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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Blackjackg's Avatar

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    Default Six Incantations to Raise the Dead

    Or, “Death, Where Is Thy Sting?”

    Call me a romantic, but I want death in my roleplaying games to mean something. If all it takes to bring a fallen hero back from the other side is ten minutes and a few thousand gold, I feel as though some significance has been lost. To that end, I have been looking at ways to eliminate the revolving door afterlife by making it more of a challenge to bring a fallen comrade back.

    The Incantation rules provided in Unearthed Arcana give one possible, if somewhat Byzantine option for doing so. What this homebrew proposes is eliminating revivification spells (Reincarnate, Raise Dead, Resurrection and True Resurrection) from class spell lists, and instead making the following incantations available for players to find through research and roleplay. Even if one chose not to remove the spells, these incantations could be incorporated into a campaign as ways for non-cleric PCs and NPCs to explore the exciting possibilities of raising the dead.

    Behind the curtain, each of the six incantations I’m providing here are meant to be interesting, story-enhancing alternatives to spell-based revivification. My goal is that they could provide exciting episodes whether its PCs themselves or NPCs in the world making the attempt at cheating death. Of course, any or all of them could be modified to meet the needs of your campaign, but I hope that they at least tickle your imagination.

    Obviously, these aren't for every campaign. Many games benefit from having quick, easy and reliable revivification, and if that's what you're going for, I don't begrudge you it. These are strictly for folks like me who want to give a little more flavor to the reversal of death.

    The incantations provided here closely follow the rules provided on page 174-176 of Unearthed Arcana, with one notable difference: rather than having a single failure effect, each one has two or more possible effects depending upon how close the caster came to succeeding. This variant rule is described below.

    Spoiler: Variant Rule: Tiered Consequences for Failure
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    As described in Unearthed Arcana, if two consecutive skill checks fail, the incantation fails and a failure effect takes place. Using this variant, one of two or more failure effects may take place depending on the number of successes achieved toward completing the incantation before failing the two consecutive skill checks. Frequently, failure after achieving zero or only one success has only minor consequences as the incantation never truly began. Failure after achieving a greater number of successes can have more severe or bizarre consequences representing the dangers of magic called forth but not properly brought to heel.

    To reflect the lesser consequences of failing early in the process, several of the incantations presented here use a new broad category of consequence: spoilage. Spoilage represents the waste of some or all of the material components gathered for the incantation. In cases where spoilage is the only listed consequence of failure, casters do not pay any experience point costs for the failed incantation and do not suffer any backlash, unless otherwise noted (this also means that casters are able to take 10 on skill checks for which the only consequence of failure is spoilage, even if they cannot take 10 on later checks in the same incantation).

    If an incantation fails later in the process, triggering any non-spoilage fail effects, assume that all consumable material components are consumed, experience point components are spent, and backlash takes effect, in addition to the specific fail effect noted.

    Incantations as presented in Unearthed Arcana are a form of arcane magic and as such always require Knowledge (Arcana) checks to complete. Several of the incantations presented here are divine rituals and use Knowledge (Religion) checks instead. One, The Phoenix Pyre, arises from druidic tradition and uses Knowledge (Nature) as its primary skill.

    For the most part, the incantations presented here follow the rules for revivification described on page 171 of the Player’s Handbook: Unless otherwise noted, a revived creature loses one experience level (or two points of constitution, if they were 1st level), and the revivification can be prevented by extraordinary magical means (such as a trap the soul spell) or if the target chooses not to be raised. If the incantation fails for either of the above noted reasons, treat the failure as if it came after three successes.

    Note: For the sake of brevity, in these descriptions, I have left out some of the details of what each incantation does and whom it can affect. As a general guideline and except as noted, assume that Sadryan’s Reunification and Candlestar Vigil have the approximately same limitations as the Raise Dead spell, The Phoenix Pyre functions approximately as Reincarnate, Ritual of the Black Chalice and Ritual of the Golden Chalice have similar limitations to Resurrection, and Bribing the Ferryman shares limitations with True Resurrection. Some other details, like how quickly a character regains their intelligence and personality after the Phoenix Pyre incantation, are left to your imagination.

