Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Raise Dead

Restoring the dead to life is almost certainly one of the most impressive miracles any cleric might work. It is also one of the rarest of all such miracles, for only a handful of clerics in the world are capable of it. Even then, there are a couple of impediments to raise dead that make it much less useful than folklore and rumor would suggest.

First, there is a hard limit on how long Men -- and only Men, for the gods seem to favor no other race in this regard -- may be dead before raise dead proves ineffective. Theologians and metaphysicians disagree on the reasons for this limit, but they both agree that, after 30 days, no cleric, regardless of his power, can restore life to the deceased. Second, the deceased's own ability to withstand adversity comes into play, with some Men being constitutionally less able to survive the magical rigors raise dead demands of their bodies. Thus, this spell often has no effect on the aged or infirm, particularly the former, for raise dead can do nothing to restore life to those who died simply of old age. As the saying goes, "Even the gods bow to the authority of Time." Third, those whom raise dead does restore are often shattered by the experience, both physically and spiritually. They are weaker of body and prone to gloominess; some even claim that they can see the souls of the recently dead abroad in the world.

As noted above, raise dead is only effective on Men. Dwarves, being artificial constructs of living stone, may be returned to life by a magic-user using a stone to flesh spell. Elves, despite their immortality, cannot be returned to life by any known means; should their bodies die, they are truly dead. Goblins are also unaffected by raise dead, but their culture believes in metempsychosis and expects goblin souls to return to the material world in another form. They look upon the use of raise dead as further evidence of Man's cowardice and immaturity.

9 comments:

  1. I don't remember the mechanics that much, but does you Raise Dead mechanically lower the Constitution stat for the Raised character?

    This sounds cool, and I especially like the Stone to Flesh for dwarves.

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  2. Were raise dead/resurrection spells part of the spell set in the LBBs? Thanks in advance to anyone who answers.

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  3. "Raise Dead: The Cleric simply points his finger, utters the incantation, and the dead person is raised. This spell works with men,elves, and dwarves only. For each level the Cleric has progressed beyond the 8th, the time limit for resurrection extends another four days. Thus, an 8th level Cleric can raise a body dead up to four days, a 9th level Cleric can raise a body dead up to eight days, and so on. Naturally, if the character's Constitution was weak, the spell will not bring him back to life. In any event raised characters must spend two game weeks time recuperating from the ordeal."

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  4. I like the fact that the dwarves can be brought back by a Stone to Flesh spell.

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  5. "It is also one of the rarest of all such miracles, for only a handful of clerics in the world are capable of it. Even then, there are a couple of impediments to raise dead that make it much less useful than folklore and rumor would suggest."

    As it should be. It used to bug me, "back in the day," that Raise Dead became so common in campaigns that it lost any sense of specialness or wonder.

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  6. I could also see having clerics who could pull it off, but refused because it smacked of Necromancy.

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  7. The LBBs top out at 6th level spells for Magic-Users and 5th level for clerics. That works for me; in general I've come to realize that most of the problems I had with the "implied setting" of D&D stem from the idea that you need to have 20th level characters kicking around. If you instead assume that 9th-12th level represents the most powerful people in the world, and as such they're quite rare, the traditional pseudo-medieval setting holds together a lot better.

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  8. @rentagurkha

    Agreed. Just because the rules may say high-level characters are possible, that doesn't mean they've happened in the campaign world yet.

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