Death and Resurrection in Gaming

I threw down my enemy, an he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote in his ruin. Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell. 
Naked I was sent back - for a brief time, until my task is done.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings - Gandalf describing his death and resurrection.

 Now that very day two of them were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
- New American Bible, Revised Translation, Luke 24:13-16

If I were smart and planned my blog a week in advance this idea would have come to me way earlier. When I was reading Swords & Wizardry yesterday, in between prepping for reading at Easter mass this morning, I came across this:


Raise Dead
Spell Level: Cleric, 5th Level
Range: Close/Touch (Referee’s discretion)
Duration: Immediate
Raise Dead allows the Cleric to raise a corpse from the dead, provided it has not been dead too long. The normal time limit is 5 days, but for every caster level higher than 8th, the time limit extends another 5 days. Characters with low Constitution might not survive the ordeal, and even for those with strong Constitution a period of at least a week is required before they can function normally. This spell functions only on “human-like” races, that is, ones that can be used for player characters.

Fiction, mythology, and religion are full of examples of people rising from the dead. Obviously it is Easter in western Christian churches, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus (whether this is fiction, mythology, or religion is up to the individual reader). Orpheus of the ancient Greek religion ventured into Hades in an attempt to bring his wife Eurydice back from death. Buffy Summers of Buffy the Vampire Slayer died (twice), the second time for an extended period of time. And of course Gandalf the Grey of Lord of the Rings died in battle with the Balrog of Moria, only to return as Gandalf the White.


Done right, a resurrection story can be a fascinating thing. Done poorly it can be cheap. Sometimes comic books don't even bother to explain why a previously dead hero or villain has returned. But the examples above I believe all make for an inspiring tale.

Gandalf and Jesus both returned somehow transformed and were difficult to recognize. Neither stayed for very long after their return.

Orpheus received permission to retrieve his wife from the underworld under the condition he not look back. Of course he did. And his wife returned to Hades.

Buffy Summers returned to life confused, finding herself in a horrible place compared to the heaven she had been in. She did not want to return.

I think all of these give more interesting consequences than the week of recovery time from the Raise Dead spell (and no recovery at all is required once you bump it up to 7th level). The Dungeon Crawl Classics game advises making attaining the resurrection of a companion a major quest, possibly involving a deal with Death himself (something I seem to recall they inserted into an adventure). And it is difficult to imagine the hierarchy of any faith being pleased with a cleric who brings a heretical mage or hedonistic rogue back to life.


There is only one god and his name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: “Not today." 
- George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones



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