Sunday, August 28, 2016

Resurrection, For or Against?

Resurrection, for or against?  It is an honest question.  I'm looking to see how others handle it in their games.   I'm looking to get ideas to rift off of.  I have my own idea about how to handle it for my particular campaign world, but I'm looking to add others.  Because like most campaigns there are different cultures with different beliefs.  

My Immediate Opinion 
I'll state right now that I am not a fan of resurrection.  Can't say I've ever been a fan of it even back in my pre-pubescent days of gaming.  Those who've read this blog for a while or know me personally, know I don't like many of the healing options in game let alone allowing the ultimate trump card.  I prefer a gritty, dark campaign world where the gods are generally indifferent unless there is something to be gained.

Rarity of Resurrection
The Resurrection spell is always one of a short list of the highest level cleric spells.  In most games that means it's a 7th level spell.  
  • AD&D you need to be a 16th level cleric with an 18 Wisdom to cast resurrection. 
  • Swords & Wizardry a cleric must be 17th level.  
  • Pathfinder a cleric must be 17th level.  
These are just a few examples of the game system requirements to cast resurrection.  So finding a cleric of that level I imagine in most game world would be extremely rare.  Add in the variable that this high level cleric would give two shits about the death of some dumb ass adventure who crawled in a hole full of monsters and ended up dead.  But say the cleric is available and does give two shits.

Details of Resurrection
Here are a few examples of using the resurrection spell.
  • AD&D for each level of the cleric the target can be dead for 10 years.  So the minimum level to cast it is 16th so a person can be dead for 160 years and be brought back.  The cleric must rest one day for every level of the person brought back to life. 
  • Swords & Wizardry no effect on the cleric.  Allows the resurrected person act normal immediately.  
  • Pathfinder uses the same time limit at AD&D for how long a person can be dead.  The subject gains one permanent negative level.  If the target is 1st level, it takes 2 points of Constitution drain.  
I believe somewhere it is stated or 'understood' that a someone who dies of old age cannot be resurrected.  Otherwise the range of a resurrection spell is vast.  A cleric could conceivably enter a tomb of a long dead hero and bring him or her back.  I wonder what the effect on a powerful undead creature would be?  Liches, vampires are for all purposes dead.  If a resurrection spell was cast on a lich wonder what would happen.  Interesting.  

What about the gods?
I guess part of my problem with resurrection is how often is used as a Get Out of Death card.  Drag your dead hero to the temple in the middle of the city and fork over the gold and wa-la, your boy is tap dancing on the tavern tables before nightfall. 

Because I tend to run a low magic, full of mud and shit, disease and corpses, the gods themselves while there, tend to be indifferent.  As long as temples are tended to, rites are completed and they are respects (or feared, they are no picky) they don't meddle.

List of Questions
What I am curious about is do you allow resurrection in your campaign?  Why or why not?

What are the gods attitude towards resurrection?

Is there any special tasks/requirements/sacrifices that need to be made to resurrection someone?

And always remember...


  1. Dead is Dead. I would allow a strange quest such as DCC Blades Against Death adventure but at a much higher level.

  2. If your goal is a gritty dark campaign, then yup no res for you. But I might make an exception but it would be crazy hard and costly. Plus as you said why would a 16th level cleric care about some schmuck that got their head caved in doing something probably dumb.

  3. Don't recall it ever happening in Ad&D or 2e campaigns. 3e & Pathfinder I relied too much on the advice to balance encounters that PC death was rarely an option until I realized that it's absence changed the way the players approached the game. Even then, they ended up rolling new characters instead of resurrection. Except of course for the druid who got reincarnated as a satyr that one time.

  4. If we were unable to perform a successful "resurrection".... we often would create an (of some intelligence) Undead.... thus, the party continued with All members...

  5. a resurrection should destroy a Lich and any lesser undead IMO

    1. but the cleric casting usually has to be the level of the lich or higher...
      Lesser Undead, don't stand a chance...

  6. It exists in our campaign(s), but has only come to be used once.
    I was the Dwarven cleric; not high enough level to cast, but when our mage--unthinking--waded in to face a (DM-boosted) wyvern all by himself, and became a puddle of goo, I bargained with Moradin to bring the mage back (on the condition that the human mage become a follower of Moradin and assist me in my quest to regain/retake part of my homeland).
    The request was granted; the DM liked my creativity. And then promptly told me (and the group) not to expect it to happen again.
    Other than that, dead has been dead.

