Frog Hat Club

The ongoing adventures of a group of new D&D players in their first game

Death and Resurrection

Resurrection mechanics extending D&D 5e basic rules.

While there is no actual prohibition against the raising of the dead in the orthodox religions of Telisar, the power to do so is extremely rare and it is generally understood that to truly raise the dead is Necromancy in its purest form, a violation of the natural order and an attempt to subvert Fate. It is perhaps ironic that the one orthodox faith that breaks from this view is the Cult of Syf, goddess of Fate, which teaches that Will is an organizing principle of Destiny rather than subservient to it, and celebrates mortal acts of will sufficient to alter a man's destiny. Therefore it is the canny adventurer in need that seeks out a cleric or paladin of Syf, who of their peers are most likely to engage in acts of resurrection on a No-Questions-Asked policy.

Regardless of religious order, several spells are known to exist that can return the dead to life, among them Revivify, Reincarnate, Raise the Dead and Resurrection. Each has its limitations and costs, and regardless of the methods invoked by the arcane practitioner, returning a soul to the material plane is a traumatic process. Disfigurements and madness are common when the casting is successful at all, and it frequently fails even when invoked correctly. The reasons for this are not well understood, but certain reputable tomes on the subject (many of which I fear were unfortunately lost in the recent unpleasantries suffered by the El Astra Public Library's Necromancy Wing) have speculated that a resurrection can be contested both by the soul of the departed and even by certain celestial or infernal stakeholders.

But I think this is at best a partial answer, and turn again to the writings of Anaraxus the Foul. If the Ferryman is indeed more than a mycellium-induced hallucination, then it follows that orthodoxy is myopic, and the "natural order" (if there is such a thing) is far stranger than any of us truly know.

   --Excerpts from Adeptus Banu's private journals, 3206 ME (unpublished)

Resurrection Skill Challenges

All magic spells pertaining to raising the dead with the exception of Revivify require players to complete a ritual in aid of the resurrection in the form of a group skill check. The rules for the skill check are as follows:

A typical resurrection skill challenge requires the party to reach five successes before five failures, though this can be changed at the discretion of the DM. Players take turns using their abilities to aid the resurrection ritual by influencing one of three factors:

  1. Entice the soul back to the Prime Material plane;
  2. Petition for divine assistance; or
  3. Subvert destiny with an act of will.

In the first case, players might choose to bribe, threaten, persuade, or lure the soul back into its body by appealing to the character’s nature. In the second, players may call upon an entity of sufficient power to influence the resurrection. This may be a patron deity (theirs or the dead’s) or an interested celestial or infernal power. In the third case, players may attempt to change the destiny of the dead through any means they can envision, though typically this is done through the use of arcane power or mystical artefact (soul prisms and similar devices).

The DM will set the DC for each skill check according to the player’s description of their intended action and its appropriateness to the situation. If players which to repeat a failed check they may do so, but the DC will increase for each failure.

If the party completes five successes before five failures, the spell is successful and the dead returns to life in accordance with the text of the spell. The DM will describe any additional effects that may be felt as a result. If the skill challenge fails, the spell is still successful and the dead still returns to life, but the consequences will be far more severe.

Contested Resurrections

Resurrections may be contested by the dead player character if they so choose, or by other entities of sufficient power. If the player character contests the resurrection, all checks performed in the skill challenge are done so at disadvantage.

If another entity contests the resurrection, the DM will adjudicate contested skill checks as necessary.

If the skill challenge fails, so does the resurrection. If the skill challenge succeeds anyway, the player character is returned to life against their soul’s wishes and the consequences for a forced resurrection are dire, including madness, possession, transfiguration, and so on.