The “Triviality” of Death in 3E and the 5,000 gp Diamond Cost

The recent article about familiars prompted a question about death in Five Moons RPG. Namely, should coming back from the dead have a significant cost to it like it does in 3E/PF (5,000 gp diamond, negative level, and so on)? Does the lack of this sort of cost make death a trivial issue for adventurers?

Death Skull

I was involved in a discussion on the Paizo boards a few years ago about this topic. This article is a summary of my thoughts on the matter[1].

(And special thanks to all the people involved in the discussion–many of whom I’m paraphrasing in this post–it was fun.)

(In all of this discussion, nobody was able to come up with a game mechanics reason why raise dead should have a 5,000 gp material component cost, but plane shift and teleport–both 5th-level spells–should not. There were plenty of “I don’t like the feel of it” reasons, as well as “it’s always been that way” reasons [even though Gygax-authored 1E didn’t have this gp cost], but no actual game mechanics justification for why raise dead should have this high cost compared to other spells of its level.)

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Edit: Just to avoid any confusion about raise dead in the various versions of D&D, let me summarize them here:

  • 1E: Range 30 feet/30 yards, Casting Time 1 round, must make a d% resurrection survival check roll (success based on Con) for it to work, lose 1 Con, you’re an invalid (unable to do anything) for 1 day for each day you were dead, no gp or XP cost, your Con score is the max number of times you can be raised, doesn’t work on elves.
  • 2E: Range 30 yards, Casting Time 1 round, d% resurrection survival check, lose 1 Con, invalid for 1 day/day dead, Con = max number of raises, doesn’t work on elves.
  • 3.5E: Range touch, Casting Time 1 minute, no resurrection survival check, lose 1 level, not an invalid, no Con limit, even works on elves, costs “diamonds” (plural) worth a total of 5,000 gp.
  • PF: Range touch, Casting Time 1 minute, no resurrection survival check, gain two permanent negative levels (which can be removed by restoration and such), not an invalid, no Con limit, even works on elves, costs a diamond (singular) worth 5,000 gp.

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A) For people who can teleport across the world, literally travel to Hell and back, and conjure deadly fire and stone out of thin air, death is a trivial obstacle.

B) In terms of game math, the 5,000 gp cost for the raise dead spell also encourages metagaming, which is bad. See, if you have a party of 3 live PCs and one dead PC, they have two options:

B1) Scrounge up 5,000 gp (either from the dead PC’s stuff or from a group donation) and have the dead PC raised. Net result: party has 5,000 gp less than before[2] and two more negative levels than before.
B2) Leave the PC dead, divide their stuff among the PCs or sell it, have the dead PC’s player bring in a new character (who has full gear for their level, and no negative levels). Net result: party has X more gp than before (where at worst X is half dead character’s wealth by level value) and no extra negative levels.

In other words, it’s better for the party to bring in a new PC than to resurrect the old one. Which is lame. In a “roleplaying” game that barely encourages roleplaying at all, costly PC death actively discourages roleplaying a character who is compassionate about a fallen ally, and encourages you to be a mercenary metagaming player who’s only interested in the wealth and damage output of the group.

C) It brings up weird metagaming issues about the value of a diamond in a part of the world where they are rare vs. the part of the world where they are common, shining a light on the weirdness of the D&D economy.

D) If the PCs can’t or won’t pay that price, it means the original PCs (who have the most connection to the original campaign plot) are lost, and newer PCs have to join in their place. I’ve heard many stories of people playing through Paizo APs, and by the time they’re halfway through the AP, none of the original characters are in the group because the originals died and raising them was too costly or inconvenient.

E) The question really is, “is this character’s death important to the story, or is it an obstacle to the story?” If it’s an obstacle to the story, find an in-game way to justify the character coming back to life, whether it’s a new quest for the cleric, an obligation of service, whatever.

Q&A

In this section, I’m listing various pro-diamond-penalty questions and my responses to those questions. I’m numbering the questions just so people can more easily refer to them in the comments section.

Q1: What is the point of a game where dying doesnt mean anything beyond sitting out a few rounds?

Playing the game is fun. Having a “time out” before you can play the game again isn’t fun. Getting a raise dead means you have a negative level for a while (or a long while, if you fail the save) to remind you that death does have a penalty.

Remember, I’m a guy who wrote a campaign setting where if you die, you come back as a solid ghost 10 minutes later, keep adventuring, and worry about coming back to life when you get back to town.

Q2: What’s to stop PCs from attempting suicidal charges at a monster, raising after each one, and repeating until they succeed because the random rolls go in their favor?

That concept is from the static-scenario-MMO perspective, where the monster is still waiting there even if you fail 20 times. In a tabletop RPG, the GM gets to decide what happens while you’re away. Maybe a day after your second failed attempt, the monster eats the prisoner you’re trying to rescue, and the PCs have failed. Maybe after three failed attempts, the monster is getting famous among monsterkind and it now has a bunch of followers in its lair, which makes it even harder for the PCs. “Keep trying until the dice fall in our favor” is the fallacy that built Las Vegas. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. If the TPK’d characters think they can just charge back in with the same strategy and win, they’re dumb, and the treasure in a monster’s lair comes from inexperienced hasty adventurers.

Also, PCs who don’t have a 9th-level cleric in the party will have to keep paying 450 gp each death to the town cleric for raise dead, and that cuts into your adventuring profits. It doesn’t really become a “free” return from the dead until you have a cleric9 in the party, and even then it’s only as “free” as a plane shift or teleport spell (i.e., a 5th-level spell slot).

Q3: What if you really dislike how little death means once you have access to raise-dead magic (even with the cost penalty)? What if I want to run a campaign where there is no resurrection magic?

Not everybody likes the same kind of campaign, it’s true. You don’t have to play the way that I play.

When I was working at Interplay, the lead designer explained to me that American fantasy videogames are very different from, say, German fantasy videogames. In Germany, if your character has to cross a frozen mountain pass to get to the next quest area, your character may get frostbite and lose fingers and toes, and may even die, and the German fan base likes it that way.

You can play a game where every pound of encumbrance is important, or female characters have limited roles (like Earth history) and worse ability score mods than males, or where creating real effects with magic is difficult and most magic is just illusion, or where raising people from the dead is very rare or even impossible. It’s not my style, but I’m not trying to tell you how to run your campaign.

I’m just saying the 3E rules have an inherent bias toward “it’s really hard and/or costly to bring someone back from the dead,” when it has many other game-changing features (like teleportation and planar travel) at the same spell level that don’t have those extra associated costs.

To put a different spin on this, lemme alter the above quote slightly:

Q: What if you really dislike how little distance means once you have access to teleportation magic? What if I want a campaign where there is no teleportation magic?

Or…

Q: What if you really dislike how little planar boundaries mean once you have access to dimension-hopping magic? What if I want a campaign where there is no dimensional-travel magic?

So let’s compare some spells.

Teleport: 5th-level spell, no costly material component.

Plane shift: 5th-level spell, no costly material component.

Raise dead: 5th-level spell, 5,000 gp material component.

These are all 5th-level spells because you want these spells out of the hands of PCs until about level 7 (on scrolls) or level 9 (as castable spells).

Either raise dead is on par with other 5th-level spells, or it isn’t. If it is, it doesn’t need a costly material component. If it isn’t, then it shouldn’t be a 5th-level spell. Costly material components are in the game to prevent you from casting a spell willy-nilly as soon as you get that level of spells[3]… but when you hit level 9, you’re only able to cast it once per day, so you’re not casting it willy-nilly. And by the time you’re level 12 and you can afford to set aside one 5th-level slot for a just-in-case raise dead, you’re dealing with NPCs who can cast 6th-level spells like harm (120 points of damage) and disintegrate (24d6 damage) which can insta-kill an unlucky PC who rolls poorly[4]. If you have mechanics in the game that can insta-kill a higher-level PC, it’s pretty crappy to hamstring your access to magic that reverses those insta-kills.

It is literally easier and less expensive to use plane shift to instantly transport eight people to the outer plane where your dead friend’s soul is than to use raise dead to call that one dead friend’s willing soul back into its natural body. That doesn’t make sense to me from a game mechanics standpoint. From a campaign standpoint, sure, if you want raising the dead to be difficult, go ahead, but the mechanics shouldn’t support that sort of restriction.

The rules should be setting-neutral, but currently they have a “raising the dead should be harder than any other 5th-level spell” setting bias built into them. You’d complain if the setting-neutral rules had a “playing an elf should be harder than any other standard race, so you have 5,000 gp less than any other character of the same level” setting bias built into them.

Q4: If you take away the 5,000 gp diamond cost, then doesn’t that mean that a 9th-level cleric in town can eventually raise everyone who dies (say, from an orc attack on the town), and death is just a revolving door?

In 3.5, using the quick “build a community” rules, the highest-level cleric in a community was level 1d6 + the community modifier, which meant that you couldn’t have a level 9 cleric until a large town (community modifier +3, 2,000-5,000 people). So at best, one in 2,000 people in a large town might be a 9th-level cleric capable of casting raise dead.

That cleric (1) has important goals for her deity, (2) Is probably going to limit who she casts it on to members of her faith, (3) is probably on retainer by a noble just for that purpose, (4) is still going to charge the caster level x spell level x 10 gp for spellcasting, which is 450 gp, well beyond what any peasant killed by an orc can afford, in the same way that the farmer who wants to get his carrots to the capitol city can’t afford 450 gp to buy a teleport to get them there, and (5) can only do it once a day, so there’s probably a waiting list of important people ahead of you, which (6) means you may run up against the max-days-dead-equal-to-caster-level limitation, which means you can’t just raise everyone after an orc attack, at most you can bring back 9 people before the remaining dead are out of luck.

And that’s if you’re lucky and rolled a 6 on the 1d6+3 to find the example cleric’s caster level. If you rolled anything less than a 6, you wouldn’t have a 9th-level cleric in the town at all.

The game’s (wacky, PC-focused) economics and suppy/demand already make raise dead scarce, you don’t need to add an expensive diamond to the mix.

Q5: If there’s no cost, then why wouldn’t the government try to train as many clerics as possible to get to level 9 so they can cast raise dead and save people?

Sure they would, kind of like how in the modern day we train doctors, who literally have the ability to resuscitate dead people. Given, they’re only doing it 10–60 minutes after death (depending on circumstances) instead of 1–9 days after death, but they are most definitely dealing with people who are clinically dead, and who according to 3E rules are irrevocably dead without high-order magic (–10 hit points = dead for your typical 10 Con person).

Also note that 3E rules say a typical person dies 60 seconds after being brought below 0 hp by normal damage (1 hp per round, 9 or 10 rounds to get from dying at –1 to dead at –10), and the only way to reverse that is with magic, whereas modern emergency medical professionals often don’t arrive on-scene until minutes after the person is already unconscious, yet we have a remarkably high rate of success at helping these “dead” (according to the 3E rules) people. The game world is an odd mix of “you’re perfectly healthy until 0 hp,” “you’re dying in 1 minute at negative hit points,” and “you’re irrevocably dead at –10 unless we can find a powerful cleric.”

Also, considering that level advancement in the game world assumes you are (A) adventuring to gain levels, or (B) slowly gaining levels over time because you’re not adventuring, and (C) doesn’t have the “go to school, gain levels in your chosen field” progression that we have in the real world, the only way you’re going to get a 9th-level cleric is to (A) send her out adventuring, or (B) wait until she’s old. (A) is risky and has a high death rate, (B) takes a long time. Either way, you’re not going to end up with a lot of high-level clerics who can raise the dead, in the same way that the USA doesn’t have a lot of doctors who can perform heart transplants or brain surgery.

Q6: Isn’t raising the dead supposed to be difficult? The PCs aren’t expected to succeed, and easy access to raise dead messes with that.

Except in 3E, the PCs are expected to succeed; an average CR fight isn’t a fair fight, it’s an easy fight stacked in the PCs’ favor. So saying “they’re not expected to succeed” is contrary to the actual math of the game.

Q7: Why can’t we just say that these 9th-level NPC clerics reached that level by studying rather than adventuring?

The game mechanics don’t allow you to “train up” a 9th-level cleric except through adventuring. Or perhaps with story award XP, which are much slower, which is why high-level non-adventuring clerics are old. So yes, if you want a bunch of clr9’s available for raise dead, you either need to (A) send them off to risk their lives adventuring, or (B) wait a long, long time.

And although the GM could say, “well, NPC clerics can just study to level up, they don’t need to adventure.” But “My NPCs can do this simple thing, but your PCs can’t” is pretty lame. I’m all in favor of stuff like “This NPC has a special ability that you haven’t seen before, and you don’t know how he got it” is fine, but “you know all that hard adventuring work you have to do to level up, well, I don’t, ha ha” is lame and reeks of GM-NPC favoritism.

In other words, why does Bob the NPC cleric get to level up while praying in church, and Kyra the PC cleric has to kill monsters and complete quests?

Q8: If the only cost is the 450 gp for spell level x caster level x 10 gp, is a cleric9 NPC really going to demand 450 GP from the grieving mother whose only child was just crushed by a runaway turnip cart? Or is that cleric going to raise the child for free because they can, since there’s actually no cost to the cleric to cast it?

