Here at AdventureAWeek, we produce high quality adventures in both the D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder formats. Luckily for us, the two systems are very similar, so it’s easy to write for both systems. However, there are just enough differences between the two that you can’t use a 3.5 character in PF as is and vice versa. There need to be a few changes made. One of my many jobs at AaW is to make sure that all of the monster stat blocks are converted correctly. I’m going to give you a few times on how to do that.
The first thing you need to be able to do is to be able to recognize when something is in one format, but not the other. The Listen skill is 3.5, whereas Vital Strike is a Pathfinder feat. If you don’t have access to the 3.5 Player’s Handbook and the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, you can use the same tools we do, which are the D&D 3.5 Wiki (http://www.dandwiki.com/wiki/Main_Page) and the D&D Hypertext (http://www.d20srd.org/) and the Pathfinder System Reference Document ( http://www.d20pfsrd.com/). These are invaluable resources.
Secondly, understand the formatting differences. The two systems use largely different formats for their stat blocks, plus different terms in their blocks. But I’ll get into the different terms as I go along. I’m not going to get into the differences in formatting, as they should be fairly obvious.
The biggest differences between the two systems are Skills, Feats, and the CMB/CMD/Base Attack/Grapple systems. Almost everything else stays the same.
Skills are the biggest change, because there are no more “cross-class skills” in Pathfinder. There are now Class Skills and Non-Class Skills. Instead of putting half-ranks into cross-class skills like in 3.5, in Pathfinder, you put in single points. If you put one skill point into a class skill, for that first point, you get a +3 instead of +1. If you put one skill point into a non-class skill, for that first point, you get +1. Obviously, this doesn’t count in the ability modifier. Also, you don’t multiply your skill points by four at 1st level.
The biggest difference in Skill between the two systems is that numerous D&D 3.5 skills that were folded into single skills in Pathfinder. Hide and Move Silently became Stealth. Listen, Search, and Spot became Perception. Balance, Jump, and Tumble became Acrobatics. Decipher Script, Forgery, and Speak Language became Linguistics. Open Lock is now part of Disable Device. Gather Information is now part of Diplomacy. Use Rope is now part of the CMB/CMD system. So, how do you convert them?
The most accurate way is to break down how many skills points this particular monster should have and go through and figure it out by hand. For us, however, time is usually not something we have a lot of, so I’ve devised a way to do a quick and dirty conversion which, while not 100% accurate, is accurate enough for game play. I’ve never seen one or two extra skill points break a game.
Going from 3.5 to Pathfinder, the easiest way is to simply keep the same score, but add the new skill name. For example, if a monster had a +5 in each of Balance, Jump, and Tumble, change it to Acrobatics +5. Going from Pathfinder to 3.5, it can be a little more difficult, but really, just look at the concept of your monster before deciding which skills to use. If your monster has a Pounce attack, it should probably have Jump as opposed to Tumble. If it’s an underwater monster, you might want to give it ranks in Listen instead of Spot.
On to Feats. There are no feats that disappeared from 3.5, but quite a few changed due to the changes in skills. The Stealthy feat gives a bonus to Stealth (PF) instead of Hide and Move Silently (3.5). There are also quite a few new feats in Pathfinder In the 3.5 Player’s Handbook, there are two pages of feats. In the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, 3 ¾ pages of feats, so there’s a much greater variety to choose from. When doing conversions, just like skills, understand the concept of the monster and the feats should be easy to figure out.
Lastly, the Base Attack/Grapple and Combat Maneuver Bonus/Combat Maneuver Defense mechanics. All of the various combat maneuver mechanics in 3.5 have been replaced by the CMB score. The CMB is pretty easy to figure out. The Base Attack Bonus should given in the stat block. The formula for Grapple is:
Base Attack Bonus + Strength Modifier + Size Modifier
In most cases, the CMB is the same as your Grapple score. The formula for CMB is:
Base Attack Bonus + Strength Modifier + Size Modifier
You roll a d20, add your CMB to see if it beats your opponents CMD. The defense from combat maneuvers in handled by the CMD score. The formula for CMD is:
CMB + Dexterity Modifier
That’s it. Just add the Dexterity modifier to your CMB and you’ve got your CMD. Piece of cake.
