The Wandering Spirit
Divinity + Death
While many cultures believe in Divine or semi-Divine beings associated with the process of death, these Deities are frequently less involved than believed- especially as the Spirit's final resting place is neither the Abyssal
nor the Celestial
planes actually inhabited by the Divine. Instead, the real role of the Divine in many cases, is the enforcement of the process itself. Their exact involvement can take many forms depending on the Deity in question, however, and often varies in level.
Some, such as the Elven Sehanine
, act as spiritual and metaphysical guides of sorts, greeting the Spirit at death and helping it through its journey. Others, such as the Ferenian Haegi
- or the Raven Queen
and Lord of the End
- record the memories and final moments of the dead, adding them to their great library so they're never forgotten, even after the Spirit rejoins the Weave
Deities such as Bhaal
, the adversarial Orcish God of Suffering and Shadow, however, corrupt the process of death- binding the Spirits of the ritually murdered to themself so they may continue to reap their power even in death. Meanwhile, Deities such as the Castrillian God Anndra
and the Sarian Kástos
, attempt to uphold the cycle- occasionally going to extremes to prevent the balance from being upset.
Becoming the Chosen
Occasionally a Deity may, in fact, take significant interest in a person in life and choose to add their Spirit to their retinue after their death. As such actions disrupt the balance of the cycle, however, individuals are rarely chosen by the Divine to receive such an honor; to be chosen, the living individual must truly have been incredibly exceptional in life- so much so that losing them to the Weave
would constitute a much greater loss than the act of upsetting the balance.
Still, Chosen do occur no matter how rarely. And in some of these cases, the chosen Spirit is transformed into a Deva
: Semi-Divine messengers and agents of the Celestial
planes respectively... Most, though, simply enjoy a permanent existence in the presence of the Divine- becoming typical inhabitants of the furthest planes of existence
, much the same as they were on their home planes during life.
Upsetting the Balance
The battle to save our home was over... Our families were saved... But a fucking Phy'ithian managed to land a parting blow I couldn't mend. Sacrificing my own energy in my desperate attempts to bring him back did nothing. A touch on my shoulder brought me out of the cycle before I could fully drain myself, however; there, frozen, was the peaceful, etheral image of my partner. He smiled warmly before walking off into the distance- flowers sprouting in his footsteps... I knew then he was off to a better place than here.
— Capt. Keani Lohia-Vele reflecting on the death of
Capt. Halim Pulungan after the Battle of Glimmeriing Hill
Not every Spirit willingly accepts their death- though they're perfectly aware of the fact they're dead in the first place. When this sort of rejection happens, the Spirit may stick around as a Ghost. If they remain long enough, refusing to pass on, the Spirit may twist and warp over time, eventually becoming a Wraith or other immaterial creature of undeath.
A number of other more external factors may also prevent a Spirit from traveling to the afterlife as well, resulting in various forms of undead. For example, certain individuals who experienced particularly violent deaths could remain permanently tethered to the location of their death as a Poultergeist, Wraith, or other form until released; it is also possible to trap a Spirit outright, especially in some sort of magical item- such as a Ghost Lantern. Doing so likewise prevents the Spirit's journey and eventually corrupts it over time; and, of course, being unable to find a gateway at all will likewise slow or prevent the Spirit from passing on.
Though rare, allies in life can also reject a person's death- refusing to allow their fallen compatriot to leave. Some may go so far as to use various spells meant to return a Spirit to material form. This can manifest in many ways, and have a variety of consequence, especially since Necromancy remains one of the most difficult schools of magic to master- increasing the likelihood that things could go wrong.
For one, returning to a material form requires a body to animate- whether your own, or anothers. Not just any body will work, however... Even if it's the individual's original body, it must still meet specific critieria- including not only a certain level of preservation of the body's original living condition, but also that the body has undergone certain rites to ensure the corpse is animated correctly in the first place; entering a body that has decomposed for too long, or which has been improperly prepared, may create any manner of undead. In all cases, the returning Spirit comes back as something far less than it originally was- if it even returns at all.
For another, though, returning to the material realm is incredibly difficult in its own right; like a salmon swimming upstream, it's possible- but incredibly taxing on the Spirit of those who try it. The further they've traveled from their body, the more planes they've crossed in their journey, the harder it will be for them to return again. For that reason, it takes a Spirit with considerable strength to make the journey backwards even once- let alone multiple times. And each time the trip is made, the soul loses a bit more of itself to the Weave, making it even more
difficult whenever the need arises.
Matt Mercer's Lingering Spirit Rules
If a character is dead (not unconscious), and a resurrection is attempted, a Resurrection Challenge is initiated. During this process up to 3 members of the party may offer to help call back the deceased member's Spirit through contributing something to the ritual.
Contributing party members perform a relevant Skill Check based on how they wish to contribute to the ritual. The DC of the check adjusts based on how impactful the DM (or the deceased party member) feels the contribution would be. Additional advantage and disadvantage may apply based on how perfect, or off base, the contribution offered is.
After all contributions are completed, the DM then rolls a final Resurrection check with no modifiers. The base DC for the check is 10, but increases by 1 for every previous (successful) resurrection the character has undergone- signifying the slow erosion of the Spirit’s connection to this world. Each failed contribution check further increases the DC by 1. For each successful contribution to the ritual, however, the DC is decreased by up to 3, depending on the level of success.
Upon a successful resurrection check, the deceased's Spirit returns to the body (willingly or not), and the ritual succeeded. On a failed check, the Spirit does not return and the character is lost and cannot be resurrected again in that manner- though additional ressurection methods may allow the party to adventure to the planes of the dead in order to manually retrieve the deceased's Spirit via quest.
This goes on my reading list. Don't have time to browse through it right now, but what little I gleaned sound fascinating!
Let me know what you think once you do :D
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As always, it's a joy to read your works. They're so well prepared, well explained, and everything holds together without quirks or major "plot holes". I like how you've covered quite frankly everything in this article. Highly enjoyable read!
I like taking what DnD gives you throughout all its editions (which, honestly isn't much I'm finding) , and then finding a way to expand and cohesify it; plot holes bother me, and I feel like one of the most important parts of worldbuilding is understanding the fundamentals of your world. I'm glad that came through and that you enjoyed it!
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