You could ask the same question about the 10 gp for a cure light wounds to bring Barkeeper Bob from his –5 hp stab wound back up to full. Churches take care of their congregation through donations for services. People who can pay, do, and those payments cover the expenses of the on-site priests and for charity work like curing Barkeeper Bob and raising Little Tommy Turnip Cart.

Q9: But doesn’t raise dead trivialize death?

Does remove disease trivialize disease attacks?

Does remove curse trivialize curses?

Does neutralize poison trivialize poison attacks?

Does restoration trivialize ability damage and negative levels?

Does remove blindness/deafness trivialize blindness and deafness attacks?

More specifically, does breath of life trivialize death? It brings a character back from the dead, permanently without any negative levels, so long as you get there within 1 round. And it’s the same level as raise dead, and it doesn’t have an expensive material component. So… does it trivialize death?

And if breath of life doesn’t trivialize death, why does raise dead trivialize death? Why is it okay to instantly raise a fallen ally in combat at no gp cost and no negative levels, but not okay to do so after a combat or the next day? Is it because it’s “in combat”? If so, then you need to decide at what post-death threshold the trivialization occurs. One minute? Ten minutes? An hour? 10 hours? A day? (The casting time for raise dead is 1 minute, btw.)

Q10: Without the threat of death, what’s the point in playing at all?

There are thousands of incredibly fun games where it is impossible for your character to die. Many of them are fantasy games.

Q11: Don’t you think the costs and penalties of character death make it worthwhile as a roleplayer?

You can have an incredible roleplaying experience even if your character dies.

You can also have an incredible roleplaying experience if your character dies and comes back and has to deal with having died.

Q12: What if I don’t want to play in a game or world where raising the dead is easy?

Then if your character dies, don’t accept the raise dead spell. I’ve had a character do that—he died, the party cleric (of his god) tried to raise him, and he refused because was happy in the afterlife in the house of his god, Thor.

But here’s the thing: just because you don’t want to play that way doesn’t every player should have to play it your way. Don’t force us to play the way you want to play.

Q13: Do you allow NPCs to use the same methods as your players? After all, if raise dead is free what stops the big bad from being resurrected by his lower level minions?

Yes I do. One game in college, we did a teleport-raid on a temple of Set and killed several powerful priests. But we didn’t get all of them… so one of the survivors cast raise dead on the others, and it was just a minor setback for the temple.

That’s why you take the heads or burn the bodies, that forces them to use resurrection or better spells.

Q14: If recovery from death has little to no risk, doesn’t that fundamentally effect how players value death as a penalty?

“I am not able to play” is a penalty, whether it’s because you’re hit by hold person, you’re paralyzed because your Dex is 0 from poison, or you’re dead. So why is there such a huge penalty (above and beyond “it’s a 5th-level spell and out of the reach of lowbies”) for death, but not for hold person or Dex poison?

Death has a cost. It isn’t trivial. It costs the player time they’re not able to play. It costs the other characters time and a magical resource. It costs the GM effort to incorporate an unexpected death into the campaign storyline and either provide a way for the PC to return or an avenue to smoothly insert a new PC. And it costs at least a 5th-level spell.

Q15: If the penalty for death is made trivial, doesn’t self-sacrifice become a logical move for PCs, and raise dead becomes no different than healing someone who is unconscious?

Let me turn that question around:

If the penalty for travel is made trivial, doesn’t instantaneous transportation of goods and information become a logical move for PCs, and using teleport to travel across the world becomes no different than walking across the street?

Or, perhaps raise dead and teleport both just change the sort of campaign you’re allowed to play, and gives PCs options they couldn’t at lower levels. A key part of the Indiana Jones movies is the ability to hop on a plane and travel to another part of the world to continue the adventure (so easy they represent it as drawing a red line on a map)… does fast transportation by plane ruin the idea of a pulp adventure? Does coming back from the dead ruin the idea of a comic book adventure? Does “PCs are able to cast spells” ruin the idea of a fantasy adventure?

Q16: Don’t you think this is really a “player vs. dice” issue rather than a “player vs. GM” issue?

The swinginess of dice means that sometimes PCs die for accidental, stupid, or inglorious reasons, and there should be a way to fix that which isn’t (1) harsh for the unlucky PC, and (2) doesn’t require the GM to say “oops, you only take 50 points, you’re not actually dead.”

Q17: If players don’t have consequences for death, don’t you think you’re rewarding greater risk and reckless play?

Rewarding PCs for taking greater risks doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Being an adventurer is a risky line of work. Maybe players should aim higher and try harder, and not be satisfied with 14 CR-appropriate (i.e., easy) encounters per character level.

Q18: Aren’t videogames a different experience than tabletop RPGs? Just because videogames do it doesn’t mean tabletop games should do it.

The fact is that the gaming audience isn’t just the 40-year-old graybeards who grew up on tactical historical miniatures games. The people learning D&D and Pathfinder today were born when D&D was already 20 years old. They’ve been playing video games with swords and fireballs since they were 7, and their idea of a typical play experience is far, far different than someone who grew up playing D&D in the 80s. And if tabletop RPGs as a game genre doesn’t try to learn from other, more successful game genres, is destined to remain a niche hobby forever. I don’t want to turn D&D or PF into World of Warcraft any more than I want to turn them into football, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore what we can learn from playing WOW and football when we think about our game.

Q19: Then why wouldn’t we get rid of all costly material components in the game?

Some costly material components are in the game to offset creating countless permanent effects. For example, without a gp cost, there’s no reason why a temple wouldn’t have glyph of warding plastered all over every available surface, keyed to that temple’s god, so that anyone not of the faith would be constantly setting off glyph explosions. That would (1) be cheesy, (2) make adventures against clerics really annoying and deadly because there would be an explosion every 10 feet and you could never run an infiltration adventure.

Conclusion

3E is a game where mid-to-high-level heroes can teleport across the world in an instant, permanently give an animal or plant human-level intelligence, travel to Hell and back, enslave a person’s will for days at a time, swap bodies and souls with an unwilling creature, bind demons against their will, summon angels, make temporary magic permanent, and demand answers from deities. But to many people, bringing back a willing creature from death should still be very costly compared to other spells of its level.

I don’t like the expensive material component for a spell that is critical and necessary to the typical game experience, and I don’t use it in my 3E gaming. I don’t use the gp cost, and I don’t make the negative level permanent. It sucks to die, it sucks that one of the PCs has to use a high-level spell to fix the problem. I grew up playing video games where you die, hit Continue, and keep playing. These costs are among the last “GM vs. players” mentality of the old style of gaming, and I don’t play that way.

You can play that way if you want to, but I’m not going to run a game that way. And I don’t think the default setting for the game should be that way.

FYI, in Five Moons RPG, a spell like raise dead doesn’t have an arbitrary gp cost (specifically, it’s no more costly than other spells of its level).

Footnotes

[1] This discussion as a whole reminded me of Steven Brusts’s Jhereg books. The main character is a human assassin/crime boss living in a highly magical fantasy society run by elves. Reviving the dead is relatively easy (and cheap, on par with about 300 gp) within 3 days of death as long as the person’s brain and spine aren’t damaged; after three days, the soul has departed and it can’t be done. Sometimes he gets paid to kill someone, sometimes he’s paid to kill someone and destroy the brain (a dagger in the eye is sufficient), and rarely he’s paid to kill someone with a soul-eating weapon. It just depends on what the client can afford and what kind of message the client wants to send to the target. Sometimes, he gets paid to kill the target in a non-permanent way and then take the body and pay for a healer to revive the target, because that way the target knows the client doesn’t care if he lives or dies. You can’t really do that with the current structure of raise dead because the M cost is way too expensive… and that cost is a campaign setting justification for keeping the spell rare, rather than a game mechanics justification.

[2] Note also that the 5,000 gp cost becomes irrelevant after a while. Not because characters can afford it, but because the WBL system means that if you spend X gp and drop below your WBL, the GM is supposed to award extra treasure in later encounters so that when you hit the next character level, your WBL is about where it should be. So even if everyone coughs up a share of the 5,000 gp to raise the dead paladin, the GM will award them extra treasure to compensate for being under WBL. Which means the 5,000 gp cost is just a temporary obstacle—basically an interest-free loan that you’re borrowing from your future self.

[3] Jonathan Tweet taught me, “don’t model the same thing twice.” His example is the 2E halfling race: they had a Strength penalty (because they’re small) and a penalty on their climb rolls (because they’re small). In 3E, the Climb skill is a Strength skill, so by giving halflings a Str penalty (because they’re small), you’ve already given them a penalty on Climb rolls, so you don’t need to hit them again (with a racial Climb skill penalty). By comparison, raise dead has three penalties associated with it: it’s level 9 (meaning it’s out of the hands of most spellcasters in the game), it has a 5,000 gp gem material component (meaning it’s expensive to cast), and it gives the target a negative level or two points of Con drain (meaning they’re debilitated and not as effective as they were before death). Why model a penalty in three different ways for the same spell? (And that doesn’t even count the other limitations to the raise dead spell: the body must be mostly whole, 1 day/caster level limitation as to how long the body can be dead, can’t raise someone dead of old age, can’t raise someone turned into an undead or killed by a death effect.)

[4] Level 12 NPC wizard in NPC Codex has a DC 22 disintegrate; level 12 Seoni (Paizo’s iconic sorcerer in that book) has a Fort save of +8, which means there’s a 65% chance she’ll take an average of 84 damage, which drops her from full hp to –4. Level 12 cleric has a DC 21 harm; level 12 Seoni’s Will save is +13, which means there’s a 35% chance she takes 120 points of damage (bringing her to 1, because harm can’t reduce you below 1, but if it weren’t for that rule she’d be instantly dead at –36).

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68 thoughts on “The “Triviality” of Death in 3E and the 5,000 gp Diamond Cost

  1. This is a very argument towards the Raise Dead spell. I’ve had such a problem adapting much of the game world to writing based off of it. With a world that is highly grounded in the rules of the game, adapted to still being realistic enough for real life in a fantasy world, it’s hard to justify raise dead spells. In my writing I find it hard to find why death is a major conflict for anyone with money that doesn’t die of old age.

    • Exactly. I’d rather remove the ability to raise dead at all (except for Churches or deities giving dangerous missions or quests or powerful individuals requiring a favor etc) rather than make it easier and less expensive to do so.

    • {adapted to still being realistic enough for real life in a fantasy world, it’s hard to justify raise dead spells}

      A fantasy world only has to be as realistic as we want it to be. Case in point, footnote 1 is about a fantasy world where raising the dead is so common that killing someone and reviving them afterwards is used as a threat.

      {In my writing I find it hard to find why death is a major conflict for anyone with money that doesn’t die of old age.}

      That’s fine… but a *setting-neutral* game system shouldn’t force you or me into a “raising the dead is nonsensically costly” paradigm. (“Nonsensically” because there’s no mechanics justification why 5th-level Raise Dead is more expensive than 5th-level Teleport or 5th-level Plane Shift.)

      • Two points I’d like to hear your thoughts on Sean…

        1. Raise Dead, Teleport, and Plane Shift, mechanically speaking, function very differently. Teleport and Plane Shift function in the same way as a Knock spell. Their work in the system is to allow movement between geographical spaces by ignoring barriers. Any particular game may have any number of these barriers which players will want to pass and, once passed, these spells have no real lingering effects. Yes, the players are “through the barrier”, but as these barriers have many ways in which they may be passed.

        Raise Dead has more in common with magic item creation than with the mechanical results of “barrier passing” spells. 1) The effects are targeting the small system of numbers which is the character sheet and not a narrative device such as a barrier. A raised character is a payment for allowance to continue to use the same specific set of numbers (a character) and a magic item is payment to make a minor adjustment to those numbers. 2) The effects of Teleport and Plane Shift are ephemeral, while Raise Dead and magic item creation are semi-permanent effects. Once the barrier is crossed, there is no lingering mechanical difference due to the method of passage. Raise Dead and magic item creation both affect the subsystem of a character in a specific way that lingers (ability to continue play with the same set of numbers/modified subset of numbers within the subsystem of a character).

        If these two points are true, then there is a sound argument for Raise Dead to have a cost akin to magic item creation costs. Should it be 5k? You will get no argument from me that the specific price is a bit nonsensical due to its seeming randomness.

        2. Is there any reason why not having a cost is more “setting neutral” than having a cost? In terms system to setting interaction, they both seem to have a similar degree of effect as to a particular kind of setting or play style. While I agree that certain settings are more marketable with younger players who have grown up in a world of games that is different than the world that older gamers tend to have grown up within, but I cannot see how the “cheap raising ” paradigm is any more setting neutral than “costly raising”. Both force players into a specific though different paradigm.

