1. A Game of Chess
It is painted that Death, the Grim Reaper, plays chess. When Death comes for your soul, it is possible to challenge him to a game of chess. As the game can stretch in for days or even weeks, Death will visit you every night to continue the game until he inevitably wins. During the game, Death will disguise himself in many forms: a priest in a confessional, a stranger on the road, a friend of a friend. In these disguises, he will attempt to learn more about you so he can use it against you in the game. Death never forgets how the pieces were arranged on the board, and in the end, he will not be cheated.
2. Trading Souls
When death takes you, your soul moves on. If you were a powerful individual in life, your soul will attract a good deal of supernatural predators who would wish to gain your soul as a trophy or play-thing. When your soul falls into the hands of a captor, there is always a slight chance that they will listen to your bargains if you offer to trade your soul for another of equal or greater value or for any number of souls. Of course, this (usually demonic) entity will do everything in its power to ensure that you make good on your part of the deal. However, even ritualistically claiming souls for an otherworldly entity is only a stop-gap measure for delaying your impending fate. Few soul harvesters maintain their usefulness as time wears on.
3. The Fountain of Youth
The legendary Fountain of Youth is said to give youth to those who drink it. Many stories exist of this fountain. It may reduce your age, or it may give you health to live many years more. One common theme is that the fountain is only a temporary solution. You will eventually grow old again and need to return to fountain more frequently to stave off the the increasingly persistent onset of time.
4. Elixir of Life
The most sought after potion in existence, the Elixir of Life is the unreachable dream of every alchemist. In theory, the elixir claims to grant eternal life to whoever drinks it. In practice, no such elixir has ever been crafted that we know of. Many have died in vain pursuit of this precious liquid, and many more have died from rumors that the secret to the elixir was hidden in some combination of poisons such as mercury and gold. Many ancient tomes exist on the subject of alchemy, and every one has a different theory on the subject of the Elixir of Life.
Through ancient rituals found in the legendary Book of the Dead or in the black arts of Necromancers, a form of immortality can be found in undeath. Zombification is the most common form where a body is revived as a mindless zombie with a hunger for human flesh that spread the curse of the zombie to anyone it bites. Mummification is a much more sophisticated means of preserving a corpse. Through ancient rituals, a mummy can be given eternal life to forever suffer his burial for his crimes. However, this mummy could be released with devastating consequences because it is usually knowledge and practice of forbidden rituals that merited the mummification. The most powerful form of necromancy is the Ritual of Becoming. This ritual is very precise and lengthy. A single mistake will cost the necromancer his life. Success will stores the necromancer's soul in a specially prepared container called a phylactery and grant power and undeath to the body. The lich is then completely immortal until someone finds and destroys the hidden phylactery.
We will always remember the heroes who died to bring us victory. Though a hero will die, the memories of what they did or accomplished will be remembered with advantages. Great contributors, extremists, world leaders, heroes, and those lucky enough to be recognized as coining a popular phrase or quote, these people are above death in that they will exist in history for all time.
Usually, the after-life comes with religious undertones. Live a good life, accept the Creator as your savior, or simply believing in God are commonly recognized ways to go to heaven. Living a wicked life, rejecting the Creator, or simply denouncing the existence of God are commonly recognized ways to be sentences to eternity in hell. Other forms of the after-life exist such as roaming the Earth as a spirit or moving on to the Next Existence. The idea of an after-life is tightly knit with the idea that you have a soul that occupies your body for now but will go on to seek a reward, a punishment, or a new life based on your deeds in this life. Proper cultivation of your after-life is commonly referred to as eternal life and is thereby a means of cheating eternal death.
8. Body Swapping
Commonly attributed to originating as a Voodoo black magic trick, body swapping is anything that causes two minds to trade places. This is most commonly done by one person without the other person's knowledge to trade in an old or weak body for a body with more youth and vitality. Some forms of body swapping are much more forceful such as possession. Possessing someone forces their consciousness to take a back seat while you live their life for them, but a strong-minded individual might be able to resist possession. The least offensive form of body swapping is to grow homunculi or clones of yourself that you transfer your mind into when your current body grows too old.
