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Hey I Can Chan

High-level Play, Part 7

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Returning Is Easy
Dungeons and Dragons 3.X demographics is a census-taker’s dream. Except for PCs and encounters the DM creates, towns have hardcoded methods of determining precisely what levels of creatures are in it. That’s useful, but players are at the mercy of fictional demographics that might mean some spellcasting services are unavailable in a particular town. In short, a small town has a 2/3 chance of having a Clr5 or Clr6, half the time a large town will have 1 Clr7 and 1 Drd7, and a small city will have 2 Clr9s. Larger towns equal more and higher-level casters.

About the earliest a caster can make corpses ambulate is character level 5 with the spell animate dead [necro] (Player’s Handbook 198-9). Spells turning corpses into undead foil most attempts at returning the now-undead corpse to actual real life until the undead creature’s destroyed; I infer this means enough of the creature’s soul is returned to the body by the animating spell that its soul isn’t where it should be anymore. This rationalizes why the spell animate dead—which would otherwise merely make carbon-based perpetual motion machines—has the evil descriptor: it plugs a soul against the soul’s will into a body, and that soul would rather be somewhere else even if that soul is, itself, evil.

However, when characters are shopping around for ways to return Regdar to life, the characters (and Regdar’s player!) probably aren’t thinking about returning him to life as skeleton controlled by a Clr5. They probably want Regdar as some sort of playable player-character.

Here’re the ways to get all character’s soul back in a body and have the character remain playable.

If the dead character’s level 9, a helpful Drd7 will likely cast the spell reincarnate [trans] (Player’s Handbook 270) on the character for free; every level the dead character is above 9 increase the druid’s level by 1 until the druid’s level 16. If a helpful druid of lower than this level is available he’ll gladly cast the reincarnation spell on the character, but a Drd17 or higher just won’t cast the reincarnate spell on a 19th-level character for free; he’s better shit to do.

If the dead character’s level 11, helpful Clr9 will likely cast the spell raise dead [conj] (Player’s Handbook 268) on the character for free; for every level the dead character is above 11 increase the cleric’s level by 1 until the cleric’s level 12. If a helpful cleric of lower than this level is available he’ll gladly cast the raise dead spell on the character, but a Clr13 or higher just won’t cast the raise dead spell on a 19th-level character for free; he’s better shit to do.

These helpful clerics and druids aren’t doing this because they’re nice but because the character that’s returned to life is higher level than the caster. The caster will likely waste the newly-returned character’s abilities, time, and resources on a task he needs performed in exchange for returning the character to life. Nothing in life or death is really free.

Demographics might make acquiring the spells reincarnate and raise dead as spellcasting services or magic items viable options. Standard rates apply (Player’s Handbook 129).

“But,” you ask, “how does the cleric or druid know my dead dude’s level?” I point to the spell soul bind (analyzed later), which reads, “While creatures have no concept of level or Hit Dice as such, the value of the gem needed to trap an individual can be researched” (Player’s Handbook 281), which means while discussing level is verboten talking about a how much a gem costs that can contain somebody’s soul is totally okay. Creepy and morbid, but okay. Rules-legal, even.

When a creature dies publically and casters’ research yields the dead creature’s level when he died, every caster for whom returning the character from the dead is a good investment (usually casters 2 or more levels below the character who died) will try to return him from the dead. For free. And maybe even against the party’s wishes, especially if the caster is only 2 levels below him (when, based on the caster’s Challenge Rating, the caster has a fighting chance against the recently returned if he returns angry). Even an evil creature hesitates to just ice the dude who’s returned him from dead; any character who can perform such a task has obviously just proven himself useful, and, often, based on Dungeons and Dragons 3.X demographics, such a character is likely to be pretty freakin’ rare, so even if High Priest Riggby the Clr9 casts raise dead on Emirikol the Chaotic Wiz42, ol’ Em might want Riggby around for the next time he fails a saving throw after blasting some poor crossbowman in the middle of the street.