      • {1. Raise Dead, Teleport, and Plane Shift, mechanically speaking, function very differently. Teleport and Plane Shift function in the same way as a Knock spell. Their work in the system is to allow movement between geographical spaces by ignoring barriers. Any particular game may have any number of these barriers which players will want to pass and, once passed, these spells have no real lingering effects. Yes, the players are “through the barrier”, but as these barriers have many ways in which they may be passed.}

        I think that to someone on Earth, “New York to Dallas” is a barrier, and it’s a barrier we can overcome. I think that to a fantasy character, “Earth to Heaven” isn’t that much different of a barrier than “New York to Dallas,” and likewise “dead to alive” is just another barrier that can be overcome by great heroes.

        {The effects of Teleport and Plane Shift are ephemeral, while Raise Dead and magic item creation are semi-permanent effects. Once the barrier is crossed, there is no lingering mechanical difference due to the method of passage. Raise Dead and magic item creation both affect the subsystem of a character in a specific way that lingers (ability to continue play with the same set of numbers/modified subset of numbers within the subsystem of a character).}

        But when you compare
        • identical twin character A, who was brought to –9 hp but doesn’t die
        and
        • identical twin character B, was brought to –10 hp and does die, and then is raised from the dead,

        There is no “lingering mechanical difference” between the two (at least, once you deal with the two negative levels). Their stats on the character sheet are the same.

        As compared to
        • identical twin character X, who drove from New York to Dallas,
        and
        • identical twin character Y, was flew from New York to Dallas

        Both characters are the same age, but Y saved about three days of travel time, time in which they could have adventured more, or rested, or crafted magic items. Or character X might have had some interesting encounters on the road that Y completely bypassed, so now X is actually higher level than Y (I’ve heard people argue against Teleport being in the game because it allows PCs to *bypass adventuring* and jump right to the goal).

        I’m sure we can go back and forth with semantics arguments about why Teleport and Raise dead are fundamentally different, but really it’s just because we have a real-world bias: on Earth, Teleportation (in the form of air travel) is possible/realistic, Sending (in the form of telephone or internet communication) is possible/realistic, but Raise Dead (in the form of reviving a dead body days after its clinical death) is IMpossible/UNrealistic. And I’ve blogged about how “realism” doesn’t necessarily have a place in a fantasy game where the PCs can fly, create fire out of nothing, and interbreed with monsters that have radically nonhuman biology.

        (Meanwhile, we’re ok with the idea of PCs talking to a deity via Commune, radically changing size with Enlarge Creature, turning invisible with Greater Invisibility, turning enemies into Tiny animals with Baleful Polymorph, or turning into an elemental with Elemental Body–all of which are IMpossible/UNrealistic on Earth, but commonplace or even low-level for PCs.)

        {2. Is there any reason why not having a cost is more “setting neutral” than having a cost?}

        Any story-based limitations you place on a game mechanic imply that that story is part of the game rules. If a fantasy game doesn’t have gnomes, “there are no gnomes in this setting” is a story-based justification for not having gnomes in that game. For example, if you’re playing the MERP game, its rules assume you’re playing *in* Tolkein’s Middle-Earth, and therefore it has rules for PC humans, elves, dwarves, and hobbits, but not gnomes, dragonborn, aasimar, and so on.

        Likewise, if elves in your setting are very rare compared to the other PC races, and the rules actually back that up (whether you have to roll 00 on a d% to be able to *create* an elf character, or elves have an XP penalty to discourage you from playing one, or they have to start at level 10 because they’re all old and experienced and therefore you can play as an elf until the other PCs are level 10 because it wouldn’t be fair to the other players), the game system is reinforcing an aspect of that setting–for something *which otherwise should be equal* to the other PC races.

        So, just as we assume that the 3E playable races in the PH (human, dwarf, elf, half-orc, and so on) are basically equal and balanced against each other (because it would be bad game design to present a bunch of different races as equals, but have some of them be quite inferior to others), we should be able to assume that all 1st-level spells are basically equal and balanced against each other, and that all 5th-level spells are basically equal and balanced against each other.

        Because if the implied setting for the game system is, “the storm gods are ascendant over the ooze gods, so electricity magic is easier and more powerful than acid magic,” and as a consequence all acid spells are basically 1 spell level higher than their D&D equivalents, that is a setting concept that is directly impacting the game mechanics; in other words, it is NOT a setting-neutral game design choice. Instead, D&D says, “acid and electricity spells are basically about the same power level in terms of how much damage they can deal,” because the rules are trying to model a generic fantasy world without a specific bias toward any one setting’s quirks.

        {I cannot see how the “cheap raising ” paradigm is any more setting neutral than “costly raising”. Both force players into a specific though different paradigm.}

        Because, mechanically, it’s much easier to add flavor-based restrictions for a campaign setting than it is to remove hardcoded flavor-based restrictions in the rules. “All D&D PC races are mechanically about the same power level” is normal assumption for someone coming to the game without any previous knowledge (just like “all the Monopoly player pieces are mechanically about the same power level”), as is “all D&D 5th-level spells are mechanically about the same power level.” Yes, it’s creating a paradigm: a paradigm that the designer is trying to be fair and not create any trap options for the PCs.

        Consider two 5th-level attack spells. One of them costs 100 gp every time you cast it, but otherwise the two spells are exactly the same. The costly spell is obviously a trap option, and you should wonder why the game designer made that spell more costly. Does the designer not want you to cast that spell every day? Are there long-term repercussions to the *game* if you cast it every day? Are there long-term repercussions to the *setting* if you cast it every day? And so it is with Raise Dead… the gp cost is arbitrary (why 5,000 instead of 1,000 or 100 or scaling based on the target’s Hit Dice?) and was introduced 30 years after the spell first appeared… which should make you wonder why it’s in the game, what the motivation was for adding it, and (because there’s no game mechanics reason for that cost), why you’re adding a punitive setting restriction to a setting-neutral spell.

  2. I really don’t like this particular angle you are taking. As a GM, I go out of my way to keep my player’s characters from permanently dying. But I always have something epic involved for how to bring them back or something of that sort.

    I believe in 1E and 2E, the reason Gygax didn’t have a 5,000 gp charge for [i]raise dead[/i] is because you gained a permanent negative level or two, and those negative levels actually de-leveled you. You went down in level.

    It is true, that you can have fun roleplaying with your friends, without the threat of permanent or long-lasting death. It is also true that many, many effects and conditions can take a player completely out of game play (hold person, stun, daze, paralyze, etc.) for an extended period of time. And that isn’t fun when you don’t get to participate because of some arbitrary game effect. Death is not the only cause of this.

    Pathfinder did away with negative levels de-leveling you, and 3E and Pathfinder came up with the 5,000gp cost to make coming back from being dead mean something. Was it too much? Perhaps. Was it an arbitrary decision without considering the similar game mechanics at that power level? Sure it was.

    But rather than just making it easy to come back from death, I’d like to actually see a different set of mechanics that makes death mean something and also makes it fun to “be dead” and to “return from the dead.”

    I am reminded of a friend’s campaign, where my character died. So he let me roll up a new character, that was essentially the guide for the part to lead them on the quest they needed to perform to pay for the raise dead for my main character. That was exceptionally fun for me.

    In organized play (i.e. Living Greyhawk and Pathfinder Society), death is trivial. Full stop. The 5,000gp expenditure really doesn’t mean much after about 3rd level. But it is just enough to make it a bit uncomfortable, so people try to avoid it.

    If you make it as easy as 450gp to get a raise dead, then you really do trivialize death almost to the level of an MMO or other computer game. I chose not to play 4E because it was too much like a computer game.

    Please don’t make FiveMoonsRPG a video game.

    • {I really don’t like this particular angle you are taking. As a GM, I go out of my way to keep my player’s characters from permanently dying. But I always have something epic involved for how to bring them back or something of that sort.}

      So you’re house-ruling stuff in your campaign to get around the hard-coded game rule that raising the dead is difficult. Wouldn’t it be better if Raise Dead was a 5th level spell and cost the same as other 5th-level spells, meaning “damn, that’s a powerful spell, and only the rare person who makes it to level 9 has access to it”? And then you-as-GM could say, “mechanically, they’re the same, but I don’t like the flavor of it being available, so in my campaign there’s no Raise Dead magic.” Just as you could say, “in my campaign, there are no elves,” instead of “the game hard-codes it so that it’s difficult to play as an elf.”

      {I believe in 1E and 2E, the reason Gygax didn’t have a 5,000 gp charge for [i]raise dead[/i] is because you gained a permanent negative level or two, and those negative levels actually de-leveled you. You went down in level.}

      I’ve edited the article with a chunk of new text on top summarizing the various Raise Dead spell effects in each edition of the game. You’ll see that 1E (authored by Gygax) had no level loss but you lost 1 Con, 2E (not authored by Gygax) had a Con loss, 3E (ditto) introduced the level loss, and PF (ditto) used permanent negative levels instead of level loss.

      So: Gygax didn’t think AD&D needed to have a significant penalty to your character other than “lose 1 Con (which could be increased as normal) and you’re sick as a dog for a few days.” No gp cost, no XP cost, no level cost, just a minor ding to a stat (remember that Con only affected your hp below 7 and above 14, so for most characters this didn’t affect their day-to-day adventuring) and being “weak and helpless” until they’ve had one full day of rest for each day dead.

      And even if Gygax had a gp cost, an XP cost, or a level cost as part of Raise Dead doesn’t mean our modern game has to keep those things. His game also said dwarves couldn’t be wizards and females couldn’t have as high of a Strength score as males. Things change. Our understanding of, goals for, and audience of games has changed in the past 40 years.

      {But rather than just making it easy to come back from death, I’d like to actually see a different set of mechanics that makes death mean something and also makes it fun to “be dead” and to “return from the dead.”}

      But “death should mean something” is often at odds with “the GM rolled max on a Fireball” or even “Bob’s rogue made a tactical error and my character died because of it.”

      {I am reminded of a friend’s campaign, where my character died. So he let me roll up a new character, that was essentially the guide for the part to lead them on the quest they needed to perform to pay for the raise dead for my main character. That was exceptionally fun for me.}

      Sure, it can be fun, but wouldn’t it be more fun to actually play the character you *meant to play in the first place*?

      {In organized play (i.e. Living Greyhawk and Pathfinder Society), death is trivial. Full stop. The 5,000gp expenditure really doesn’t mean much after about 3rd level. But it is just enough to make it a bit uncomfortable, so people try to avoid it.}

      Exactly: even with the 5,000 gp cost, death is still annoying enough that players still try to avoid having their characters die. So what does the gp cost–supposedly an incentive to discourage death–accomplish? Nothing.

      {If you make it as easy as 450gp to get a raise dead, then you really do trivialize death almost to the level of an MMO or other computer game.}

      The thing is, though, there are computer games where there is no character resurrection, so if you die, the game is over, and you have to bring in a new character if you want to continue playing. There are even MMOs that do this (Eve Online, for example).

      As it turns out, having your character die sucks, because at best you’re unable to play that character for a while (whether it’s 10 minutes of real time before the other PCs finish combat and can raise you, or a week of real time because they have a special side mission to get you raised and you’re either not playing or playing a temp character). And at worst, you’re unable to play that character ever again.

      Playing your character is fun. Telling stories with your character is fun. If death were always permanent, we wouldn’t have decades of Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain America, and a zillion other stories in other genres.

      And, as I stated in this article, what you’re really saying is, “I don’t want characters to be able to come back from the dead, and I want that in the rules, so that everyone else playing this game has to play the way that I like.”

      Whereas what I’m saying is, “if Raise Dead is a level 5 spell, and Teleport is a level 5 spell, then they should have the same cost, because there’s no *game mechanics* reason for those two spells to be the same spell level with different gp costs.” Both of them are game-changers in different ways. And if I (the game designer) balance those spells *mechanically* against each other, you (the GM) are free to *thematically* restrict them in any way you want for your campaign, without impacting *other* peoples’ campaigns who want to have a different play experience (with respect to character death) than you do.

  3. To further comment:

    I do not believe this is a function of GM vs. Player mentality. Many GMs may have that mentality, its true, but the “death must mean something” mantra does not have to be a function of that paradigm.

    I look at roleplaying as a shared storytelling experience. The GM is the narrator. They set the circumstances and the environment, adjudicate how actions interact with the circumstances and environment, and inform the outcome. The players take all the actions. The players are supposed to be the hero of the story. And I find it incredibly boring to read stories where I don’t feel like the hero might lose, but somehow manage to pull out success in the end. I was sad when Sturm died, and angry when Rob died in GoT. But Sturm’s death made it mean more when Tanis and his friends finally won the day.

    I want to create that in an interactive environment that is tabletop RPG.

    If you take away most of the risk of death, then I may as well be playing a computer game, because you’ve taken away one of the only things left that adds a dose of reality to the game itself. Here we are shooting fireballs, jumping 40 feet in full plate armor, and more. And without that dose of reality to add weight to the actions, then they really don’t mean much, and in the end run aren’t as meaningful.

    I recall a game I played this past weekend in my friend’s Winter’s Reign AP campaign. I’m playing a Vanaran Ranger with a crossbow. We are getting our behind handed to us by the penultimate encounter. Knowing I might die if I fell, I did some risking climbing and jumping and pulled off a gravity bow/aspect of the falcon critical and made the 50% miss chance to do 50 points of damage and one shot kill the badguy. I nearly didn’t make the choice I made to take that risk, because I might fall 100 feet and die.