    Additional Note: Unfortunately, I don’t have a great head for balancing numbers. As such, all of the skill check DCs and costs for the Incantations as well as the consequential save DCs and damage rolls are basically eyeball estimates. I would welcome suggestions for changes that would make them more numerically balanced (as well as any other suggestions, of course).

    For reference:

    Revivification rules: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/magicOverv...ingBacktheDead
    Incantation rules: http://www.d20srd.org/srd/variant/ma...cantations.htm

    Spoiler: Sadryan's Reunification (Raise Dead)
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    Sadryan’s Reunification
    Necromancy
    Effective Level: 6th
    Skill Check: Knowledge (Arcana) or Knowledge (Religion) DC 20, 6 successes
    Failure: Spoilage (0-2 successes); Target becomes a ghoul (3-5 successes)
    Components: V, S, M, XP, B
    Casting Time: 60 minutes
    Range: Touch
    Target: Dead creature touched
    Duration: Instantaneous
    Saving Throw: None
    Spell Resistance: No

    Though it is rarely spoken about openly, this deceptively simple incantation can be found in any number of necromantic and religious texts. When an ambitious student or bereaved layperson engages in the clandestine study of revivification, this is often the first complete method they will encounter. It promises to restore life to a person who has crossed over… generally with only vague reference to the dire consequences of failure.

    If successful, this incantation will restore life to a dead creature. It requires a complete, or nearly complete humanoid body, and the target cannot have been dead for more than one week. This incantation is not evil per se, but it treats with negative energy and thus cannot be attempted within the bounds of a Consecrate or Hallow spell.

    Failure: 0-2 successes—all of the alchemical tinctures and reagents (see below) are consumed; 3-5 successes—the intended target is animated as a hostile ghoul. If the target had 5 or more hit dice prior to death, there is a 50% chance of it being animated as a ghast instead.

    Material components: 1000 gp worth of alchemical tinctures and reagents and a gem worth at least 500 gp, all of which are consumed.

    XP Component: 500 xp

    Backlash: The caster must succeed on a DC 13 Fortitude save or be reduced to 0 hit points.


    Spoiler: Candlestar Vigil (Raise Dead)
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    Candlestar Vigil
    Conjuration (Healing)
    Effective Level: 6th
    Skill Check: Knowledge (Religion) DC 20, 6 successes
    Failure: Spoilage (0-1 success); Mirrorcast (2-4 successes); Target returns as a wandering spirit (5 successes)
    Components: V, S, M, DF, XP, SC, B
    Casting Time: One night
    Range: Touch
    Target: Dead creature touched
    Duration: Instantaneous
    Saving Throw: None
    Spell Resistance: No

    The Candlestar Vigil is the incantation for revivification most commonly taught and practiced in good and neutral-aligned churches. When adventurers bring a fallen companion to the temple in hopes of restoring their life, it is almost invariably this method that the priests there will use in the attempt. It should be noted that, because of the high cost in experience, most temples will not attempt this incantation for mere money—some service to the church will likely be required if the decedent is not a member.

    This incantation requires a complete, or nearly complete body and can only be performed on ground sacred to a non-evil deity, such as a temple, shrine, graveyard or in the area of a Consecrate or Hallow spell. The casting begins at sunset and ends at dawn. Five candles are used as a part of the ritual and the incantation automatically fails if all five are ever extinguished at the same time.

    Failure: 0-1 success—All material components for the spell are consumed, and the incantation cannot be attempted again until next sunset; 2-4 successes—The incantation fails and the spirit of the decedent is pushed further away. The skill check DC of all future revivification attempts on the same target (using this or any other incantation) is increased by +2; 5 successes—The target’s spirit returns, but does not bind to its body. The incantation cannot be attempted again for one week, but during that week the target is present as an incorporeal spirit with all its former abilities (minus one level, as usual) but no equipment.

    Material Components: Prayer candles, holy water and other blessed agents worth 2,500 gp.

    Divine Focus: At least one holy symbol for the deity being petitioned.

