Terry Pratchett’s "Discworld" series of novel can be intimidating to jump into – it spans over 40 books. However, the novels can generally be grouped into several character arcs, from Death, a grim reaper personification of death who speaks in all caps, to Rincewind, an incompetent wizard who is often seen running away from various dangers. "Discworld" is Pratchett’s circular world set on the backs of four elephants standing atop the shell of a giant turtle propelling through space, and Pratchett often used his stories to draw parallels to real life.

The author of the "Discworld" was 66 when he died Thursday from a form of Alzheimer’s, and his death was announced on his Twitter account in using the personality of one of his characters, Death. "AT LAST, SIR TERRY, WE MUST WALK TOGETHER," said the first tweet, followed by "Terry took Death's arm and followed him through the doors and on to the black desert under the endless night.” The final tweet read simply "The End.”

Pratchett said his daughter Rhianna would take over "Discworld" when he died. Prime Minister David Cameron and author Margaret Atwood expressed their condolences upon knowledge of Pratchett’s death. Pratchett was incredibly well-known for his sharp wit and amazing quotes in his writing.

6241b98e13e6be139a7f2f20a3d105d6 How to read Discworld, updated April 2014. Photo: Krzystof Kietzman, Emmanuel Dindiu/CC BY 4.0

The following describes the different character arcs of the "Discworld" series.


The "Discworld" series was introduced with Rincewind as the protagonist in "The Colour of Magic" (1983) and the following "The Light Fantastic" (1986). He is a wizard with no magical skill, even misspelling his profession as “wizzard,” and somehow survives the various dangerous situations he is unwillingly thrust into. He is the lead character in eight "Discworld" novels and four "Science of Discworld" supplementary books.

The Witches

Introduced in "Equal Rites" (1987), The Witches are considered to be a reinterpretation of the three witches in Shakespeare’s "Macbeth." The Lancre Coven witches comprise Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat Garlick, who was eventually replaced by Agnes Nitt. Granny Weatherwax is an incredibly powerful, no-nonsense type of witch popular with many readers. Nanny Ogg in comparison is an incredibly well-liked witch by characters in the book’s universe, and she is well-known for bursting into inappropriate songs. The Witches are protagonists in seven books.

The Wizards

The Wizards were also introduced in "Equal Rites" (1987) and are the faculty of the Unseen University, an institution of magic, in the "Discworld" universe. The faculty includes an interesting variety of characters, including the librarian who was transformed into an orangutan and refused to change back. The Wizards feature prominently in nine books --  including two with Rincewind, who would join as faculty -- and are the protagonists in two books.

The City Watch

The main character of The City Watch is Sam Vimes, introduced in "Guards! Guards!" (1989), where he has his roots as a cynical, working-class policeman. His fellow co-workers include a dim-witted Sergeant Fred Colon, petty thief Corporal Nobbs and a six-foot-tall human raised as a dwarf Carrot Ironfoundersson. The police force is eventually joined by various other characters including a werewolf, trolls, a vampire and a zombie. The City Watch features in eight novels.


The personification of death is a grim reaper-like skeleton dressed in robes, wields a scythe and his words are printed in all capital letters. First introduced in "Mort" (1987), his role is to guide departed souls into the next world. Death reveals a fascination with humanity, and has appeared in every novel except "The Wee Free Men" (2003) and "Snuff" (2011). He also appears in a non-"Discworld" collaboration titled "Good Omens" (1990) with author Neil Gaiman.

Moist von Lipwig

Moist von Lipwig is one of Pratchett’s later characters, first introduced in "Going Postal" (2004), in hich he is a professional criminal given a second chance by being tasked to revive the city’s post office. He is an incredibly resourceful person and was eventually tasked with running the city’s bank and clearing the finance sector of corruption. He is the protagonist of three books.


Pratchett also has a young adult series of novels set in Discworld following the character Tiffany Aching first introduced in "The Wee Free Men" (2003) and she is in four novels. Other recurring characters include Death’s granddaughter, Susan Sto Helit, first featured in "Soul Music" (1994) and the "History Monks in Small Gods" (1992).