Some time ago, I read an excellent Dragon magazine article about how to make raise dead and resurrection spells unique.
The article went beyond the actual event, and spoke heavily of the repercussions. This really got me thinking. Even in this day and age, there are many places in the world that still believe strongly in witchcraft, spirits, demons, and other woo-woo nonsense. They still burn witches in Africa (using old tires to do so) whenever a person or cow is struck by lightning ( a somewhat common occurrence evidently) or some other unexplainable event occurs.
Scary stuff to us civilized folks! Now add another piece to the pie. Said villagers, who could be any stereotypical village full of ignorant bumpkins, see one of the party members crudely vivisected by some kind of monster. Hours later, that "dead" man is fully healed and walking around...Talk about a perfect role-playing situation!
- What if the village decides to "return" the hero back to his god's embrace?
- What if they have a silly prophecy or legend about a hero that "comes back".
- What if they had been victimized a generation or two ago by an undead creature?
Obviously, being simple and superstitious could cause some problems, but what if they are more...thematic? What about the local priest of a death deity like Wee-Jas or the like? Would they take issue with the party spurning their master's touch?
On another note, there was also an interesting sidebar relating to side effects of being raised. With a small bit of flair, the "daily resurrections" silliness becomes a bit more (dare I say it) realistic.
My favorite bit of fluff was that the spirit was once again bound to the body, but it took a couple of days for it to fully re-integrate with the body. As such, the PC had a ghostlike "shadow" of himself hovering just behind his body, mimicking the bodies actions. No in game mechanical effect - only a roleplaying effect.
One of the most difficult parts of immersion at high levels is the resurrection mill game. Where EVERY fight ends with someone needing to be raised. Hopefully these ideas will help you to introduce a few thematic elements to your game to stave off the same old boring crap.
What about you? DO anything different from the RAW for Raise and Resurrect?
EDIT: It was Dragon issue #342 - "Raising the Dead", by Rodney Thompson