Note: A creature can also add any circumstance, deflection, dodge, insight, luck, morale, profane, and sacred bonuses to AC to its CMD.
Those are the major difference in stat blocks between the two editions, other than formatting. Just make sure you take your time and converting from one to the other should be easy.
Children of the Night: Making Vampires Scary Again
“I am Dracula. And I bid you welcome, Mr. Harker, to my house.”
Dracula (1897), Bram Stoker.
There was a point in fiction and gaming, not so long ago, that vampires were villains. They were monsters and people were right to fear them. They had great strength, speed, and many abilities that normal humans could not cope with. These days, it’s all sparkly skin and brooding angst and self-loathing, with a vampire playing the sometimes-reluctant hero. As a huge fan of vampires, while I don’t have anything against the vampire hero, I miss the days of the vampire being the villain and being feared.
In this week’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’m going to give you some tips and ideas on how to make vampires scary again.
Bumps in the Night
One of the many things that vampires represent is the fear of the dark, of the unknown. However, it’s not the dark itself that people find frightening, it’s what’s in the dark that is scary. Rats. Bats. Snakes and spiders. All of these things are creeping while you’re sleeping and sometimes, you don’t know they’re there, but you might think they’re there and that’s enough.
The vampire has a few abilities that can allow you to play into that fear of the unknown. The first is Children of the Night. This ability allows the vampire to call rat swarms, bat swarms, or wolves that serve the vampire for up to one hour. Using these allies to harass and harry the PCs can run the PCs ragged, making them use resources that would make a confrontation with the vampire easier. One thing to remember about this ability is that if your base creature is an outsider or has a non-terrestrial subtype, you might want to consider letting the vampire summon other creatures, such as half-fiend wolves or a barghest or hellhounds instead of wolves and a vargouille instead of bats.
The second ability is Dominate. This allows a vampire to control someone as though the vampire had used dominate person by 12th level caster. That means this ability lasts for twelve days. The reason this is frightening is that the PCs can’t know for sure that one of their allies is under the control of a vampire or not. Assuming the party knows that a vampire is involved, this can cause rifts in the party, which can only make things easier for the vampire. Even if they don’t know a vampire is involved, assuming the party posts guard at their camp during the night, their guard could become compromised due to this ability and the rest of the party wouldn’t even know it.
The third and fourth abilities are the vampire’s ability to change shapes. The vampire can take the form of a dire bat, a wolf, or assume a gaseous form. These powers can be used to play a cat-and-mouse game with the PCs. As the PCs chase the vampire, the vampire can change shape, so that they don’t notice the bat, which then starts following them in gaseous form, only to appear in front of them as a wolf later on.
Lastly is the vampire’s spider climb ability. This lets the vampire climb any surface as if they were under the spider climb spell. The vampire turns a corner ahead of the PCs, but when the party turns the same corner, there’s not sign of the vampire, because the vampire climbed straight up the wall and is hanging from the ceiling above them. Since most people don’t think to look up, the vampire can hide easily. And when you add in the vampire’s +4 bonus to Dexterity and a +8 racial bonus to Stealth, this becomes even easier.
Wile E. Coyote: Super Genius
In a previous blog, I talked about how to make your villain really evil and all of those traits can be used with the vampire, but if there’s one thing that infuriates players, it’s having an enemy that’s smarter than they are. Build the vampire as brilliant and don’t forget to add their +2 Intelligence bonus from the template. Pairing the power of a genius with the vampire’s +4 to Charisma and +8 to Bluff, Perception, and Sense Motive can allow you to play the vampire in a way that will prevent the players from being able to tell exactly what the vampire knows and what they don’t.
A genius makes their opponents approach them at less than full power. Therefore, a genius will set up challenges and encounters for the PCs that require the PCs to use up their resources, such as healing potions, healing spells, scrolls, wands, and most importantly, hit points. If the vampire can use minions that do ability damage or ability drain, the party will most likely be weaker when they finally get to the vampire.
Change Things Up
The current view of vampires is that they males are square-jawed and handsome and the females are the most beautiful, most sensual/sexual things on the planet. Even the picture in the Pathfinder Bestiary is fairly sexualized. But if you look back at the movie Nosferatu (1922), the vampire Count Orlock was hideous and looked like an anthropomorphized rat. By making a vampire look different or giving them different abilities than what the players are expecting can make a vampire scary.
