In the game I run (D&D 5E with a home brew setting) those that die a spectacular death get to send a letter back to the living. Spectacular being defined as enough to amuse or impress the goddess of death.

My party's druid/ranger died by loading himself, in black bear form into a catapult and tried to shoot himself over a wall. He rolled a natural 1 and went splat on the wall. The damage killed his bear form and the excess carried over and killed him. In his letter back he told them not to resurrect him because he was with his mother in heaven.

Two sessions later, he has a new character, and he realizes all of the unfinished business his old character left behind. He tells me that he wants his character to be resurrected.

How can I do this without meta gaming?

Should I let him change his mind?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Who among the living receives this letter? \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23, 2018 at 6:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm closing this as primarily opinion-based, as it seems to be wholly gathering arbitrary opinions about (a) whether to do it (generally yes, thankfully) and (b) how to do it. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23, 2018 at 10:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ This may be better off as two different questions: How can the DM facilitate a PC's return from the dead when the PC's told the other PCs he doesn't want to be brought back from the dead? (a mechanical question) and If a player says he doesn't want his PC to be brought back from the dead, should the DM allow the PC to be brought back from the dead if the player changes his mind? (a social contract question). Both are interesting questions, probably worthy of their own standalone answers. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23, 2018 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast While still opinion-based, I think those DMs with players who waffle on whether or not they want their PCs brought back from the dead could concoct an answer that offers an informed and experienced opinion as to whether it's a good idea to allow the player to change his mind in such a situation. Such a question would have to contain a description of the player and his degree of waffling so far and a description of the campaign (so as to judge the impact of the PC's return on the story), but I think it's a possible question. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23, 2018 at 15:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Yeah, the "back it up" criterion needs to be spelled out, or we get an opinion fest. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23, 2018 at 15:21

7 Answers 7


The major issue here is the fact that every resurrection spell in 5e requires a willing soul. Resurrection, Reincarnate, True Resurrection, and Raise Dead all require the spirit to be a willing participant and have a desire to come back to life. The only spell that can reverse death and doesn't specifically state that a willing soul is necessary is Revivify, but that requires the spell to be cast within 60 seconds of death.

The party isn't going to bother finding the resources to cast one of the resurrection spells on someone who, as far as they know, doesn't want to come back to life. It would be a major waste of money, time, and the spellcaster's abilities -- if they can even find someone able to do it, which can be difficult depending on their location.

As a result, to do something like this is the definition of metagaming. He learned something out of character (how much he needs his old character), that he couldn't possibly know in character, and now wants something to happen in character as a result (his resurrection).

It basically just comes down to how much the party is willing to tolerate stretching the unspoken "no metagaming" rule, but there are a couple of ways you could pull it off if you want to allow him to come back as that character.

Another letter gets sent.

Maybe, after all, living with Mom isn't such a great thing. He longs for the freedom he had when he was alive, and wishes he could return to adventuring; the afterlife just isn't all it's cracked up to be, and he regrets leaving his friends behind in a time they need his abilities. Mention that he would be willing to rejoin them, should they attempt to resurrect them, and then it's just a matter of letting the party do so.

A haunting.

The above, but other party members begin to see his ghost apparate and spook them. They get nervous, so they attempt a resurrection to bring his soul back into his body rather than leave it as an increasingly frustrated ghost.

They visit him in the spirit world.

You don't mention what the party's makeup is, or their levels. If they're sufficiently high enough level, you could make it a plot in which they get to visit him in the spirit realm. Perhaps he pesters the goddess of death into letting them visit, or they get her attention through a certain act and she wants to have a chat with them.

Just... do it.

Alternatively, maybe your players don't particularly care and just want to play, metagaming be damned. In which case, whatever. Just tell them to go find someone to resurrect him and be done with it. You should be very careful with this solution, however, and make sure you have a good read on your party, because something so egregiously metagaming could easily be a game ruiner for someone really invested in the story/world.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for helpful "in character" suggestions - a letter written today doesn't necessarily reflect how they feel later. Overall, the most important thing to do is to think this through if you want to do it , and discuss with the rest of the group. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miller86
    Jan 23, 2018 at 9:29

In fact, that ranger player already started with meta-gaming, since he did tell the other players and you as the GM that he wants his old character to be resurrected, in an OOC context.

Lastly it is your choice how to proceed, there are several ways to solve it:

  1. Agree to his meta-gaming and allow the players to find a reason for the party to resurrect the old character, even if it goes against his expressed (in-character) wishes as stated in the letter. That might go well for peace around the gaming table, but there will (should!) be in-character party tensions since the otheres did go against his explicit instructions not to resurrect him.
  2. Retcon that letter and have it say that he does want (or need!) to come back to life because of his unfinished business. Possible, but not my favourite choice because it would break immersion and continuity.
  3. Passing of obligations. That one definitely needs talking to the player in question. The key is not resurrecting the old character, but for example let the party members find his Last Will and some hints to his 'unfinished business', maybe even expressively stating that his new character is meant to pick up the slack.
  4. As a variation of (3), allow the old character to come back as a ghost, if your game world allows it, and only for a limited time. Of course as a ghost he is (should be) limited in his interaction with others. But, unfinished business is the prime reason for ghosts to linger, isn't it?

