My most memorable character demise was Zilanderan, at the hands of the resurgent Fire cultists of the Temple of Elemental Evil.
He was a starting character in the Blackrazor’s Redshirts campaign, in which we all played first-level characters who belonged to the Blackrazor Guild (our fictional adventuring guild in the world of Greyhawk).
We had a long tradition of taking 1st level NPCs on our Blackrazors adventure. Known as redshirts in a nod to Star Trek, those who survived earned their names.
The campaign started on the Pomarj peninsula on Oerth and featured a few forays into the Obsidian Maze (our Undermountain-inspired mega dungeon). Afterward, clues led us to a resurgent elemental cult and the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil campaign for D&D 3rd Edition.
Zil died a senseless death at the hands of the Fire Temple and – having been sacrificed to Tharizdun – there was no way his soul was coming back.
At least, not that soul.
Zil’s shtick was that he was a hero out of the multiverse. When one version of him died, another version would appear. A few years later, he returned as my alternate character for our Dark City urban campaign (also set in the World of Greyhawk). He was a swordsage from the Book of Nine Swords for D&D 3e. The book was a forerunner of D&D 4e, released in the waning days of 3e. It has the equivalent of powers, which made it seem kind of broken relative to 3e.
This Zil lasted a few levels, then died as part of Total Party Kill going up against a goblin king.
Zil will return again … and probably die again.
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Cover art from the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. Credit: Wizards of the Coast.