D&D 5E Old School: No Revivify or Raise Dead for elves

Perun

Mushroom
Several of the threads I've been following lately made me look back to AD&D days with nostalgia. Now, I know I wouldn't really go back playing AD&D, especially since the people I play with started with 3e or later editions, and they give me odd looks when I talk about the Glory That Was AD&D :p

But, the result is that I'm considering some house-rules in an attempt to bring back (or, heh, resurrect) some of the flavor of editions past. One such rule was that elves could not be brought back to life with raise dead. A modern version of this rule would include revivify, since that spell didn't exist in AD&D. They could be reincarnated, and resurrection worked normally. The reason given was, IIRC, that elves had no souls, but were spirit creatures.

This might be a bit unfair (to say the least) to elven PCs, since, well... if they die at lower levels there's not much anyone can do for them...

So, thoughts?
 

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Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
Revivify doesnt even feel like its bringing back a soul. The time is only a minute. The psychopomps haven't shown up yet.

Revivify seems like it is just closing wounds and repairing the organ damage from lack of oxygen. So it should work on an elf.
 

Li Shenron

Legend
Several of the threads I've been following lately made me look back to AD&D days with nostalgia. Now, I know I wouldn't really go back playing AD&D, especially since the people I play with started with 3e or later editions, and they give me odd looks when I talk about the Glory That Was AD&D :p

But, the result is that I'm considering some house-rules in an attempt to bring back (or, heh, resurrect) some of the flavor of editions past. One such rule was that elves could not be brought back to life with raise dead. A modern version of this rule would include revivify, since that spell didn't exist in AD&D. They could be reincarnated, and resurrection worked normally. The reason given was, IIRC, that elves had no souls, but were spirit creatures.

This might be a bit unfair (to say the least) to elven PCs, since, well... if they die at lower levels there's not much anyone can do for them...

So, thoughts?

I would be OK with such house rule, because in general when a PC dies I ask the player if they are ok to go along with it, or if they'd rather take a (serious) penalty for a while but stay alive, so there wouldn't even be a problem of fairness for me.

I agree with the others that Revivify doesn't truly feel like a resurrection spell because of the 1 minute requirement. I would say that the soul doesn't depart that quickly from the body, but it's up to you.
 

ccooke

Adventurer
It's a pretty common houserule in a few games that revivify is the only get-out-of-dying-free spell that works at all.

I have also played with a few groups that have insisted the somatic component involves rubbing the palms of the hands vertically together, and the verbal component is "Clear!" ;-)
 

I tend to concur with those saying Revivify should be excepted from this, because it has to be cast within 1 minute, and can only be cast on creatures which are relatively whole. Whatever it is that makes elves go is still going to be "with the body" for 1 minute for sure.

The lore in 5E actually kind of supports a "reincarnate only" approach, in that elves apparently do have souls, but a finite number of them, and for a new elf to be born, another elf has to die. Thus Resurrection might be "incompatible" with them, because if they've been dead for a while, their soul might well be "in use".

Whereas Reincarnate could be seen as something different. Here's how I might house rule all this if I wanted things to be a bit different but roughly 5E lore compatible:

1) If the sun has not yet risen again on where the elf fell (or moon, your choice, depends on your elf style), the soul has not yet been sent back into the cycle. And thus any resurrection-type spell works.

2) If the sun/moon has risen, the soul has been taken back into the cycle. It's not necessarily "in use", but it's beyond the reach of such spells, because the number of souls is limited and guarded either by the karmic forces, elven gods, or whatever. At this point, your only option is Reincarnate (barring Wish etc.).

3) Elves who get reincarnated always reincarnate as an Elf (but randomize within that). Why? Because of the process/gods who jealously guard the few elven souls. In fact what happens is that whatever elf that soul had gone to (depending on your world's theology when the soul enters the elf could be anywhere between conception and several years after birth) is whisked away, magically aged up to adulthood (perhaps in front of your very eyes!), and granted their memories again. If they'd been dead a long time, they might simply be teleported to you and re-granted their memories.

Not actually saying I'd do that and there are no doubt refinements and additions, but if you want to make Elves different on this, that could work, and I think has a strong "fantasy/magical" feel to it.


Another, more simple take would be the Elves are part of nature, and their spirits (rather than souls) are like animal spirits, no different from them, so when they die, they don't go to the planes (or beyond) like the souls of most beings, they just go very rapidly into an animal or another elf or whatever. Thus spells other than Revivify (which is basically a magical crash cart) will never work on them, because their souls aren't in the place that spells like Raise Dead and Resurrection and so on are "looking". It's like your searching the wrong database. But the different approach of Reincarnate does locate the spirit. Again I would suggest either a different table for elves (perhaps including various fey beings, and animals), or an elf-only table for the Reincarnate results. If elves can come back as, say, Halflings or Humans, they clearly have the same sort of souls as them.


