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In D&D 3.5, Raise Dead is a 5th level cleric spell, meaning a cleric would have to be level 9 to be able to cast it. The cleric who can cast Raise Dead can also cast many other spells, such as True Seeing, Flamestrike, Righteous Might, and other potent magic.

If nothing else, the cleric who can Raise Dead can also Break Enchantment.

Is there a way to gain access to Raise Dead without giving the party access to an NPC with all the rest of these spells? Obviously this becomes moot if the party has a level 9+ cleric, but until that time, I'd like a resource available to the party in the case of character death.

I'm sure I could deal with this by having the priest be expensive or unwilling to aid in other facets of the party's troubles (or by having any curses resist Break Enchantment) but that runs the risk of the party beginning to see the NPC as an adversary instead of a limited asset.

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Single use item

A scroll (6125 gp) or an item with one charge (5675 gp) is probably the cheapest solution to cast Raise Dead.

Also, you can use these items with Use Magic Device. Chances are lower than for a lower-level-than-necessary cleric, but you can retry (with 24h break on natural 1) for sure. (I'd say that - although not very clearly - retries for casting spells from scrolls are possible too). Raise Dead is not a combat spell anyway (casting time 1 minute), so the impact of several retries is not essential.

Ring of Spell Storing

More expensive option, requiring some balancing role-playing, is to give your NPC (or a temple the PCs can visit) a Ring of Spell Storing (50k gp) with Raise Dead. (Imagine a more powerful cleric recharging the ring every time she visits the temple, but not too often). The advantage of the ring - anyone can have it and use it, even if your local temple is run by a Lvl 1 Paladin (here you need the balancing act - 50k gp, powerful item is unusual in the hands of a 1st level character).

Planar Ally (long shot)

Lesser Planar Ally is a 4th level Cleric spell with 100 XP cost. A scroll is 1200 gp, a wand is 920 gp per charge. A summoned planar ally requires a payment of 100gp per HD for quick tasks, half if the task is not hazardous.

And a Hollyphant (Book of Exalted Deeds, p. 176) and a Movanic (Fiend Folio, p. 57) are 6HD, good outsiders (Hollyphant - NG, Movanic - any good) that happen to have Raise Dead as a spell-like ability. You could allow the NPC to be able to call them with Lesser Planar Ally and pay either 300gp (I don't think it's hazardous) or bargain another service for the outsider. With a scroll, the total cost is 1500 gp.

You could assume your (or the NPCs) deity will send one of these outsiders if you request help to bring someone back from the dead.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Both the ring of spell storing and the lesser planar ally for a hollyphant are excellent calls (and UMD probably did deserve a mention). Regarding that last line, however, lesser planar ally gives an outsider of the deity’s choice, so you probably don’t even need to know hollyphants exist; just ask for someone to help you with the dead guy, and leave it up to the deity to figure out that a hollyphant is what you need. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 1 '15 at 19:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ You're right. I somehow focused on this sentence: If you know an individual creature’s name, you may request that individual by speaking the name during the spell (though you might get a different creature anyway). An unwilling DM could send a different creature anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – burlap Oct 1 '15 at 19:59
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Replace the helpful NPC cleric with a helpful NPC archivist

The archivist (Heroes of Horror 82-4) prepares divine spells from a prayerbook like a wizard prepares wizard spells from a spellbook. Also like a wizard, an archivist has limited access to cleric spells, getting for free only 2 free spells each level after level 1. Hence an isolated level 9 archivist may have only but two cleric spells in his prayerbook that he can prepare.

Such an NPC archivist will want whatever divine spells the PCs know that he doesn't, giving the PCs some bargaining power, and such an archivist will have access to only a handful of DM-determined spells before the PCs have access to them, explaining why the PCs don't just run to him whenever they're in over their heads.

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Anyone who has raise dead on their spell list, regardless of level and other capability, can use a spell-trigger device of raise dead. Wands are out since raise dead is a 5th-level spell, but a scepter of raise dead (Lost Empires of Faerûn) can exist, as could a staff that includes the spell. Note that the cost of such a device is exorbitant, however: each such device must include the material component for each charge, or 50 × 5,000 gp = 250,000 gp worth of diamond dust. This is on top of the usual cost of a 5th-level, 9th-caster-level spell in a spell-trigger device, 5×9×750 gp = 33,750 gp. So a fully-charged scepter of raise dead is worth 283,750 gp.

As DM, you could say someone found a partially-charged scepter, though. A scepter of raise dead with only 1 charge remaining is a far more affordable 5,675 gp. For a variety of reasons, however, it is important to not allow the crafting of partially-charged spell-trigger devices. If nothing else, a 1-charge spell-trigger device of any given spell is always easier to use and cheaper than a scroll of the same spell.

