by T.A. Saunders ©2011 v1.5

The Life and Death of Heroes and Villains

Just as the gods and spirits of Imarel struggle to control the fate of the world, the souls of mortals are likewise contested. Those who have followed the path of Law and Balance will ascend to Indaris, the Bright Heavens, whereas those who have followed a path of darkness will descend into the Xos, the Frozen Dark. These souls who have the touch (or taint) of the spheres they followed in life will naturally go to their chosen deity in death. The Afterlife is the great mystery that has many legends and stories from those who have touched Heaven or Hell and have been called back; these individuals are those that have been resurrected by way of extremely powerful magic or divine rites.

Resurrection from the dead is not a small matter on Imarel, regardless what your sphere of ethos is. Except for the greatest and most epic of purposes no mortal being can be resurrected more than once. Any attempt to do so will have a 100% chance of failure. To attempt to resurrect the dead at all is a task fraught with peril that can endanger the life of the one attempting the resurrection as surely as it can call back a spirit from the Beyond, since the one attempting to call the dead back to life is opening themselves up to divine or infernal forces that can and often will demand something in turn to give life back to the dead.

What that could be is entirely up to the deity in question. Zorah, who holds province over Life and Death for those of lawful and neutral belief has aged or crippled those who have attempted to call back those she feels deserve their final rest. Khazaar, who holds province over the Dead who have damned themselves, has outright slain those who have attempted to raise souls he particularly wishes to bring to final darkness.

The Divine Rite of Resurrection

Priests, Knights (Crusaders only), Seers and Ritualists can call back the dead to live again through a Divine Rite of Resurrection. These individuals must worship an Imarel deity or spirit to attempt to call back the dead. Deities of other faiths have weakened influence on Imarel and cannot affect souls lost here. To complete this rite, the caller must be in good standing with their deity and the person they are resurrecting must be of like or similar ethos to themselves (dark priests cannot resurrect a Defender and so forth). To attempt to do so will result in instant failure and a strong chance of divine retribution or demand for atonement. If the one attempting the resurrection has been true and the soul being called back will further the particular ethos’ involvement in the prime plane by living once more, they are given one more chance at life.

The Sorcerous Rite of Resurrection

Magi, including Necromancers may also call the spirits of the dead back to life, through Sorcerous Rite of Resurrection, which in some ways is more treacherous than relying on divine rite and in other ways more simple. For these types, there is no need to follow a similar path to the one they are attempting to call back from the dead. They are not asking for a deity’s permission, they are in effect attempting to summon the soul back into the body, before it can reach its divine (or infernal) destination. Doing this means that the Sorcerous Rite must be attempted within hour of death, or cannot be attempted at all with any measure of success, whereas a Divine Rite can call back the dead from their final destination, providing they have suitably preserved remains.

A Sorcerous Rite does have a chance to evoke divine retribution however if a soul is particularly wanted by the Power in question that controls the fate of the recently departed. In many cases, these retributions are far worse than what a Divine Rite might risk, including the possibility of indirect intervention against the caster with minions of that deity coming to slay the caster or in the very least, coerce the caster brutally to cease their activities. Regardless, if the Sorcerous Rite is completed within the hour of death despite intervention from the gods, the dead will return…whether they wanted to, or not.

Neither rite will be successful however, if there is no corpse to resurrect or not enough of it left. The whole original body must be present; the body must be able to sustain the life before life is put back into it. Wounds must be closed, diseases cleansed and limbs mended or replaced. No deity on Imarel will allow a soul to be resurrected into a body not their own, though some neutral or chaotic gods may allow such a soul to be placed within a construct. Attempting to do this will always result in failure and likely a massive retribution from the deity whose soul is being returned.

Necromancers have a loophole in the aforementioned situation where there is a desire to place a soul into a body or item not their own. If the Necromancer has the soul in a Soul Gem, that catches the soul before it departs the world, where it can be later restored to life using a special rite. The Necromantic Rite of Reconstitution is not without its dangers however, as it defies the very will of the gods and imparts the necromancer to infuse a soul into another body (since the soul never leaves the mortal realm, the gods cannot then lay claim to the soul of the departed hero). Placing a soul within a foreign body, or a construct or a magic item has a base 35% chance of driving the revived person irrevocably insane. It is important to note, that capturing souls must be done with a prepared Soul Gem and by no other means, otherwise failure is assured.