    If you make it an easy choice on whether to take suicidal actions, then you really are leaving the game in the hands of the maturity of both the GM and players. And if you are going to give them that much power, then why can’t you give them the power to decide not to make it GM vs. Player while hardcoding a true cost of death into the game itself?

    • “because you’ve taken away one of the only things left that adds a dose of reality to the game itself.”
      Do you also care about Carrying Capacity, Hunger/Thirst/bathroom-breaks?? in your desire for “Realism/Human-element”. This is a notion I can sorta understand, as I disliked death losing meaning, as well as stuff I mentioned above I used to care about years ago. As I felt the need to eat/drink for PC’s in an RPG are in part what separated them from “robots” or Video Game data/models and such. However did recognize in “Heroic Fantasy” tracking such things can be quite bothersome to players, and mayhaps fighting against its genre (buy a kit to cover, and assume fill up at nearby civilization, and move on). Here, the notion on death I think perhaps has some failed notions, not seeing the value of the other “costs”.

      At 9th level, you seem to recognize that we’re beyond “human-limitations”, such that left 4 levels ago. The notion of 6th-10th PC’s are like unto some superheroes is no incident, and when fighting opposition with powers like that, narrative has to change with it. So while it may be easy for the PC’s to come back from Death “Comic-book/God of War” style, the rest of the world may not have that luxury (especially like Outsiders who stay dead for good…reincarnating aside).

      With the Lethality way 3rd’s current format is, it encourages “suicidal” measures more or less anyway, hitting hard and fast. So I can agree to that this symptom is a problem of its system as a whole, and why I do think alternative solutions should be considered to make the less disempowering and lethal

      “Please don’t make FiveMoonsRPG a video game.”
      You do realize that in Five Moons, a 5th level spell or an effect available to 9th level PC’s is 18th level, out of 25 in Five Moons right? So the VERY FEW who have that magic (most likely), being the PC’s and major antagonists, meaning it’ll be the grand struggles of powerful entities that Fantasy Pontificates about in its own backstories.

    • {I look at roleplaying as a shared storytelling experience. The GM is the narrator. They set the circumstances and the environment, adjudicate how actions interact with the circumstances and environment, and inform the outcome.}

      … an outcome often greatly influenced by the randomness of dice. A PC can get taken out at 3rd level by a random high-rolling x3 crit from an orc. I’m all for heroic deaths, but that’s not really heroic.

      {And I find it incredibly boring to read stories where I don’t feel like the hero might lose, but somehow manage to pull out success in the end. I was sad when Sturm died, and angry when Rob died in GoT. But Sturm’s death made it mean more when Tanis and his friends finally won the day.}

      And Dragonlance is a setting where raising the dead is very uncommon. But that’s not the only D&D game world, and there are other D&D game worlds (and other fantasy worlds) that don’t have that restriction; they’re not to your taste, but that doesn’t mean we should restrict the D&D mechanics so that Raise Dead is difficult, any more than we should restrict the D&D mechanics so that the only sort of gnome you can play is a Dragonlance tinker gnome, or the only sort of halfling you can play is a Dragonlance kender.

      {If you take away most of the risk of death… without that dose of reality to add weight to the actions, then they really don’t mean much, and in the end run aren’t as meaningful.}

      Except death is still a risk. In a party of 4 PCs, if one PCs dies in the middle of a fight, the team is down 25% of its power and will have to pull out all the stops to succeed. And if the PCs dies for a dumb reason, then the player feels like an idiot and has to bring in a new character… perhaps a “sibling” of the original character, with the same class and stats, which is lame (common, but lame).

      {If you make it an easy choice on whether to take suicidal actions, then you really are leaving the game in the hands of the maturity of both the GM and players.}

      I mention this in the article: adventuring is risky. If reducing the penalty for dying encourages characters to take risky actions (like your dramatic jump-shot), isn’t that a *good* thing?

      {And if you are going to give them that much power, then why can’t you give them the power to decide not to make it GM vs. Player while hardcoding a true cost of death into the game itself?}

      Or maybe we could have a game that doesn’t encourage GM vs. player behavior in the first place, rather than including the mechanism for it and hoping that they won’t use it.

      • There will always be a GM vs. Player attitude in a game, when the GM feels they have to impose things on the players. I prefer to play in groups where the GM and players all agree on the stipulations of the campaign and where the GM doesn’t make arbitrary decisions just because they can.

        I also think you completely misrepresented my point when you said I wanted to hard code permadeath into the game. That certainly is not the case.

        I said I think the game should have being brought back from death being meaningful, hardcoded into the game.

        And saying that a permanent negative level is meaningful is a bit disingenuous, because a 3rd level spell mitigates that.

      • {then the player feels like an idiot and has to bring in a new character… perhaps a “sibling” of the original character}

        Unless your GM hunted him down and killed him off first. :P

      • Please don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating for a punitive system when considering death. I agree, players should never be penalized for dying. But a non-punitive system that makes death meaningful should be considered, in my opinion.

      • {Or maybe we could have a game that doesn’t encourage GM vs. player behavior in the first place, rather than including the mechanism for it and hoping that they won’t use it.}

        I think the disconnect between our two lines of thinking, is that I don’t believe that the gold cost or some other system for making death more meaningful, is necessarily a GM vs. Player system.

        You could have the most player friendly system out there, and there will be GMs that will exploit the power of being a GM and make the game about GM vs. Player. Or you will have players that try to foil the GM at all costs, which creates the GM vs. Player attitude from the player side.

        I remember running a PFS scenario and one of the players decided to bluff the badguy into taking his Attack of Opportunity at an inopportune time for the badguy. So he was like, “I reach into my pocket… does he AoO me?” I’m like, “Yes.” Player then says, “Ok, I pull out a pebble, and then cast my spell.”

        This annoyed me, because it wasn’t the character bluffing the badguy, it was the player bluffing me. There needs to be trust between the players and the GM for there to be an attitude of cooperation rather than an adversarial relationship.

        The rules are what they are. The cooperative or adversarial relationship happens regardless what the rules are.

      • {the only sort of halfling you can play is a Dragonlance kender.}

        That’s my new nightmare, now. Thank you, Sean.

        And yes, I do get nightmares of being stuck in really horrible D&D games.

      • {There will always be a GM vs. Player attitude in a game, when the GM feels they have to impose things on the players.}

        “GM vs. Player” is a two-way street, actually. Many players treat the game like they’re “against” the GM and they “win” if they blast through what’s supposed to be a tough encounter, so they minmax their character, and their focus becomes the math of building a character instead of the roleplaying.

        {I said I think the game should have being brought back from death being meaningful, hardcoded into the game.}

        Except when the game resolves variables with dice rolls, and it’s possible for the hero PC to accidentally and instantly die because a CR-appropriate monster rolled max damage instead of average damage, that death isn’t meaningful at all. So either the GM has to fudge the result so the character doesn’t die, or the game has to provide a way to reverse that bad-die-roll death. If it’s possible to have a meaningless death as the protagonist PC, then coming back from the dead can be meaningless, too.

        {And saying that a permanent negative level is meaningful is a bit disingenuous, because a 3rd level spell mitigates that.}

        On the contrary, Restoration cures *one* permanent negative level, but Raise Dead gives you *two* permanent negative levels, and Restoration can only restore *one* permanent negative level *per week.* Which means that even if you have a Restoration handy, the formerly-dead character still has to deal with a –1 on everything for a week of *game time*. Which could be several game sessions. It’s a meaningful penalty.

      • Being that the vast majority of my game play is Organized Play with Pathfinder Society as both a Venture-Captain and primarily 5-star GM, my view on death is a bit different than the standard developer/designer or GM.

        While I don’t think a game should be designed around how it might best work with Organized Play, I think you have to at least look at how that paradigm interacts with the game rules.

        The ONLY meaningful thing about death in Pathfinder Society is the 5,460gp cost or the 16 Prestige Point cost. and the 1280gp per Restoration or the 4 PP cost.

        ASIDE: Are you going to remove the arbitrary 1000gp cost for Restoration removing the negative level too?

        Other than that, by and large, unless you die constantly, Death is really meaningless in a PFS game. So much so, that we have some leaders of the PFS community saying that in a Special, players should be able to have access to a raise dead and one restoration in the middle of an abandoned Dwarven sky citadel despite there not being any reason for an NPC to be there to be able to do so.

        So my view on this is quite biased based on my experience with Organized Play. In the one home game I play every Friday night, This is not an issue, and the GM usually does his best to find a cheap way for someone to come back from death (but still making it meaningful.) My Vanaran Ranger died at 1st level (or rather should have as he was color sprayed by some sadistic faeries) but the GM just left the character at 0 hit points and tied up spread eagled between two trees 20 feet up in the air. I lost all my equipment and had to scrounge our recent loot for crappy armor and a substandard crossbow. I eventually found those faeries, killed them, and got my stuff back. But the story of how I didn’t “die” was better than the death.

        In an Organized Play campaign, those types of GM fiat stories are not possible.

        I think that because Organized Play has become a valid and extensive means of play for 10’s of thousands of people, that developers and designers should keep that paradigm in mind when designing their rules set.

      • {This annoyed me, because it wasn’t the character bluffing the badguy, it was the player bluffing me. There needs to be trust between the players and the GM for there to be an attitude of cooperation rather than an adversarial relationship.}

        I totally agree.

      • {And I find it incredibly boring to read stories where I don’t feel like the hero might lose, but somehow manage to pull out success in the end. I was sad when Sturm died, and angry when Rob died in GoT. But Sturm’s death made it mean more when Tanis and his friends finally won the day.}

        And Dragonlance is a setting where raising the dead is very uncommon.

        Also, Sturm’s death happened in a novel, and what is satisfying in a novel isn’t necessarily satisfying in a roleplaying game. D&D can be, in part, a shared storytelling experience, but it is also in part (and I’d argue in much greater part), a game, and that affects what does and does not work. But, heck, put the game element entirely aside and what works in a novel still may not work in a shared storytelling experience precisely because it’s shared. When Sturm died in the novel Sturm’s player didn’t have to find something else to do until new character could be worked into the novel.

    • {While I don’t think a game should be designed around how it might best work with Organized Play, I think you have to at least look at how that paradigm interacts with the game rules.}

      True… yet I’m quite able to dismiss much of what happens in PFS because PFS is organized so that GMs shouldn’t have to make rulings, and Five Moons RPG actually gives that power back to the GMs. If that means table variation, so be it. If that means players focus more on playing three-dimensional characters than minmaxing their damage, even better.

      {ASIDE: Are you going to remove the arbitrary 1000gp cost for Restoration removing the negative level too?}

      Nope, because that cost *isn’t* arbitrary. Restoration does one of two things: it removes all temporary negative levels, or it removes one permanent negative level. Temporary negative levels can go away on their own. Permanent negative levels do not. So Restoration actually is two spells in one: a free spell that removes a penalty that would go away on its own, and a costly spell that removes a penalty that can’t be removed any other way (they could have made the temp-neg-level spell level 4, and the perm-neg-level spell level 5, but they chose not to because having three versions of Restoration is annoying enough). The rules basically are saying, “at 7th level, you should be able to remove negative levels, and you should be easy to remove temporary ones because they can resolve themselves (you’re just speeding up a natural process), and you should be able to remove the permanent ones as well but it’ll cost you because you’re doing something that’s not normally possible.

      In the same way that it costs 2,500 gp to make Comprehend Languages permanent with Permanency, but it costs 5,000 gp to make See Invisibility permanent with that same spell: two different effects in the same spell, each with a different power level.

      I *can* see the merits of suggesting that there should be scaling costs for using Raise Dead depending on the condition of the body (like bled to death from being brought to –1 hp = 0 gp, head cut off but reattached = 1,000 gp, burned to –50 by dragon breath = 5,000 gp, killed by a death effect = 10,000 gp and so on), but 3E doesn’t make that differentiation… it is just as hard and costly to revive a
      • 1st-level character brought to –1 hp by a giant rat and bled to death over 9 rounds because of failed stabilization checks
      as it is to revive a
      • 10th-level character brought from 50 hp to –10 hp with one max-damage breath weapon from a CR 10 red dragon.

      The Raise Dead cost is arbitrary because it doesn’t care what state the target is in, so long as the body is “mostly whole.” The Restoration cost isn’t arbitrary because it’s providing one of two different effects: the easy one or the hard one (now, why it’s *exactly* 1,000 gp and not 500 gp or 1,234 gp might be arbitrary, but the reason for having *some* gp cost to it is not arbitrary).

      {Other than that, by and large, unless you die constantly, Death is really meaningless in a PFS game. So much so, that we have some leaders of the PFS community saying that in a Special, players should be able to have access to a raise dead and one restoration in the middle of an abandoned Dwarven sky citadel despite there not being any reason for an NPC to be there to be able to do so.}

      Yes, some PFS people suggest silly things, that doesn’t mean they’re good ideas. :p

  4. re: raising everybody:
    One point that I have emphasized in many games is that divine magic is connected to a god. This gives another aspect of control. If a cleric raises everybody, then their god may stop giving them that power. I expect that the gods of death may also visit those clerics. Naturally, as a world-based limitation, it’s campaign-specific. It explains why every rich person doesn’t survive to old age.