Getting away from partially-charged spell-trigger devices, a scroll of raise dead is considerably cheaper (only one instance of the 5,000 gp worth of diamond dust must go into it, and scrolls themselves are considerably cheaper, only 5×9×25 gp = 1,125 gp, or 6,125 gp total for a scroll of raise dead. However, scrolls are also more difficult to use: a spellcaster who has raise dead on their spell list, but is unable to cast it, must make a DC 10 Caster Level check to cast it. This is a pretty easy check (even someone with caster level 1st succeeds 60% of the time), and the risk of a mishap when failing is quite low; the rules, however, are unclear on retrying the check.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – mxyzplk Oct 2 '15 at 13:26
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There's lots of ways to let an NPC know some Cleric spells without knowing all of them:

An Archivist (Heroes of Horror) can potentially learn any divine spell ever, but has to find scrolls to learn from, like a Wizard. She can just have not found any spells you don't want the players to have access to.

Favored Soul (Complete Divine), Mystic (Dragonlance Campaign Setting), or Oracle (Pathfinder Advanced Class Guide) are spontaneous casters with a limited number of spells known from the Cleric list, like a Sorcerer.

Adept (DMG), Healer (Miniatures Handbook), or Apostle of Peace (Book of Exalted Deeds) have more limited class spell lists than Cleric, which still contain Raise Dead. Though they do automatically know every spell on their respective class list, so there might still be some you don't want.

Divine Crusader (Complete Divine) has domain spells and only domain spells. Give him the Restoration domain (Dragonlance Campaign Setting) for Raise Dead.

Contemplative (Complete Divine) or Divine Disciple (Player's Guide to Faerûn) can add any one domain to any divine base class. The Arcane Disciple feat (Complete Divine) can do so for any arcane base class. Again, pick the Restoration domain.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The Archivist is a decent idea, though they might be hard to fit into the story. \$\endgroup\$ – Jeff Oct 2 '15 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not a bad idea in general, but the Archivist has the issue of being able to be upgraded by the party without terribly much effort. Of course, that's kinda cool, so maybe it's ok after all ;) \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Oct 2 '15 at 19:25
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Arcane Thesis allows you to reduce the level of a spell by one per non-Heighten Spell metamagic applied to it.

A character with Alternate Source Spell, Arcane Thesis (Raise Dead), Sanctum Spell, and Imbued Healing can cast Raise Dead as a 3rd level spell that counts as either a 4th or 2nd level spell (low enough to also store it in Glyphs of Warding or gift it via Imbue with Spell Ability, not that that's relevant). If Human, such a character would indeed have completed their build at level 3, and be able to cast such spells, provided they can get access to an Arcane Spell before that point (presumably via a higher level Cleric of this order Imbue with Spell Ability-ing them, or a scroll if your DM allows such things). Alternate Source Spell meets its own prerequisites, so once you have it you are good to go. If you can't get access to Arcane spells without a class level dip, the caster will need to be level 4 (Clr3/Wiz1) or have taken 3 levels of a dual Arcane/Divine spellcasting class with Raise Dead on their 5th level spell list (there aren't any I'm aware of, but I'm bad at remembering all those non-Phb base classes). Obviously the character will need access to a one-time method of casting Raise Dead in order to take Arcane Thesis for that spell, but doing so is extremely simple for a fifth level character (and Imbue with Spell Ability should solve the problem here as well)

This Cleric (and presumably their order of similarly statted Raise Dead clerics) clearly very much focuses on raising the dead, and in addition to not being able to cast any other spells above 3rd level they probably would prefer to solve most problems with their chosen spell anyways.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh right, sorry. But still, only trivial when you're steeped in charop thinking, which is not apparently the case for the OP (or me). So the edit is an improvement, thanks! \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 2 '15 at 18:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie No problem! Thanks for pointing out it needed it; that's what comments are for :) \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Oct 2 '15 at 19:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ The feat Arcane Thesis is changed by the Player's Handbook II errata ("A spell cannot be reduced to below its original level with the use of this feat"). Also, the feat Imbued Healing is changed by Complete Champion errata ("Remove 'Metamagic' from title of feat"). But, hey, other than that... :-) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Oct 7 '15 at 1:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Durn Errata, always ruining my fun :( Imbued healing can be replaced by any other 0-level adjustment spell; I just thought it was neat because it's conjuration(healing) only. Nonverbal Spell, for example, works, too. That Arcane Thesis errata really messes up the build, though. \$\endgroup\$ – the dark wanderer Oct 7 '15 at 7:30

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