“But,” you ask, “what if my dude doesn’t want to return from the dead?” You’re in luck. A soul is rarely forced to return to the living; most spells that return folks from the dead say something like, “If the subject’s soul is not willing to return, the spell does not work.” Full stop. And your soul gets to make that decision based on who’s trying to return it to life: “A soul knows the name, alignment, and patron deity (if any) of the character attempting to revive it and may refuse to return on that basis” (Player’s Handbook 171). Further, “The soul has a general sense of how long it’s been dead, but doesn’t keep exact track of time,” reads Complete Divine 129-30. “The soul also has a sense of which spell is bringing it back to life; it can tell how painful the return journey into a living body will be. It can differentiate between resurrection magic that causes Constitution or level loss and magic that doesn’t. [… After the creature returns it can] remember in general terms what the afterlife was like, but… memories have a vague, dreamlike quality and [the creature can’t] recall the specifics of events. Whether [the creature’s] afterlife was torment or bliss […the creature has] a good idea of what to expect should [the creature] die again.” This means if the High Priest Riggby the Clr9 casts the spell raise dead on Matt the Pal11 who lost his arms and legs post-mortem to a hungry behir, Matt can totally tell Riggby, “Um… no,” and wait until someone shows up with a reincarnate or a resurrection spell. It also means were Buffy the Vampire Slayer using Dungeons and Dragons 3.X rules seasons 6 and 7 would’ve had a robot as the central character.

But even if the cleric or druid is helpful, someone’ll have to pay him to cast the spell raise dead or reincarnate if the caster’s at least a Drd17 or Clr13. Casters of those levels can cast true reincarnation [trans] (Masters of the Wild 96 and for all the love druids get in Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 the spell was never reprinted) and resurrection [conj] (Player’s Handbook 272), respectively, which opens the 1-day-per-caster-level window of the spells raise dead or reincarnate way freakin’ wide to 10 years per caster level. These druids and clerics don’t care about your friend who died yesterday even if he’s level 20. They care about the legendary, epic dude who died 100 years ago—they are funding and making expeditions to retrieve specks of these beings (in the case of the spell resurrection) or to determine the creature’s exact time and place of birth or death so he can be unambiguously identified (in the cases of true reincarnation and clerical true resurrection [conj] (Player’s Handbook 296) spells). In short, these folks don’t care about your friend or Regdar; they care about Theseus, Conan, King Arthur, John Dee, Cagliostro Balsamo, Paul Bunyan, Sherlock Holmes, and Batman (modified to suit the campaign, obviously).

They won’t turn down cash to cast the spells, though. Standard rates apply.

The spells raise dead, reincarnate, and resurrection cause the recipient to lose 1 level or 2 Constitution points if losing a level would make the recipient dead again (the recipient remains dead if he’s a Constitution score of 1 or 2). The 4th-level Drd spell last breath [trans] (Spell Compendium 130) and 5th-level Clr spell revivify [conj] (Spell Compendium 176) don’t cause level loss, but the window for casting them is 1 round period, and their material components are 500 gp and 1,000 gp, respectively, but I’d punch in the junk a DM who told me that the material components needed for the spell last breath were different from those needed for the spell reincarnation and the material components for the spell raise dead were different from those needed for the spell revivify.

Sidebar—The Deathless Type: The Eberron Campaign Setting adds deathless creatures, good-aligned undead in all but name. They are “[n]ot affected by raise dead or reincarnate spells or abilities [but r]esurrection and true resurrection can affect deathless if they are willing[, turning] deathless creatures back into the living creatures they were before becoming deathless” (275), so while raise dead and reincarnate spells aren’t enough to restore their sparks of life or whatever, more powerful spells skip the intermediate step of needing the deathless destroyed and just brings it back to actual real life. I infer this to mean that these creatures, created by the deathless Domain spells create deathless [necro] (Eberron Campaign Setting 109-10) and create greater deathless [necro] (Eberron Campaign Setting 110), want to be these creatures, which is why the spells to create them have the good descriptor, but the create deathless spells aren’t plugging souls into corpses completely, which is why raise dead and reincarnate spells don’t work on them, and since they’re here willingly, one needn’t destroy them first to use resurrection spells on them. But, yeah, it’s weird, and… sigh. Sure, whatever, Eberron.