    P.S. I’m glad to see I wasn’t the only person thinking of Jhereg. I do love Brust’s Dragaera universe.

  5. Death has sufficient inherent risks and penalties:

    1) Your action economy is zero.
    2) Your fellow adventurers are more likely to die without your help.
    3) If your whole party dies, it is likely no one will find their bodies, and everyone has to reroll. (Short of GM intervention.)

    By dying, you essentially risk perma-death for the entire group, and the penalty for that is rerolling new characters.

    You don’t need more than that.

  6. First, would you prefer we respond here, or in Five Moons Blog itself? (This regards 5 Moons mostly, but I’ll put it in both places anyway)

    I’m going to make the similar suggestion I did in the last Blog, is to make conditions within the game that make it harder to die. Such suggestion in my case, was the idea that [Death] Effects, or losing all your HP in a battle simply takes you out of the encounter. “TKO’d” until someone can heal you (medically via skill, herbs, or magic), possibly come back at min HP, or have you. HOWEVER, still has the possibility of death, as you’re still vulnerable in that state, can be coup De-Graced, hit with death beams, thrown in lava, etc. Just unlikely any foe is going to mess with you till the other targets currently facing you are defeated/gone, meaning it’d be a TPK anyway. Except Animals I suppose, who might just drag you off, opposed to trying to eat you right there, but that can create dynamic of “save the PC”, so doesn’t have to die necessarily.

    That Said, I do understand that higher level characters, certain obstacles become less meaningful over time. IN Five Moons Case, Raise Dead would be an 18th level effect, meaning revival is the hands of some of the most powerful beings in the setting (or any Fantasy world running this system). Thusly, not only alright in terms of power level (alone justifies it), but also calls to the meaningful place of these “Elite” characters in the gameworld (making the effect that more impressive).

    Although, I wouldn’t be surprised for there to be some limited death-defying effects available to classes. Be it HP boosts, literal coming back from the death, “breath of life” spell like effect of short timer on come back, and even “TKO” status or similar I’ve mentioned above.

    • {First, would you prefer we respond here, or in Five Moons Blog itself? (This regards 5 Moons mostly, but I’ll put it in both places anyway)}

      Either is fine for me, I get notifications for both.

      {I’m going to make the similar suggestion I did in the last Blog, is to make conditions within the game that make it harder to die. Such suggestion in my case, was the idea that [Death] Effects, or losing all your HP in a battle simply takes you out of the encounter.}

      That’s a good idea, especially as D&D has always had that weird “you bleed to death in 10 rounds” rule, which obviously is far more lethal than things are in the real world.
      (Which is actually an interesting point, as if you’re not instantly dead at –10, you’re actually less likely to die, which means you’re not having to rely on Raise Dead for that character, you just have a person who’s in a severe coma/critical condition/etc., and it takes a while to recover from that.)

      {Although, I wouldn’t be surprised for there to be some limited death-defying effects available to classes. Be it HP boosts, literal coming back from the death, “breath of life” spell like effect of short timer on come back, and even “TKO” status or similar I’ve mentioned above.}

      Or boosts for certain abilities that mitigate things that would kill you, yes. :)

  7. I don’t know if this was already said in the forum thread discussions (and I’m almost certain that it was), but the thing about your comparison of spells that cure death to spells that cure disease and poison is that, usually, poison, disease, and even some curses don’t need only a single spell to get rid of them; they can be cured without magic.

    It sounds reasonable that reversing something permanent would be harder than something temporary. I agree that, if PCs can get instantly killed by chance alone, there should be a method to let that player get his character back in the game. While I also think that there should be some dramatic cost associated with reviving the dead, money clearly isn’t dramatic enough.

    One character I had was a witch who could cast both Blood Money & Raise Dead/Reincarnate, substituting blood (STR damage) instead of money. It’s a renewable resource, it’s personal, and it’s icky. It discouraged team-mates from dying, but also provided a revolving-door afterlife in case anyone did.

    I also agree about the permanent negative levels. I can definitely understand wanting to get rid of them, though I’d be okay with them even just being temporary.

    • {I don’t know if this was already said in the forum thread discussions (and I’m almost certain that it was), but the thing about your comparison of spells that cure death to spells that cure disease and poison is that, usually, poison, disease, and even some curses don’t need only a single spell to get rid of them; they can be cured without magic.} It sounds reasonable that reversing something permanent would be harder than something temporary.}

      That’s a reasonable argument. However, that means that Stone to Flesh, when used to reverse someone permanently turned to stone (by a spell, basilisk, or medusa) should have the same costs as Raise Dead (i.e., either none, as I’m arguing, or 5,000 gp, as written in the Raise Dead spell).

      {One character I had was a witch who could cast both Blood Money & Raise Dead/Reincarnate, substituting blood (STR damage) instead of money. It’s a renewable resource, it’s personal, and it’s icky. It discouraged team-mates from dying, but also provided a revolving-door afterlife in case anyone did.}

      Nice. :)

  8. This article is a fascinating read. It definitely reflects the amount of thought and discussion that went behind the issue as well as your experience as a designer.

    I was leaning towards the 5k material cost on this topic of discussion. However, your article makes me reconsider my stance. One of my players recently started becoming very concerned over death after his character had a nasty run in with a T-rex. He’s been asking the group to set aside money for a resurrection insurance policy, which the party doesn’t really see as much as a problem. However, he’s been pressuring me about the availability of resurrection magic, especially the type that doesn’t require a body. This gives me two impressions.
    1) The material cost is more of an annoyance than anything else.
    2) Dying is still scary, because there’s still a risk your body cannot be recovered or brought to a cleric in time or that you can’t find a 9th level cleric to cast true resurrection. To me, this alone feels like a great way to make death less trivial where a decisive death makes it harder to raise you.

    I looked up Ghostwalk and it sounds fascinating.

    • {1) The material cost is more of an annoyance than anything else.
      2) Dying is still scary, because there’s still a risk your body cannot be recovered or brought to a cleric in time or that you can’t find a 9th level cleric to cast true resurrection.}

      True and true.

      {To me, this alone feels like a great way to make death less trivial where a decisive death makes it harder to raise you.}

      Yep. And, if your enemies want you dead, they burn your body to ash so Raise Dead isn’t good enough, you need a Resurrection… which means your allies have a short window of time to rescue your corpse before it’s burned.

      And it means the villains can take a dead PC’s head with them, and use it to demand some kind of ransom from the living PCs (this happened in Chris Perkins’ game once).

      {I looked up Ghostwalk and it sounds fascinating.}

      Thanks! It was fun to write, even though WotC really dropped the ball on publishing it. :p

      • ” you need a Resurrection… which means your allies have a short window of time to rescue your corpse before it’s burned.”

        Speaking more on that thought, it’s interesting to note, that such an effect in 5 Moons would only exist For a 25th! level character. Which being, the literal GODS or the Five Moons Themselves, hence being walking God-like beings for this universe, and end-game to boot.

      • {Thanks! It was fun to write, even though WotC really dropped the ball on publishing it. :p}

        That’s a shame. I’ll have to see if I can snag a copy off somewhere. Sounds like it plays with death in a fun way and almost makes me think of how I thought Planescape worked before reading some of its material. I used to think Planescape was a game where you played as deceased mortals who choose to explore the multiverse in their afterlife. It would be kind of fun if you could continue playing your character as an outsider after they die. Maybe they become something interesting based on their faith and deity until they get raised. They become stronger and more resilient, but their true name becomes vulnerable and another death as an outsider destroys them.

        I tried to make death at least somewhat fun in a personal campaign setting I’m working on that takes place in a Matrix-like computer simulation. Dying in the simulation proves so traumatic that they start losing their grip on reality, causes Wisdom drain that heals over time. Though dying has its costs, the player at least gets to have fun roleplaying a crazy person for awhile.

      • {…almost makes me think of how I thought Planescape worked before reading some of its material. I used to think Planescape was a game where you played as deceased mortals who choose to explore the multiverse in their afterlife. It would be kind of fun if you could continue playing your character as an outsider after they die. Maybe they become something interesting based on their faith and deity until they get raised. They become stronger and more resilient, but their true name becomes vulnerable and another death as an outsider destroys them.}

        Sounds like you should write and publish that as a mini-campaign setting. :)

        {I tried to make death at least somewhat fun in a personal campaign setting I’m working on that takes place in a Matrix-like computer simulation. Dying in the simulation proves so traumatic that they start losing their grip on reality, causes Wisdom drain that heals over time. Though dying has its costs, the player at least gets to have fun roleplaying a crazy person for awhile.}

        As a parallel thought, I’ve tinkered with the idea of the characters being in a fantasy world, and when one of them dies, that character wakes up in the real world, because the fantasy world is a Matrix-like creation that’s so detailed and enveloping that your brain treats it as real and assumes the boring real world was either a dream, nightmare, or the underworld, so when you come back to life you have these crazy stories of featureless buildings, endless tedium, cruel taskmasters, and so on…

  9. How about an RPG with a modular set of “plug-in rules” for how death is handled?

    I’d think there may be 5 or 6 key aspects that flavor how you employ a ruleset at your table, and how death is handled is a really big one. Maybe have 3 plug-in options for how death is handled. Plug-in ruleset #1 says coming back from the dead is very difficult and removes spells like raise dead from the game, and essentially leaves spells like wish as the only option to bring someone back (most realistic). Plug-in ruleset #2 says this world is more magical and there’s various ways to come back from the dead, puts the spells at an appropriate level, and puts in some sort of kicker penalty (level drain, etc). Plug-in ruleset #3 says that death is only a minor setback, and puts spells in reach at a reasonable mid-level with no cost or after-raise conditions/penalties to clear. There can be a default assumption (ruleset #3), but by putting #1 and #2 in print, the desires of those folks who must be able to point to a book to say “hey, we’re using ruleset #1 for death rules this campaign” doesn’t feel like a bad-guy GM because at least he’s using a plug-in printed in the rules versus a house rules handout that makes people swallow hard and forget about dumping their Con scores.

    I will say that in a game system where death is trivial, it makes maximizing HP and Con less of a metagame priority… which has a ripple effect on game balance.

    • {How about an RPG with a modular set of “plug-in rules” for how death is handled?}

      I very much liked the 3E DMG sidebars that call out variant rules the GM could use. Your suggestion is similar to that.

      {I will say that in a game system where death is trivial, it makes maximizing HP and Con less of a metagame priority… which has a ripple effect on game balance.}

      Except that even if death is “trivial” (meaning it’s something you can overcome if you have access to the D&D-equivalent of a *9th-level* spellcaster, even if it doesn’t cost 5,000 gp), players aren’t going to want their characters to die, because that’s time at the table they can’t do anything because their character is dead. If you bottom out your Con and hp because you know you can be revived (… once your group has access to a 9th-level spellcaster), that just means you’re more likely to die during a particular game session and therefore more likely to sit at the table unable to do anything.

      • I didn’t fully grok that Raise Dead was being relegated to level 18+ (where I’d expect Resurrection to be). I kind of hand a sense that the spell system was being reworked based on other comments and footnotes. The blog should’ve led with that, since that puts into light the removal of the cost. I agree that if raising dead is only possible in the last 25% of levels (levels 18-25), then it’s appropriately out of reach of most PCs (except those that run down and convince an 18th+ level NPC to give them help… a rare occurence).

        It almost seems then, that it’s much harder to raise a PC than similar games… so… why are you punishing people who die?!? :)

        I say that jokingly, but it bears some discussion. Right now, I’ve had games playing out around level 10 and had a PC die to something unexpected (Confusion then full round attack deaths are not uncommon at that level)… and luckily the party did have a Raise Dead handy (and the 5000gp diamond, surprisingly). Thus, deep in enemy territory, they were able to get their 4th PC back in the game in short order. Ahead of teleport magic (which seems to be set at the same level of Raise Dead), this makes it very dangerous and a campaign stopper to have an accidental death deep in enemy territory. My group recently finished up the part in Runelords where they are squaring off against the stone giants, and a death they couldn’t quickly fix would sideline a player (or force a replacement PC prisoner to be found) if they couldn’t either raise dead, or teleport out to someone who could.

        I think it’s good that this access happens at the midpoint of levels versus the back 25%… but that might be a different discussion?

