Die is a Hugo-nominated horror/fantasy comic series written by Kieron Gillen with stunning painted artwork by Stephanie Hans that originally launched in 2018. The basic premise is that a group of teenagers discovered and played a strange new tabletop roleplaying game — and ended up getting trapped inside of the game as their avatars. Eventually, all but one of the teenagers escape. But that's just the backstory: the series actually begins decades later, when the traumatized teens are now disappointed adults, and they're forced to go back into the game that took their friend all those years ago.
In the early promotion for the book, Gillen would often elevator pitch it as "Goth Jumanji," which is both hilarious, and surprisingly accurate.
One of the most fascinating parts of DIE is how much time the creative team put in to developing the rules for the RPG-in-the-story. The characters are technically playing a game (albeit one that's now become life-or-death) and therefore must abide by its rules — which means that you as a reader also need to understand the rules of the game as they go along. Each of the character classes in the world of DIE is only allowed to use one kind of die, for example. If you play as a Godbinder, you make all your rolls on a D12, whereas a Neo player gets a D10, and so on (each dice powerset has its own pros and cons).
As long as they put all that effort into designing the game-within-the-story, Gillen decided to turn DIE into an actual game, and recently launched the RPG rulebook as a Kickstarter campaign. But the DIE tabletop game is not just the game from within the pages of the comic book. Instead, it's more of a gamified adaptation of the comic book. Yes, you're playing the game DIE from the comic book DIE — but part of the IRL RPG of DIE is that you have to create a character both in and out of the game. Basically, you control a traumatized-teenager-turned-disappointed-adult who's playing a character within the game of DIE. Get it? Look, I'll just the Kickstarter explain the meta-aspect better:
In DIE you play a group of authentically flawed people from the real world who gather together to play an RPG and are dragged into a fantasy realm. They then have to find their way home… or not.
DIE begins on Earth, as the players create flawed, unique real-world Personas who gather together to play a roleplaying game. These obsessions are mined and externalised when on their involuntary adventure into the world of DIE. They're not just going to a fantasy world – they're going to their fantasy world, twisting their shame and frustration back at them. What do you do when the dragon speaks to you in the voice of your angry, long-dead father? What happens when the orcs taunt you with the same insults as your childhood bullies, now you're armed with a greatsword? When your beloved ex-partner returns to you in the form of an emotion-draining vampire, will you resist them?
It's a pretty cool concept — and I, for one, am very much looking forward to experiencing it for myself!
Reward tiers begin at $25 for a PDF of the DIE RPG, with other cool perks including specialized dice sets and more.
DIE: The Roleplaying Game [Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Hans / Kickstarter]