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Sunday, February 2, 2014

How Dead is Dead? The use of Raise Dead Spells and the like in your Campaigns and Mine

I don't use them. In my games, dead is dead. Maybe it's because we rarely get beyond the sweet spot of levels 5 to 7, but in my mind, the logistics of Raise Dead spells when taken beyond the player party is just unwieldily.

The king died? Raise him. They burned the body? Find a bone splinter and Resurrect him. Whatever you do, don't Reincarnate him. Fucker might come back as a badger or worse.

I'd rather bring a new character into the party with half the previous PC's expo than prop up the dead for another go. It just seems to lessen the threat all around.

Sure, you killed the BBEG, but did you incinerate the body? No? Shit, he's back and even more pissed. You better pay for some Raise Dead spells in advance because he's looking for payback!

I do remember using such remedies like they were a dime a zone back in High School, but there was no larger world in our games back then. Module to hand scratched dungeon and back again. There was no thought of the places between unless they directly impacted the adventure.

Today, I do think of the larger picture, and Raise Dead and the like make that picture really messy in the overall scheme of things, at least that's how I see it.

Do folks come back from the dead in your games (not talking returning as undead either)? Why or why not?

23 comments:

  1. Seems like Raise Dead is a great opportunity to create a PC who is now part-undead, sort of like a lich, and to twist the outcome in some really horrible ways.

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  2. Characters can come back in my games, but its not as easy as casting a simple spell. I'd rather make it an adventure where they have to gather some rare spell components and complete a magical ritual within a specific amount of time or travel to the outer planes and bargain with otherworldly powers for the soul of their comrade back. Its more interesting that way.

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  3. They can, but it's rare.

    I don't assign the spells "levels." What's with that? No mortal can bring back the dead. When it does happen, it is the power of the God called upon. For me, it's possible -- though unlikely -- for a 1st level character to do it. Why? Because all the character is doing is asking his/her God/Goddess for a favor. The character is not doing squat!

    Why is it easier for a higher level character to do it? From the God's point of view it's -- What have you done for me lately? Low level characters haven't done much for their God . . . as of yet.

    But it's rare, like I said, because there's going to be a price attached . . . and you may not like the price.

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  4. I allow it but it's very very rare and tends to be heavily regulated. For example; the Church of Law and Order in my Dolmvay city supplement only cast cure spells on active worshipers on certain days of the week unless there are extenuating circumstances. Remove curse, cure blindness, neutralize poison require active membership in th church in good standing, plus require service to the church anywhere from a month to a year. Raise dead and such spells require active membership in good standing with the character being noted for a significant number of Lawful deeds (must be at least 7th level), and must serve the church for at least a year after. No amount of money can buy healing or resurrection magic. The church is already wealthy. Other religions have their own requirements but most won't resurrect someone who is not an active member of the church/congregation/flock.

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  5. I don't allow it, partly for the reasons given above. Though, I do allow evil beings to have methods that end up creating grotesque parodies of life--the Undead.

    It's true that Raise Dead was a part of D&D from the very start. And thus as a devotee of stripped down OD&D (the 3 LLB's without the supplements), and the author of a neo-clone of it, I worry that not including Raise Dead or at least an effective substitute might tip things too much against the players. Is there a substitute? If not, should we care? Do campaigns without Raise Dead just have more character turnover (not a bad thing, perhaps), or do referee's on such campaigns fudge things more?

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    1. I usually let players start new characters at above 1st level if the party as a whole has reached higher levels. That takes some of the sting out of losing a higher-level PC, and keeps (for example) a mostly 6th level party from having to coddle a 1st level PC for several sessions.

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  6. I've never had anyone rez or raised in my games that I remember. If a god is going to allow that much power to be unleashed it going to be for someone who is going to serve some critical need for the god. Just being dead doesn't qualify.

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  7. Yes I use it, but observe strict rules.. No one can be raised from the dead if they died of old age (that is part of creating some sort of undead). Raise Dead costs 5,000gp and only raises creatures with souls. it cannot create a body or body part. Resurrect costs 10,000gp, Wish or Alter Reality (25,000gp) can restore any creature to life and create a whole new body. System Shock and Resurrection Survival and -1 permanent penalty to Con always apply. Eventually Con gets so low, a check will fail and thats end of story. They might even fail the first time. In addition, an Alter Reality, Wish (25,000gp) or Limited Wish (15,000gp) cast in tandem with a Reincarnate (7,500gp) allows the caster to influence the results. However, Reincarnation has some limitations as to number of times it can be used to prevent a character from committing suicide just to try for a different body. This is just from memory and is detailed more fully in "For Gold & Glory". I do see your point. In this sort of world, a wealthy person would rarely die young. It is still possible to stay permanently dead, it's just not as likely. This is a tough call simply because players get emotionally attached to their characters. I killed by best friend's Dwarf character with Grells at 5th level. Simply due to a failed saving throw vs. Poison. He rolled a 1 or 2 and was paralyzed and ripped apart before he could be rescued. He died over one bad roll. I let him be raised, his 18 con was reduced to 17, and we moved on. Since Dwarves have souls, Raise Dead was sufficient. Had he been an Elf it would have had to be Ressurection. Losing a point of con is a serious blow to any character, but especially a fighter in his prime (5th level) like that. I think he made it to 8th or 9th when we stopped..

