On Death and Ressurection

I am going to simplify things but you can generally separate the D&D hobby into two groups. “The Heroes” and “The Realists.” For “The Heroes” the game is about the players portraying glorious heroes as they undertake epic quests. “The Heroes” see the DM’s job as facilitating the story. “The Realists” see the game a simulation of life in a fantasy world. Life in that world is full of obstacles to overcome, some epic, some tedious and mundane. “The Realists” view of the DM’s job is to create the scenarios and enforce the rules to test the players ability to overcome each challenge. What is great about the hobby is it supports both styles of play. However there are certain elements of play that tend to cause controversy between the styles. Things like encumbrance,  spell components, exhaustion, and cover. They are all elements of the rules as written that may get ignored by players and DM’s alike. “The Heroes” often feel they interfere with the “Epic Nature” of the narrative and simply don’t enforce one or more. “The Realists” feel like they are part of the challenges that must be overcome.

No subject causes more controversy between the two camps than the subject of Death, Dying, and the possibility of Resurrection.  In many games, character death is simply not going to happen. If it did it would interfere with the story and that is not allowed. In other games it happens but is an inconvenience, at most, as the rules provide available options for the recovery of a soul lost to the other side. In these games either the power to bring back a lost comrade is wielded by one of the players or it is a commodity available for purchase like any other. Meanwhile “The Realists” feel death should be an ever present consequence of failure, and should be avoided at all costs.   Most still have options for the raising of fallen comrades but the availability and cost of such a undertaking combined with the generally more lethal nature of “The Realists” games means that frequently being raised it not an option. Others go even further dictating that the Rules as Written on this matter do not apply and placing restrictions on the raising of dead characters or simply eliminate the process all together.

House Rules
I tend to be a Realist. Death occurs in the games I run and players learn quickly they need to make efforts to avoid it. I believe the returning the dead to life makes sense within the framework of magic in the rules so I do allow raise dead and resurrection spells . However I consider such works to be miraculous events and by no means commonplace. My rules incorporate a significant amount of risk on the part of the Cleric especially if the deceased is of a different alignment/religion than the Cleric. Because of this ,Cleric’s would be extremely reluctant to raise those they don’t know and or of a different religion than the Cleric (as it should be). This keeps the the spells as viable parts of the game but virtually eliminates the resurrections as part of the economy. In the event that performing a resurrection furthers the cause of the church in question, then it can proceed as described in the books with the following modifications.

Raise Dead
In the best cases the dead person and the cleric are of the same alignment both worship the same deity. In these cases the body must be specially prepared and have its wounds magically healed before attempting the spell. Consider the prep time will take 24 hours – the level of the cleric + however long it takes to mend the wounds (neutralize poison/cure disease) magically. The actual ceremony takes 1 hour and requires an offering equal in value to 100gp X level of the character being raised or one item of significant value to the character (a 1hd 0 level smith the sacrifice might be his hammer or anvil or 100gp worth of misc ore, iron, foodstuffs etc). The character raised loses one point of constitution and must make a survival roll or the raise was not successful. In addition the cleric must make a system shock roll or also lose 1 point of constitution. He may add his wisdom bonus to determine the target (Con 15, Wis 17 = 91% + 3% = 94% chance of success). Note the time limit for raising the dead still applies and the ceremony must be completed before it expires.

If the dead person is not of the same alignment or deity, the prep time, the casting time, and the offering value, double (the clerics god and the deceased’s god must both be appeased). In cases where alignment AND pantheon are different The cleric “WILL” lose 1 point of Con and the the SS% roll will be vs DEATH. In addition Res% and SS% will be based on 1 Con point lower for each step of alignment difference and 1 step lower if the gods involved are not of the same pantheon (greek vs norse or human vs elven). For example a LG human cleric wants to raise a CE drow. The drow has a 13 con -2 for being chaotic instead of lawful and -2 for being evil instead of good -1 for worshiping a drow elven god instead of a human one. The drow’s Res% will be based on a 8 Con instead of 13 so is a 65%.

Assuming the same cleric in the above example (Con 15-5=10=70% + 3% Wis = 73% system shock. Remember the cleric will lose 1 point of Con and in this case the SS% is the chance of the Cleric dying in the attempt to raise the player. Had the deceased and the cleric both worshiped gods in the same pantheon (Thor and Loki for example) the the roll would have been to lose a point of Con with a 78% to avoid it.

Resurrection works as written PHB, except for the Res% and SS% saves are still in effect for both the Deceased and Cleric, and they are made as if the Cleric’s Con were two points higher. (The Drow’s Res% is 75% and the Cleric’s SS% is 83%)

The point is not to punish the players but to reflect how adverse a cleric should be to raise someone who’s morals are unknown to him and who isn’t a member of the same church. I would not risk my life under those circumstances no matter how large the payment is. However if the party has been visiting the temple frequently and performing good works then an NPC cleric might feel he knows the player character (maybe have an idea what his alignment is) and can accurately judge the risks and might even consider it his duty if the PC and Cleric are of the same faith.

It also incentivizes players to have PC alignments relatively close to each other if only so Raising the dead isn’t overly risky. So it’s less likely you have Paladins and CE Drow assassins running around in the same group all buddy buddy.

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