Where Do They Get Their Resurrections?
  • Where Do They Get Their Resurrections?


    Today we continue with our apocalyptic theme. I've covered war and pestilence, and this column will be about Death, the great leveller. Everybody dies, except for adventurers, who die but get to come back via the auspices of a friendly or bribable cleric.



    Death, nevertheless, is still part of the world they adventure in, a useful plot device, and in some cases, a reason for why adventurers do the things they do. The first thing a GM has to resolve on a worldbuilding point of view is this: How ubiquitous and accessible is magical resurrection?

    A setting where only the rich and noble gain access to resurrection is a very different one where anyone may come back from the dead. For one, the first setting may echo grim reality, more or less, except of course that the poor are dying for want of access to medical care rather than access to resurrection.

    Things like accidents and death in childbed would be far less serious in a setting with accessible resurrection, but that might also have the knock-on effect of requiring more intensive farming and ranching to feed a larger population. Would a family permissively allow feeble and weak members to die without clerical assistance, just to be rid of them? That comes very close to euthanasia in a world with ubiquitous Raise Dead, and a forest where the weak and unwanted are left to die could soon be filled with hostile ghostsÖ

    Who does all this resurrecting, anyway? Are temple coffers full to bursting from resurrection tithes, and what is the church doing with that money, in any case? Imagine, if you will an order of priests, solicitors and undertakers, all dedicated to a god of wealth and death. Wills, resurrections and loans all taken care of in the same temple complex. It's a little nervy signing loan paperwork with a skull-masked priest as notary, no?

    A setting with less clerical magic and a little more insane invention could have resurrection at the hands of alchemists, which brings more potential fun into the equation. After all, who's to say that insane man huffing mercury fumes wonít mess up his elixir, and bring Bob the Fighter back wrong?

    GMs interested in playing up the horror angle of their games could do many wicked things with resurrections. A fixed SAN cost for returning, perhaps, or a limited number of resurrections, with a magical tattoo counting down the number of times a PCís soul can survive being drawn from the beyond. A PC could face burial in an unhallowed graveyard until they animate as a revenant, shambling and foul. No friendly local cleric with a diamond and a flask of holy water for these folks.

    Why and how are the characters coming back from death? The answer could be very interesting - perhaps the afterlife is full, and there is no more room for the dead, so people keep coming back no matter whether they want to. (Makes dungeon-clearing hard, since those kobolds are going to get up again.)

    They could have a number of clones in scientific or magical vats, and they officially die once theyíre out of clones. Or perhaps theyíre already dead and don't even know it. A comedy game could even be played with the ideas of PCs being replaced by badly-practiced understudies every time they die. Great for a one-shot over beer and pretzels, definitely, especially if your players are good with improv humor.

    This is all the column space I've got, so please do join me for my next column on the law-enforcement and justice system in worldbuilding.

    contributed by M.W. Simmes
    Comments 13 Comments
    1. Polyhedral Columbia's Avatar
      Polyhedral Columbia -
      Thanks for this. Nice painting (!)
    1. neogod22's Avatar
      neogod22 -
      So to generally answer your question, if you look at component costs alone, Revivify being the cheapest way to bring someone back costs 300gp in diamonds. That's very expensive and has to be a before thought on the cleric for the adventure because the person can't be dead for longer than a min.

      Next you have Raise Dead. The recipient can't be dead longer than 10 days, this is probably the spell that's cast the most in this situation. The spell requires a 500gp diamond, which when you add spell casting services you may be looking to pay around 1250gp to get this done. So who besides adventurers can afford this? Merchants, nobles, and royalty. Who would they bring back, most likely important members who were killed unexpectedly. They will never spend the money to bring back the elderly. Why, because the spell won't work for those that die of natural causes, and because even if they were killed in battle or some other way, they may only have a few more years to live. The exception to this maybe a king or general when the time is great and they can't afford to lose such a powerful figure at that time. Commoners will almost never have the money to pay for any type of resurrection spell.

