Bringing someone back to life is an ordeal, but in D&D 3.5 expensive, high-level spells can bring back a character without any adverse effect. This represents a great challenge for world-building as rich and powerful characters (e.g. kings, wizards, high level adventurers) would never fear death as they could be easily resurrected. To compensate for that we are introducing some risk into the process.
Resurrection/reincarnation functions like the spell description states (e.g. material components, but not level loss, see later) but in addition to that the DM needs to make a d20 roll that determines how successful the effort was (as usual 20 is always success, 1 is always failure, regardless of modifiers). If 3 consecutive resurrection attempts fail, the character is permanently dead.
|20-11||Success, no extra adverse effects|
|10-5||Success, but the character gains an Affliction|
|4-1||Failure, the character stays dead|
This roll is modified by the circumstances of the ritual and the deceased, these modifiers stack:
|Circumstance of deceased||Modifier to d20 roll|
|Faithless (no chosen deity)||-1|
|Devout (inherent in cleric, paladin)||+1|
|Each failed resurrection attempt||-5|
|Dead for at least an hour||-4|
|Dead for at least a day||-2|
|Dead for at least a week||-2|
|Dead for at least a month||-2|
|Dead for at least a year||-2|
|Dead for at least a decade||-2|
|Dead for at least a century||-2|
|Divine intervention/Special circumstances||Specified by DM|
Sometimes the cleric successfully bring the deceased back to life but the ordeal of death and resurrection still affects him/her. The DM rolls/chooses one of the following afflictions:
|1||New quirk||The character takes on a new quirk. Random unless DM specifies.|
|2||Haunted||The character is haunted by spirits from the afterlife. Effects/story specified by DM|
|3||Cursed||The character is affected by a hard-to-lift curse. Effects/story specified by DM|
|4||Marked by Death||The resurrection ritual left a characteristic, non-removable mark on the character's body. Mostly affects NPC reaction, specified by DM.|
|5||Personality Shift||The personality of this character is dramatically changed by the harrowing experience of death. Specified by DM (but the player should be consulted)|
|6||Indebted to Death||Nerull, god of Death allowed this character to live again, but this debt has to be paid. The character starts worshiping Nerull (alignment may shift to Neutral from Good) and the God of Death may ask for a service (DM specifies, example: a life for another one)|
Debuff, Not Level Loss Edit
Most affordable resurrection methods permanently reduce the level of an adventurer which makes combat very risky for both the players and the DM. To make things more fun there will be no permanent level loss, instead characters gain -6 to all abilities with a cap at a base score of 4 (so if you had 6 STR you end up with 4 instead of 2). This -6 debuff stacks with itself and every other debuff, so if a character dies multiple times their stats become progressively worse.
Restoration spells can heal some of this ability damage but only up to 10. E.g. K has a Dex of 26 = Base score 20 + modifier 6. Is she dies once, this would become 20 = 14 + 6. Now, this can't be restored with spells at this time, but her Int and Cha (14 and 10) that just became 8 and 4 can be restored to 10 and 10.
These effects last until the character has a long time to rest, which is basically the next campaign, unless the DM specifies otherwise.