One way to do this is add the vampire template to a humanoid creature other than a human being or to add the template to a character that has class levels. A vampire Cleric would certainly be interesting and unexpected.
You could change the gaseous form ability to invisibility or make the regular bloodsucker into a psychic vampire by having them damage Intelligence or Wisdom instead of Constitution. This way, you can let the vampire attack without having to grapple, say an attack range of 30 ft., and the victim could have a Will Save (I’d say DC 25 or so).
My personal favorite way to alter monsters is to use the Monster Modifier by Adamant Entertainment. With a few rolls of the dice, you can completely alter the way a monster looks, how it moves, or what it can do. For example, I was running a module for my Pathfinder group that contained a monster called a barrow spider. The party was a higher level than the module, so I was adjusting as I went. I got to the barrow spider and got out the Monster Modifier. A few rolls of the dice later, the spider was one size category larger, was a different color and had 12 legs instead of 8. The four extra were two human legs and two grasshopper legs, which gave the spider ranks in Jump, which was a surprise to the group.
You can find the Monster Modifier at DriveThruRPG here: Monster Modifier. It’s $2 and in my opinion, very much worth the investment.
By mixing things up, you can really throw the party for a loop. Is the vampire not a spellcaster but can suddenly use fireballs? Is their dominate ability changed to a gaze attack that paralyzes or petrifies instead of commanding? What if the vampire can change into an elemental instead of a bat or a wolf? If your base creature has spellcasting ability and can use alter self (and it’s chain of spells), elemental body, or beast shape, this can also help throw the heroes off the scent by changing into other people, elemental creatures, or animals other than a rat or a bat.
Casting Against Type
The “standard” image of the vampire is well dressed and well mannered. An opera cape and a widow’s peak don’t hurt either. But what if your vampire is nothing but a flying head, like the penanggalen, or a spirit that doesn’t have a physical form, like the lamia from Greek myth (which is totally different than the lamia presented in the Bestiary 3)? In Filipino myth, the aswang was a woman who, after rubbing a magical ointment on their skin, turned into a large bird that flew through the village and released a long, pointed tongue that the aswang would use to drain blood. There are also stories of vampiric rabbits, so using animal vampires is also possible.
Because the vampire template can be added to humanoids, fey, or monstrous humanoids and not just humans, your options expand greatly for the base creature. A vampiric Minotaur. A vampiric pixie. A vampiric storm giant. Let your imagination run wild.
There are a few classic weaknesses of the vampire, such as garlic, the crucifix, and mirrors. Vampires also have an aversion to running water and sunlight. Everyone who has seen a vampire movie will know these weaknesses and act on them. The best way to combat this is to alter or remove weaknesses. There have been jokes and movies that have to deal with Jewish vampires that aren’t repelled by the cross, but are driven back by the Star of David. Use that. If your base creature is part of a particularly strong religion, replace the crucifix with the religious symbol of that religion. If nothing else, that requires the characters to figure out why a crucifix didn’t work.
The vampiric aversion to mirrors was created in Dracula (1897), but has been interpreted as the vampire, being undead, has no soul, and therefore casts no reflection or shadow. If your vampire is a spellcaster or has a spellcaster on their staff, a simple application of the prestidigitation spell can either present a reflection or shadow or, if needed, remove a shadow or reflection to cast suspicion onto someone else.
Normally, a vampire cannot enter a private home or dwelling without permission of the owner, but adventurers usually stay at an inn or tavern; these are public places, so in that case, the vampire can enter freely. And there’s nothing in the rules that says the vampire has to gain permission while the PCs are standing there. If the party is helping with a “vampire problem,” then the vampire might have already obtained permission to enter someone’s house before they were suspected of being a vampire.
According to more modern vampire movies and books, vampires are destroyed by sunlight, but in Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula was capable of walking around in broad daylight. He wasn’t destroyed but he did lose his powers, making him more or less a normal human being. This can also help disorient the characters. If they see who they think is a vampire walking down the street at noon, they may be convinced that that person isn’t a vampire.
