Wednesday, January 28, 2015

5e Race: Revenant


  • Revenants are those humans who have been raised from the dead but have no memory of who they were in their previous life.
  • They work for the clerics who resurrected them to pay off their debt and buy their memories back, a feat accomplished by only a handful of revenants.
  • Many revenants, after years of thankless toil, find themselves dissatisfied with this arrangement and opt to escape, giving up on recovering their old lives in order to start new ones, often winding up on the margins of society, alive but unable to fully live.

Death, sages will tell you, is not the end. It is an end, yes, but also a beginning: the beginning of an existence that is not life, one indescribable with the broad brush of language, a tool capable of only the most cursory and ephemeral strokes. For as far back as our planetary memory extends, death was a threshold a body inexorably approached but crossed only once. Those remarkable few who have crossed that threshold twice often have a good reason for returning: a heroic sacrifice repaid, an earthly destiny yet unfulfilled, a lust for power that transcends the limits of biology, or simply a powerful ally within the clergy. These are people who return to this world as the same person who left it, their humanity intact. They recall the moments leading up to their death, but have no memory of death or the hours after their resurrection; otherwise they are whole, with a continuous memory and sense of self. It is as though they simply turned in for the night and awoke the next morning. The dead rising from the grave was, for all of human history, a rare occurrence, and the world of the living could be relied upon to provide an interminable harvest of souls to feed the chthonic void.

That longstanding agreement with death, it seems, has been annulled. For the past several centuries, the Priests of the Far Shore have taken upon themselves the task of collecting bodies from battlefields, hospitals, dark alleys of forgotten city quarters, and anywhere else the forgotten fall. They feed those corpses to their Liminal Vaults, the great stone mausoleums that return life to the dead.  The dead return not as human beings but as revenants, without memories of their past lives, without a developed personality, without the skills that defined them in life. Some clerics not associated with this sect have sanctioned this act as a true miracle, while others denounce the act as exploitative, blasphemous, or both.

In order to pay their debts to the Order of the Far Shore, revenants are contracted to agricultural landlords, ship’s captains, mining companies, and other similar ventures. After so many years, the revenants are told, the cost of their resurrection will be repaid and they will be given their freedom and the memories of their previous existence. But after years of toil with no end in sight, many revenants find themselves unhappy with this arrangement and escape the workhouses and plantations to start new lives.  The Apotropaic Order of Mendicant Sorcerers actively recruits from this group, but so do the Silent Quarry, the city’s most powerful criminal organization. No one else will have them.

Situations experienced in life may spark fleeting, nebulous memories in the revenant, but their former lives are never fully recoverable. It always feels like it happened to someone else. Some go mad grasping for those memories, welcoming another death. Others accept their new lives as a clean slate and attempt to make the most of a second chance free of whatever misfortunes led to their first death.

Ability Scores: Their gaunt physiques and wan complexions give them a romantic aura of danger and mystery. Charisma increases by 2. Despite their attenuated appearance, the bodies of revenants are surprisingly durable. Constitution increases by 1.  

Alignment: Revenants often find themselves at odds with a society that distrusts them and has no place for them. They tend towards chaotic and neutral alignments.

The Body is a Machine: The revenant requires no food, drink, or air to survive. They retain the ability to eat and drink, and many do so, whether for the pleasure it provides or to simply feel human once again.

In Death’s Cold Embrace: The skin of the revenant is cold to the touch. They have the ability to intensify this quality, granting them a resistance to cold damage at 1st level as well as the ability to cast the spell chill touch once per day beginning at 5th level. Charisma is the spellcasting ability for this trait.

Languages: The abyss still whispers to the revenant. They can read, write, and speak Abyssal, Infernal, or Celestial, depending on their alignment.

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