Thursday, 21 April 2022

R is for Raise Dead and Resurrection

In fantasy TTRPGs, especially D&D, the idea that a holy person, particularly of a "good" alignment (read: moral disposition), can raise the dead, even resurrect a dead individual, is common.

In D&D, the difference is a mechanical one. 

In Raise Dead, the spell is limited to a number of days since death. Thus a Cleric—the aforementioned "holy person"—of ninth level can raise an individual1 dead nine days. 

Resurrection however is ten times as powerful. The same ninth level Cleric cannot perform a resurrection. The cleric must be 16th level to even have the opportunity, and then it is limited, initially, to Clerics of exceptional Wisdom.

Both spells must be "survived." Use of Raise Dead does not heal the subject, thus you cannot raise a subject whose head is missing. Resurrection on the other hand can restore to life the "bones of a [subject] dead up to [ten times the level of the Cleric]." The subject is limited, as in Raise Dead, to specific subjects2. Casting the Resurrection spell even ages the caster!

Both spells can be reversed as well. Raise Dead can be caste as Slay Living and Resurrection as Destruction. And for a Cleric of a particular moral dispostion, especially a good one and worshipper of a Lawful god, could—narratively—face serious consequences.

The above cites the 1st Edition Advanced D&D (AD&D) rules and they changed a bit in the intervening editions. As a DM, I tend to flavor my D&D 5e (fifth edition) campaigns with these details, adding some unique flavor to the "Rules as Written."

  1. [1] Raise Dead may only be performed on a Dwarf, Gnome, half-elf, halfling, or human. That's right, no Elves!

  2. [2] Ibid.

Posted by caffeinated at 10:18 PM in d10