I could think of doing it rather than the erm…more mundane you’ve been damaged and now you’ve got long-term injuries is Death is an entity in-universe and by trading it memories and powers you can come back to life which
Paper: So how ephemeral are you getting with this? Would it be like “I will give you my ability to see colour”?
Pencil: I mean like, so the rules are of course like “it has to be my ability to shoot fireballs” but I do really like the idea of “yeah I traded my ability to pick out musical tones to Death”
Paper: I mean, if you’re a bard that would suck
Pencil: Mmm. But yeah it’s also like a neat way to explain the undead, like it explains why the undead don’t remember their previous lives
Paper: Because they’ve just had to trade everything about themselves to preserve their bodies
Pencil: Yeah
Paper: I mean that would especially explain liches, and like revenants. I mean doubly so revenants. It’s like “I will give you everything about me except for my revenge mission”
Pencil: Yeah. And like…yeah it also explains why the undead turn evil, because they’ve given up their conscience and morality and what-have-you. But yeah, I think yeah, it’s a really neat idea because you can, yeah you can even allow a kind of – as long as it doesn’t interfere with the game too much – a kind of in-game negotiation thing where you can trade a level or you can find something else equally valuable to trade
Paper: Oh god imagine, your character’s on their last death-save and you just here “roll to negotiate with Death”
Pencil: laughing
Paper: See now I’m just imagining like…a psychopomp who’s like a carnival character who’s just like “Step right up! For just the price of your memories of your son, you can live again!”
Pencil: I like the idea of like, just different…there’s multiple psychopomps it’s just like this weird afterlife pyramid scheme business thing where they’re all just trying to get as much like, appreciation of photographs or whatever it is to get up the levels
Paper: What if this is how minor gods become major gods? They just gain all these various powers from people that almost die
Pencil: Mmm.
Paper: And then eventually they’re just so strong that they ascend
Pencil: Like that’s particularly neat if you combine it with the conceit in a lot of fantasy settings that humans can become gods. Or like, you know, humanoid races. So it’s like “I can start buying up people’s memories”
Paper: Well no, what you do, is you learn the spell Spare the Dying, and then you only use it on people if they’ll give you just various of their abilities through some sort of …magic fudging
Pencil: Yeah
Paper: And then just you gradually go from cleric to deity because you’ve got…’cause presumably it stacks?
Pencil: Yeah
Paper: If you get enough people’s darkvision you get like the ability to see invisible things or something
Pencil: Yeah. Like, I like…the campaign that’s just sprung to mind is essentially you are a small business death trying to like outcompete the big death megacorporations
Paper: Does remind me of Grim Fandango where…I don’t know if you’ve played it?
Pencil: I know of it
Paper: So basically the idea of Grim Fandango is you’re working as a psychopomp to pay off your afterlife debts so that then you can pay money to go to like, the good afterlife. There’s also a romantic subplot but that’s the jist of how the afterlife works in that game. I feel like we’re basically creating Grim Fandango the RPG
Pencil: I mean, there’s probably worse things to make, but yes…
Paper: Shall we do some question?
Pencil: Yes!
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Paper: So, this first one comes to us anonymously from tumblr. You can submit questions at or you can email And the question is “I want to include an NPC in my dnd game who is basically just Sonic the Hedgehog, but I need ideas on how to do this without my players noticing too fast. Any ideas?”
Pencil: So my idea is you’ll be a wizard. The first like, session you cast haste on yourself a lot, and that’s normal, that’s a reasonable thing to do. And then you learn polymorph and you change yourself blue. And then you learn polymorph, and you cast polymorph again and you give yourself spines. And just keep gradually every session casting polymorph again and giving yourself a different Sonic the Hedgehog feature. And then you use prestidigitation to change your clothes and just steal everyone’s rings
Paper: My thinking was a little bit, I guess a bit more doable but at the same time silly. So you have a character that is an awakened hedgehog, been hit by a lot of wild magic and become, you know, sentient. And because that hedgehog has now become a wild magic sorcerer it gets hit by some wild magic effects like turning blue and getting taller
Pencil: I like the implication…
Paper: ‘Cause like these are canonical wild magic effects so an awakened hedgehog could just become Sonic, just accidentally, so why not do it on purpose?
Pencil: I like the idea that wild magic ultimately leads towards you becoming Sonic the Hedgehog
Paper: I mean, you played a wild magic sorcerer who did become tall and blue
Pencil: Yeah! Like the ultimate goal of
Paper: laughing It’s entirely feasible!
Pencil: The ultimate goal of all magic is to turn things into Sonic the Hedgehog
Paper: Because you’re a sorcerer you’d also get a magic focus so you could totally have like, a gold ring – maybe with some sort of magical emerald – as your magic focus
Pencil: I love the energy of going to your GM “yeah I want my magic focus to be the chaos emeralds”
Paper: Well this is an NPC, is what they asked for, so it’s more going to your DM and going “is that a chaos emerald?” And obviously at some point you have the character cast hero’s feast and it’s just all chilli dogs
Pencil: Yeah. They just walk in, cast create food and water and boom it’s hundreds of chilli dogs.
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This question is sent in via the email from HS. “Hi probably bad folks
I’m a 1st time GM who just ran a one-shot of Honey Heist (that got extended into a 2-shot) with completely new players who didn’t know what a table top RPG is.
How do I punish or dissuade players from unbridled, unnecessary murder while keeping it a very light, zany game? Particularly as the party are all bears and see violence as their primary ability (keeping with the theme, this was a probably bad idea). Thanks!”