A stake to the heart (originally it was a spike to pin the corpse to the ground) will kill a vampire and the vampire will remain dead until the stake is removed, unless the head is cut off and the body burned or anointed with holy water. However, in one Batman comic, Batman fought a vampire who had removed his heart and hid it so that the vampire was unkillable until Bats found the heart and pierced it with an arrow. In this case, the heart worked similar to a lich’s phylactery. You can do all the damage to the body that you want, but until you find the heart, the vampire won’t die. This could be turned into a search through a haunted house for the vampire’s heart with the vampire and vampire spawn and minions hunting the PCs.
Another option in making your vampire menacing is to make them Lawful Evil and then team that vampire up with the PCs for some reason. They are ordered to accompany the vampire, but they only have his word that there will be no neck biting in the night (“But he’s evil!”). The party might be tempted to stake their “partner” in the day and be reluctant to trust him when it comes his time to stand guard. Have the PCs (particularly the female ones for a male vampire, males for a female vampire) make Perception/Spot checks when the entire party is together. If they succeed, they catch the vampire staring at their neck. Are they sure he is Lawful Evil? Maybe he’s Neutral Evil and simply playing a game with the PCs and will attack given any opportunity or even the worst possible moment.
This can also go back to the dominate ability. Perhaps the vampire has taken control of one of the party members or an NPC, like a hireling or follower, and the PCs aren’t aware of it. When will this NPC turn on the PCs and help the vampire?
Vampires, for all of their brooding and sparkling and their nice clothes and fancy accents, are predators. Watch other predators like lions and tigers. Do they stop and chat and try to seduce or dominate their prey? No. They chase their prey, bring them down, and tear into the flesh to get what they want. Make your vampire that way, too. If the PCs discover a body, the throat might be slashed open from side to side or the body even decapitated.
Unless the vampire has used its dominate ability, there should be nasty defensive wounds on the body, usually claw or bite marks on the outside of the arms. Since the vampire most likely has a high Strength score (Van Helsing said that Dracula had the strength of 20 men), broken bones and cracked ribs are a definite possibility.
A victim’s best bet is to hope for a Lawful Evil vampire. At least that way, there’s a chance of negotiating their way out. If the vampire is Neutral Evil or Chaotic Evil, then forget it. Unless you want the suave, sophisticated vampire, these two are the vampires you want to make your villains. They have no remorse and will do whatever they want.
Make them savage and cunning creatures of the night. Reduce the bonuses to Intelligence and Wisdom and increase the bonuses to Strength and Dexterity (for better Armor Class) or Strength and Charisma (for more hit points).
Mix it Up
When a party of PCs shows up at the bad guy’s door, the group is usually made up of various classes. When facing a (suspected) vampire, have the PC encounter various minions, each with a different skill set. This will make it more difficult to focus on one enemy (the vampire) because the various characters may be needed to deal with a specific threat.
For example, if the party has a Monk, the Monk may be needed to negate an enemy spellcaster. The Fighter, Barbarian, or Paladin (or possibly all of them) might be needed to handle the vampire’s “muscle.” Clerics might need to turn or damage undead that work for the vampire, as well as healing. And don’t be afraid to have the minions switch “partners” on the PCs. Keep the players (and their characters) on their toes!
Looking for Group
Vampires in fiction tend to fall into two types. The first type is the angsty loner who might or might not be trying to redeem himself. The second type is the “nest,” where any vampire can come and be considered “family.”
Just like any family, these vampires will work together to defend their home. The “savage” vampires will wade in and deal physical damage, while the psychic vampires can target the spellcasters, which usually stay in the back. The “normal” vampires can play the middle, by targeting melee types with their domination ability.
As with the section on mixing it up, vampires often kept human slaves or minions. These helpless or dominated minions might make assaulting a vampire lair more difficult. Do the slaves/minions immediately become enemies? Is it possible to save them? If the party does save them, what happens when the party gets them out? Will the vampire chase the party down to get his slaves back? Will the party be able to fight back while protecting the slaves or will everyone become too vulnerable? What will a vampire’s wrath contain?
So, there you go. Some tips and ideas on making vampires scary again.
