Raise Dead: It’s not a spell. It’s not a ritual. It’s an encounter!

I posted earlier this week about the D&D Death Tax when I was talking about our Kingmaker campaign and this got me thinking about Raise Dead.
Let’s face it. In you standard D&D style game, it just becomes a minor financial burden once you reach a certain level.  Knowing that it will just cost a few thousand gold pieces to bring back your character should something nasty happen really destroys any sense of adventure or danger.  When the worst thing your brave hero faces is basically a medical bill, well, that’s just not very heroic.
I spent a little time thinking about this and wondering what to do. There’s the simple approach ala Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Just say no raising of the dead. That’s great for the weird fantasy genre in Lamentations. But for a more standard High Fantasy game, I think it should still be available as an option but with consequences. It doesn’t matter if you are Good or Evil bring some one back from the dead upsets the natural balance of the universe.
First of all, let me mention Druids and Reincarnation. Drop it entirely.  You’ll see why in a little bit. Second, let’s look at the Cleric. For my own home brew campaign, I’m looking at a world level cap of tenth. That’s right no PC/NPC is going to be higher than 10th level.  I think it’s just a good point but that’s not what this post is about. So I’m setting the minimum level for the Raise Dead ability at 6th level.
So what happens when a cleric attempts to raise a fallen companion?  There will be a price. A big one. He’s calling on his deity for a major boon.  First, the cleric summons a major agent or avatar of his god. This will cost him all of his spell slots for a month. That’s right the cleric uses up his allocation of divine good will for a month. When the avatar arrives things get interesting and as a DM here’s your chance not to be a dick but still add a little bit of drama to the game.
The avatar is going to ask or demand something. And here is where it gets interesting. As DM, it’s a good place to insert a new quest or a new villain. As a DM, you can set up an interesting moral crisis. “You must kill this child who will someday threaten the world if you don’t” Perhaps, the avatar will ask for a temple or shrine or perhaps a ritual to be performed. Racial gods may just go ahead and change the dead character’s race. See drop I said not worry about Reincarnation.  The avatar may change the character’s alignment or possibly even class if it’s appropriate. And it doesn’t have to stop there. The avatar could ask something of the rest rest of the party as well. Conversion. Repentance for past sins. Go ahead be creative just not a dick. Here’s a little trick to put on your players. Ask each character to give up a level to bring to back their fallen friend.  It looks like they’re getting screwed. But those who agree get a major boon. Replace that lost level with a level of cleric or clerical spell casting abilities.
The thing is that bringing character back from the dead should really be a major event and not just a hand wave. There should be some interesting consequences and a price.

2 thoughts on “Raise Dead: It’s not a spell. It’s not a ritual. It’s an encounter!”

  1. In fiction and legend, raising the dead was usually the result of major effort not just paying a bagful of gold. I much prefer the quest for my style of play.

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