Even after all these requirements are met for resurrection, there still must be an even exchange of life-force, or risk incurring punishment from higher/lower powers. A person must be willing to sacrifice themselves to return the dead to life, if it is to be done without penalty or retribution.This individual must be a person of similar power, knowledge and experience in the world to the person being resurrected. This individual can be almost anybody of equal power and experience, including the person performing the resurrection. To be able to return somebody to life at all is the greatest power a deity can bestow upon one of their chosen, or in the case of arcane casters, one of the most powerful spells in their arsenal; to do so requires some small facet of the Cosmic Balance to be addressed.

It is impossible to return the dead without one willing to sacrifice themselves in some way for the fallen. To return life to the fallen is an extremely dangerous and unpredictable undertaking that should be given great consideration before attempting. The life of the one performing the resurrection is equally imperiled when performing a resurrection in this manner and could very well end up being the foci for sacrifice against their will, should the gods will it. (OOC Note: When a character is resurrected in this fashion, the GM will do a dice roll to determine the result to avoid favoritism or lack thereof).

NOTE: Resurrection rules and their application only apply to characters who die during GM events, Random Encounters and player vs. player non-storyline confrontations. Those players who have an ongoing story line that wish to kill their character have the option to bring them back with no need to roll on the chart below.

Resurrection Side Effect Chart

(100) Resurrection Failure: The Old Gods have decreed the character’s final doom and cannot be resurrected in any way. Any further attempts will result in the person performing the second attempt to be slain on the spot; smote by the unrelenting fury of the gods. The individual who attempted the resurrection is spiritually drained and cannot cast spells or physically engage in combat of any kind for three days.

(61-99) Penitent Resurrection: The hero is returned from the dead normally, but the individual performing the resurrection has incurred the wrath of the gods for doing so. As punishment, the person who performed the resurrection is stricken with an incurable malady or crippling of some sort (GM discretion). Blindness, losing the ability to walk, or cast magic are but examples. These maladies can be overcome with ingenuity, perseverance and being clever but can never be removed.

Being stricken in this manner is often worn as a badge of honor amongst the holy. Many see it as a worthy sacrifice to wield the ultimate power of restoring life to the slain, in the name of their deity. Manipulators of the arcane who suffer this effect look at it as the price for cheating death and accept it as part of the danger of wielding great power.

Additionally, both the hero and the individual who attempted the resurrection is spiritually drained. The hero is incapacitated in this manner for one week and the individual who performed the resurrection is incapacitated for three days.

(31-60) Dark Twist of Fate: The hero is resurrected normally but the price of this return to life is more elusive than most. At some point in the future of the hero’s life the price of his or her return will be exacted at a critical point where good fortune or a positive outcome is needed.

This price is very situational (GM discretion); for example, the marked hero could rush into a burning building several times to help rescue people within, but when the time comes for him or her to rescue a loved one from the building, it will suddenly collapse, killing the loved one before he or she can be rescued. Another example could be the hero hands his or her close friend a flintlock to defend themselves with, but when the time comes the weapon misfires, explodes in the friend’s hand and kills them.

It is impossible to know outwardly if a resurrected person is marked in this fashion, unless some means of detecting a curse is utilized upon them. Doing so revealed a hazy black aura around a resurrected individual so marked. This mark cannot be removed in any way, shape or form.

Additionally, both the hero and the individual who attempted the resurrection is spiritually drained. The hero is incapacitated in this manner for one week and the individual who performed the resurrection is incapacitated for three days.

(21-30) Wounded Spirit: The hero is returned from the dead, but they are forever changed by their experience of touching the afterlife. Their life-force is irrevocably weakened, which in turn effects their primary strength significantly. Warrior types feel less physically hardy, arcane spell-casters are less able to wield powerful magics and practitioners of faith feel less in touch with their chosen deity.

While permanent, this spiritual wounding is something that can be overcome through ingenuity, perseverance and hard work. Many perceive the spiritual wounding as a test from the hero’s chosen deity to prove their worth for the resurrection they received.

Additionally, both the hero and the individual who attempted the resurrection is spiritually drained. The hero is incapacitated in this manner for one week and the individual who performed the resurrection is incapacitated for three days.

(2-20) Normal Resurrection: The hero is resurrected normally and there are no ill side effects, other that temporary weakness for one full week. The hero cannot cast spells, or engage in physical combat of any kind with any kind of reasonable effectiveness during this time. The individual who attempted the resurrection is likewise spiritually drained and cannot cast spells or physically engage in combat of any kind for three days.

