Thank you to everyone who participated in discussions on my original post on this subject. This is an updated version, refined in part with your feedback.
Some DMs dislike the notion that once the players reach a high enough level, and have enough money, death becomes meaningless. With the availability of high-level resurrection spells and their hard-won fortunes, all the party has to do is buy out the local diamond mine's entire inventory, and they need never fear death again.
Maybe you don't mind that. That's okay. But if easy resurrection does feel like a problem, there are a few common ways to address it, such as:
- Restrict the flow of gold to your players
- Restrict the availability of suitable diamonds
- Add skill challenges a la Critical Role, et al
Each of these comes with its own pros and cons; but my own preferred solution is to replace the diamond components of resurrection spells with a unique reagent: the Reunion Lily. I find this allows me to arbitrate the ease or difficulty of resurrection at will, with little to no impact on other aspects of the game.
The Reunion Lily
The reunion lily, also known as mourn-me-not, death's ransom, soul star, phoenix lily, and several other names, is a rare flower with a white, star-like appearance. Its petals have golden tips, a brilliant white body, and one or more purple-black rays at the base. Its coloration and unique seven-point star shape are quite distinct, making it easily recognizable. Healthy reunion lilies have been known to sustain up to four or five flowers at a time, each blooming two to four years apart. However, if the lily loses all of its flowers, it will grow a new one the following year.
The reunion lily has no known uses beyond serving as a resurrection spell component, and only the flower itself can serve this purpose; no other part of the plant is consumed when used in this way. Not just any flower can be used, however, as the blooms' potency comes with time. Even revivify, the most basic of resurrection magics, requires a flower no younger than two years old. More powerful spells will require increasingly older flowers, making them exponentially harder to find, grow, or acquire.
The reunion lily is notorious for being extremely difficult to cultivate. Those rare few who do manage to breed it in captivity often find their flowers do not survive long enough to be useful. Growing flowers that last for even two or three years is the sign of a true master gardener. However, rumor has it that sprites and pixies grow entire gardens of thriving Reunion Lilies in the deepest reaches of the wilds.
Unlike many flowers, the blooms do not wilt and regrow each season, but remain open year-round. As a bloom ages, it gradually replaces petals and lengthens its stem, leaving a tight spiral striation on its stalk just below its base. One can then easily determine the age of a flower simply by counting the number of ridges in the spiral. So long as the flower remains intact, it can be used as a spell component either fresh or dried. They are therefore occasionally preserved for later use.
The flower of a reunion lily replaces the diamond components of resurrection spells as follows. Other material components, if any, must still be accounted for as normal. The gold cost of a reunion lily of the appropriate age remains the same as the cost of the diamond component it replaced for that spell. A flower must have lived to the age specified before being preserved in order to qualify.
- Revivify. A two-year flower.
- Raise Dead. A four-year flower.
- Resurrection. An eight-year flower.
- True Resurrection. A sixteen-year flower.
Note that Reincarnation does not appear above. Because it has major side effects, I personally don't feel it necessary to restrict it in this way. However, if you did want to impose similar restrictions, you could easily change the requirement from generic "rare oils and unguents" to reunion lily oils; or to a four-year flower, like the spell's counterpart Raise Dead.
If you want to use the reunion lily, but also want your setting to fit into the unified cosmology of the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Spelljammer, et al; your world or setting's diamonds in particular may not work for resurrection spells for reasons unknown to the magic community. The use of the reunion lily has then been adopted by spellcasters there after having been discovered to serve the same purpose.
Using this unique component also carries some sociopolitical implications for your campaign world. Such a treasure would draw the attention of the powers that be; meaning that there might be legal or social consequences associated with owning or trading it. Here are some examples:
- Authoritarian. The government/royalty claim ownership of all reunion lilies. Gathering, owning, or trading any part of the plant without explicit license is punishable by death.
- Egalitarian. The law protects the reunion lily, but allows citizens to collect one flower or one bulbil for their own use if they find the plant in the wild. Buying or selling it is strictly licensed in order to protect it from overharvesting. The penalties for harming or trafficking wild reunion lilies are harsh.
- Frontier. A wild region where civilization has only just gained a toehold. The government either has no laws regarding the reunion lily, or they simply aren't enforceable in this region. Fewer people recognize the plant, and there isn't enough demand to produce a black market for it due to the scarcity of casters who could use it. Perhaps there are people who come from other, more developed regions, to find and collect it; endangering the future of the species in the area.
- Ecological. This society has a strong emphasis on respect for nature and living in harmony with it. There are no legal penalties for misuse of reunion lilies, but they are considered a sacred natural treasure. Consequently, taking it from the wild without need is deeply stigmatized, and likely to damage trust and relationships. Buying or selling wild reunion lilies is taboo, and cultivated lilies are only traded from the most reputable sources.
Last but definitely not least, if you do use this alternative component, make sure to add it to your list of things to inform players about in session 0. You don't want them stockpiling diamonds only to discover after someone dies that they can't bring them back.
- Diamonds, Resurrection, and Cthonic Gods
- DMs with homebrew rules: Talk to your players!
- A quick guide to 5e death and how to keep people dead
More about Dungeons & Dragons OnlinePost: "Money can’t buy back the fallen (updated) – The Reunion Lily, a resurrection reagent alternative to diamonds." specifically for the game Dungeons & Dragons Online. Other useful information about this game:
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