      • { didn’t fully grok that Raise Dead was being relegated to level 18+ (where I’d expect Resurrection to be).}

        It’s because Five Moons RPG focuses on the adventuring “sweet spot,” and your character level in this game is roughly twice that of the equivalent 3E character. So a 9th-level D&D character is like an 18th-level Five Moons character. I explain it more in this blog post: https://fivemoonsrpg.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/project-pentagon-the-leveling-sweet-spot/

        {I kind of hand a sense that the spell system was being reworked based on other comments and footnotes. The blog should’ve led with that, since that puts into light the removal of the cost. I agree that if raising dead is only possible in the last 25% of levels (levels 18-25), then it’s appropriately out of reach of most PCs (except those that run down and convince an 18th+ level NPC to give them help… a rare occurence).}

        To be fair, Wizards of the Coast did a study before the release of 3E and found that most people tend to start a new campaign every 6 to 12 months. If you play 4 times per month and level every 4 sessions, playing for 6 months means you hit level 7 at the end, and playing for 12 months means you hit level 13 at the end. So in a typical year-long 3E campaign, you only get PC-cast access to Raise Dead after 8 months of play (reaching level 9), so you only have access to that spell in the last 4 months of the campaign, which is the last 25% of the levels you’d get to while playing.

        {It almost seems then, that it’s much harder to raise a PC than similar games… so… why are you punishing people who die?!? :)}

        Well, because (as I say in the linked blog post), Five Moons characters level about twice as fast as 3E characters, so you actually get access to Raise Dead magic at about the same rate as you do in 3E. (In other words, you level every 2 sessions instead of every 4, and after 8 months you’re level 17, which is the level you’d be able to cast Raise Dead).

      • {So a 9th-level D&D character is like an 18th-level Five Moons character.}

        Ah yes, I had forgotten that (clearly!).

        Other things that could factor into this is the assumption of what gold means. I recall back in the “old days”, being content when I got a few bronze zees or copper bits for doing something in the Free City. Now, it seems (in 3.5/PF), a 1st level character isn’t happy if they reach 2nd level without 1000gp to their name.

        So in a sense, a 1st level character who’s obtained half their wealth could spring for a 3.5/PF “raise dead” if there was no 5000gp material component cost, since it would be a mere 450gp.

        So, I suppose I’d also need to get a sense of (a) how casting service costs are handled and the relative differences between expected wealth and (b) how prolific 18th level clerics would be in worlds run by Five Moons rules. If it’s a straight 2X multiplier for levels and everything else is the same, then I’d need to mentally walk through how the world operates.

        Call me crazy, but I like when the “rules of the universe” make sense in the world. If every country’s capital city can be expected to be of a sufficient population that there’s one or more clerics capable of casting Raise Dead, then folks who die across the world of anything but non-natural causes would make the overland trek to these capital cities and spring for Uncle Ben raising, who died to that tragic runaway cart.

        Put another way, assuming wealth is the same as 3.5/PF contemporaries, raising the dead is about the same cost as a masterwork longbow. I end up imagining a work where the major cities have lines of people willing to trade 450gp of goods (bows, carts, foodstuffs) to get loved ones raised, thus putting pressure on the “supply” of raise dead casting services. If we assumed that the big cities only had one cleric capable of casting it each (which would be unlikely in worlds like Golarion where a city like Magnimar may have a 9th/18th level cleric of each major faith), then there’s only 365 raise dead spells to go around each year. How do we determine who gets raised? The most faithful person? The highest bidder? First come, first serve? Lottery system?

        The 5000gp in diamond dust was an interesting element since it at least throttled it to the supply of diamond dust, which GMs could handwave and make easier or harder to obtain at their discretion. With zero material component costs, how do you roleplay the Cleric of Pelor who has a dozen families who all want their loved ones to be raised from the dead this afternoon?

        I’m certainly on board with not penalizing players who die as much… but I still want my magical medieval economy rationalized and to seem realistic. :)

      • { didn’t fully grok that Raise Dead was being relegated to level 18+ (where I’d expect Resurrection to be).}

        Further more, as I mentioned above, Resurrection should still exist, it just wouldn’t be available till 25th level (due to 25th in 5M is 13th level or 7th lv spell). The Point which you probably need one of the Five Moon Gods, or one of the Ancient dragons swimming in the aether, means you’re doing some Very ,Epic stuff for them to want you here in the “cosmic” order of things. I do mean the word “Epic” Quite literally, facing the very Setting defining iconic entities of its game for control the world, saving it, or whatever is quite climatic indeed (otherwise not a word I like to use due to its overuse).

      • {but I still want my magical medieval economy rationalized and to seem realistic. :) }
        I think that’s an understandable endeavor, when the game world is informed through its ruleset. Though I think I know what ye mean by “realistic” always seems people mean “consistent”, to be consistent with the way the gameworld itself works (“rationalized” encapsulated I’d say). It’s good to have a gameworld work more or less consistently as it advertises, as it helps DM’s unsure about that sort of thing. I know in my early start to DMing, 3E was great help in that endeavor, gave me starting place to build my maps around and such. That said, I do think certain things sometimes won’t be as easily (nor need to be ) modeled by the rules, like Economics. That sort of complicated thing something a game can kinda scratch on, but not really simulate, and is something most groups just kinda “assume works” without needing to get too deep within it. So No, I don’t think you’re crazy, I find that a rather understandable proposition.

        Of course, another, and even better benefit to that, is how it can help create stories! Something every DM benefits from no matter their experience, and even if rules do so accidentally, can prove to cause something awesome all the same.

  10. Some things I’ve done in campaigns when I wanted to limit the means of bringing back the dead.
    A particularly vicious one was that someone willingly sacrifice their life so the other person may return. Any form of coercion negated it, so no bribes, blackmail, threats, charms, etc. Of course, adventurers were rarely in a position for them to gain this boon, so it made coming back really difficult if not nigh impossible.
    A more popular one with PCs is a divine decree that those who take on the mantle of leadership are also endowed with the mantle of mortality. Just a fancy way of saying that any means of bringing back the dead, or even extending life is denied to those the divine consider rulers. So nobility that don’t renounce their birthright, leaders of nations or other large or powerful organizations, even the head of churches and guilds, all have a day of reckoning coming that they can’t avoid. Although age could be altered, if someone should die at age 94, they will die at age 94 even though they’ve used magic to change their physical age to 20. At least they’d die looking good and without the annoying creaks and groans of old age.
    Also the GM, in the role of the divine, sets who is or isn’t affected by this, even if they are a PC. In general there is a relatively easy way to test if someone is affected, though the knowledge may be some groups deep dark secret. Also, if someone “earns” this “honor”, they get a prophetic vision to inform them of it. Kind of a C.Y.A. and get it right because you now only have one chance warning kind of thing.
    When I implement that kind of limitation to a campaign, I usually have some backstory about how some god(s) got ticked off at one or more rapacious leaders going on genocidal rampages over and over because their “loyal” followers kept resurrecting them. The gods got so ticked off at this, especially after their own followers got slaughtered, they enacted a ban on bringing back those capable of abusing their power & position in that fashion no matter who they were or who they worshiped.

  11. I absolutely agree the 5,00gp cost of raise dead needs to go. That is the point we agree on. Unfortunately we then go the opposite direction on what to do next.

    For me free and easy raising (and yes 5th level magic is pretty much free and easy if it’s available in any city) destroys the game and I hate that it is so easy to get raised in PF. Making it easier to get raised is the exact opposite of what I want to see.

    Here’s how I respond to your points:

    1) Playing the game is fun sure and fun should be an objective. However making death a mere speed bump is also not fun. Death should be a serious matter, why? Because it is the ultimate risk. Playing with easy access to raise dead is like playing Poker with fake chips, when there’s nothing at stake the game is less fun.

    2) Yeah I agree that is a stupid way to react. I had a situation like this once and eventually on the third try against the dragon he’d left his lair and left a note saying “thanks for the free stuff.”

    What I would say on this point is that you say there is a cost to raise dead to back up your argument that raise dead isn’t trivial. If that’s the case then why not keep the 5,000gp cost? You can’t argue against a cost one way and then back your argument up by saying that there is a cost.

    3) Yup I could play the game a different way but you could say that about any rule. It doesn’t say anything about the quality of the rule in question one way or the other.

    Also plane shift and teleport. The difference between these and raise dead is that plane shift and teleport do nothing to reduce risk to the player characters. That is the key here. Easy access to raise dead (I’m going to call it EAtRD from now on for simplicity) does reduce risk. If players have teleport then a GM knows that and so you remove encounters on the road and instead put extra encounters where they are going. No big deal. EAtRD is way harder to get round as a GM. So long as one player survives a fight then you’re golden. It removes risk and therefore removes tension and investment.

    Also heading into the planes to get your friends soul back is an epic quest, going down to the temple to get him raised is as epic as posting a letter.

    4) Yes but… There’s a PFS scenario where a major NPC is killed and it’s permanent. Every time I have discussed that scenario with anyone the same question comes up “why doesn’t he just get raised?” It totally undermines the intended shock factor when there’s no adequate answer to that and to date there has been no adequate explanation beyond “it’s costly.”

    Sure not everybody has the resources to get a raise dead but Kings? Queens? Ambassadors? Generals? Sure no problem. By making it 450gps a pop that brings it into the sights of anyone with a medium sized business. That dramatically changes the make up of any world in which this exists and not for the better.

    5) Yup the rules make no sense. I agree with that. So change them. You are writing this game, why adhere to rules that make no sense?

    6) Yup they are expected to succeed, they are also expected to be challenged otherwise you may as well just narrate each fight.

    7) Nope don’t agree here. Yes players are the focus, I agree with that, but if the only way to become experienced and powerful is to adventure then that makes for a wacky world. Is every NPC in a game world an ex adventurer? That’s Kung Fu Hustle logic. I’m absolutely fine with Canon Jim the cleric being 9th level because he’s led his flock in a devout and pious manner and been rewarded as a result. Just because the players get experience in one way doesn’t mean that that’s the only route to market.

    8) I somewhat agree here. But again this does go back to the point that 450 gps is not exactly much to reverse death…

    9) Yes and no. Poisons and diseases in PF are already pretty trivial before those spells get involved. Even so they at least have an effect. The initial ability damage gets applied regardless of having those spells on you. So yes EAtRD does trivialise death just as the other spells do. The problem is that death is (and should be) a far more significant deal than filth fever.

    As for Breath of Life? I love that spell because it injects a sense of urgency into proceedings that raise dead doesn’t. My players still talk about the cleric jumping off a cliff to deliver a BoL to the dying ranger in my Jade Regent game, it was epic. On the other hand no-one has any cool “I went to the temple to get Bob raised” stories. Breath of Life should be the model for all resurrection type spells.

    10) The only ones I can think of are cinematic games like 7th Sea and even then it’s possible to die in those games. Regardless in games where it’s death is rare the system is set up so it’s very difficult to die. Prevention is very much better than cure. A lack of deaths in a game which is set up to make it difficult to die is a big difference from a game where death is pretty constant but is treated as a nuisance.

    11) Unless reversing death is a matter of squiggling your fingers for a minute. Why should I treat death seriously if the game doesn’t?

    12) Sure rule 0 is important but it’s not by itself a defence of a rule. “Change it if you don’t like it” doesn’t make the rule good.

    13) Yup I do this too. Not much to say here. Moving on…

    14) Time out of the game is the big cost? Meh. That’s not a cost, I’m sorry it just isn’t. Death should be treated differently because it is a big deal. It shouldn’t be a road bump equivalent to a hold spell. It should have far more significance than that.

    Also some of my best characters are ones I bought in halfway through a campaign after a player character death. I love when characters die in a cool way. I don’t want to invalidate a heroic death or heroic stand by casting a spell. That removes the significance of the death. Any heroic death in fiction: Sturm, Boromir, Spock is invalidated if it’s easily reversible.

    Actually Spock is a good example. His death in Wrath of Khan is one of the defining moments not only in Star Trek but in all of Sci-Fi cinema. Why? Because his death and sacrifice had meaning. Sure it was reversed but that cost other lives in an epic quest.

    Compare that with Kirk’s “death” in Into Darkness. The setup is basically the same but I just didn’t care. Why? Because I knew that the blood from the genetically enhanced people would just bring him back. There was no risk because I saw the (pretty telegraphed) out. Therefore the death and by extension sacrifice meant nothing. That’s what EAtRD does.

    15) Does coming back from the dead invalidate a comic book adventure? Yes. Yes it does.

    Comic fans have complained for years that death in comics means nothing as the only major character in comics who hasn’t come back is Uncle Ben. (Funnily enough it used to be Uncle Ben, Barry Allen and Bucky and well… we saw what happened there.) Back from the dead is fine as long as it’s not overused and in comics boy has it been overused! People are even complaining about it being overused in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

    So yes if death is easy to overcome then it isn’t really death and that lessens tension. It’s been an issue in comics for years.

    16) Some of my best moments in gaming have been PC deaths. Recently I was killed in game by my own summoned monster. How often does that happen? Yup that was unlucky dice rolling but it’s a story I’ll be telling for years. I didn’t want to trivialise that by getting an easy out.

    Instead I took the opportunity to come back as a character who added a new aspect to the game. I talked to my GM and we worked together to add new elements to the story.

    That way the story developed and changed. All as a result of a PC death.

    17) It does however support the concept of doing ridiculous things because death isn’t an issue. “Hey Bob I’m almost dead so rather than climb I’ll just jump off this cliff, raise me when you get to the bottom kay?”