The Spells that Allow Corner-case Returning from the Dead
According to the Ghostwalk Campaign Option, “Aberrations, constructs, dragons, elementals, fey, giants, magical beasts, monstrous humanoids, oozes, outsiders, plants, […] undead, and vermin simply pass on to the True Afterlife when they die” (8), and I don’t know what that means because there’s nothing in the Monster Manual or Player’s Handbook about aberrations, dragons, fey, giants, monstrous humanoids, oozes, plants, and vermin being invalid targets for any spells that return creatures from the dead.

An outsiders can be returned from the dead under the same conditions as a raise dead spell with the 6th-level Clr spell revive outsider [conj] (Spell Compendium 175), an undead who’s been destroyed because it has 0 hp can be undestroyed with the 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell revive undead [necro] (Spell Compendium 175-6), but elementals require at least limited wish [univ] (Player’s Handbook 248). Higher-level spells can also work on these creatures.

A dead ghost (I know) can be returned to ghost-life—or a corpse can be made into a free-willed ghost—with the 4th-level Clr spell raise ghost [necro] (Ghostwalk Campaign Option 57), which at 5,280 gp is only slightly less expensive than getting a 5th-level cleric to cast the spell raise dead for 5,450 gp, so unless the previously corporeal character wants to spend the next 5 levels as a ghost before gaining a level of duskblade or whatever, just wait until the Clr9’s available.

Artifact spells from Secrets of Xen’drik and Dragon #345 include the spell life spring [conj] (Dragon #345 77). All other spells specify undead either can’t be returned to life or can’t be returned to life until destroyed (the difference between the two is unclear—I take it to mean undead must be destroyed before returning to life period). The life spring spell reads, “This spell can restore a creature that has been turned into an undead creature.” Straight up. Done. In other words, it’s a wildly inconsistent spell that should never work. Luckily, artifact spells are way hard to get, so no worries.

The 7th-level Sor/Wiz Dragon Magic spell cheat death [necro] (Dragon #308 24) makes it so that the next time the caster’s dying there’s a chance (5% per caster level) his soul goes to the Astral Plane and then the caster comes back bodily about 1d100 days later. The caster returns at 0 hp, in the same spot he was when he was dying without his gear, but without losing a level or Constitution points and without losing spells. Yes, the caster returns himself from the dead.

The 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell clone [necro] (Player’s Handbook 210) costs 2,200 gp from a 15th-level caster and makes an identical body for a creature somewhere else. When the creature dies his soul immediately enters that body. Level or Constitution loss still occurs. I would take immediately to mean other effects can’t happen between the creature’s death and the soul transfer, but the spell soul bind calls out clone as one of the spells the soul bind spell stops. The caster must have a cubic inch of the original body’s flesh (but not from the same place or time), a 500 gp workshop, and 2d4 months to grow the body. Once it’s grown expect bills from the caster for 450 gp every 15 days for an arcane gentle repose [necro] (Player’s Handbook 235). It’s Car Wars’ Gold Cross. The 9th-level Sor/Wiz spell stasis clone [necro] (Lords of Darkness 189) obviates the need for the gentle repose spell. The shenanigans and storytelling possibilities of these 2 spells are endless: they are the only spells that force a creature to return from the dead, eliminating the soul’s free will.

The practical takeaway: Everything that dies can return unless preventative measures are taken.

Next: Preventative measures.

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  1. nijineko's Avatar
    reincarnate and raise dead do not raise the caster's level.
  2. Hey I Can Chan's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by nijineko
    reincarnate and raise dead do not raise the caster's level.
    I think you're talking about this line of reasoning:

    If the dead character’s level 9, a helpful Drd7 will likely cast the spell reincarnate [trans] (Player’s Handbook 270) on the character for free; every level the dead character is above 9 increase the druid’s level by 1 until the druid’s level 16.
    That's to determine the maximum level of the helpful druid.
    PC Lvl  Drd Lvl
       9       7
      10       8
      11       9
      12      10
      13      11
      14      12
      15      13
      16      14
      17      15
      18      16
    So a Drd7 will reincarnate anyone level 9 or above, but a Drd14 is looking to reincarnate folks level 16 and above. It's mainly an availability issue: if the highest level druid in town is level 11 and the dead PC is level 10, the Drd11 is gonna want to get paid.