A brave band of adventurers is fighting their way through Castle D’Evil, when Fortuitous the Brave, a Paladin of some renown, perishes under the overwhelming attack of the rabid dire badgers! Once the evil badgers have been dispatched, Porcini the Monk, to whom Fortuitous was betrothed, begins weeping openly for the loss of her love. Tankeroneous the Fighter places a comforting hand on Porcini’s should. “Don’t worry, Por. The nearest high-level cleric is only a day’s ride away! Forty will be back on his feet in no time!”
Death is something that everyone must face, especially RPG characters. It’s a fact of life, so to speak. As a group, you may allow for the “character’s twin brother” to appear, claim their stuff, and continue on. Or you might require the player to roll up a new character. But what are the actual effects of character death? Unfortunately, the questions that come from this topic are difficult to answer and, ultimately, the DM has to come up with those answers.
In this week’s Critical Hit to the Blog, I’ll be looking at character death and what it means for you (the DM), your players, your world in general, and what you can do about it. This week’s example character will be poor Fortuitous the Brave. This article was inspired by “Back From the Dead” in Dragon #210 and “Cheating Death” in Dragon #342.
WHO Am I?
So, Fortuitous is dead. Maybe he was eaten by wolves or zapped by a Wizard or they suffered from a terminal case of pointy-metal-stick-to-the-gutsosis. But it just so happens that a wandering (or wondering) Cleric strolls by and by taking 1 minute out of his day (and giving up a diamond worth 5,000 gp), casts raise dead, and Fortuitous is back! Huzzah! More stabbing!
But wait. Is Fortuitous the same person he was before he died? What did Fortuitous experience when they were dead? Heaven? Hell? The Abyss? Celestia? New Jersey? Was he happy where he was, only to be sucked back to earth for another chance to put the beating on the evil archmage? Okay, I know that the character’s soul must be free and willing to return to the body for any of the raise dead chain of spells to work, but the point remains. It’s possible to guilt a soul into coming back, I suppose.
But I’m getting off topic.
Anyway, the description for raise dead in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook says, “Coming back from the dead is an ordeal.” Granted, the description continues with the physical description of the ordeal (2 permanent negative levels or 2 points of Constitution drain, depending on level), but what about the mental ordeal?
If Fortuitous is a melee type and is constantly getting hurt and healed, dying might not be so bad. Physical trauma can be mentally wearying. Death would give Forty a way to not be beat up anymore more. It might be peaceful and welcoming.
Coming back from the dead should have an effect on your character other than what’s listed in the rules. Fortuitous the Brave may develop a phobia regarding what killed him. If Orcs killed him, role-play the fear that comes up the next time Orcs appear! Fortuitous, a Greatsword-focused Paladin, may suddenly switch to a crossbow because he’s afraid of dying again.
More questions arise. If your character dies and is resurrected, who gets his stuff? Fortuitous died, right? That means his property should go to his heirs or family. If there are none, the party usually splits the gear. But he’s alive again, right? Does he still have a claim on his gear, land, and holdings? Is he still betrothed to Porcini?
A Cleric who can cast resurrection is a minimum of 13th level. The rules for resurrection (and true resurrection) state that a Cleric can bring someone back to life as long as they haven’t been dead more than 10 years per caster level!
So, there’s King Filetmignon, happily ruling his country, when his (great x4) grandfather, King Fortuitous (he got a lot of promotions) comes striding through the door, still brushing dirt off of his burial clothes, demanding to have the throne back. Who has the rightful claim to the throne?
If Fortuitous is declared the King, and he didn’t die of natural causes, those that killed him will want to kill him again. If he’s not declared King, he may think he deserves to be King and raise an army to take on the “usurper.” How do the PCs react to the situation? Are they part of the King’s Guard? If so, which King do they follow? Are any of the PCs related to the current King or King Fortuitous? That could be awkward.
Let’s say our pal Forty and Porcini got married, but alas, poor Forty was ambushed by the Rabid Badger Gang and died. Porcini is devastated, but eventually gets over her grief and married Tankeroneous. Then, thirty years later, Fortuitous walks in the door to find his wife in the arms of his friend. Now, most marriages are “’til death do us part’ and Forty died. But he’s back and alive now. Are Forty and Por still married? Would Porcini still want to be married to Fortuitous?