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  8. Ok, I can't let this one go just yet. I want to give another example. I had another campaign. It had just started. 2 First time players and a veteran, 4 first level characters, 4 room dungeon. All but one were killed by a giant spider. One Human and 2 Half-elves down. By the time, the survivor was able to rescue his dead friends. 2 still had viable bodies, but one of the half-elves had been drained of fluids. So I had determined that Half-elves have souls. So they needed 2 Raise Deads and a resurrect. That costs 20,000gp. oops. end of game? so you would think, however, the local Military Commander needed some spies and saw his opportunity. He paid for the 20,000gp in exchange for the group's indentured servitude for the period of not less than 1 - 2 years. So he made the deal with the surviving character who had to agree to also be indentured servant. So they woke up deep in debt to the local warlord with only their grieving friend to blame. They were the warlord's spies, diplomats or enforcers depending on his needs. They were almost completed with the servitude when play ended.

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  9. I made this one time which gained a lot of traction:
    http://tenfootpolemic.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/death-and-resurrection-in-weird-world_14.html

    Basically you can do it but it's a bad idea/

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  10. In my campaign world, people reincarnate after death. It is possible to raise dead, but doing so takes the subject out of the cosmic cycle of reincarnation. He cannot be reincarnated ever again, and will never reach Enlightment/Nirvana. Basically, he's an unnatural thing now.

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  11. Although people talk about these spells a lot, I've only seen them actually used maybe three times ever. But then I've never been in one of those games where all the PCs are like level 30 and out killing gods on a regular basis either. There are plenty of ways (see other posts here) to keep it from getting out of hand.

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    1. I've hardly ever seen them either. I don't provide easy access to NPC clerics, and the party clerics almost never reach the level to cast them, so it's a self-solving "problem".

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  12. I use it. I have characters that have been dead and brought back so much you would think they were comic book characters.

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  13. Can't say it happens all that often, usually when they kick the bucket they're such low level that they grab the dice and a piece of paper or take over an NPC, like Saturday night. Otherwise only the party cleric will do it for them.

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  14. I started a small answer and it became a big answer and blog post about the subject.

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  15. IMO (and in IMC) raise dead and the like only works on champions, heroes, and divine pawns that the gods are interested in returning to life so they can accomplish something. It doesn't work on elderly kings or useless fat merchants who just happen to have a lot of money.

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  16. Not too long ago, I went on hiatus from an ACKS campaign I was playing in. Now, there were numerous reasons, but none were with what the co-DMs were doing - they both (now all three since I've stepped out) run a great game. No, my problems were with the ACKS system itself, and perhaps the biggest issue I had was the fact that, after first level, character death was pretty much a function of player choice.

    See, ACKS has the 'restore life and limb' spell, a fifth level divine spell that, based on market class availability, will run you 500gp. The spell has limitations (reduced success over time, acceptance of the deity whose clergy cast the spell, there are almost always lingering side effects*...), but after you hit second level (hell, even after just a couple sessions non-leveling sessions), a character has enough gold stashed that the spell is almost always available. In the campaign, I had two characters 'die' (one was captured/enthralled by vampires; the other was a captured survivor of a rare TPK), but the RL&L spell was cast on my characters more often than I care to admit.

    Now, I don't know about you, but the idea that my characters have a constant 500gp saving throw in affect kinda takes away the heroic aspect for me. If the threat of death is diminished, the impact of being dropped by enemies in combat is meaningless.

    *Mind you, the lingering effects can lead to some fun roleplaying hooks (example: my wizard who kept hearing voices, to the point that he was unreliable on watch, or unbelieved when he really did hear something).

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  17. This post has been pretty thought provoking. I think I am going to change how Raise/Resurrection works in my games. Either the raised being comes back as the same alignment of the Deity granting the request or comes back having to do something to maintain their life, which they owe to the Deity. The God of War may require a battle resulting in death every so often or he calls in his 'raise dead' chip, a healer could require either ongoing donations or 'community service' in a place providing care to those in need. A second raise would have more dire results (from the same Deity) say, pacifism for a Healing God or more militant action from a God of War.

    If the group doesn't have a healer of their own and is forced to use the local Shaman who worships a dark God (and is more than willing to hand out Raise Dead like candy) then very bad things could happen. I am almost leaning towards getting rid of the survival roll altogether, instead I'll present the character with the terms of the raise dead, if they accept it they are raised, if they decline they most on to their final reward (and can be brought back only with a wish.)

    Wishes could throw a bit of a curve-ball into this plan, I will have to think about how to handle non-deity raising. Maybe I could make raising the dead a provenance of the Gods only. Or have the wish answered by a random deity...

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  18. If the PCs got the cash or the spell, i see no reason for them to not be raised/ressurected. It is their characterS after all, and they know the spells exists, so why should i be a killjoy DM? My experience is that the game gets complicated when the DM starts nerfing stuff, but that's probably just me.

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  19. I think the table of consequences for the ACKS is great, as is its 'Mortal Wounds' table. They were the first things I printed when I bought the pdf. But yes, that Restore Life and Limb is a Level 5 spell, which means you need to find a Level 7 Cleric (1 in 8000 people will be a Level 7 classed character according to ACKS). According the the fantastic machine that is ACKS, that gives you a 50% chance of finding a Level 5 spell when you go looking to buy one in a large town - all for just 500GP.

    I like a lot about ACKS, but as Carlson says, the easy availability of Restore Life and Limb is something that grates.

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  20. I play ACKS too and let them use restore life and limb by the book. It may only be 500gp (although it's typically 1K) but I haven't noticed any lessening of tension. There's still a chance of a party wipe after all.

    As for how it affects the world... I guess manage by ignoring implications. The party has unwittingly agreed to retrieve a soul-killing magic sword for an assassins guild, so it will probably have to be rationalized into the world soon.

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  21. Raise Dead has been in the game since the beginning, and is a game feature that sets D&D apart from many games, definitely use it.

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