As an aside, if elves don't have souls at all, it seems like they should be easier to resurrect than other beings (because you're not having to get the soul "back" from anywhere), or totally and completely impossible (including by reincarnate, which is entirely based on transmigration of the soul).
 

jasper

Rotten DM
What is things when didn't pay attention in 1e Alex? With all the advantages Elfs get in 5E I have no problem going old school and allowing this house rule.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
What is things when didn't pay attention in 1e Alex? With all the advantages Elfs get in 5E I have no problem going old school and allowing this house rule.
What, you think DEX-based, extra magic, condition immunities, darkvision, extra skills and weapons, and an enormous life span is a too good? :p
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Several of the threads I've been following lately made me look back to AD&D days with nostalgia. Now, I know I wouldn't really go back playing AD&D, especially since the people I play with started with 3e or later editions, and they give me odd looks when I talk about the Glory That Was AD&D :p

But, the result is that I'm considering some house-rules in an attempt to bring back (or, heh, resurrect) some of the flavor of editions past. One such rule was that elves could not be brought back to life with raise dead. A modern version of this rule would include revivify, since that spell didn't exist in AD&D. They could be reincarnated, and resurrection worked normally. The reason given was, IIRC, that elves had no souls, but were spirit creatures.

If you want go old school, then Elves cannot be resurrected or raised. When killed, Elves are dead.

The only exception is either a reincarnation, or a Rod of Resurrection. Why does a Rod work, when nothing else does?

Why not?

Do not questions the rules, just learn to embrace them. And quote them.

This might be a bit unfair (to say the least) to elven PCs, since, well... if they die at lower levels there's not much anyone can do for them...

So, thoughts?

If you want to go old school, you need to banish silly thoughts about fairness from your mind.
 

I would not go this route at all. In previous edition, it was a limiting factor for the fact that elves had:
1) Long life spans. Ridiculously long. This enabled them to use some spells without restraint such as haste, limited and full wishes without fear of the consequences.
2) Could multiclass in the most powerful class (MU) without losing anything in the process. In fact, MU/Thief was one of the strongest multiclass. A grey elven MU/T could go as high as 18/infinite and keep being relevant through out his/her career.
3) Elves started up with a lot of bonuses compared to other races. Just the enhanced surprise possibility was crazy when in the hands of a thief. Secret door detection and quite a few others.

It was because of these that elves could not be raised. Reincarnated yes, but not raised. In 5ed, they no longer have this strong advance that they had in previous editions. Limiting them, although great lore wise, would no longer serve any game purpose and could refrain some players from making elves. Unless you give them something worthwhile in exchange, I would not go this way.
 

jgsugden

Legend
I would not add this rule to an ongoing campaign with elves in it, but I would see no problem adding it when there are no existing elven PCs.
 

It was a rule that, like a lot of odd ones from AD&D, nobody seemed to miss when it was gone.

It was rooted in the idea that elves didn't have souls the same way humans (or most other demihumans) did. . .but that concept wasn't followed through in any other way elsewhere in D&D. If elves were so metaphysically different, you'd think it would come up in Planescape when dealing with Arvandor and the Elven Pantheon. You'd think that they'd be immune to Trap the Soul or other spells that explicitly affected souls. . .but they didn't. You'd think that maybe some other humanoid races might have the same situation, but they didn't.

If you're going to say that elves are so metaphysically different on that level, it would have ramifications other than a single spell not working on them, but a higher level version of the same thing working. It would mean changes to how they interact with gods and planes of existence, of how spells that affected souls affect them, generally it should be a lot broader than it was in AD&D.

That kind of inconsistency was a lot of why that rule wasn't mourned when it was eliminated in 3e.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
It was a rule that, like a lot of odd ones from AD&D, nobody seemed to miss when it was gone.

You have an expansive definition of nobody!

I am sure that while there are many who did not mourn the passage of the rule (a number only exceeded by the number who were not aware of the rule), there are significant number of people who miss the rule.

The OP and myself being two of them, right?
 

Perun

Mushroom
Thanks, guys! You made me reconsider revivify, and if I choose to implement this house-rule in my next campaign, I'll make it so that it works on elves.

It was a rule that, like a lot of odd ones from AD&D, nobody seemed to miss when it was gone.

It was rooted in the idea that elves didn't have souls the same way humans (or most other demihumans) did. . .but that concept wasn't followed through in any other way elsewhere in D&D. If elves were so metaphysically different, you'd think it would come up in Planescape when dealing with Arvandor and the Elven Pantheon. You'd think that they'd be immune to Trap the Soul or other spells that explicitly affected souls. . .but they didn't. You'd think that maybe some other humanoid races might have the same situation, but they didn't.

If you're going to say that elves are so metaphysically different on that level, it would have ramifications other than a single spell not working on them, but a higher level version of the same thing working. It would mean changes to how they interact with gods and planes of existence, of how spells that affected souls affect them, generally it should be a lot broader than it was in AD&D.