Paper: So my immediate thought…they’re bears. If bears run around doing chaotic shit, some people are going to not like that. Can you just have people hunt down the bears? I mean obviously in more of a…keeping it zany, in kind of a Wile-E-Coyote kind of way like Acme anvils and painting tunnels on the side of walls and things
Pencil: For my part, my notes for this section of the podcast was just the words “bigger bears” which, I’m not quite sure how to decipher, but I’m going to assume what it is you just have bigger bears show up. Just everything they do to humans as bears bigger bears show up and do it to them, so that they learn a sense of empathy and realise the error of their ways
Paper: You know where these bigger bears come from?
Pencil: Where?
Paper: The Bigger Bear Workshop
Pencil: laughs Build a bigger bear. You walk in with your bear and they get out a bigger bear
Paper: So your suggestion is Crocodile Dundee, but with bears
Pencil: You call this a bear? No, this is a bear
Paper: laughs Bear Dundee! I mean the thing with Honey Heist though is it does have a system for this, like if you become too violent and bear-like your character’s basically out of the game because you’ve gone feral. More seriously you could just remind them of this fact
Pencil: I mean it is Honey Heist you are expecting a few bear rampages. Like, it’s probably ok if your players only rampage a little bit because that is the premise of the game
Paper: Yeah it’s the balance between being a bear and being a master criminal. Which sounds ridiculous but that’s…that’s it, that’s the premise of the game
Pencil: I need to play this game at some point
Paper: It’s very fun.
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So our last question comes from Corza, also by email. “Dear Pen and Paper, I have tried all the “good” ways to keep my character alive session one and every time I play a new character they end up going down and needing to do death saves. Do you have any suggestions for things I can do to keep the DM from killing my next character?” Have you considered welding chain-mail to plate mail to create mega-mail? You could maybe put a gambeson underneath and just become a rolling orb of death who is untouchable. Also probably uncontrollable because your dex would be ridiculously damaged. But you’d be fine
Pencil: I mean yeah, you don’t need to be controlled you just make sure you’re up a hill, or stairs, or slope, or something to the enemies and have like a fighter push you
Paper: It’s over Anakin, I have the high ground mimics bouncing downstairs
Pencil: Exactly! It’s basically you get to play as a bowling ball
Paper: And who doesn’t want to play as a bowling ball?
Pencil: But yes, my idea. So you have your first character, who dies. Your second character is that character’s ghost. Your third character is the ghost of that character’s ghost. And your fourth character is the ghost of…and so-forth and so-forth. You just keep playing progressively more meta ghosts
Paper: So, the ghost of a ghost? Is that…are they weaker than a normal ghost or do they get like…’cause a normal ghost has like some element of ageing powers, like if you see the ghost you could age. Does a metaghost have like, extra-ageing powers or something worse? Or like reverse ageing powers, you just see a ghost and turn into a baby!
Pencil: Like the logical one is you just keep applying the template so they keep getting new powers and like getting higher stats. But I do like the idea that a metaghost has the inverse powers of a normal ghost and then like, for a third level instead of getting older or younger you just like, age into a different timeline
Paper: Yeah you just…you move sideways! Maybe you just change class like “this is the timeline where you were a bard”
Pencil: At fourth level you go up and you transcend all human mortal concerns
Paper: I have an important question
Pencil: Yes
Paper: If a metaghost’s powers are the opposite of a regular ghost’s powers, and a regular ghost can go through walls, can a metaghost not go through doorways?
Pencil: Yeah a metaghost is like…supertangible and cannot walk through anything
Paper: I love the idea of being supertangible like you’ve just got this aura. Like a shield wall and people can’t get within five feet of you
Pencil: It’s also supervisible so it’s just like…you walk into a room and like it just like is pushed up against your face. But also it doesn’t move because it can’t walk through the air. And then you are baby
Paper: I like the idea that it would be very easy to trap a metaghost though? Because if it can’t get through doorways…can you create a doorway by just hanging bead curtains across a room? It just creates a wall of doorway
Pencil: Like…yeah I’m starting to think supertangibility isn’t that useful of a power. But, y’know, at least you can turn people into babies. What’s the sideways version of supertangibility?
Paper: laughs That’s tricky, maybe like…people can pass through you, maybe it’s like the Ghostbusters version where people can pass through you but they get like coated in ectoplasm
Pencil: Maybe it’s “walls can pass through you”.
Paper: It looks exactly the same, but at an atomic level it’s the reverse
Pencil: Yeah
Paper: laughs
Pencil: “I’m not intangible it’s just all objects have the ability to move through me”
Paper: We’re getting into Men Who Stare at Goats territory
Pencil: I feel like (stumbles over words) I think, like, I don’t want to know what the fourth level transcendent version of intangability is
Paper: Then you go diagonal. And you harm people but cannot be perceived like you harm them in ways that they…they can’t even notice
Pencil: I’m just picturing like, you hit someone with your ghost attack and it seems like nothing happened, and then they get home and they’ve got an IRS audit and their partner’s cheated on them, like
Paper: Exactly! It’s like, metaphysical damage! You punch them so hard, they stop believing in God
Pencil: They can’t prove it’s not a coincidence, but…
Paper: giggles But because you can’t be perceived, they’ll never know, you just become like this spirit of bad luck
Pencil: So to answer your question play a ghost…triple ghost bowling ball that makes people atheist when it hits them. I feel we’ve solved this
Paper: Yeah! So, that’s everything…starts laughing I’m losing it here! That’s everything that we’ve got for today. If you have a question you can send it to us on tumblr and let us know it’s for the podcast, or you can email I want to thank Nickblake for editing and doing the music. If you want to support the show please head over to to get access to patron bonuses such as bonus episodes and homebrew content or for a one-time donation you can go to If you don’t want to give us money for some reason, I can’t really blame you, it’s 2020, no-one has any money, you can support us by leaving a rating or review on your podcatcher, not podcaster, of choice
Both: and remember to have a probably bad day
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