    XP Component: 800 xp

    Secondary Casters: Four required. They maintain the candle flames and offer prayers to the petitioned deity.

    Backlash: The caster and all secondary casters are exhausted.


    Spoiler: The Phoenix Pyre (Reincarnate)
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    The Phoenix Pyre
    Transmutation
    Effective Level: 6th
    Skill Check: Knowledge (Nature) DC 20, 6 successes
    Failure: Spoilage (0-1 success); Damage (2-3 successes); Target revives as a different creature type (4-5 successes)
    Components: V, S, M, XP
    Casting Time: Six hours
    Range: Close (30 feet)
    Target: One dead creature
    Duration: Instantaneous
    Saving Throw: None
    Spell Resistance: No

    This ancient ritual is a closely-held secret of the druidic fraternity. The DC of Knowledge (Nature) checks to be aware of this incantation or discover its method is increased by 5 if the seeker has no druid levels. This method of revivification requires the destruction of the mortal remains of a creature on a specially-prepared pyre. In order to have a chance of succeeding, the caster must have at least half of the body of the deceased, including the heart. The pyre burns for six hours, at the end of which, a large golden egg remains in the ashes.

    The egg has a hardness of 8 and 40 hit points, and if it is destroyed prior to hatching the incubating creature is lost. The egg hatches in 2d4 days and an infant of a random species of the correct type emerges (use the rules of the Reincarnate spell on page 270 of the Player’s Handbook to determine the random species or race). The newborn creature ages rapidly and in one week reaches the minimum age for adulthood in its new species; thereafter, it ages at the normal rate for its race. Upon reaching adulthood, it gains all the benefits of its previous ability scores (modified if appropriate for its new race) and class levels (minus one, as usual).

    Failure: 0-1 successes—all the material components are destroyed, including the body (making revivification by any method that requires a complete body impossible). 2-3 successes—the caster and all others within 30 feet of the pyre take 8d6 points of fire damage (affected individuals other than the caster may make a DC 15 reflex save for half damage). 4-5 successes—The ritual appears to succeed, but when the egg hatches it contains a random animal, magical beast, monstrous humanoid, giant or dragon infant. Rather than aging at an accelerated rate, it ages at the normal rate for its race. No normal magic short of a Wish can restore the target to its original age and species.

    Material Components: Rare aromatic woods, herbs and oils worth 500 gp, and a phoenix feather worth an additional 500 gp.

    XP Component: 500 xp


    Spoiler: Ritual of the Black Chalice (Resurrection)
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    Ritual of the Black Chalice
    Necromancy [Evil]
    Effective Level: 7th
    Skill Check: Knowledge (Religion) DC 24, 6 successes
    Failure: Spoilage (0-3 successes); Reversal (4-5 successes)
    Components: V, S, M, XP, B
    Casting Time: 60 minutes
    Range: Touch
    Target: One dead creature
    Duration: Instantaneous
    Saving Throw: None
    Spell Resistance: No

    This ineffably vile ritual calls a departed soul back from the beyond and forces it into the body of a (generally unwilling) living victim, called the chalice. The instructions for this incantation are certainly found in the Book of Vile Darkness, though several lesser tomes of dark lore also recount its methodology.

    In addition to its other material components, the Ritual of the Black Chalice requires at least some part of the body of the deceased target, no less than a piece of flesh or small goblet of blood. The complete process takes one hour and is torturously painful for the chalice.

    If the ritual succeeds, the target revives in the body of the chalice. The target’s mental ability scores are kept intact, but they use the physical ability scores of the chalice. The chalice’s own spirit is lost—for as long as the target continues to live, the personality of the chalice is as inaccessible as if they were the victim of a Trap the Soul spell. If and when the target dies, it may become possible to raise the chalice by means of some revivifying magic.

    The physical body the revived target gradually comes to resemble their body prior to death, altering physical ability scores at a rate of one point per week and aging (or youthening) at approximately twenty times the normal rate until they reach their former age. The body does not change race or sex, but physical features may take on an androgynous or hybridized appearance.

