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From the Ashes: Affordable Spellcare and IRL Beliefs Informing Gameplay

From the Ashes: Affordable Spellcare and IRL Beliefs Informing Gameplay

From the Ashes looks at making reincarnation special and strange in your 5E D&D game.

Want to develop a backstory that goes all the way back? Tome of Heroes has hundreds of options to make characters of every sort. Even past lives!

Reincarnate, resurrection, true resurrection, revivify, raise dead, and wish all bring characters back from death in their own way, providing players and GMs with a plethora of options to keep a campaign going after characters meet untimely ends.

However, when your adventuring group lacks a cleric or druid to use such magic, you need outside help.

A variety of options are out there to hire spellcasting services, but try this one to determine the cost of vital services like reincarnate.

Affording Reincarnation In-Game

Hiring spellcasters should always be costly, because magic is costly—in vitality and coin. For reincarnate, just the 1,000 gp cost of spell components can be more than the entire wealth of a first-tier party!

Here is a quick and dirty way to consider the costs and alternatives service-selling spellcasters would ask for. In the event that the desired spellcasting service doesn’t include a material component to derive a cost from, look to another spell of the same level and school to find a suitable spell component cost to work from.

Quick Spell Services Cost Table

Buyer’s Reputation with SellerBuyer’s Cost per Service
FavorableCost of rare spell components OR their retrieval
AmbivalentCost of rare spell components +10–30% of cost OR a roughly equal task determined by the seller
UnfavorableCost of rare spell components +25–60% of their cost AND  a high stakes task determined by the seller.

Favorable. If the spellcaster is an ally and the PCs are on good terms with their organization, the PCs might simply need to retrieve rare components for the service from an out-of-the-way location or cover their cost.

Ambivalent. If the PCs are not allies of the spellcaster or have little reputation, they can expect to pay an additional 10–30 percent above the spell’s component cost, covering time spent and value of the spell slot. Alternatively, undertaking a task too time-consuming or dangerous for the spellcaster could be sufficient barter for services.

Unfavorable. If the PCs are known as trouble or have a bad reputation, a spellcaster might insist that PCs earn services. In this case, the price is always at a 25–60 percent markup on the spell’s component cost and only after the PCs complete a time-consuming or dangerous task for the seller. PCs should expect to earn the gold needed to pay the markup during the task unless social relations are particularly strained.

Learning from Real-World Examples

As long as humanity has been interested in the afterlife, we’ve been interested in rebirth. Understanding how humans historically regard the subject can bring verisimillitude to our roleplay and worldbuilding, especially when bringing to life the non-human options we play, such as those found in Tome of Heroes or the Midgard Heroes Handbook.

When you develop belief systems in your own games, religion and history are great places to start. How might we take examples from our own world and apply them to our games? Here are two angles on the multi-pronged subject of rebirth.

  • The Christian holiday of Easter celebrates Jesus Christ’s return from the dead. But there are also ties between that holiday and the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of spring and fertility, Eostre. Taking from this example and others like it, intertwining differing belief systems can foment drama between rival communities or bring characters together on common ground.
  • Buddhism teaches that the cycle of samsāra provides people with continued existence after death in accordance with their actions in previous lives. This belief is as much rooted in religion as it is in philosophy. It’s a guiding star for how to live one’s life and what to strive for. To break the cycle of samsāra and achieve moksha, or liberation from the cycle of rebirth, one must strive to be a better person than they were before and develop good karma, a metaphysical currency based on personal impact. By learning more about and understanding this belief and others like it, we can develop strong motives for more three-dimensional characters.

You can also find representation in popular media. Two great examples are Avatar: The Last Airbender, the animated show and the Legend of Zelda video game series. The former’s main character, Aang, is a link in a chain of martial arts practitioners who reincarnate with the flow of the elements. The latter’s iterations take place after one another and are tied by the rise and fall of heroes, Link and Zelda, and villain Ganondorf.

What other great examples of reincarnation, rebirth, and the afterlife can we look to in popular media?

In Conclusion

As you roleplay with the theme of rebirth and adjacent belief systems, consider how your characters, their communities, and in-game organizations feel about them. Also, keep in mind that while we play TTRPGs to have fun, much in-game culture and content reflects real world beliefs that can be deeply meaningful to many different people. To avoid learning from the cultures these game features are based on can be a disservice to a culture and history that is not our own. But also, take care to respectfully draw on those cultures. Reverence and respect for others’ beliefs is a courtesy that can go far.

When you take a look at reincarnate, true resurrection, and other life-altering magic, ask worldbuilding questions like:

  • Are there new or old or old beliefs about this in the setting?
  • Is this practice widespread or a closely guarded secret. If the latter, who holds the secrets and why?
  • What can I draw from in real life to respectfully bring depth and relatability to this?
  • How do most people (read PCs and NPCs) regard this practice or belief?
  • How has this changed over the ages?
  • Where does this sit in the religions of our setting?


about Sebastian Rombach

We can neither confirm nor deny that Sebastian is actually three raccoons in a trenchcoat. His freelance contributions can be found in Tome of Beasts 2, Tome of Heroes, and more. You can roll dice with him at https://startplaying.games/gm/dontbreakthedm or follow him on Twitter and Instagram @dontbreakthedm.

1 thought on “From the Ashes: Affordable Spellcare and IRL Beliefs Informing Gameplay”

  1. The connection between the goddess Eostre and the festival of easter is highly superficial, as explained here: https://youtu.be/QW06pWHTeNk. Also, the Christian concept of the resurrection is not equivalent to other concepts of reincarnation. There are a small number of cases of miraculous healing, where a person is raised from the dead by another, such as the child resurrected by Elisha, and Lazarus, brought back by Jesus. These are closely analogous to magic such as the spell “revive” in roleplaying games, There is a single case of a person returning from the dead without aid from another, this being that of Jesus. While this is the closest to reincarnation that christianity gets, it should not be treated as anything other than a unique event, whereas a system of reincarnation implies that it occurs regularly. The final case of resurrection is the resurrection of the dead during the end times. This is also a one-off event, whereupon the dead will rise bodily from the grave and be granted eternal life. Crucially, in no case is there a transmigration of the soul. The soul keeps the same body (even if it may be somewhat changed).

    That said, those who are interested in ideas of reincarnation in Abrahamic faiths, might want to look into the concept of Gilgul, which originates in Kabbalah, a current of Jewish mystical thought.

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