In particularly cursed places, the very ground itself rebukes death and damns the souls of whoever is buried there. This could be from the sight of a great war, a disturbed burial grounds or more. No matter the case, the land is tainted. And for those who dare to gamble against the forces of life and death within these corrupted lands? They may become something equally as wicked.
In other cases, the world may just have stacked odds against the heroes. The world may be kept in the clutches of dark forces that conspire to corrode and twist all in their path. Malevolent entities are challenged by heroes of horror, those who take a stand against the darkness at all costs. They too may face trauma when losing an ally… and having them come back wrong.
Author’s Note: This RPG Blog Carnival post came out of a few things. In a game I was part of, the DM wanted to make resurrection a risk. In that world, that sort of art is lost and things tend to not work always right when this is tried. The idea was also going to be used in a Gothic Earth one-off I wanted to do at some point too… Plus, I watched the original Pet Sematary recently. So, here’s my revised take on risky resurrection!
Learn more about the October RPG Blog Carnival theme here!
For many, just a simple resurrecting of an ally takes away a lot of tension and stress at the table, further adding to “it’s hard to die in 5E”. This assumes you want not only a little more of a challenge, but something that harkens back to earlier editions as well as pays mind to Old School Renaissance style gaming.
When casting a spell that brings a dead ally back to life, roll a d100:
- 1 – 20: The ally is brought back with no consequences.
- 21 – 30: The ally comes back, however their maximum hit point total is halved until they complete a long rest.
- 31 – 35: The ally comes back somewhat haggard and staggered, gaining 1d4 levels of exhaustion that remain with the character for 1d10 days. These levels cannot be removed outside of high level magic such as Wish.
- 36 – 45: The ally comes back as a sentient undead creature, usually as an evil NPC. If they are dropped, they may still be targeted with another spell.
- 46 – 50: The ally is brought back, but they have a permanent death saving throw failure. It cannot be removed ever, as their ties to the material plane are weakened. Every time beyond this one that they are resurrected, they’ll gain another failure until they have three permanent ones. At that point, they cannot be resurrected ever.
- 51 – 60: The ally comes back as a revenant. They are given one final mission relevant to the campaign. As long as they have a final mission, they can be resurrected without further penalty. Afterwards, they will permanently rest in peace and cannot be resurrected. Their soul has departed to the afterlife. As a campaign option, the DM may choose to have the character’s stats work as normal or use the Revenant option from UA (https://dnd.wizards.com/sites/default/files/media/upload/articles/UA%20Gothic%20Characters.pdf)
- 61 – 65: The soul is accidentally blocked from returning as a body is given life instead. Whether there is a body available or if it is recreated by the spell, the body reanimates into a zombie.
- 66 – 70: The soul comes back as a ghost and immediately turns hostile towards the character that brought them back.
- 71 – 80: The soul is tainted by an otherworldly presence. This works like the Death Curse from Tomb of Annihilation (https://media.wizards.com/2017/dnd/downloads/ToAPrimerv1.pdf)
- 81 – 85: The body (if it exists anymore) cannot be inhabited until another spell is cast, even with high level reviving magic. It must possess a nearby ally that was close to the character.
- 86 – 90: A different creature replaces the ally’s soul, possessing the body instead. This is usually a powerful fiend or extraplanar undead. The possessed body is treated as a hostile NPC gaining some or all of the possessive creature’s abilities.
- 90 – 95: The soul is accidentally banished to another plane, such as Mt. Celestia or Baator the Nine Hells. The caster is aware of where the soul is sent. Otherwise, nothing else happens.
- 96 – 100: The soul is intercepted by an either malevolent or hungry force. The soul is consumed and destroyed.