    Option: This incantation is more likely to succeed if the Chalice bears some likeness to the intended target. The DC of the required Knowledge (Arcana) checks are reduced by 1 for each domain of race, sex and age category that the Chalice has in common with the target. The DC is reduced by an additional 2 if the Chalice is a blood relative of the deceased target.

    Failure: 0-1 success—Half of the solutions and consumable components are used and the chalice takes 6d4 damage from the torture; 2-3 successes—all of the consumable components are used, including an amount of the target’s mortal remains (potentially all, if only a small part was available to begin with). In addition, the chalice dies and cannot be used for future attempts at this incantation. The caster pays the full XP cost of the spell and takes backlash; 4-5 successes—The caster must make a Will save (DC 10 plus the HD of the target). On a failed save, the target spirit inhabits the body of the caster instead of the chalice. The caster is treated as dead, and cannot be revivified as long as the target continues to inhabit the body. If the save succeeds, the target’s spirit is pushed away and can no longer be revivified by any means other than the Bribe the Ferryman incantation.

    Material Components: In addition to the Chalice and some part of the target, this incantation requires alchemical solutions and special components with a value of 5,000 gp. In addition, a set of torturous ritual equipment worth 1000 gp is required, but is not consumed by the incantation.

    XP Component: 1000 xp

    Backlash: Caster takes 8d10 points of negative energy damage (Fort Save DC 15 for half). 10% chance that the caster attracts the attention of a Marut (MM 159), who appears in 1d12 hours and attacks.


    Spoiler: Ritual of the Golden Chalice (Resurrection)
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    Ritual of the Golden Chalice
    Necromancy
    Effective Level: 8th
    Skill Check: Knowledge (Religion) DC 24, 6 successes
    Failure: Spoilage (0-3 successes); Betrayal (4-5 successes)
    Components: V, S, M, XP, B
    Casting Time: 60 minutes
    Range: Touch
    Target: One dead creature
    Duration: Instantaneous
    Saving Throw: None
    Spell Resistance: No

    An even more obscure, and notably less evil, variant of the Ritual of the Black Chalice calls the soul of the deceased not into a living victim, but into a specially-constructed body of wood and metal. This vessel must be a work of art created by a master craftsperson to rigid specifications. The vessel must be created specially for a specific target.

    If the incantation is successful, the target’s soul comes to inhabit the construct body. The target loses one level but retains all ability scores. In addition, the target’s type changes to Construct with the Living Construct subtype (see the Eberron Campaign Setting, or Monster Manual III). If the target dies again in this new body, they cannot be revivified by any means other than the Bribe the Ferryman incantation, which restores them to their original flesh-and-bone body.

    Failure: 0-1 success—Half of the consumable components are used. 2-3 successes—All of the consumable components are used, and the construct body becomes tainted. It is no longer usable as a component in future attempts at this incantation (though its material value is not diminished). 4-5 successes—the incantation succeeds in binding the soul into the new body, but the binding is flawed. Over the next 1d6 minutes, the target’s alignment permanently changes to the extreme opposite of what it had been (a Neutral target randomly becomes one of Lawful Good, Chaotic Good, Lawful Evil or Chaotic Evil).

    Material Components: Like the Ritual of the Black Chalice, this incantation requires some part of the target’s body, and similar components and alchemical agents worth 5,000 gp. In place of the living chalice, a construct body worth an additional 5,000 gp is also required.

    XP Component: 1000 xp

    Backlash: Caster takes 2d4 points of ability damage to two random ability scores.


    Spoiler: Bribe the Ferryman (True Resurrection)
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    Bribe the Ferryman
    Conjuration (Summoning)
    Effective Level: 9th
    Skill Check: Knowledge (Religion) DC 20, 3 successes; Knowledge (The Planes) DC 20, 2 successes; Diplomacy DC 20, 1 success.
    Failure: Spoilage (0-2 success); Attack (3-5 successes)
    Components: V, S, M, XP, B
    Casting Time: 90 minutes
    Range: Close
    Target: One dead creature
    Duration: Instantaneous
    Saving Throw: None
    Spell Resistance: No

    One of the most challenging, most expensive and most dangerous incantations for revivification, the caster of this ritual reaches out to one of the grim ferrymen that transport souls along the rivers of the afterlife to call back a departed loved one. This ritual always takes place on the bank of a river—an underground river is generally preferred but any river on a moonless, starless night will suffice.