(3) and (4) would only really work if 'unfinished business' is the player's only motivation to bring back his old character and might be willing to let go of him if there is an avenue of these matters are being resolved without his character being present (in full).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Regarding 1, the Raise Dead spell (and it's cousins) require the target soul to be willing. That means his buddies can still try to raise him ("I know we're asking a lot, buddy, but we really need you back"), and, in-character, it'll be the raised character's decision. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23, 2018 at 7:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure it does, as long as there isn't a house rule 'softening' that requirement. But still it could make for some interesting party dynamics when said old character may come to regret giving in to his old group members cajoling - or coercion... \$\endgroup\$
    – Anonymous
    Jan 23, 2018 at 7:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ True, it does provide interesting roleplaying hooks. Just wanted to mention that it doesn't have to antagonize the raised character. \$\endgroup\$ Jan 23, 2018 at 7:59

You can't do it without meta-gaming, the fact that he wants to come back to life is clearly information his dead character doesn't have and even if he did have it he has no way to tell the rest of the party. But so what, how resurrection works is not really the time to worry about meta-gaming in my opinion.

You should bring him back if that is the kind of game you and your players want. A lot can be said on how resurrection creates too much a safety net and cheapens the game but if you want to, do it. If someone really wanted to come back I would give the group a way to try, but in the situation described I would not make it easy. Give someone in the group a dream that he is not in heaven but in hell or somewhere in between and create an adventure to try to rescue his soul before he can be brought back.


What you are looking for is all about opinions, but, I'll give you my 2 cents.

You can't really do this without meta-gaming to a degree. If you want to make it so the character can come back, you need to fulfill a couple of conditions:

  1. The character to revive must be dead. (Obviously.)
  2. The character's soul must be willing to come back to life, as is the main prerequisite of every applicable spell.
  3. The other characters must know that the character wants to come back to life.

The thing is, the character has stated to the others that he is an unwilling soul. Because of this, even if the character changes his mind, there is no way for them to know. Even if they wanted to bring him back to life, any spellcaster would know it isn't possible to bring back an unwilling soul. The only way you can resurrect the character is if these last to factors change. This means you need the characters to communicate with the afterlife. I can only suggest two ways without metagaming.

Both involve the same starting step:

  1. Establish a side-Quest, something that can be completed or ignored without determining the outcome of the story.
  2. Make sure the quest mandates communication with the afterlife. This can be something directly related to the character or it can be something else.
  3. If it is directly related to the character, they can use spells to communicate with him as needed. If it is related to another person, perhaps have the solution be that one of them dies temporarily to go to the spirit world. There, while the character is fulfilling their Side Quest, they can run into the character for reviving and convince them to rejoin the world of the living, using their close bond and camaraderie as a way of convincing him to do so. The character who died for the quest then gets resurrected and tells the party to perform the spell once again.
  4. After the deceased character has been convinced to come back, all that is left is for the party cast the resurrection spell to bring back the other character.

That said, this needs to happen due to the choices the characters make, not the choices the players make. Withhold the truth of the quest from them and allow them to succeed or fail in this regard no matter what. Do not tell them it is to bring back the character. Do not give them hints on how to go about it. This is the only way to reduce any kind of meta-gaming, but if you don't mind a bit of meta-knowledge being shared: Feel free to tell them. It may make them feel a bit more enticed to go for the Quest and to complete it.


The letter may have a double meaning.

Maybe there's a code inside that needed to stay secret because the death wouldn't have let the player send it otherwise.

The hidden message could say that there's some trouble in heaven and they need to reach him.

The group may discover this once they meet his mother that was supposed to be dead but she's not.

Once they meet again you can proceed from there to revive him.


Instead of finding a way to convince the party to bring him back, why not have it happen outside the party's knowledge or control?

Maybe the letter was a ruse—he had already arranged for a third party to resurrect him in secret, so that he might carry out some important bit of 'business' while everyone thought him dead.

Maybe a necromancer experimented on the remains, trying to create an undead druid (blighter?). The party eventually crosses paths with them, and must destroy the necromancer to 'free' their former companion. Afterward, the player could choose to play his character as an 'awakened' undead, or some magical artifact could restore him body and soul, or a good NPC cleric who helped the party could commune with their god and discover he wants to return.

I'd suggest you talk to the player and collaborate on a return for his character, but keep the party in the dark—let everyone think he's accepted the new character and moved on. Then, in the middle of the party's next quest, spring the surprise return accompanied by a big plot twist. Hey, it works for Hollywood.


Almost without meta-gaming:

Given your setting, I'd suggest simply taking advantage the next time someone else dies and impresses your goddess (even if it's an NPC that "just happens to die spectacularly"). They could include a footnote in their own letter to the tune of "Oh and P.S. I've spoken to [dead-ranger] about [this unfinished business of his or this quest that we're on] and he wants to return [with me?] to [help or whatever]."


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