9. Digital Immortality
Unlike body swapping, digital immortality is gained by uploading, importing, or mapping your brain into a computer or some form of hardware. To upload your consciousness usually required incredibly advanced technology, though rumors exists of freak electrical accidents that can transfer someone's mind into an electrical form that then resides in computers and electrical devices, but these rumors are very far-fetched. One must take great care when considering this form of cheating death. It is a very common mistake to create an artificial intelligence that duplicates your own mind instead of successfully transferring consciousness and killing yourself in the process.
10. Cybernetic Augmentation
As you age, your body will inevitably fail. Usually, one thing fails at a time. Using cybernetics to replace failing body parts and organs, you could augment yourself with enough cybernetics to keep yourself alive a little longer. Sometimes, cheating death through cybernetic augmentation is accidentally achieved by those with body dysmorphic disorder who seek to correct their bodily imperfections with cybernetics. One fairly consistent problem is that at some point the odds will tip against you when you constantly undergo radical surgeries. There is always a chance of death from surgery, and the more you have the more chances you take.
11. A Wish
A simple wish for eternal life, to live forever, or immortality are childishly worded invitations of suffering. A wish is usually granted by a Genie, an otherworldly power, or a deity. If not worded correctly, a wish for immortality could have you confined to the shackles of a lamp or bottle, doomed to do nothing but grant wishes for all eternity. A well-worded wish could still leave you as an ever-aging old man without the strength to stand and doomed to never die. A wish is a finicky fortune.
A crude form of eternal life, but petrification does serve to indefinitely preserve your body. Unless of course you happen to break apart from being dropped, hit, knocked over, or cracked from long exposure to the elements. Petrification can occur by gazing at a basilisk, a cockatrice, or a gorgon. Petrification can also occur by means of a powerful spell. Much more complicated is the task of reversing the petrification which can only be done through powerful magic or, in rare cases, by a magic item designed specifically for this task. A more scientific approach to this method is cryogenic freezing with the hopes of later being able to use technology to unfreeze and revive the subject.
13. Brain Preservation
Mad scientists frequently experiment with removing and preserving a functioning brain. Horror stories abound of disembodied brains that gain telepathic and telekinetic powers, but usually the brain just sits is a chemical solution that keeps it properly oxygenated and preserved. It is not unheard of to connect such a brain to a piece of machinery to allow it to speak, move, and perform tasks. While the brain could certainly live quite a while in this state, it is very vulnerable to power failures, electrical surges, and (if placed in a glass jar) small blunt objects like a rock or club.
Every once in a while, someone crosses paths with a symbiotic life form. While symbiots are not as powerful as others, there are symbiots with the power to heal and regenerate their host. Symbiots can implant themselves inside a host, attach to their host, or even just be carried around by their host like a wizard's familiar. Some rumors exist of very powerful symbiots that will attach to the skin of their host and provide strength, protection, and healing. Though symbiots can grant extended health and protection, age will eventually catch up with either you or your symbiot in the end.
15. Reverse Aging
Cosmic accidents, time travel paradoxes, and powerful spells can sometimes cause a person's body to reverse the direction that it ages. So rather than getting older, you would get younger as time goes on. Such was the case with the mighty Merlin, but his was an even rarer case in that he lived time backwards. He was always very happy when he said goodbye to someone for the last time because to him it was the first time they had met, and he was always sad when you meet him for the first time because to him he knew he would never see you again. Reverse aging is hypothesized to circumvent death by eventually and paradoxically unraveling your existence
Vampirism is a common recognized form of eternal life. Being bitten by (and possibly subsequently consuming the blood of) a vampire will cause a person to slowly transition into a vampire. A vampire possesses superhuman strength, must avoid sunlight, and drink blood to survive. Other legends insist that vampires are allergic to silver, crucifixes, garlic, holy water, and a wooden stake through the heart. These legends also say that a vampire cannot cross running water, must sleep in a coffin on top of dirt from his homeland, can shapeshift into a bat or rat, and can command vermin. A vampire is commonly believed to be a demon that possesses your body and has access to your memories, so maybe vampirism isn't a form of cheating death after all.