That kind of inconsistency was a lot of why that rule wasn't mourned when it was eliminated in 3e.

Yeah, I'm aware of the inconsistencies. I remember The Complete Book of Elves muddying the waters even further (I should check the relevant sections in the CBoE, I'm operating on memory alone here).

I would not add this rule to an ongoing campaign with elves in it, but I would see no problem adding it when there are no existing elven PCs.

I'm planning the house-rule for a future campaign, so any potential players of elf character will be aware of it from the start. I'm not a fan of introducing changes to existing characters mid-game.
 

Perun

Mushroom
I would not go this route at all. In previous edition, it was a limiting factor for the fact that elves had:
1) Long life spans. Ridiculously long. This enabled them to use some spells without restraint such as haste, limited and full wishes without fear of the consequences.
2) Could multiclass in the most powerful class (MU) without losing anything in the process. In fact, MU/Thief was one of the strongest multiclass. A grey elven MU/T could go as high as 18/infinite and keep being relevant through out his/her career.
3) Elves started up with a lot of bonuses compared to other races. Just the enhanced surprise possibility was crazy when in the hands of a thief. Secret door detection and quite a few others.

It was because of these that elves could not be raised. Reincarnated yes, but not raised. In 5ed, they no longer have this strong advance that they had in previous editions. Limiting them, although great lore wise, would no longer serve any game purpose and could refrain some players from making elves. Unless you give them something worthwhile in exchange, I would not go this way.

I'm not sure I agree with you. I do agree that being unaffected by raise dead would be somewhat of a pain in the backside, but I'm also considering some of @Ruin Explorer's suggestions, particularly the elves-always-reincarnate-as-elves idea. In fact, I think reincarnate spell should not be limited to a single list of possible results, and already have some house-rules planned for it (putting it back to Wizard spell list and reducing the cost of material component to one-half being some of the changes I'm thinking of). Allowing elves to always reincarnate as some type of elf (probably excluding drow... but perhaps not) would nicely offset the ineffectiveness of raise dead, while still hopefully providing flavour.
 

I'm not sure I agree with you. I do agree that being unaffected by raise dead would be somewhat of a pain in the backside, but I'm also considering some of @Ruin Explorer's suggestions, particularly the elves-always-reincarnate-as-elves idea. In fact, I think reincarnate spell should not be limited to a single list of possible results, and already have some house-rules planned for it (putting it back to Wizard spell list and reducing the cost of material component to one-half being some of the changes I'm thinking of). Allowing elves to always reincarnate as some type of elf (probably excluding drow... but perhaps not) would nicely offset the ineffectiveness of raise dead, while still hopefully providing flavour.
The "reincarnating" into elves only would certainly alleviate the penalizing aspect. Also, the fact that the standard array exists makes creating a new body for the elf not so penalizing too. But, again, the fact that elves were not being "raisable" was because of the reasons I mentioned in my earlier post. You had the risk of having lower stats than what your original character had (higher stat would be a benefit but the chances were low as the new body might not have the bonuses your original self had).

So why would you want to penalize elves? Because they do not have souls but spirits? Ok. What benefit would they get from that house rule? If you penalize in some way, you should bonify in some other way. If you want to be fair that is.
 

Honestly, I wouldn't categorize revivify along with raise dead. It's supposed to be a "They're not really dead yet," spell.

Yeah, when my Gnome Artificer cast the spell, I basically described him as pulling out an auto defibrillator. Another player had a cleric shove a chocolate covered pill down the target's throat while saying, "Shows what you know. He's only mostly dead."

I do rather wish the spell had some debilitating effects like a level of exhaustion, though.
 

Yeah, when my Gnome Artificer cast the spell, I basically described him as pulling out an auto defibrillator. Another player had a cleric shove a chocolate covered pill down the target's throat while saying, "Shows what you know. He's only mostly dead."

I do rather wish the spell had some debilitating effects like a level of exhaustion, though.
That, Sir, is a great idea! I wonder why I didn't think of it myself...:unsure:

On the other hand, the 300gold diamond is quite a limiting factor in my games... But exhaustion! What about: Cost: 300gp diamond or inflict a level of exhaustion to the character. I think, I have something brewing here.:cool:
 

I'd file this idea under "probably cool if the players are into it and it fits your gameworld." Baseline 5e lore has the Elves as much more mundane humanoids with some "Fey Ancestry". From a lore-based mechanics perspective, I think if one were going to change them to being some sort of soulless spirit creatures it would be fair to make them outright Fey and thus affect what spells and abilities can target them (which is slightly less overpowered than it might be considering that a lot of the humanoid specific spells are charm effects they already have advantage resisting).

Fundamentally my feelings on deadlier D&D are that I like it for very short or low RP campaigns (honestly if you die a stupid death at the end of a oneshot that just gives you a better story), but when people are really invested in their character and have played them for months or years I wouldn't be comfortable as a DM saying "you die and stay dead because of my house rule".
 

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