Resurrection Ritual


Based on Matthew Mercer’s house rule:

The Fading Spirit — Alternative Resurrection Rules

Character death can often prove to become a minor inconvenience in some campaigns once the adventuring party reaches a certain level, with spells being available to return fallen comrades from the afterlife with temporary setbacks, robbing a small element of danger, and threat to future conflicts and challenges within the story. If you wish to elevate the gravity of character death, you can introduce this optional rule.

If a character is dead, and a resurrection is attempted by a spell or spell effect with longer than a 1 standard action casting time, a Resurrection Challenge is initiated. Up to 3 members of the adventuring party can offer to contribute to the ritual via a Contribution Skill Check. The GM asks them each to make a skill check based on their form of contribution, with the DC of the check adjusting to how helpful/impactful the GM feels the contribution would be.

For example, praying to the god of the devout, fallen character may require an Knowledge (Religion) check at an easy to medium difficulty, where loudly demanding the soul of the fallen to return from the aether may require an Intimidation check at a very hard or nearly impossible difficulty. Advantage and disadvantage can apply here based on how perfect, or off base, the contribution offered is.

After all contributions are completed, the GM then rolls a single, final Resurrection success check with no modifier. The base DC for the final resurrection check is 10, increasing by 1 for each previous successful resurrection the character has undergone (signifying the slow erosion of the soul’s connection to this world). For each successful contribution skill check, this DC is decreased by 3, whereas each failed contribution skill check increases the DC by 1.

Upon a successful resurrection check, the player’s soul (should it be willing) will be returned to the body, and the ritual succeeded. On a failed check, the soul does not return and the character is lost.

Only the strongest of magical incantations can bypass this resurrection challenge, in the form of the True Resurrection or Wish spells. These spells can also restore a character to life who was lost due to a failed resurrection ritual.

If a spell with a casting time of 1 standard action is used to attempt to restore life (via the Breath of Life spell or similar effects), no contribution skill checks are allowed. The character casting the spell makes a Rapid Resurrection check, rolling a d20 and adding their spellcasting ability modifier (usually WIS modifier with clerics). The DC is 10, increasing by 1 for each previous successful resurrection the character has undergone. On a failure, the character’s soul is not lost, but the resurrection fails and increases any future Resurrection checks’ DC by 1. No further attempts can be made to restore this character to life until a resurrection spell with a casting time higher than 1 standard action is attempted.

The Resurrection Success Check

  • DC 10
    • -3 per successful contribution by party members (up to -9)
    • +1 per failed contribution by party members (up to +3)
    • +1 per previous resurrection event

An Example

Taliesin, the party’s bard, has fallen after a long battle against a family of hill giants. The party rushes to his side, devastated at the loss. The cleric, Birgitta, reaches into her haversack and removes a large diamond. She had purchased it in Duskvale just for such an occasion. She tells the party to gather around as she begins to cast the Raise Dead ritual.

Kraven, the barbarian fighter, demands that the gods release his friend’s soul back into his body, threatening to raid the halls of Valhalla itself to return Taliesin to life. The GM has Kraven’s player make an Intimidation check at DC 25 to make the gods listen to his plea. He rolls a 26…a successful contribution.

Pelos, the halfling rogue, pulls out a small cask of ale and pours a bit into the corpse’s mouth. “We have many more alehouses to visit, you and I,” he murmurs, a tear falling from his eye onto Taliesin’s face. For Pelos’ plea with Taliesin’s favorite beverage, trying to lure his spirit back into the land of the living, the GM has the player make a DC 15 Diplomacy check. The player rolls a 23…a successful contribution.

Finally, Sula, the half-elf ranger, hands the cleric a well-cut emerald she found in one of their previous journeys. She tells Birgitta that she wishes to contribute it as a sacrifice to her goddess and to help focus her magical energies to help with the ritual. The GM has her make a Knowledge (Religion) roll at a DC of 20…but the player only gets an 18. The contribution is not accepted.

Birgitta begins to wrap up the ritual. The GM rolls the Resurrection Success check at a DC of 5 (10 – 6 + 1): She rolls a 17. Taliesin rises, sputtering, from the ground, alive, but weak. His friends embrace him, celebrating his return to the material plane.

Resurrection Ritual

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