    Yeah sure that’s a silly example but the idea of a guy running back into the fight on 5hp because death isn’t an issue is valid. If I choose to put myself at risk like that I want it to have a proper consequence.

    18) Yup I’m 39 and I grew up on these games. Don’t have a beard though. That said I grew up on both video games and RPG’s and they are different. You can’t get the emotional investment out of a video game character that you can out of a RPG character. At least not in the same way. Video games give you spectacle and the emotional impact comes from scripted scenes. I have little impact on that as a player I’m a witness more than an active participant even in the most story heavy games. Tabletop brings you as a player into the game. You shape the scenes. There’s a big difference.

    Even then what are the most memorable scenes in video game history? Some that spring to mind are Aerith in Final Fantasy VII, The end of Halo Reach, Mordin and Kaiden/Ashley’s sacrifices in the Mass Effect series. These are all deaths but they will live with me until I die because they were so brilliantly done. However for this to be done they had to be divorced from the game mechanics.

    In tabletop you can’t do that. Why not Phoenix Down Aerith was the cry of every FFVII fan. Why? Because the writers of the game didn’t allow that option. In tabletop there are no cutscenes so meaningful deaths only come from gameplay. Effectively remove death and you remove these moments.

    19) Yeah no. I get that and agree.

    I respect that this is your game and you have your own choices to make. My only thought in writing this is to make you aware of the opposite viewpoint, one that is equally valid. A sidebar or page of optional rules (maybe turning raise and resurrection spells into more powerful versions of BoL for example) might be a way of addressing this difference of opinion. Just a thought.

    • I pretty much agree with all of this.

      Death should be meaningful. Not punitive to the player. But meaningful.

      How do you hardcode a mechanic into the game that makes it meaningful without making it punitive? Not sure. Keeping a player from playing seems punitive. Costing them some extra gold and giving them some penalties is not punitive, but it also, as has been discussed here ad nauseum, is not meaningful.

      But if you remove raise dead entirely, and hard code into your game rituals or quests that must be done to bring back the dead, that would be ideal. Perhaps the ritual can be done to allow the character to partake in his own quest? As he tries to perform his quest in a semi-zombie state, he has a time limit that’s very real. When his body rots away and he’s nothing but a skeleton, its too late. Or something such as that.

      It hard codes a cool story element into the game, lets the player partake in the game and quest for life with that character, and makes death meaningful without being punitive.

    • {For me free and easy raising (and yes 5th level magic is pretty much free and easy if it’s available in any city) destroys the game}

      Okay, but that’s your preference for the setting you want to play in/run, which I addressed in Q3 and Q12: your preference for not wanting Raise Dead to be common (meaning “something only the wealthy can afford because the 450g spellcasting fee is more than a year’s salary for a typical NPC) shouldn’t mean that everyone else has to play that way, just like how you not liking dwarves shouldn’t mean that everyone else has to have dwarf-free games.

      {1) Playing the game is fun sure and fun should be an objective. However making death a mere speed bump is also not fun. Death should be a serious matter, why?}

      Serious like a CR-appropriate (easy encounter) monster rolling max damage and killing the PC. “Sorry, Bob, your character died because of a freak of probability; I know your character is the reason why everyone’s on this quest, but he’s dead now.”

      {Playing with easy access to raise dead is like playing Poker with fake chips, when there’s nothing at stake the game is less fun.}

      Yet people play poker just for fun (not money), and people get excited about watching sports events even though they personally have nothing at stake (if the Green Bay Packers win or lose the Superbowl, you don’t gain or lose anything from that).

      {What I would say on this point is that you say there is a cost to raise dead to back up your argument that raise dead isn’t trivial. If that’s the case then why not keep the 5,000gp cost?}

      Why 5,000 gp? Why not 1,000? Or 10,000? Or 10% of your wealth by level?
      The 5,000 gp cost is completely arbitrary, and it was added in 3E. There’s no justification for it. The game got along without it for 25 years… why did we suddenly need to add it? Were people being raised too often? We have no answers. Without answers, it’s just a baseless assertion, or an argument based on emotion, not logic.

      {3) Yup I could play the game a different way but you could say that about any rule. It doesn’t say anything about the quality of the rule in question one way or the other.}

      Except it’s an arbitrary late addition to the rules, there’s no real justification or precedent for it, and it doesn’t make the game better (and in fact makes the game worse because it encourages metagaming).

      {The difference between these and raise dead is that plane shift and teleport do nothing to reduce risk to the player characters.}

      False. With Teleport, you can bypass all of the dangerous encounters the GM places between you and the dungeon. You’re bypassing risk.

      {If players have teleport then a GM knows that and so you remove encounters on the road and instead put extra encounters where they are going.}

      If the dungeon is on the other side of the desert, and I have 5 encounters planned with desert barbarians and desert monsters, I’m supposed to now add those encounters to the dungeon? Or different encounters?

      In other words:
      Teleport is okay, even though it creates more work for the GM.
      Raise Dead is not okay, even though it means the player can get back to actually playing their character sooner.

      {So long as one player survives a fight then you’re golden.}

      I didn’t realize that “as long as one people survives, the story can continue” was a bad thing. :)

      {It removes risk and therefore removes tension and investment.}

      It actually does none of those things. Just because Raise Dead doesn’t cost 5,000 gp doesn’t mean it no longer sucks if your character dies. Raise Dead didn’t cost 5,000 gp for the first 25 years of D&D, and death most certainly sucked back then.

      {Also heading into the planes to get your friends soul back is an epic quest,}

      No, it’s a 5th-level spell with a casting time of 1 standard action, it’s not an epic quest.

      {4) Yes but… There’s a PFS scenario where a major NPC is killed and it’s permanent. Every time I have discussed that scenario with anyone the same question comes up “why doesn’t he just get raised?” It totally undermines the intended shock factor when there’s no adequate answer to that and to date there has been no adequate explanation beyond “it’s costly.”}

      Or “they cut his head off and kept it, so he needs Resurrection” instead of Raise Dead, and we don’t have access to a 13th-level cleric.
      Or they burned his body to ash.
      Or we can’t find his body.

      {Sure not everybody has the resources to get a raise dead but Kings? Queens? Ambassadors? Generals? Sure no problem. By making it 450gps a pop that brings it into the sights of anyone with a medium sized business. That dramatically changes the make up of any world in which this exists and not for the better.}

      This is no different than from how difficult it was to use Raise Dead in 1E or 2E. Why did it suddenly become necessary in 3E to add this cost? No answers.

      {5) Yup the rules make no sense. I agree with that. So change them. You are writing this game, why adhere to rules that make no sense?}

      I am changing them: I’m accepting that in a world where great heroes can fly, teleport across the world in an instant, permanently give an animal or plant human-level intelligence, travel to Hell and back, enslave a person’s will for days at a time, swap bodies and souls with an unwilling creature, bind demons against their will, summon angels, make temporary magic permanent, create intelligent free-willed undead out of corpses, and demand answers from deities, that cramming a willing person’s soul back into their own body isn’t difficult.

      {6) Yup they are expected to succeed, they are also expected to be challenged otherwise you may as well just narrate each fight.}

      If you want the PCs to be challenged every fight, don’t use CR = APL encounters, use CR = APL +1, +2, +3, or +4.

      {7) Nope don’t agree here. Yes players are the focus, I agree with that, but if the only way to become experienced and powerful is to adventure then that makes for a wacky world. Is every NPC in a game world an ex adventurer? That’s Kung Fu Hustle logic. I’m absolutely fine with Canon Jim the cleric being 9th level because he’s led his flock in a devout and pious manner and been rewarded as a result. Just because the players get experience in one way doesn’t mean that that’s the only route to market.}

      Then we’ll have to disagree about whether it’s lame that NPCs can level up safely at home and PCs have to level up by risking their lives on a daily basis. (“The GM’s characters have an easier time than the players’ characters do” is sure to be very popular with your players, whether you’re talking about leveling, running a business, crafting magic items, or anything else.)

      {8) I somewhat agree here. But again this does go back to the point that 450 gps is not exactly much to reverse death…}

      It’s more than what a typical commoner with a trade skill earns in a year.

      Someone making $10/hour has a total income (gross, not profit) of about $20k per year. A life-threatening injury that costs $20k is enough to bankrupt that person; it’s not “not much” to a typical person. But to a lawyer who makes $100k per year, it’s quite worth it. To a millionaire, it’s chump change.

      Adventurers are wealthy. They carry around multiple +1 weapons, each of which is worth more than an *entire town.*

      {9) …The problem is that death is (and should be) a far more significant deal than filth fever.}

      To a 9th-level character, death is the new filth fever, just as HIV (manageable with medication, not the death sentence it was in the 80s) is the new herpes.

      {As for Breath of Life? I love that spell because it injects a sense of urgency into proceedings that raise dead doesn’t.}

      And the last half of my Q9 response addresses that urgency. Why is “1 round” the cutoff for urgency, rather than 1 minute?

      {On the other hand no-one has any cool “I went to the temple to get Bob raised” stories.}

      You should read a novel called The Sleeping Dragon, it’ll prove you wrong.

      {11) Unless reversing death is a matter of squiggling your fingers for a minute.}

      Or for six seconds, if you’re casting Breath of Life.

      {12) Sure rule 0 is important but it’s not by itself a defence of a rule. “Change it if you don’t like it” doesn’t make the rule good.}

      … see above with my comment how the 5,000 gp cost was added in the 2000 edition of the game, after 25 years without it.

      {14) Time out of the game is the big cost? Meh. That’s not a cost, I’m sorry it just isn’t.}

      Then you play a very strange RPG where not being able to play isn’t a cost. If it’s fun to play, but it’s just as fun to not-play, why are you playing at all?

      {Death should be treated differently because it is a big deal. It shouldn’t be a road bump equivalent to a hold spell. It should have far more significance than that.}

      It does have far more significance than than… until you’re powerful enough to punch a (CR 9) tyrannosaurus to death. It’s a different game at 9th level.

      {Also some of my best characters are ones I bought in halfway through a campaign after a player character death.}

      “Some of.” My point exactly.

      {I love when characters die in a cool way.}

      Access to Raise Dead hasn’t changed that.

      {I don’t want to invalidate a heroic death or heroic stand by casting a spell.}

      Q12, don’t accept the offered Raise Dead.

      {That removes the significance of the death. Any heroic death in fiction: Sturm, Boromir, Spock is invalidated if it’s easily reversible.}

      There have been a zillion meaningful comic book deaths that were reversed. Heck, the premise of Captain America is about a character who died a heroic death… and came back. And (spoilers) Captain America: Winter Soldier is also about a character who died a heroic death, a character that everyone assumed was still dead, but wasn’t.

      {Actually Spock is a good example. His death in Wrath of Khan is one of the defining moments not only in Star Trek but in all of Sci-Fi cinema. Why? Because his death and sacrifice had meaning. Sure it was reversed but that cost other lives in an epic quest.}

      Star Trek is also a *setting* where it’s impossible to revive the dead, but easy to teleport.

      {Compare that with Kirk’s “death” in Into Darkness. The setup is basically the same but I just didn’t care. Why? Because I knew that the blood from the genetically enhanced people would just bring him back. There was no risk because I saw the (pretty telegraphed) out.}

      Or perhaps you didn’t care because it was obvious they weren’t going to kill off Kirk in the second movie, and obvious that they were making a WoK parallel.

      {Back from the dead is fine as long as it’s not overused and in comics boy has it been overused! People are even complaining about it being overused in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.}

      People like to complain about things.

      {Instead I took the opportunity to come back as a character who added a new aspect to the game.}

      So you made a *choice* for your first character to stay dead and bring in another character. Why would you deny another player that choice? Perhaps this other player thinks their first character’s role in the story isn’t done.

      {17) It does however support the concept of doing ridiculous things because death isn’t an issue. “Hey Bob I’m almost dead so rather than climb I’ll just jump off this cliff, raise me when you get to the bottom kay?”}

      “Sure, Tony, but you’re an idiot because you’ll be stuck with 1 or 2 negative levels for at least a week.”

      {Yeah sure that’s a silly example but the idea of a guy running back into the fight on 5hp because death isn’t an issue is valid. If I choose to put myself at risk like that I want it to have a proper consequence.}

      {Even then what are the most memorable scenes in video game history? Some that spring to mind are Aerith in Final Fantasy VII, The end of Halo Reach, Mordin and Kaiden/Ashley’s sacrifices in the Mass Effect series. These are all deaths but they will live with me until I die because they were so brilliantly done. However for this to be done they had to be divorced from the game mechanics.}

      Yes, they’re epic deaths that you were able to observe because *your* character could easily return to life by using a saved game or a saved point. Or did you play those games “iron man” style, where if you died, you started over at the very beginning?

      • Sean, as a note:

        It has been pretty common amongst GMs who write their own scenarios, that dangers bypassed on the road to the dungeon are:

        1) random encounters that really don’t matter in the grand scheme of the adventure.
        2) will be moved to the road taken. The road not taken doesn’t obviate danger.
        3) there is no real danger except for the passage of time between the city and the dungeon.
        4) Bypassing some encounters may actually harm the chances of success as those are the encounters you can get special clues or information, or some other plot point that causes difficulty if missed.