  7. No, for various reasons. But it strikes me that if you want a replacement to help the survival rate, you just tinker with the zero or negative hit point rules. It gives you essentially the same result (if you want it) without the annoying metaphysical and sociological implications.

  8. Raise Dead comes up to bat long before resurrection does. It should all be a much bigger deal tha. It is often played out.

  9. Against.

    Even in typical D&D cosmologies where the gods are real, active forces, there tends to be a baseline of reality that they don't/can't generally mess with. They might send an avatar to turn the course of a battle, but they don't flip off gravity to fling enemy armies into the sky.

    The natural progression of life to death is one of those things. In my worlds, messing with that is a work on par with making rivers flow up hill, time run backwards, or teenagers choose wisely.

    That said, I'd keep it as a possibility. A real, true, beneficial resurrection is a world-level event, something mythologized. Mucking about with dead things is much, much easier (hence, undead), but it never comes out quite right. Yeah, you might be able, with much effort, to bring your buddy back from death, but he's never gonna be quite right again--and that's the best result possible. Usually, even your best efforts will leave you full of regret (cf. "The Monkey's Paw").

  10. I'm in favor of it, because anything should be possible, and it always makes a good story.

    My wife's PC got her first henchman killed, some 17 years ago. She did not rest until her PC convinced someone to bring him back to life. We still tell that story.

  11. Resurrection really has never been an issue at the table. I have never had one of my characters resurrected, but since we tend to play dark and gritty, I can't imagine the person who was the receiver of such a spell being all that glad about it. In high fantasy games, I would still keep it very ritualistic, and if death was a problem, no method could ever be repeated.

    I do know that you can use a Resurrection spell offensively verses the undead.

    In regards to gods, they do have their champions, just as evil gods do. If it sounds good for a story, what if an ancient hero paladin suddenly rose from the dead?

    Clerics and priests casting the spell? I've never done it, but I have given the party a scroll that would, but that thing was very special. It wasn't anything that I casually gave out without a backstory to it.

    You look back at tales of heroes from myths and legends, and they always end grim.

  12. Pro. I allow it and make it readily available, although not without costs.

    I find players often handle their characters carefully and cautiously; taking away the ability to come back after death would just make that caution and carefulness multiply IME.

  13. It hasn't come up in the one-on-one game I'm running for my wife but I've never seen a problem with resurrection in the past. I would probably require some service to the church in addition to the listed "donation" for casting the spell unless the PC. I can't speak to other editions but, in AD&D, resurrection has the same requirements as raise dead so Elves can't be resurrected and the resurrectee can't have any missing body parts. That last one could be a quest in and of itself ... retrieve Sir Edric's severed head after it was teleported to an undisclosed location by a wizard. AD&D addresses the effect casting raise dead on undead would have. It returns "newly made" undead to normal life assuming it is corporeal undead like a zombie. Skeletons are specifically excluded because they have missing bits (internal organs, skin, etc). I would imagine resurrection should work the same way since it is just a souped-up version of raise dead but might allow for the "curing" of older undead.

  14. Generally I think dead is dead but I can imagine a scenario where a Church hires adventurers for a missions, something their god wants really bad, the mission is a blood bath with lots of resurrection and second and third and fourth attempts (as long as they can get the bodies back). Possibly combined with a WIS or CHA reduction each time as some kind of copy of a copy type thing starts to happen and scars start to pile up.

    Then the next adventure when they are no longer working for that Church they better take dead is dead very serious again.

  15. Nah, not so much a fan. But you probably already knew that.

    I suppose if I *did* include it in my game, it would would come at a heavy price -- not gold either. Something like "the gods brought you back because they want a favor from you..." That sentence would be completed by some task so insanely difficult the PC would probably wish they *hadn't* brought him back.

  16. Had to drop by to see what others had to say on this "Question"... some cool (and "interesting") responses... The players that we had once used a raise-dead on a dimi-lich... it was destroyed and its lair began to crumble and cave in on the party...

  17. If it's my character, then I'm for it. If it's your character, then not so much.