The Generic Villain on Ways to Play Dead

Last week, I talked about the uses of being able to fake your own death. We all know, though, that it doesn’t always work. One really can’t guarantee success, since most people are genre savvy enough to know that if they haven’t found the body that’s likelier to be a sign of the other person having survived than to be a sign that they’ll never see them again, and if the body’s right there they might be the types to stab again to make sure (or provide a decent funeral, for the really goody-two-shoes or the ones who don’t want to deal with your ghost). So what sorts of tricks increase the odds that they will, if not believe we’re dead, then at least not go after us immediately?

First off, make sure that the opponent has reason to not only want to believe you’re dead, but want other people to believe you’re dead as well. If he wants to believe you’re dead, he’s less likely to make a particular effort to prove himself wrong—people like believing they’re in comfortable situations, after all. And if he wants other people to believe you’re dead, he’s going to have to avoid being too obvious about making absolutely sure, making it far likelier you can keep him off your back.

Second, make sure there’s a body, and it passes decently for yours. They can’t invoke “Never found the body” that way. Note that in places with advanced forensics, when and how the thing died is likely to matter; try not to let it contradict where you’ve been seen. It’s even better if you can arrange for your opponents to take “you” out themselves, though that’s really hard to make work in cases where there’s actually a fight rather than them attacking in your sleep, and unfortunately attacking in one’s sleep is not a hero thing; simulacra might be able to pull it off, or fanatically devoted subordinates with absurd acting skills, but you’re pushing Narrative Causality pretty hard.

Third, do not be seen as yourself. This should be pretty self-explanatory, all things considered. The fastest way to break a lie is to have obvious evidence to the contrary, and if the lie is that you’re dead, you standing right there is about as evidencey as evidence gets. If you must show up in person, then impersonate someone impersonating you, or plant magical traces so they think you’re an illusion, or something—cover your tracks!

For the more prepared Hand of Darkness, another useful trick is to make sure it’s established ahead of time that if you die it doesn’t leave a body. This may require legends, doing clever things with the disposal of your defeated foes, what-have-you–but it does give you a better chance of being able to blip out when you’ve been gut-stabbed and make them think it’s to the Great Beyond rather than to your lair to recuperate.

In short, when playing dead, play well!

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