The PCs enter the dungeon of Castle D’Evil and they fight their way through the monstrous guardians and make off with the loot. What happens a couple of months later when Fauntleroy D’Evil (he gets around), resurrected by a cohort, has lawyers that appear and want all of their (now re-living) client’s stuff back? They have a list of what was taken and want every single gold piece back. What then? If they can’t return everything, having spent the gold and traded away magical item, does it go to court?
WHAT Am I?
So, Fortuitous has been killed and brought back to life. Is he alive or undead? The use of Necromancy might lead some people to say that Forty is now some type of intelligent undead. This could lead to some Cleric orders refusing to deal with “his type” or anybody who associates with him. This could be difficult for the party to get healing or magical assistance.
But wait. I hear you saying “All undead are evil!” Forty was a good guy in life, so he couldn’t possibly be evil in undeath could he? Actually, yes he can. Every undead listed in the three Pathfinder Bestiaries has Evil in their alignment.
Let’s say that Forty, who was Lawful Good in life, was turned into a vampire, and became Chaotic Evil. As he’s contemplating his now immortal life, he decides to go through some of the loot he meant to deal with, but never had time. He puts on this nifty looking helmet that happens to be a helm of opposite alignment. With the helm, both axes of alignment change to the opposite, so Forty the Vampire is now (again) Forty the Lawful Good Vampire. He goes to the King and explains the situation and is believed, so he pledges to protect the King as long as he is able.
Sixty years down the line, a group of adventurers is hired to destroy a vampire that haunts the castle. Guess who? That’s right, a rival of the King hired the adventurers to take out Fortuitous so that the rival could get a shot at the throne. The group manages to kill Forty! Hooray! No more vampire!
But another twist! The King had decided (and wrote down) that Forty counted as a citizen, so killing him is murder and whoever killed him would be brought to justice, just as if they had killed the dockworker or the apple cart salesman. Does the King resurrect Fortuitous again, in hopes for another semi-immortal protector or reward him by letting him rest in peace?
The easiest way to avoid these problems is to simply say to your players, before play begins, “There is no coming back from death. If you die, you roll up a new character.” Personally, though, I hate using the “Because I said so” reason and prefer an in-game reason. That’s what this section is about.
Ways and Means
First off, you can limit who has access to resurrection magic. Maybe only certain (evil) religions (or cults) that worship the God or Goddess of Death have access to resurrection. Maybe there is a special rite all petitioners must go through for the church. If the party contains a Paladin, or especially if the Paladin is the one who died, the Paladin probably won’t want to come back, if he’s being raised by an evil organization. Deeper still, if the party gets a member resurrected by this evil church/cult, then the party might owe the organization a favor on top of the price for the spell.
Even deeper yet, the political power of such a cult increases dramatically as the rich and powerful are indebted to the cult, especially if this church is the only one with access to that magic.
Make each raise dead, resurrection, or true resurrection unique to each dead person, so the party’s Cleric can’t prepare those spells “just in case.” If a party member dies, then the Cleric must prepare one of those spells the next time they prepare all of their spells.
Require a feat at 9th level (the lowest level needed to cast raise dead) to cast resurrection spells. This makes the Cleric have to decide if resurrection magic is important enough to take a feat to cast it.
Make resurrection spells rare by placing them on scrolls that need to be adventured for or that are exorbitantly priced. Place a specific church’s seal on the scroll, so that only a specific church or member of that church can use the scroll.
The Deity of Death does not give up souls without getting something in return. A life for a life. Potentially, the Deity may tell the party that, in addition to the normal spell components for resurrection, that the Cleric must sacrifice a creature of the same time. This might raise a few objections among the party, especially if Forty isn’t the one who is actually dead (for once).
Places and Times
Another way to limit resurrection magic is to limit when or where it can be used.
Many cultures believe that there is an actual realm where the spirits of the dead rest after death. Make the party venture to the Land of the Dead to find the soul they need and convince the soul to return to the body when the spell is cast.
If the party needs a rift or gateway to get to the Land of the Dead, they will have to find one and it may be guarded. The PCs would have to negotiate with whomever hold the rift, owing favors (as above), money, or even loyalty. Even if there is no one currently guarding such a portal, there’s nothing to say that ghouls, ghasts, or other undead might have gathered, drawn in by the link to the Land of the Dead. At that point, the party has to decide whether it’s worth trying to fight through the opposition, possibly losing more members, to get to the portal or spend more time looking for another location. Not to mention a potential chance of another, possibly malevolent, spirit coming through the portal as well. If that happens, the rest of the party must defend the Cleric while the Cleric is casting the spell. This would be made extra difficult because the party is already down one member (the dead one) and are now down another (the Cleric), especially since the Cleric wouldn’t be able to use any of their abilities to help damage or turn the undead.
