All Critical Role house rules modify fundamental Dungeons and Dragons rules in order to better fit the table’s streamlined playing style, and the rule change that has generated the most attention is Matt Mercer’s version of the resurrection spell. As players gain levels in Dungeons and Dragons, they also find and develop additional ways to reverse death in case a character does get killed. This is critical to ensure that players don’t lose a beloved character to a series of unlucky dice rolls.
That said, the expanded resurrection options can make some Dungeons & Dragons 5e player characters feel invincible. At later stages of a campaign, it’s easy for death to become an inconvenience instead of a threat, which can drastically lower the tension during boss battles and any dangerous encounters. In Critical Role, however, dungeon master Matthew Mercer has used modified versions of the resurrection rules in both campaigns, leading to tense moments and creating a real threat of death. Here’s everything viewers and players need to know about what is arguably the best of Matt Mercer’s Critical Role house rules.
Critical Role’s Resurrection House Rules
The resurrection rules used in Critical Role campaign 1 and beyond have been publicly shared by Matthew Mercer (via Twitter). The rules aim to make it more difficult to revive players each time they have died. This means that players who play recklessly may find that they are almost impossible to bring back from the dead. Additionally, the rules transform the simple spell cast into a ritual that involves the whole party, with up to 3 close friends of the dead performing skill checks and in-game offerings that make reviving the dead character easier or harder based on success. Overall, it’s a much more dynamic process than the vanilla Dungeons and Dragons resurrection spell.
According to the Critical Role house rules, if a revival ritual is failed, the character is lost forever, as their soul doesn’t return to their body. If a player attempts a resurrection spell that only takes 1 action, like revivify, there is no contribution from close friends, and no way to lower the DC of the resurrection check. This means that spells like Revivify have a maximum of 75% chance of working, but luckily failing these checks doesn’t completely kill the character; it only means that players need to attempt a proper resurrection ritual. However, it still does increase the DC of future resurrection checks.
What’s Great About Critical Role’s Resurrection?
Critical Role house rules adds several essential elements that make death and dying more interesting in Dungeons and Dragons. The first of these is that death with the variant rules involves roleplay and encourages players to learn about and interact with each other’s characters, so they know what to do during a resurrection ritual. These contributions are also a fantastic time for characters to mourn/discuss the character that died, leading to a satisfying roleplay experience whether the ceremony is a success or a failure. Indeed, the most important part of these rules for Dungeons & Dragons is that they add real stakes to repeated player death.
The rules allow for occasional slipups, but reckless play will lead to failed rituals and adventures that are permanently over. With the traditional Dungeons and Dragons resurrection spell rules, there are very few ways that players can “die” outside the party losing the body. Even suggested Dungeon Master’s strategies for slowing resurrection like limiting the number of diamonds in the world only serve to make resurrection more inconvenient, as opposed to giving it character relevance or making it something the party can fail at. The Critical Role resurrection spell is unique in that it is very punishing to recklessness while still being as accessible as the standard rules in the DnD books.
Finally, these rules add additional distinctions between different classes of resurrection spells and make each of them feel more unique. Dungeons & Dragons spells like Revivify are quick and don’t cost much gold but are unreliable, spells like raise dead can’t be cast in combat and are fairly expensive but come with a ritual that assists in calling the soul back. Meanwhile, spells like True Resurrection are only attainable by the most powerful characters, but they are so potent that they cannot fail.
These distinctions between the spells give each of them an identity. Revivify feels quick, dirty and risky, while waiting for the more reliable raise dead means losing money and not having access to that party member for the remainder of the encounter. Without the variant rules, the only reason to not cast Revivify is that it’s been longer than a minute since the character died.
Adding Critical Role’s Rules to a Campaign
It’s critical to keep in mind that, unlike some of the other Critical Role house rules, the resurrection changes are more punishing than those included in the player’s handbook, which means that these rules may not be for everyone. Campaigns using Matt Mercer’s resurrection rules are much more likely to kill a player character than other campaigns. If players enjoy acting without the fear of death, then Dungeons and Dragons resurrection spell may suit them better. For those looking for a challenge, however, Matt Mercer’s resurrections rules will add tension and a much-needed threat to any campaign, especially medium to high-level Dungeons and Dragons games.
D&D’s Resurrection Spell Appears In Honor Among Thieves
The classic Dungeons and Dragons resurrection spell also appeared in the new DnD movie, Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. In the Honor Among Thieves ending, Chris Pine’s bard, Edgin, used the Tablet of Reawakening to bring back Michelle Rodriguez’s Holga, even though she died from a blow with the Red Wizard’s blade. This confirms that the spell contained in the Tablet of Reawakening is True Resurrection.
While this also shows how simple even the most powerful Dungeons and Dragons resurrection spell can be, the fact that Edgin revived Holga instead of bringing back the love of his life cleverly gave weight to the spell within the single-use magic item. Whether playing with DnD or Critical Role house rules, the impact of any resurrection is wholly dependent on the DM and their players at the table. If there’s anything that Critical Role has taught its viewers, rules should never get in the way of fun.