Thursday, January 28, 2010

Came Back Wrong

The Raise Dead spell is one of those iconic spells in D&D and I've never known a player who didn't look forward to 9th level more than any other so that he could bring his companions back from the dead. I've even seen a few who started using the spell as a source of great profit, raising peasants from the dead for a hefty fee. However, once this spell gets into the hands of the players, death can become very cheap. At earlier levels, a significant enough mistake by the players leads to death which cannot easily be reversed if at all. Players may go through multiple characters before they even manage to make it to level 2, but by 9th level, death suddenly has much less meaning.

Of course, by this level, the cleric is casting other spells of equally significant import. At this level, there seems to be a qualitative change in the nature of spells for the cleric, going from localized and immediate effects to far reaching and often permanent effects (Quest, Plane Shift, and Commune by which the cleric may speak directly with his deity). Raising the dead seems to be the quintessance of that trend, so on the one hand, it might be wise enough to leave well enough alone and not fidgit with the spell.

However, I've never been a fan of the revolving door afterlife, and I'm definately a fan of the harsh, stark, and terrifying. That's why I'm throwing a little twist into the concept of any creature returning from the lands of the dead, at least in Thylia where the cosmology of the Great Wheel is not present (but that's a separate post).

Anyone who is raised from the dead via the magic of mortals (i.e., via the Raise Dead, Ressurection, or Reincarnation spells) or via magical artifacts created by mortals has a flat 65% chance of simply "coming back wrong" from the strange and horrifying realms beyond this one. If so, the DM should roll randomly or use his own discretion. The players need not be told.

1.Profound Epiphany: During his time in the realms beyond, however brief or extended, the character has been deeply affected by what he has seen and come to the realization that his life was spent in banality and sin. Due to this, his alignment is shifted randomly at the discretion of the DM and he may abandon a previous career or goal in favor of something more in line with his new ethical views.

2.I Remember Everything!: Rather than having his memory wiped appropriately by the spell, the character remembers everything he perceived in vague and undefinable terms. As a result, he is either 1.manic and incoherent, 2.despondant and suicidal, or 3.catatonic. In any case, he will require the intervention of powerful curative magics or some other method to repair his personality as determined by the DM.

3.Broken Mind: The stress of returning from the grave lands has snapped something within the character's mind. He has developed a type of insanity dtermined from the DMG.

4.Brought Something Home: On his way back, the character has been lached onto by a being from outside the Prime Material reality. Equal chances of it being Good or Evil or an entity entirely designed by the DM. The creature may or may not enter reality immediately alongside the character, or may appear many miles away, or on the other side of the kingdom, but the creature will be aware of the character's location and will feel compelled to seek him out for reasons of his own. Alternately, the creature and the character may find themselves occupying the same mind, vying for control of the body (a successful saving throw vs. Paralyzation during a situation of intense stress is sufficient to gain or retain control on the part of the player).

EDIT: Forgot to add that I intend to increase the casting time of this spell from a single round to a full hour requiring specialized rituals and chants. Never seemed quite right that Raise Dead took only a minute of chanting and wailing and suddenly he's all better again. Such a boon as this would take significant supplications and effort I think.


  1. Good stuff, there. I always enjoy having consequences exist for the use of powerful magic.

  2. I think an hour is too short for the spell. It should be a days long ritual. Remember Conan the Barbarian movie where bringing back from the brink was a huge deal. Raise Dead should be like that, only more so.

  3. I've been thinking along similar lines for my long brewing Castles and Crusades game. My thought is that raising from the dead will be a necromantic process (like the Vlad Taltos novels) as opposed to divine spell. And it would have side effects, such as diminished intelligence or willpower (specific mechanisms are still in the design stage :)