As science tells us, every biological entity is capable of some form of regeneration to maintain the integrity of its physiological state. Regeneration in its natural state is usually less than perfect, but science is quickly gaining ground. Certain procedures, inhibitors, boosters, therapies, or even healthy lifestyles can promote natural regeneration and can even regenerate severed fingertips, the heart, or injuries that would normally result in scarring and fibrosis. Preventative and responsive regenerative treatments can extend life a little longer and help stave off the effects of tissue atrophy in old age.
18. Kiss of Life
When I was young, I read a story of an old man who lived in a cabin on a hillside overlooking a small village. Every day just before dusk, the old man was paid to play beautiful music that echoed through the mountains and that guided the village's sheep down off the mountain into the safety of the city walls. As this man grew in years, his ability to make music waned, and his music was no longer strong enough to echo through the mountains. The villagers hired a small boy to round up the sheep, but they still paid the old man because they didn't have the heart to tell him the truth. Now 80 years old, the man was walking home from town and sat down to rest in a grove. He starting hearing a small voice and followed it to a large gnarled old tree. The voice coming from inside the tree asked to be let out and strongly objected to cutting open the tree. I don't remember how, but the old man managed to open the tree and found a dryad inside. The dryad was so grateful for being let out that she kissed the old man and took 10 years off his age. After they talking and realizing what a kind man he was, the dryad kissed both him and his wife as they slept taking another 10 years off of both of them. Now 60, the old man's music was once again strong enough to echo through the mountains and guide the sheep home. The dryad had to return to her wooden prison before winter came, but the old man promised to let her out again in the spring. I do not recall any more of the story.
When you are assimilated into a greater entity, your consciousness can live on as a contributor to a greater consciousness. But assimilation can exist in ways other than a melting pot. Some plants will duplicate you body and transfer your mind into themselves so that you and the plant become the same entity (Invasion of the Body Snatchers). There are also alien cyborgs that implant micro-machines that replicate and take over your body turning you into a cyborg (The Borg). And finally, there are horrible mosters that will merge with you on a molecular level and essentially turn you into one of them that is an exact copy of yourself (The Thing). In most respects, assimilation is a very unpleasant way to go.
Medicine and technology play a large part in prolonging life. To some extend, modern medicine can bring someone back from the verge of death. Aside from exercising, eating healthy, and avoiding massive trauma, life can be extended through anti-aging medicines and medicinal techniques. More often than not, medicinal technology is spent towards improving the appearance of aging individuals rather than prolonging their life. This effort into cosmetic life-extension is mostly vanity without substantial gain.
The progression of age from young to old to death is meaningless without the vital role played by the abstract concept of time. The ability to circumvent time in any way is, in itself, eternal. In other words, if you can freeze time, you can live forever. Some powerful magic has the ability to slow or stop time temporarily, and some technological super gadgets are capable of lengthing time to near infinite proportions on a small scale. Through a circular paradox of time travel, it is theorized that one could implant themselves in an infinite loop, thus rising above time and living for eternity, but that would only be from the perspective of those who observe this loop once and move on with our lives. Whether this time loop is plausible is often refuted.
22. Drink from the Holy Grail
A simple grail that was used to catch the blood of Jesus Christ as he was crucified on the cross. An artifact of unparalleled respect and reverence, the grail is believed by many legends to grant eternal life to whoever drinks from it. However, these legends are often exaggerated and believed to be only a metaphor intending to mean that the blood of Jesus was the only way to receive eternal life. Either way you look at it, there is power in legends.