    A caster can attempt to Bribe the Ferryman even without any part of the target’s body, so long as they know the target’s name and some of their deeds. This incantation can retrieve even those who have been turned into undead creatures and then destroyed. In addition to the material components for the casting, the caster must offer treasure (e.g., gold, gems or magic items) worth at least 1000 gp for every hit die the target had when they died. If the initial phases of the incantation are successful, the treasure is thrown into the river and lost forever.

    If the ritual is successful, a dark ferry pulls into the candlelight bearing the target who is then free to come ashore and resume their life. The target is the same age as they were when they died and appears the same, but invariably arrives naked and unequipped and the body appears brand new, free of old scars and injuries. Unlike in most revivification incantations, the target suffers no loss of levels.

    Failure: 0-2 successes—the incantation consumes all of the material components excluding the treasure offering, and the caster suffers the listed backlash. 3-4 successes—all components including the treasure offering are consumed, but instead of the target, the caster summons a hostile extraplanar creature: a nightmare (40%), 1d4+2 yeth hounds (40%) or a night hag (20%). 5 successes—the incantation succeeds in attracting a ferryman, but it is displeased with the offering. The caster and any others who have attempted skill checks as a part of this ritual are attacked by a 24 HD dire wraith. In addition, the caster gains a reputation among the ferrymen, and automatically fails any future attempts at this incantation, regardless of the target.

    Material Components: 1000 gp worth of ritual items such as paints, candles and unguents, in addition to the treasure offering (see above).

    XP Component: 1000 xp

    Backlash: The caster gains a negative level. The fortitude save DC to remove the negative level is 16.


    Thanks for your attention! All constructive comments and criticisms welcome.
    Last edited by Blackjackg; 2018-01-03 at 12:05 PM.
    Awesome avatar courtesy of Dorian Soth.

    Optional rules I'm working on (please contact me if you have ideas for developing them!):
    Generic Prestige Classes; Summon Monster Variant; Advanced Dodges and Dex Bonuses; Incantations to Raise the Dead

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Six Incantations to Raise the Dead

    BRAVO! Each of these is incredibly flavourful, to the point where I can see a single campaign involving more than one of them (both for the PCs to use e.g. the non-Evil incantations and as the focus of an adventure e.g. preventing the BBEG from carrying out the Black Chalice).

    I won't comment so much on the balance, though as I understand it the skill checks could be fine-tuned. Given that you can take 10 on incantation checks most of your DCs will be easy for low-level characters to pass, though of course this is desirable from a PC viewpoint and anyways is more a problem with the original incantation rules however.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Blackjackg's Avatar

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    Default Re: Six Incantations to Raise the Dead

    Thanks for your comments, rferries! It's good to hear that I'm hitting the mark on my main goal.

    I completely agree that the numbers will need to be massaged some more, but I will point out that in the incantation rules it states that incantations with a backlash component prevent the caster from taking 10. So by RAW and my variant Tiered Failure rule, casters would only be able to take 10 in the Phoenix Pyre incantation (which is, frankly, something I should take another look at) and the first 1-3 rolls of several of the others.
    Awesome avatar courtesy of Dorian Soth.

    Optional rules I'm working on (please contact me if you have ideas for developing them!):
    Generic Prestige Classes; Summon Monster Variant; Advanced Dodges and Dex Bonuses; Incantations to Raise the Dead

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    NinjaGuy

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    Default Re: Six Incantations to Raise the Dead

    You have also done a great service here to all E6 fans.

  5. - Top - End - #5
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    OldWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Six Incantations to Raise the Dead

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackjackg View Post
    but I will point out that in the incantation rules it states that incantations with a backlash component prevent the caster from taking 10.
    Le sigh, how did I miss that? :D I retract my comment then, all is well. Keep up the good work!

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