(1) Divine Resurrection: The Powers That Be have decreed the slain hero has yet some important part to play in the events of the world and thus has been returned to life with no penalty and with no spiritual weakness. The individual who cast the resurrection is only weakened for a period of one day and cannot engage in spell-casting or physical combat of any kind during that time.

The Hero Clause

There are times that a hero perishes against all odds. If that hero died valiantly and for great purpose, the Gods may decide to grant him or her a Return. A Return is in effect a Divine Resurrection granted with no mortal spell-casting or ritual required. The Hero is returned unblemished and of full mind and body, ready to fight again. A return can be even granted if the Hero has fallen once before, surpassing the normal limit of resurrection. A Second Return is as far as the Gods will go however. Beyond the Second Return (if granted) there is only death. It should be noted that a Return is the only way to counter the effect of a soul destruction.

The Destruction of the Soul: Eternal Death

Under certain circumstances the soul of a mortal creature can be destroyed utterly, making it impossible to resurrected that person. Unless restored by a major act of divine intervention (99-100% on a percent roll) at the moment the soul would be destroyed, there is absolutely no means whatsoever to retrieve that soul. No creature who follows an ethos of Order can willfully participate in such an act, without suffering some form of divine consequence. Even a creature thought to be evil cannot be justifiably destroyed, as the ethos of Order promotes that all creatures deserve life, or eternal damnation as they see fit.

Those who subscribe to the ethos of Chaos or Neutrality may well have a hand in such deeds and incur no wrath from the Heavens. The power to do such a thing resides within certain types of undead, Infernal fiends and certain necromantic magic and sentient weapons. Regardless of method, the soul is dissipated and its primordial energies are transferred to the destroyer. In no way, shape or form can a soul, once dissipated in this way, be returned. In more advanced Shadowmancy, the act of destroying a soul can also convey some of the knowledge and memories of the person thus destroyed, to the Shadowmancer. The destruction of a soul is only as potent as the one attempting it. If the caster is stronger than the victim, the chance is greater; if the opposite is true, then the chance is much less that it will succeed (base 50% chance, going upwards or downwards based on the strength of the characters/NPC’s involved).

In the case of Seers and powerful Ritualists rather than having the ability to destroy a soul, it is possible for them to torment a soul, by binding it to an object or in the worst case, a dead body of something. This is not an attempt at resurrection, but an an attempt to imprison the soul. This too is considered an act of Chaos and will be treated with the same punishments should one who follows the Gods of Order attempt to do. Those who are imprisoned in this way can be resurrected if they are freed from the soul binding by an individual more powerful than the one who bound it. Simply destroying the thing the soul is bound is not enough; doing so actually makes the process more difficult, as the object in question must be whole and intact before a soul can be unbound from it. As with soul destruction, soul imprisonment is only as potent as the one casting it (same rules apply).

Conversely, souls can also be protected from destruction and imprisonment. Protection merely wards an individual from soul destruction or soul imprisonment (but never both). This protection can be conveyed only by Seers, Priests and Ritualists who follow the Ethos of Order or Neutrality. Those who follow the Ethos of Chaos can be punished by their gods if they choose to protect a soul from destruction or imprisonment. As in the cases of destruction and imprisonment, the protection is only as good as the one who places it (hence governed by the 50% rule).

Cheating Death: The Soul Gem and the Soul Vessel

Exclusively the province of Necromancers (and by default, Shadowmancers), the Soul Gem and the Soul Vessel are means by which he or she can defy death. As mentioned above, a Soul Gem is a specifically prepared jewel with the specific purpose of capturing a soul. M`aati gems are used for this purpose, where the Mana-Storing properties inherit to the gem are corrupted so that it will instead store a soul. The corruption process takes a week to prepare and the Necromancer must saturate the gem in the ashes of a vampire, mingled with the blood of a demon. It is worth noting that the quality of the M`aati gem, the power of the vampire slain and the potency of the demon’s blood used all attribute to the overall quality of the Soul Gem.