Commonly called reincarnation, rebirth is the act of transferring your spirit or soul into a new life upon your death. Most believe that rebirth is based in the preservation of energy which lends to the idea that living a good life with positive energy will give you a better start in your next life. A more religious belief is that upon your death, your spirit will transfer into a new baby rather than just any other life form. Rebirth can be forced by powerful magic that tears the soul from the body and creates a new life for it to occupy. Reincarnation, in any of its forms, does not transfer memories, skills, or anything that was stored in your brain, but it could transfer the deepest intentions buried in your spirit that could potentially allow you to continue with the same goals you had in a previous life.
The One True God is, always was, and always will be. The many gods worshipped throughout time are immortals born as gods. The demigods are the bastard children of gods and man. But, there is another category of god that is achieved instead of born, it is earned and not given lightly. When a man or woman of tremendous legend becomes more powerful that the mortal coil can withstand, that mortal transcends the mortal barriers and laws and becomes immortal. These transcended beings are usually thought of as powerful angels, but in truth, many of these beings are driven by hate and stop at nothing to become godslayers. In rarer circumstances, humans who have won exceptional favor with their deity are sometimes granted immortality as their reward.
25. Genetic Manipulation
Human DNA is subject to entropy just like everything else. Things fall apart and lose potential. Through the science of genetic manipulation, we are able to identify and borrow the more stable qualities from the DNA of the hydra, the starfish, the jellyfish, reptiles, and any number of other creatures. These DNA qualities can include a better ability to repair broken strands, more durability, and healthier replication. By manipulating and successfully infusing these DNA strands into a human, that human can begin to take on the desired qualities making a genetically superior human. Though this does not seem to cheat death, a human could in fact live a much longer and healthier life if he was not so vulnerable to entropy.
Eternal punishment is a horrible fate. Throughout history, many creatures have committed heinous crimes. Some of these crimes were committed against powerful enemies who would curse the offender with eternal life to force them to live with their regret with no escape. Any attempt to end their lives only resulted in hurting those around them. On the positive side, many of these curses came with a redemption clause. If the offender could "love someone and earn their love in return" was a common was to lift the curse, but more extreme versions exist where the offender must fulfill an oath before death will take him.
27. Deal with the Devil
The devil is a reasonable guy, right? He is always willing to make a deal instead of forcing his will on you directly. The devil always gets his soul in the end, and he is a patient and clever adversary. The devil is often willing to makes deals to grant power or long life to those who can offer something in return. And while you may think that you are only trading your soul, the devil will always find a way to tip the deal in his favor. In the words of an old hymn, "Sin will take you farther than you want to go. Slowly, but wholly, taking control. Sin will leave you longer than you want to stay. Sin will cost you far more than you want to pay." The best way to deal with the devil, is don't.
28. Item of Power
Wizards and spellcasters of all kinds find usefulness in creating items to focus and store their enchantments rather than constantly renewing them. These enchantments are usually stored in convenient items or suitable tools. Swords can be enchanted to keep them sharp while armor can be enchanted to stay clean and strong. Enchantments of higher caliber usually reside rings or amulets. Such jewelry could easily be enchanted with anti-aging magic that will slow the progression of age. But this just buys more time, and it takes much more powerful magic to stop the aging process altogether. Time is the one thing that will overcome any magic, so to use magic to permanently overcome time is not an easy task.
29. Artifact Creation
Rather than putting time defying magic into an item to prevent aging, it can be more practical to put someone's entire consciousness into an item. Many intelligent items exist, but their intelligence usually is the result of the magic that created them and not the intelligence of a being bound within. It is also much more common to trap a being in an artifact in a sort of extra-dimensional prison for all eternity until they are released by whoever holds the artifact.
Death happens, and most people accept this, but the most blatant way to cheat death is to bring someone back to life. Revive someone from the dead. Rather than the crude necromantic zombies, a body can be revived through powerful magic that heals the body and reconnects it with its lost soul. While reviving usually comes at a high price, it is not a treatment for old age. However, through the twisted experimentation of mad science, it has been possible to place a disembodied brain into a body strewn together from corpses and revive the creature with the assistance of lightning. While very much alive and as human as its brain allows it to be, whether or not this monster has a soul is an unanswered question.