      Where can these spells be performed? Well seeing how Raise Dead is a 5th level spell, Resurrection is a 7th level and True Resurrection is a 9th level spell, you would need a 9th, 13th, and 17th level clerics minimum to cast these spells. It will have to be some major temples. You may find a 9th level cleric as the head of a temple of a large town or small city the equivalent of a bishop, a 13th level cleric is probably the head priest of a region, the equivalent of an Archbishop, and the 17th levels would be the equivalent of a cardinal or Pope (the high priest of the god), so you will only find these guys at the centers of the religion. So real world equivalents, you can probably only get a true resurrection performed at the Vatican, the Mormon church in Utah, or Mecca. You would be lucky if you can find that kind of power anywhere else.

      Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk
    1. Erdric Dragin's Avatar
      Erdric Dragin -
      Well, no matter what, it's up to the deity whether to grant a priest their spell or not. Resurrection, should, have requirements set by the standards of whatever world the game is based in. Also, most of the time, resurrections would be something discriminating the poor from the wealthy. The wealthy will be the only ones capable of purchasing a 5,000gp diamond, for the material cost. Assuming they can convince a cleric of such power to even perform the resurrection. Depending on the cleric and their deity, resurrection can easily be negotiated for things beyond just purchasing the material component. Also, such a world will require assassins to not just slay their targets, but to make sure the body is never found or completely disintegrated in order to prevent resurrections. No point in assassinating the king if the kingdom's cleric is just going to revive him the next day.
    1. neogod22's Avatar
      neogod22 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Erdric Dragin View Post
      Well, no matter what, it's up to the deity whether to grant a priest their spell or not. Resurrection, should, have requirements set by the standards of whatever world the game is based in. Also, most of the time, resurrections would be something discriminating the poor from the wealthy. The wealthy will be the only ones capable of purchasing a 5,000gp diamond, for the material cost. Assuming they can convince a cleric of such power to even perform the resurrection. Depending on the cleric and their deity, resurrection can easily be negotiated for things beyond just purchasing the material component. Also, such a world will require assassins to not just slay their targets, but to make sure the body is never found or completely disintegrated in order to prevent resurrections. No point in assassinating the king if the kingdom's cleric is just going to revive him the next day.
      You don't need a body for true resurrection. Only a name, and resurrection can work with any piece of the body including hair (same with reincarnation). So this will only stop a raise dead spell.

      Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk
    1. amerigoV's Avatar
      amerigoV -
      I used "D&D death" as a reason for PCs to try their hand at the Tomb of Horrors (con game setting). I used Greyhawk and had someone convicted of war crimes that were so horrible that they dare not just execute the person. They could be raised or some devil/demon might just turned them into something more than a mane/dretch.

      So the war criminal was sentenced to have their soul devoured by Acererak. Thus the party had to survived the tomb, get the prisoner to the final room alive (who knew what was coming, and thus if they could escape and die in a trap, so be it), and then convince Acererak to devour the prisoner's soul.

      Such fun (fyi, the PCs also has various motivations and it basically ended in a TPK from disastrous roleplaying and the prisoner striking a deal with Acererak).
    1. MagicSN's Avatar
      MagicSN -
      Our Main GM recently limited the amount of "NPC Healing and ressurecting" to get a more "deadly world". Basically in his version of Forgotten realms many clerics don't actually have the "player powers" or are even powerless. Or at least lack regeneration or even heal. The player characters still have such abilities (clerics and Paladins and such), but heal outside of the player characters then was severly limited.
    1. Ralif Redhammer's Avatar
      Ralif Redhammer -
      Awesome! My next campaign is going to be cops/robbers-based, so Iíll be looking forward to reading that.

      But, to the subject at hand. In most things, Iím not a fan of throwing gold at NPCs to get magic, whether itís items or spells. With resurrections, sure, itíll cost. But youíll owe them a favor Ė generally in the form of a quest or mighty task. Due immediately upon returning to life.

      As far as the societal implications, most that die stay dead (or become undead, depending). Resurrection is only for great heroes and villains. Again, you can't just buy the favor of the gods.

