Nov 032011

I posted earlier this week about the D&D Death Tax when I was talking about our Kingmaker campaign and this got me thinking about Raise Dead.
Let’s face it. In you standard D&D style game, it just becomes a minor financial burden once you reach a certain level. Knowing that it will just cost a few thousand gold pieces to bring back your character should something nasty happen really destroys any sense of adventure or danger. When the worst thing your brave hero faces is basically a medical bill, well, that’s just not very heroic.
I spent a little time thinking about this and wondering what to do. There’s the simple approach ala Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Just say no raising of the dead. That’s great for the weird fantasy genre in Lamentations. But for a more standard High Fantasy game, I think it should still be available as an option but with consequences. It doesn’t matter if you are Good or Evil bring some one back from the dead upsets the natural balance of the universe.
First of all, let me mention Druids and Reincarnation. Drop it entirely. You’ll see why in a little bit. Second, let’s look at the Cleric. For my own home brew campaign, I’m looking at a world level cap of tenth. That’s right no PC/NPC is going to be higher than 10th level. I think it’s just a good point but that’s not what this post is about. So I’m setting the minimum level for the Raise Dead ability at 6th level.
So what happens when a cleric attempts to raise a fallen companion? There will be a price. A big one. He’s calling on his deity for a major boon. First, the cleric summons a major agent or avatar of his god. This will cost him all of his spell slots for a month. That’s right the cleric uses up his allocation of divine good will for a month. When the avatar arrives things get interesting and as a DM here’s your chance not to be a dick but still add a little bit of drama to the game.
The avatar is going to ask or demand something. And here is where it gets interesting. As DM, it’s a good place to insert a new quest or a new villain. As a DM, you can set up an interesting moral crisis. “You must kill this child who will someday threaten the world if you don’t” Perhaps, the avatar will ask for a temple or shrine or perhaps a ritual to be performed. Racial gods may just go ahead and change the dead character’s race. See drop I said not worry about Reincarnation. The avatar may change the character’s alignment or possibly even class if it’s appropriate. And it doesn’t have to stop there. The avatar could ask something of the rest rest of the party as well. Conversion. Repentance for past sins. Go ahead be creative just not a dick. Here’s a little trick to put on your players. Ask each character to give up a level to bring to back their fallen friend. It looks like they’re getting screwed. But those who agree get a major boon. Replace that lost level with a level of cleric or clerical spell casting abilities.
The thing is that bringing character back from the dead should really be a major event and not just a hand wave. There should be some interesting consequences and a price.

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 Posted by at 10:39 am

  7 Responses to “Home Brew Hack: Raise Dead: It’s not a spell. It’s not a ritual. It’s an encounter!”

  1. Entirely agreed, bringing back the dead should be an adventure in and of itself. It should be epic and exciting and fun.

  2. Very interesting take on resurrection. I dig. I could see throwing things like that at the players being fun. It also gives them more of a stake in the dead characters fate. Meaningful choices for the win.

  3. Thanks guys. That’s the idea. Death should really mean something.

  4. “This will cost him all of his spell slots for a month.”

    That just sounds like being a dick to the cleric. Why screw over that player for helping out another PC?

    I really like the idea of needing to do something in return for the boon. I just don’t like that part.

  5. @swordgleam You’re right and I’m still debating the length of time. (Heck, this is why I post these ideas to get feedback.) Maybe a week? A day just seems too short. At the very least, a whole days allocation of spells. When a cleric doesn’t have spells, it’s something that affects the entire party. No magical healing and buffs. But a cleric is still much better at fighting than a magic user. If the party is resting in a town then the extra time just might mean the cost of room and board but if they are in the middle of an adventure when time is an issue then hard decisions must be made.
    Like I said, I welcome the feedback.

  6. I really like the bit in 4e where anyone participating in a ritual that requires healing surges to power it can contribute the surges – not just the arcanist leading it. Maybe something like that? All the PCs who are helping can take some kind of voluntary penalty; spell slots for casters, maybe a flat -2 Str or Dex or something like that for martial types.

    The fluff for this would be along the lines of cutting your wrist and dripping blood on the altar. Do that for something magical, and you’re going to be feeling pretty weak for a few days.

  7. That’s a pretty good idea. Minor penalities for all. That could work.
    One of my initial thoughts was to do up a neat table but I finally decided that there were just too many variables (cleric, deity, party, deceasedant, plot).

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