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One of the oldest of human desires is to counteract the fleeting nature of our short human existence. Eternal life is ingrained in the collective human consciousness, having been present in literature and myths for as long as they've been around.
Of course, having been around for so long, Our Immortality Is Different, and comes in several flavours. Type 1: Complete Immortality
They Cannot age and they are completely or almost completely immune to harm of any kind. The character may be Made of Diamond, or possibly an Intangible Man.
The Most common type of Immortality.Type 2: Ageless
This character is immortal, but not because he is Nigh Invulnerable or can regenerate any injury, even From a Single Cell. He is immortal because he doesn't age, nor does he usually sicken. This character will never die from natural causes only ones than are unnatural.
However, he is just as vulnerable to injury as a normal person, and any normally fatal injury will prove fatal to him as wellType 3: Regenerative
This Person Cannot be mortally wounded, because he has a Healing Factor ramped Up to Eleven. Every injury simply regenerates, from lost limbs, to a blown off torso, to a broken neck, to being reduced to a head, to being reduced to a CELL. Even when you think you've completely destroyed him, he comes back, because you missed a bit of flesh that was able to replicate itself into a new body. he can never truely be destroyed.Type 4: The Undead
Dead folks who, whether due to magic, viruses, lack of a funeral, or just plain bloody-mindedness, do not rest in peace. One way undead vary is the nature of their mind and soul. In some cases, including liches, most ghosts, and some vampires, they keep their original soul. They can still remember the simple pleasures of life, but they can no longer experience them, a frustration which may fill them with hatred of the living, or simply make their existence horrible. Type 5: Resurrective Immortality
These characters just won't stay dead.
When killed, they will always return to life, looking none the worse for wear. This is not due to a regenerative capability - they can be injured like anyone else. If an explanation is given at all, it will be magical or spiritual in nature, instead.
While this might seem like a good power to have, being unable to die and yet having to experience death over and over can easily qualify as a Fate Worse than Death. Not to mention all the other drawbacks of being immortal.
It's not uncommon for death not to be permanent for this character. In this case, a character survives their death by having their consciousness (sometimes called mind or soul) transferred to a new, backup body, prepared just for that eventuality. This body is often a clone of the character, although this is not the case for robotic characters, naturally. Type 6: Age Without Youth
So someone wishes to be immortal - well, they better be careful what they wish for. While some characters may be older than they look and actually several hundred years old, other characters look exactly how old they are... they simply keep aging without dying. The most simple definition of "immortality" is "unending life." There's nothing about youth in there.
Well That stinksType 7: Horcrux
A Horcrux is a container or object which holds all or part of a person's soul (or life, or heart) outside of their body; this makes that person immortal and/or invulnerable. The only flaw is that the Horcrux is now their Achilles Heel. Usually, they make sure it is very well protected.
Typically, Soul Jars work in one of two ways:
•1) The person whose soul is jarred cannot be physically killed (or in some cases even injured) as long as the jar is intact. There are two possible outcomes :
Destroying the Horcrux kills the entity whose soul was in it's vessel or Destroying the Horcrux makes it possible to kill the entity whose soul was vessel.
• 2) The person can be physically killed while Horcrux is intact, but they simply come back with a fresh body. They can only be completely killed by first destroying the Horcrux, then killing their current body. (Voldemort's horcruxes are of this type.) Type 8: Legacy Immortality
A character is said to have lived for centuries; his name found all throughout the history books. When our hero or heroes finally meet him, he reveals his deepest, darkest secret— he's not actually immortal. As it turns out, he is merely the latest in a long line of Immortals. Apparently, the original secretly trained a second to take up his name, appearance and personality. The second continued this with a third, and so on until present day.
This can be made much easier if first Immortal wore a mask all the time (possibly while claiming that the mask is what gives him immortality) or no one can agree on what the original looked like beyond what they heard about him.Type 9: Parasitic
Body Snatchers simply have no patience.
Maybe they're committing Body Snatching, only to find that they're quickly wearing their new bodies out. Maybe no one person they possess has all the skills they need. Maybe they have no idea who's good to take over until they've done so. Maybe they're afraid of being found if they stay in one body too long. Or maybe they're just plain nuts. In any case, when a Body Snatcher is constantly switching from body to body, they are said to try to find a new one.
Naturally, this makes them hard to catch. If this is done in a closed environment, you get a mystery scenario — only the identity of The Mole changes, making things considerably harder for the heroes. Of course, it's considerably harder for the villain, too, who had better be a really good actor if people aren't going to be able to quickly tell who is Not Himself.
What happens to the soul to the person though?Type 10: Vampiric
This character maintains immortality by consuming some vital force from the people they attack. This is often Life Energy.
There is often some sort of conservation of lifespan where the victim's life is added to the immortal's and the victim dies so that the immortal can continue to keep living. This form of immortality usually grants eternal youth and the feeding process may actually cause the victim to grow older because the victim's youth is being drained into the immortal.
If such an immortal doesn't feed, they will eventually die.
What a Vile way to keep yourself alive.Type 11: Projected Avatar
A Character's body that you are interacting with is the physical part that was inhabiting our universe at the time. His reappearance isn't like coming Back from the Dead. It's regrowing a fingernail. This is how The Powers That Be can occasionally take things into their own hands without breaking Rules.
This isn't to say there wasn't some accomplishment here. At the very least when they die, he's gone for now. In some cases this can mean peace for years. And in some...days. Better spend that time researching a way to make him Deader than Dead or at least find a way to seal him in a can so that he can't rise again to threaten the land.
In this case, a character survives their death by having their consciousness (sometimes called mind or soul) transferred to a new, backup body, prepared just for that eventuality. This body is often a clone of the character, although this is not the case for robotic characters, naturally.
If a character has this set up to happen every time they die, it confers a type of Immortality. If this is the case for everyone in a setting, it causes Death Is Cheap.Type 0: Plot Immortality
Face it, some Big Bads stay popular enough it might be a bad idea to kill them for real. So they may stick around or keep coming back, but too much of this can start to undermine a (super)hero's perceived effectiveness. While a work focusing on a single hero or group can pass this as perhaps what's necessary to end the villain for good being beyond their moral code, it can get more egregious if the fictional universe starts to get larger and more interconnected, and the villain keeps pissing off more and more people. This leads to the question of why some of those other folks with a lot fewer qualms against killing left the villian alive.
This ends up being a question of whether the villain is just that good, or the writers are delaying things and stretching the patience of the audience.
The Best example would be the Daleks from Doctor Who and the Joker form Batman