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In D&D 3.5e, resurrection can be achieved using several different spells.

Only the 9th level spell True Resurrection, however, comes with a completely monetary cost; all other more economic versions have the character lose one level (i.e. go back to the middle of the previous level).

Of course, the XP table makes it so the character gradually catches up, but what do you do when you do not count XP per encounter, but by milestones (all characters level up when the story mandates it)?

A character in a game I am running just got killed by a roll-in-the-open critical strike and, as a group, we'd be tempted to just resurrect him at the same level everyone else is (easier to track, less penalizing). If there is no XP loss, Raise Dead becomes just a cheap version of True Resurrection, a spell that nobody would ever use. So, what do I do?

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Ignore the level loss. It was a bad idea to begin with.

D&D 3.5e handles split-level parties extremely poorly. The power gained in a single level can be unbelievably immense (typically, when a new spell level is gained), which makes producing challenges that each character can reasonably contribute to without any dominating near-impossible depending on who is over-leveled. It doesn’t add anything to the game—if the player was invested in their character, then the character’s death is already loss enough, you don’t need more. And if they weren’t, well, then, it’s a good thing they’re playing a different one, because you want your players invested in their characters (I mean, usually, most tables, though of course it’s possible to play D&D like Paranoia).

As for resurrection and true resurrection, it’s not true that their only benefits center on level loss: their primary benefit is that they can resurrect creatures that weaker spells cannot. Resurrection needs only the smallest part of the target’s body, and true resurrection doesn’t even need that. Raise dead requires a mostly-intact corpse. A body that has been formerly raised as the undead cannot be raised by raise dead, but can by resurrection and true resurrection. True resurrection can also raise elementals and outsiders. And raise dead can only raise targets who have died in the last CL days, while resurrection or true resurrection can handle up to 10×CL years.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Nice call on the other differences between spells that still makes them useful and justifies the increased price. \$\endgroup\$ – Zachiel Apr 10 at 13:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ To support your first point (bad idea to begin with), DnD 5e changed that, removing level loss for raise dead. You're just at half strength for some days (or less with more powerful rez spells). Even though 5e makes a 1-level difference sometimes less significant than in 3.5, I think. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes Apr 11 at 14:23

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