Deeds are granted to mortals of Elanthia by the goddess Lorminstra in exchange for donation or sacrifice of some sort. Deeds were once a pact with the goddess which granted the deed-holder a chance to walk Elanthia again upon their death, avoiding passing through the Ebon Gate. They now only allow the departed to have less Death's Sting. In the past, dying without deeds caused permanent death, or going "demonic" when this was from spirit deaths. It was a horrible fate resulting in the permanent destruction of the adventurer and all their belongings. It is no longer absolutely necessary to possess deeds.
Deeds are a preventive measure sought to decrease the penalties of Death's Sting. Locations and methods for acquiring deeds are in-game puzzles. A character may also gain ten deeds through Gift of Lorminstra (F2P characters get five). A character is capped at 200 deeds.
- Main article: Deed acquisition (spoilers)
In the original death mechanics it was possible to have permanent character loss from decaying with insufficient deeds. When this was a spirit death there was a game wide announcement that the character's "soul has been lost to the demonic." The first person messaging of Purgatory seems to have been the same either way. This was not an aspect of the Shadow World setting. The life levels mechanism, now called "spirit", came from Rolemaster Companion II (1987). Bodies decaying and reincarnating seem to be a unique feature of GemStone, and deeds themselves have no immediate basis in Shadow World.
In the earliest version there was item droppage upon death, including all items upon decay, and penalties to character statistics for decaying that were more lasting than Death's Sting. Later there was instead experience damage for spirit death. Decaying without deeds now only incurs a more severe form of Death's Sting. Death's Sting was introduced in 2004, and was made harsher in some ways in 2005.
The theology of Eissa (Modern: Lorminstra) in 1989 involved the idea that she would usually refuse to restore the life of someone who had lived a full life or died in a significant way. She was willing to make exceptions for those whose mission on the world was not completed. One of the variant death messages referenced this, speaking of "things left undone" and "special children who were chosen to make a difference." This was removed from her theology by the time of her intermediate gods documentation around 1997. The temple deeds ceremony has the same language, even though it is now archaic.
Deeds were substituting a sacrifice of treasures from fortune hunters in exchange for the usual consequences of their heroic deaths, which is explained by the old priest in the temple deed ceremony when the adventurer has zero deeds. Research:The Graveyard theorizes the deed ceremony may have been imitating an act of medieval homage in exchange for special rights of intercession by a liege lord.
When the deeds mechanism was first created the Dark Lords of Charôn (Modern: Lornon), with a few exceptions, did not exist yet in the Shadow World source books. Eissa was the only deity from whom resurrection spells could be channeled. In the subsequent year when the Dark Gods were defined, they did not have the same origins as the Light Gods. They were associated with demonic powers, and were manifestations of unholy power related to the Unlife. While the Light Gods were able to resurrect the dead themselves, only Eissa had the ability to channel that power to clerics. Worshippers of the Dark Gods would have been members of the Evil Cleric profession of Rolemaster, which never existed in GemStone III. This is why Lorminstra had a total monopoly on the death mechanics with no other options.
In the transition to the modern history of Elanthia, the Dark Gods theologically became members of the same race as the Light Gods. There was later a deity alignment mechanism in the CONVERT (verb), where holy magic including resurrections have unique messages for each of the gods. This solidified the interpretation that any deity can resurrect, but only Lorminstra brings back departed souls. The ability to have permanent death from lack of deeds was removed in 2003. When the Death's Sting mechanism was introduced later in 2004, deeds were retconned to be a favor from her to make it hurt less.
The following was published in the Elanthian Journal when the shadow dragon deed quest was released, explaining the purpose of deeds with reincarnation and the new Death's Sting:
A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH! Dateline: Day 5th of Eoantos, 5104: Wehnimer's Landing A great earthquake shook all of Elanith a few days ago and what happened next shocked everyone everywhere. A massive shadowy dragon erupted out of a mountain peak in the DragonSpine Mountains and took flight, passing over most of the major cities. It soon disappeared for a period of time until it was once again discovered flying along the Western Coast of Elanith. No one would fully realize the reason behind this dragon's appearance until a Priestess of Lorminstra came forward with a story: "Long ago, each of the Arkati was given a task in healing the land and restoring things to how they were before the Great War. The Arkati's powers were still developing. When Lorminstra would return a worthy soul back from the brink of the Ebon Gate, she would not fully heal them, both body and soul. As she learned to harness the full potential of their powers, she then would extend gifts of healing those worthy in full for their devotion of her deeds." "Kor'thriss, the shadowy dragon everyone saw this evening, is the guardian of the world. It is his task to collect the excess essence that lingers behind whenever someone dies without being fully healed. This essence takes the shape of a wisp. If it remains, it would have a dire effect on the mana flows of Elanthia. Kor'thriss collects and distributes the energy to new life. When the Lady Lorminstra learned to fully heal the worthy and the essence ceased to linger, she asked Lord Koar to put Kor'thriss back to slumber in the center of the world, and there he remained until now." "Kor'thriss's awakening has signaled to us that the Cycle of Life has turned once more, although we do not fully understand why. Things will return to how they were. Some among the clergy say it is because Lady Lorminstra wishes to teach us a lesson in the value of life. Others say that she wishes to punish us, to harden our spirits to prepare for the Oblivion should our time come." Shortly after the Priestess of Lorminstra told the story, everyone felt a faint presence pass over their body, and a soft sigh in their ear. A somber voice spoke gently, "Fear not, Children of Elanitha. A new dawn is rising upon the horizon of your lives as the Cycle of Life now has come full turn." And then a soft white glow surrounded everyone, and coalesced into small orbs that spiraled off towards the heavens. What happens now... one cannot say for certain. An era of change has passed over the faithful inhabitants of Elanthia, and we will just have to see how it plays out. But for now, be safe. ~ A Journalist