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Xanathar's Guide to Everything introduces the ceremony spell. One of the options is to perform a wedding for 2 or more creatures:

Wedding: You touch adult humanoids willing to be bonded together in marriage. For the next 7 days, each target gains a +2 bonus to AC while they are within 30 feet of each other. A creature can benefit from this rite again only if widowed.

How is the term "widowed" defined for the purposes of this spell?

For reference, the Merriam-Webster definition suggests this refers to individuals whose spouse has died. However, when dealing with a world where creatures can return from the dead, and marriage can be a magical (rather than legal) concept, this may have some odd ramifications.

I can imagine some peculiar loopholes, which would lead to questions like:

  1. If the marriage is polygamous, and only one spouse dies, do all of the other spouses count as being widowed?

  2. Is there a maximum number of times a creature can qualify as being widowed? Or can they go Henry VIII-style if their spouses keep dying and they repeatedly get remarried?

  3. If a spouse dies, and later comes back to life, are the other spouses still considered widowed?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I figured the individual sub-questions were similar enough to be grouped as one question. If they should be split into separate questions, please let me know. \$\endgroup\$ – MikeQ May 15 '18 at 17:45
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How cultures function is up to a given DM/Game World/Table

Marriage customs and habits can be expected to vary from place to place in a given game world, if our own world is any indicator. Marriage customs would be expected to vary between Humans, Dwarves, Orcs, Hobgoblins, Giants, Dragons, etc.

That consideration, that marriage is as much "in-game-world-cultural" as it is mechanical (via the ceremony spell), leaves unspecified the norms that are a baseline to reference the effects of the ceremony spell, and the after effects.

  • If the marriage is polygamous, and only one spouse dies, do all of the other spouses count as being widowed?

    Probably, but that would vary by culture. A reasonable ruling would be that to form a new union, they all can marry a new spouse once the courtship/wooing takes place and a marriage ceremony is arranged/scheduled/agreed.

  • Is there a maximum number of times a creature can qualify as being widowed? Or can they go Henry VIII style if their spouses keep dying and they repeatedly get remarried?

    That will vary with culture, so work with the DM on this specific case. As long as the ex-queen stays dead, the spell doesn't seem to differentiate, nor pose any limit. Cultural considerations might, on the other hand, create resistance, friction, or even grounds for a revolt.

  • If a spouse dies, and later comes back to life, are the other spouses still considered widowed?

    While this will again vary with culture, the return of the spouse from the dead represents a great many complications to a marriage.

    • If they have been remarried by that spell, there's a new bond formed among those who were married, and the returning creature isn't part of it by a literal reading of the spell's text.

      In a world where resurrection magic is very common, you would expect to find different rules than in a world with low magic where only the very rich, the very lucky, or the very powerful have access to raise dead or resurrection spells. You could also expect each culture to have developed norms and "statutes of limitations" to govern such occurrences.

Fleshing out your game world with these kinds of details is part of the fun of playing D&D.

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According to my dictionary, someone who has been "widowed" fulfills exactly two criteria:

  1. They have lost a spouse by death.
  2. They have not remarried.

Let's see if your test cases meet that criteria.

Case 1: Your polygamous target has lost one spouse to death. Until they add to their collection of spouses again, they're widowed- even if they still have three wives, #4 is gone and hasn't been replaced.

Case 2: Nothing in the spell or the definition of "widowed" prevents you from marrying lots of women (or men, go nuts) with days to live. Congratulations, you're a monster with a +2 bonus to AC. I imagine you'll be making it official and literally using your new bride/groom as your shield?

Case 3. This one is a little tougher legally, but magic cares not for inheritance laws and vows of "till death do us part." If your spouse died but "got better," you haven't lost them anymore. You are no longer widowed.

On a slightly more constructive note, the spell doesn't specify that only two people can be married at once, so if your entire party decided to get hitched this spell would apply. Note that divorce doesn't work. If you want the bonus again one of the characters in the party has to die, and stay dead.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm actually pretty sure the developers included the widow bit precisely to keep parties from marrying each other once a week for a super cheap AC boost. \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog May 15 '18 at 18:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ I feel like this answer makes unfair value judgments about people who marry specifically for the purposes of using their spouses as meat shields. D&D is a progressive game, so you can't discriminate based on a character's life choices like that. \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage May 15 '18 at 18:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ My apologies, @GreySage. You are of course correct. If someone wants to enter into a loving cult where their sole purpose is to protect their spouse for seven days and then die, who am I to judge? My evil gnome Warlock is trying to figure out how to have babies with a drow paladin, for crying out loud. I mean, you can do whatever you want... so long as you don't marry a shapechanger in humanoid form. Then all bets are off. \$\endgroup\$ – TheVagrantDog May 15 '18 at 18:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @VagrantDog Given how expensive a wedding can be (oh, my aching wallet, IRL) there may be other reasons for trying to avoid too many weddings. :) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 16 '18 at 0:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ On case 3 it might be pertinent to note that "widowed" is a verb, not a noun. If your dead spouse "got better" then while you are no longer a widow (or widower), you have nonetheless still been "widowed". So .. necromancers: get married, kill spouse, raise dead, get married again, repeat each week. \$\endgroup\$ – Erics Jul 11 at 10:54

protected by doppelgreener Jan 12 at 10:25

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