        I can keep going, but I think the point is made. Teleportation to avoid danger doesn’t really do anything to be honest because then you are missing the experience you’d get for encountering those dangers, and you maybe aren’t the right level to face the final badguy.

        I don’t buy the analogy, because its discussing apples and oranges.

      • *shrug* I think your play experience is very different from mine, so much so that I won’t be able to convince you of this point.

        I repeat: you can add any sort of restriction into any game you play, and it’s a lot easier to do that than to remove a restriction that’s hardcoded into the rules.

    • @Iain’s points:

      Every heroic death you cite is one that occurs in a setting where resurrection is meant to be difficult or non-existent. And every complaint can be appeased by simply adding the cost back on, or a different cost, or removing the spell. That’s not Rule 0 (“It’s not broken because I can fix it”).

      It should be a rule that you can’t invoke Rule 0 if you’re making non-mechanical changes, or changes that make it possible to play in a given setting.

      A light, setting-neutral rule designed to be easily added to for setting flavor is not a broken rule, and adding to it is not “fixing” it. On the contrary, that’s using it exactly as intended. You have a simple, baseline rule that can be supplemented with any imaginable, unforeseeable flavor. On the other hand, a rule that is too specific (requiring you to remove aspects from it in order to make it work in your setting) IS broken and you ARE fixing it if you have a need to pare it down. Because it’s so much easier to add flavor to a rule than it is to selectively remove words from the all-holy RAW.

      Ironically, completely removing a rule also doesn’t violate Rule 0. If your setting is the setting of The Walking Dead (a friendly reminder *no spoilers* just in case), the only possible solution to this problem is to completely remove any means of resurrection (beyond CPR and other emergency medical procedures that are still possible to perform, of course).

      So given the choice between having an ambiguous rule (in the sense that it isn’t excessively specific) and a rule that tries to specify too much, I’ll choose the ambiguous one. Because I can easily add to it, or easily remove it. Neither violates Rule 0, because the reasons for doing either are setting specific, not mechanical.

  12. It’s fine if death is trivial, but it’s one of those weird things that you have to acknowledge that’s weird about the setting. Playing in a setting where death is trivial creates an entirely new outlook on life. Where survival is not necessarily about being the fittest. It creates a dependency on that which gives them more life. Death as punishment would no longer be so bad. Battles would not have quite the same stigma. Sniping out the leader of an army with stealth wouldn’t be as useful as just kidnapping them. People would be able to identify their murderers.

    It’s a really cool concept. But if you’re not prepared for the ramifications, it can just as well be a headache.

    But you don’t want to punish the players too badly, you want to give them a way to recover. That’s why there’s the raise dead spell in the first place. However, as a way of avoiding the problem of the above, you need a cost. I suppose that was what the diamond was supposed to be, but 3.5 had a way of trivializing rarity with gold amount and wbl.

    Anyway, there is another way to deal with it, that doesn’t include setting changing mechanics. Just don’t have the characters die from trivial traps or monsters when they go down. Death in D&D is not necessarily realistic anyway. People keep fighting after being slashed/burned/shot a bunch of times yet continuing to fight at full power but suddenly that one attack and they bleed out for 30 seconds and die. That’s not realistic anyway.

    So why not just leave it at they don’t die immediately, they just have trouble recovering.for the fight (or maybe they can keep trying to get back). They are player characters, why do they have to follow the same rules of npcs. In fantasy, protagonists have a certain level of plot immunity and don’t normally die in stupid ways; if they do die, it is because it was cool and they normally accomplish something with it.

    You might have to restructure your mindset, but it makes sense for most fantasy settings.

    • I (and other posters) have similar thoughts along those lines, such as an “incapacitated” condition that takes you out of combat (leaving death for deliberate things like decapitation, being eaten by a monster, falling into lava, etc.).

    • ” Playing in a setting where death is trivial creates an entirely new outlook on life.”
      Setting wise, Five Moons is a rather early world, if I recall right, only within last 1-2years? that the barrier between all the lands was broken. So there’s going to be quite a cluster of cultures on death smashing about, not all of them likely having access to 18th level abilities.

      I find it odd of it being mentioned as common, when its going to be in the hands of some of the most powerful beings in Five Moons setting. While I’m not sure how many 18th-19th level NPC’s/threats will exist in Five Moons, I’m not so sure they’ll be changing up the culture so quickly. Then again, in D&D-land, things drastically change within the span of a year, if not an entire season, entire kingdoms can rise and fall, in the time a farmer plants, grows,cultivating his crops to sell them to the market.

      That said, I do agree with an “Incapacitated/TKO/Knocked-Out/Swirly-eyes” type condition, as fitting for Heroic Fantasy. https://seankreynolds.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/the-triviality-of-death-in-3e/comment-page-1/#comment-3518

  13. IDEA: (pounded this out in about 10 minutes, so its pretty rough)

    The transition of the people to the world of FiveMoons RPG created an interesting side effect. Due to the mass deaths before the people adapted to the hostile environment, a queue of souls jam the connections to the outer planes. As such, death is not always the end of life. But to say it has no effect or is trivial would be a misrepresentation of the circumstances.

    The Dragons have noticed several souls that bear watching for their potential to do great things. These are the heroes. The tag the Dragons have put upon their soul removes them from the afterlife queue. Instead of passing on and needing magic to return, their soul re-enters their damaged body and they return to life to continue their heroic struggles. They will recover one hit point per minute until they are conscious.
    The rub, is that they will, over time, slowly rot away (turning into a Zombie Hero) and eventually a skeleton. Their constitution score becomes useless and they take on that trait of being undead (of not having a Constitution and all that entails.) And every {insert arbitrary time—perhaps a dynamic progression based on how close they are to 0 Con} they lose 1 Constitution point. When they hit 0, they are no longer able to be a player character and have become a skeleton NPC under the GM’s control.

    This gives the hero a chance to find the DNA Nodules hidden across the world. Once they do, they can perform a ritual around the nodule to restore their Constitution and remove their curse of undeath.

    This makes death meaningful, removes the punitive costs, ties it to the story of your campaign world, and I think is pretty cool.

  14. What if the problem isnt with the spell or its cost, but how the game treats death…

    What if what we know as death now is a new condition, call it Incapacitated for now.

    What does this mean…?

    Play the game as current, but at the point you die you instead gain this condition. normal curatives no longer work on you, so you cannot be brought back by cure/heal spells in the same encounter, now change the current raise, resurrections to act like different levels of cure/heal that do affect incapicitated characters, removing the condition, healing a little and allowing normal healing to work again.

    If you dont have access to them, the character hasnt died, the party instead do a couple of table minutes which equates to nursing the character for an hour, risking wandering monsters, etc, at the end of that time, the character can lose the condition and be healed normally… Back in the game, no major costs.

    But what of death… Have some sort of roll mechanic, whenever incapicitated is removed make a system shock test. 10% of the time, you actually die.

    Raise dead / resurrection can then be very high level, characters die a lot less, there is game tension during the quick to resolve nursing period and more often than not, the game may continue for all.

    Death is more meanigful as it becomes more rare, and the incapicatated doesnt have to roll a new character so often. If his party leave him after taking all his stuff, he could miraculously recover and hunt them down as a new nemesis 😊

    Hope taking a different slant hasnt derailed things too much.

      • “I believe Aryx[bez] had a similar suggestion about new condition that isn’t as “bad” as actual death, with similar consequences. :)”

        That I did!: https://seankreynolds.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/the-triviality-of-death-in-3e/comment-page-1/#comment-3518

        It’s in fact a thing I’ve used in my own campaigns, and for higher levels we were playing at, it proved to be very useful, without having to ‘water down’ the experience or anything like that. So Thank you Seankreynolds for mentioning it! It’s an idea I support 110%

        I also brought up that lot of 3E’s framework would be in need of tweaks to empower the non-caster types. Such as how in 3rd, Fighters and like had a worse action Economy to a spellcaster. Where a caster can fly 120ft+ while casting 2-8 spells a round, among other things if so desired. The fact that shields don’t affect BREATH WEAPONS, one of the most ICONIC, how heroes have trouble getting up from prone despite So much source material showing otherwise. Even how (un)sheathing weapons, and drinking potions are a big deal, despite it doesn’t carry the value the action it costs, and so many games waive the action to be way less intensive (I put it to a Swift/minor action in my games). Of Course, the list goes on, lot of these cobwebs that need to be cleaned, and what better than a game like Five Moons.

        Lastly, I’ve found Raise Dead arguing odd, since in Five Moons it comes online at a level which it would be common comic-book style anyway, or in regular D&D, a similar case.

  15. First, there’s no such thing as a “setting Neutral” game. Even adaptable RPG game systems, like GURPS, are not “setting neutral” (with no qualifiers). I have no idea what you’re driving at here.

    Second, Raise Dead doesn’t heal a still-living body but revives one that has undergone significant decay. Without embalming you have 3 days max (outside a frozen environment) before a dead body starts to stink big-time from rot. The body has already began significant cellular decay in minutes. Raise Dead fixes all that as well. Something no Cure Wounds spell (of any level) can do; something 1,000 Cure Serious Wounds spells can fix! Nor something that Heal (a 6th level spell!) can fix.

    –On to some of Sean’s post:
    “C) It brings up weird metagaming issues about the value of a diamond in a part of the world where they are rare vs. the part of the world where they are common, shining a light on the weirdness of the D&D economy.”

    Umm… if diamonds are “common” then a 5,000 gp diamond used to complete the casting of Raise Dead will be the size of my fist instead of the size of my thumbnail. “Problem” solved.

    –“Q10: Without the threat of death, what’s the point in playing at all?
    There are thousands of incredibly fun games where it is impossible for your character to die. Many of them are fantasy games.”

    So, if there are “thousands”, name twenty (that aren’t some obscure one-off game developed/published by “someone you know” but are games actually sold at FLGSs).

    –Under Footnote [3]:
    “In 3E, the Climb skill is a Strength skill, so by giving halflings a Str penalty (because they’re small), you’ve already given them a penalty on Climb rolls, so you don’t need to hit them again (with a racial Climb skill penalty).”

    Except the game does this all over the place. A high STR gives a greater chance of hitting and a greater amount of damage when you hit. But if you hit more often (from greater STR) then you’re already doing more damage! It also means your 18 STR PC can completely miss with his dagger OR do a minimum of 5 hp Dam. Suddenly, with high STR, your PC becomes unable to nick someone in melee.

    To quote Sean from earlier in his post: “That doesn’t make sense to me from a game mechanics standpoint.”

    –“Also note that 3E rules say a typical person dies 60 seconds after being brought below 0 hp by normal damage.”

    Aren’t you overlooking the save-to-stabilize each round? Unattended a person would die quite sometime later, on average.

    –“Some costly material components are in the game to offset creating countless permanent effects. For example, without a gp cost, there’s no reason why a temple wouldn’t have glyph of warding plastered all over every available surface, keyed to that temple’s god, so that anyone not of the faith would be constantly setting off glyph explosions.”

    Actually, a really old temple would quite logically be covered quite well for that sort of thing. Both from a game-mechanic and RP-setting POV, that would work good. After a thousand years what temple wouldn’t be the game equivalent of Ft Knox?

    Also, you say nothing about the fact that the process of PCs dying typically is very, very painful. You want to RP? Then RP ways PCs win without taking (much) damage ’cause that would be more believable than soaking up damage like a sponge knowing more hp are only a cleric’s touch (and 6 seconds) away.

    Also, you want verisimilitude to your RP sessions? Then have PCs suffer PTSD.

  16. One of the arguments mentions plane shift and how it doesn’t make much sense that it’s more difficult to bring someone back to life than physically transport a group of people to the after life. There’s another spell power comparison that doesn’t really make much sense to me: polymorph spells. As a 9th level ability, I have the power to PERMANENTLY transform a mighty dragon into a chicken and completely brainwash him into having the mind of a farm animal. Yet, I can only change a man into an elf or change someone’s gender for a few minutes?

    It’s a shame because I think Pathfinder does polymorph spells really well.

    • I agree, and I was annoyed enough with the PF polymorph rules that I wrote half a book on how to revamp the whole system. Then I started working on Five Moons and fixing PF polymorph became much less important… :)

      • The polymorph spells in 3.5e/PF bothered me because most of the spells only work for the caster, despite them not very useful for a low BAB wizard. Additionally, many spells only do minor alterations, but get the “transmutation (polymorph)” label, causing them to become incompatible despite the designer likely using the subschool for flavor reasons. It’s a shame, because transfiguration is a big trope in fantasy and fairy tales. Many would love to play a wizard that buffs allies by turning the fighter into a beast man, temporarily turns a foe’s hands into hooves to make them drop their weapon, or transform a rat into a steed to use as a mount.

        I’d love to see those new polymorph rules. I hope they make it into Five Moons, especially since shapeshifting magic plays a major role in the setting.

  17. Pingback: Designer Talk: When the Game is TOO Complex | Five Moons RPG

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