      Quote Originally Posted by M.W. Simmes View Post

      This is all the column space I've got, so please do join me for my next column on the law-enforcement and justice system in worldbuilding.
    1. neogod22's Avatar
      neogod22 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ralif Redhammer View Post
      Awesome! My next campaign is going to be cops/robbers-based, so Iíll be looking forward to reading that.

      But, to the subject at hand. In most things, Iím not a fan of throwing gold at NPCs to get magic, whether itís items or spells. With resurrections, sure, itíll cost. But youíll owe them a favor Ė generally in the form of a quest or mighty task. Due immediately upon returning to life.

      As far as the societal implications, most that die stay dead (or become undead, depending). Resurrection is only for great heroes and villains. Again, you can't just buy the favor of the gods.
      You can always add that in with the component cost instead of a service fee, also as the players build a reputation, some clerics might outright refuse service even if they have the gold. So there's those factors too, but the component costs makes bringing people back a very rare thing to do no matter the availability of the casters that can do it.

      Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk
    1. Flexor the Mighty! -
      Being a god of death must suck in a D&D setting. Other gods probably laugh at you all the time.
    1. neogod22's Avatar
      neogod22 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flexor the Mighty! View Post
      Being a god of death must suck in a D&D setting. Other gods probably laugh at you all the time.
      Not true at all. So for Kelemvor for example is set up in the Fugue plane where ALL souls must pass through to await judgement. Since there are so many souls, it takes time before they are judged. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to over a century. A Raise Dead spell is usually cast within days of a death, so it more than likely have not been judged yet. Any soul that had already been judged, and passed on to their final destination is the property of that god, and if that creature was resurrected and dies again, will bypass the Fugue Plane and go back to the outer plane they came from. Interesting note. The only permanent portals out of the Abyss and Hell are to the Fugue Plane. Demons and Devils and go there to entice souls awaiting judgement to willingly go to those planes with the promise that they can become a demon or devil if they do.

      Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk
    1. Flexor the Mighty! -
      Quote Originally Posted by neogod22 View Post
      Not true at all. So for Kelemvor for example is set up in the Fugue plane where ALL souls must pass through to await judgement. Since there are so many souls, it takes time before they are judged. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to over a century. A Raise Dead spell is usually cast within days of a death, so it more than likely have not been judged yet. Any soul that had already been judged, and passed on to their final destination is the property of that god, and if that creature was resurrected and dies again, will bypass the Fugue Plane and go back to the outer plane they came from. Interesting note. The only permanent portals out of the Abyss and Hell are to the Fugue Plane. Demons and Devils and go there to entice souls awaiting judgement to willingly go to those planes with the promise that they can become a demon or devil if they do.

      Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk
      Oh never doubted they had written some novels and background to explain the temporary nature of death in D&D games. I can't say I pay much attention to those and was making more of a general joking comment about how weak death is. I'd just as soon get rid of raise dead all together save for the most heroic and epic ways to cheat the reaper, not toss down a few hundred gold or do some cheesy quest and bang, you are back again...for the 6th time this week. With little to no ill effects.
    1. neogod22's Avatar
      neogod22 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Flexor the Mighty! View Post
      Oh never doubted they had written some novels and background to explain the temporary nature of death in D&D games. I can't say I pay much attention to those and was making more of a general joking comment about how weak death is. I'd just as soon get rid of raise dead all together save for the most heroic and epic ways to cheat the reaper, not toss down a few hundred gold or do some cheesy quest and bang, you are back again...for the 6th time this week. With little to no ill effects.
      I would think an evil death god would allow those to be raised too. Think about how many more souls they get when a powerful hero or villain is bright back to life only to continue their murder spree. It's a win for them.

      Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk
    1. neogod22's Avatar
      neogod22 -
      The only ones the Death Gods hate are the undead, because those are the ones that cheat death. Not only that, but most undead create more undead when they kill people, so it's not only their souls they lose, but the souls of their victims as well.

      Sent from my VS995 using Tapatalk
    Comments Leave Comment