Next is the Eve of Spirits. Halloween is considered by some to be the day that the fabric between the realms of the living and the dead are the thinnest, allowing spirits to cross from one to the other. This can happen once a year (a specific holiday), four times a year (solstices and equinoxes or the day the seasons change), or once a month (three days of the full moon). You could also place this Eve once per week, such as on the Deity’s holy day in the hour of noon or midnight.
The positive side to this is that it limits the use of resurrection magic because of the short time window the party has to bring the character back to life. The negative side is, you guessed it, that it limits the use of resurrection magic because of the short time window the party has to bring the character back to life.
Another positive to this is that the DM can reinforce the importance of the day by having festivals or processions to remember certain events or people. The DM can also introduce spiritual phenomena, such as faint wailing or moaning being heard, small objects being moved, ghostly writing appearing in the dust or dirt, or someone feeling a chill when moving through a certain place (feel free to add your own).
Missed it By That Much
But what happens if someone is brought back to life without it being the Deity’s holy day or the spirit hasn’t been spoken to? Does the spell still work? Or does the PC come back…different? Here are a couple of options for the time-crunched PC who doesn’t want to wait until next Thursday before coming back to life.
The spell works and the PC comes back to life. Mostly. Until the PC can get to a priest of the Deity of the Dead on the Deity’s holy day, the PC doesn’t progress. They don’t gain XP or new levels, so now more hp, skills, or feats until they complete the necessary steps to finish the rite to bring them back to life. It’s hard for the character to learn anything new and they have a hard time remembering anything that has happened since the day they died.
If you use this idea, I would suggest only doing this for a short time, as you don’t want the stunted character to fall too far behind, especially if raise dead was used, as that causes a loss of 2 levels.
Foot in the Grave
The character is brought back to life, but not completely. Their soul is stuck part way between the Land of the Living and the Land of the Dead.
Ways to portray this may be to make the character constantly fatigued, the character has a lower number of hit points (say, -1 per Hit Die), only receives 1/2 the number of hit points from cure spells or a Cleric’s Healing Burst, or takes a -4 on saving throws against enchantment effects.
So, you don’t want to actually limit the use of resurrection magic, but you feel like there should be something that comes out of it. What options do you have?
First, there’s a Mark of Passing or a Mark of Resurrection. This is a non-removable mark on the character’s hand or face (somewhere obviously seen by others) and it tells other people that the character has died and come back to life. This can lead to that character being ostracized, refused service, and some members of superstitious societies might consider the character to be as evil as the undead.
Another variant is to have the resurrected character have a chance to bring another spirit back with them. The spirit would be someone connected to the character in some way, whether that’s a friend, loved one, or enemy. The haunting would last until the raised character can find someone to exorcise the spirit.
Until the spirit is exorcised, this is a great role-playing opportunity for the character. The spirit can talk to the character, but none of the other party members can hear it. Maybe the spirit is actually a poltergeist and moves the raised character’s things around.
So, there you have an entry on the difficulties of character death. I wish I had more answers, but there really aren’t any “correct” answers for me to give. These questions will need to be answered by your group, especially the DM.
Time to Grow Up
You can also use these variations for NPCs and start leaning your campaign toward something more “adult” by turning these options into something horrible.
“Please! You have to help me! My wife was killed by bandits and when I went to the church to bring her back, she turned into…something else! Something evil!
Maybe it was just done on the wrong day. Maybe the wife’s spirit wasn’t contacted. Or maybe the wife’s spirit didn’t want to return (for whatever reason) and instead, a malevolent spirit came back and inhabited her body.
This can be used to give your campaign a little nudge toward something more serious, especially if this is used to give the PCs their first glimpse into what can happen when someone dies. This can show the PCs (and the players) that death is serious business and it isn’t always resting in peace. If something goes wrong, it can have consequences.
So, there you go. A discussion about character death, what it can mean, and how to handle resurrection magic.