Once created, the Soul Gem can then be used to trap a soul — willingly or unwillingly — for whatever purpose the Necromancer chooses. In many cases, the captured soul can be fused into a construct or placed within another body (with the penalties described above in both cases). Accomplishing the trapping of the soul is no small feat however. Assuming the soul is not protected, the Necromancer will have to make sure the Soul Gem was crafted to a high enough potential to capture the target in question. If the attempt to claim a soul is a hostile one, then a battle of wills, of a sort, takes place between the Necromancer and his or her victim. A base 50% is applied here, with +/-5% given to the difference in power between the Necromancer and the victim. There is also a +10% solid modifier if the victim is a follower of a Deity of Order. Success means the soul of the victim has been captured and their body dies. Failure means the Gem cracks and becomes unusable, with a 40% chance of the Gem exploding outright, causing severe injury and possibly death to the Necromancer. A non-hostile Soul Gem attempt does not require any form of check however.

As a contingency, a Necromancer may also place his or her own soul into a Soul Gem. This is a means of safeguarding their souls, should their bodies be destroyed. This is a risky proposition however, as once they are in the Soul Gem, they are powerless to effect the outside world and must rely on a trusted comrade or henchmen to fuse their soul into a properly preserved corpse or back into their own, if it has survived.

A Soul Vessel allows a Necromancer to invest a corpse or a construct of some sort with a portion of his or her own essence. By doing this, the Necromancer is then able to assume control over that corpse or construct as if it were their own body. This allows them to enter potentially hostile situations with only minor risk to themselves. Because some of their own life-force is used to power the Vessel, should that Vessel be injured or damaged in some way, the Necromancer will sustain a 25% of that damage themselves. Should the Vessel be slain, the Necromancer in question will be knocked unconscious for 1d4 hours and lose control of any other Vessels he or she might be maintaining (a Necromancer can maintain up to three Vessels at once).

Maintaining the control of a Vessel does not require any concentration on the Necromancer’s part; each Vessel is entirely autonomous and of its own will, save where the Necromancer chooses to take active control of the Vessel in question. It is possible for multiple vessels to interact with one another as well…possibly even getting in an argument with one another, if not actively monitored by the Necromancer. These Vessels have 25% of the Necromancer’s spell-casting ability and access to 100% of the Necromancer’s mundane knowledge.

Both fresh corpses (dead within the last twenty four hours) and constructs can be used, as mentioned before and either has a purpose. In using a corpse, the Necromancer can effectively assume an entirely different identity for purposes of spying on an enemy, or to interact with a person that might otherwise might dislike or actively want to kill the Necromancer. When entering hostile territory and possibly being faced with a multitude of enemies, the Necromancer often use a construct instead of a fresh corpse. Constructs can be tailor made for various situations and are much like golems in most regards. These constructs must be made of flesh and bone however, for a Necromancer to use it as a Vessel.

Vessels do have some drawbacks however, aside of the fact that they are linked to the Necromancer and hence, convey damage onto him or her when they are wounded. With Vessels made from fresh corpses, they must consume a pint of blood for every twelve hours they are active. This can be any sort of animal blood, but humanoid blood tends to work the best to maintain integrity. For every hour the Corpse Vessel goes without fresh blood, deterioration takes place, eventually falling into an ashen husk after twelve hours of depletion. Construct Vessels are a little more hardy in this regard, only requiring the consumption of two pounds raw meat every twelve hours. Like the Corpse Vessels however, Construct Vessels will begin falling apart every hour they go without fresh meat, until finally collapsing into a pile of liquefied flesh and bones after twelve hours without nourishment.

A variant of the Vessel is the Puppet. These are relatively weak constructs that only require a drop of the creator’s blood and do not convey damage back to him or her. These Puppets must be made of flesh and bone and can take any form the Necromancer wishes, including simply using a relatively fresh cadaver. While made from dead flesh, they are not considered true undead and cannot be turned by knights or priests, but they can be barred from a particular area by blessings and protective wards. There is no limit to how many Puppets a Necromancer can control, however the more puppets they attempt control, the more likely he or she will lose control of all of the Puppets. For every Puppet over ten the Necromancer attempts to control, there is a +5% chance cumulative that control will be lost. Loss of control means there is a 50/50 chance that the Puppets will simply collapse into gore or turn on their controller.

Unlike Soul Vessels, the Necromancer must maintain a small bit of concentration on the Puppets to make sure they don’t wander off and say, walk right off a cliff, start killing each other or shamble out in front of a stampede of angry Lasher bulls, for example. Like with Vessels, the Necromancer can see and hear everything their Puppets are doing. They do not last forever, though; after twelve hours Puppets begin to decompose and fall apart.