Player resurrection in the Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition typically comes in the form of a few spells. Revivify, Resurrection, and Raise Dead are just some of the options for bringing a fallen player character back to life. These spells, however, cost money and components to cast. As players advance, many adventurers find death doesn’t hold the same fear or meaning when there are quick spells to bring them back to life. Critical Role does something different with resurrection.
Critical Role Dungeon Master Matthew Mercer modified 5th Edition’s basic spells with optional and adjustable rules to give death more meaning in the narrative. With these modified rules, a player’s allies play a much more important role in bringing them back from the afterlife. There’s even a chance their efforts may be unsuccessful. And for each successful return to life, the DC (difficulty class) for subsequent resurrections increases by 1.
You can increase the DC in the rules below by 2 instead of just 1 for every successful attempt if you want to add even more challenge to your campaign. But, Mercer warned on Reddit, an increase of 2 may punish low level players. “With many games involving death often at lower levels, it could easily become too daunting,” says Mercer.
Here are the additional Critical Role resurrection rules, written in full by Matthew Mercer, for use in your own Dungeons & Dragons or other roleplaying campaign.
The Fading Spirit – Alternative Resurrection Rules
Character death can often prove to become a minor inconvenience in some campaigns once the adventuring party reaches a certain level, with spells being available to return fallen comrades from the afterlife with temporary setbacks, robbing a small element of danger, and threat to future conflicts and challenges within the story. If you wish to elevate the gravity of character death, you can introduce this optional rule.
If a character is dead, and a resurrection is attempted by a spell or spell effect with longer than a 1 action casting time, a Resurrection Challenge is initiated. Up to three members of the adventuring party can offer to contribute to the ritual via a Contribution Skill Check. The DM asks them each to make a skill check based on their form of contribution, with the DC of the check adjusting to how helpful/impactful the DM feels the contribution would be.
For example, praying to the god of the devout, fallen character may require an Intelligence (Religion) check at an easy to medium difficulty, where loudly demanding the soul of the fallen to return from the aether may require a Charisma (Intimidation) check at a very hard or nearly impossible difficulty. Advantage and disadvantage can apply here based on how perfect, or off base, the contribution offered is.
After all contributions are completed, the DM then rolls a single, final Resurrection success check with no modifier. The base DC for the final resurrection check is 10, increasing by 1 for each previous successful resurrection the character has undergone (signifying the slow erosion of the soul’s connection to this world). For each successful contribution skill check, this DC is decreased by 3, whereas each failed contribution skill check increases the DC by 1.
Upon a successful resurrection check, the player’s soul (should it be willing) will be returned to the body, and the ritual succeeded. On a failed check, the soul does not return and the character is lost.
Only the strongest of magical incantations can bypass this resurrection challenge, in the form of the True Resurrection or Wish spells. These spells can also restore a character to life who was lost due to a failed resurrection ritual.
If a spell with a casting time of 1 action is used to attempt to restore life (via the Revivify spell or similar effects), no contribution skill checks are allowed. The character casting the spell makes a Rapid Resurrection check, rolling a d20 and adding their spellcasting ability modifier. The DC is 10, increasing by 1 for each previous successful resurrection the character has undergone. On a failure, the character’s soul is not lost, but the resurrection fails and increases any future Resurrection checks’ DC by 1. No further attempts can be made to restore this character to life until a resurrection spell with a casting time higher than 1 action is attempted.
Originally published on February 1, 2017.