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I have been working on a scenario to play with a group of friends however I wasn't sure what system we would be using. We decided on 5e D&D but I've run into a problem with the core motivation of the villain.

Very briefly, my idea was a lesser nobleman using an ancient spell book to try and bring their child back from the dead. Originally I had the idea that bringing their child back would work by transferring the child's soul into a body but it had failed several times leading to the PC's investigating several missing children in the village.

The problem is that now we have decided on D&D I can't think of any reason why someone looking to bring back a loved one from the dead wouldn't just go to a cleric. What's more the way resurrection seems to works in the game is that a soul is tied to a body so how could the soul of a dead person enter another body. I could have missed something since I'm not super familiar with D&D so any ideas would be appreciated.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Purple Monkey, Jason_c_o, Miniman, user17995, GMJoe May 24 '18 at 9:17

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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There are three basic reasons why you wouldn't just "go to a Cleric", which you might be able to use.

1) Casting Resurrection is expensive; it requires 500+ gp worth of diamonds, which is out of reach for many (though not Nobles, perhaps)

2) Casting Resurrection is hard; you can't just go to a Cleric, you need to find a high level Cleric. And those probably have more important things to do and more important people to help than some insignificant Noble's child

3) Your target needs to want to come back; all proper resurrection spells require a willing target to restore them.

The first barrier might not be a big one for your noble, but both the second and third can easily be a reason for him not to be able to get this to work.

Also, only proper Resurrection puts the soul back in the original body. Especially in the case of 3, if your target isn't willing, then the only way to return their soul back to the Prime Material is through some dark, forceful binding ritual.

Which means your noble doesn't need a Cleric, he needs a Necromancer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, the body of the child needs to meet the requirements of the spell: maybe the body is too damaged for the local cleric; or it took too long to find a cleric / amass funds / recover the child's body. \$\endgroup\$ – Ruse May 24 '18 at 8:55
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The child doesn't want to go back/the child's soul isn't free

Resurrection require that the soul of the target is free and willing. Maybe your nobleman has already seen a cleric, which couldn't resurrect the child. Filled with grief and not understanding the issue, the nobleman then sought other means to revive his kid.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 Nice answer! I hadn't considered that, but then, not surprising given that I don't use resurrection magic in my games... \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS May 24 '18 at 8:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ To expand on this, considering the Resurrection spell requires the soul to be free and willing- if the child is currently floating around as a Ghost, it may not even realize it's dead (as per MM page 147, " A ghost might not realize that it has died and continue the everyday routine of its life."). Checked against PBH page 272, which says you can bring back someone "... that didn’t die of old age, and that isn’t undead. If its soul is free and willing, the target returns to life...". Our little ghost is both undead and unwilling- double whammy against resurrection! \$\endgroup\$ – The Grumbleputty May 24 '18 at 19:55
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This depends on your campaign setting.

First, in general, resurrection spells require resources far beyond the means of ordinary people, e.g. Raise Dead requires a 500gp diamond. This may be small change for an adventure, but an average commoner wouldn't be able to acquire such a thing in their lifetime (though this may be within reach of a nobleman).

Second, clerics of high enough level to raise the dead are uncommon in most settings. Obviously adventuring clerics, i.e. player characters, may reach such dizzy heights, but your average village cleric is either going to be low-level or even have no real divine magic at all. ("Cleric" may be a class as far as players go, but in general its just a job. Perhaps only adventuring clerics have that inner spark that allows real divine magic).

Lastly, a subject must be willing to be raised. Again, it can be assumed that adventurers (controlled by players) want to come back. But when people die you can assume that go to their appropriate after-life and generally don't want to come back! You could argue that some (black magic) ritual is required to force this to happen whether the person wills it or not.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For a situation where a child may not want to come back, read Order of the Stick #496 (although you may need to read many of the earlier ones for context) \$\endgroup\$ – KerrAvon2055 May 24 '18 at 9:01
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Simply remove resurrection from your game

In my home universe, with its own gods and afterlife lore, resurrection doesn't make sense. So it simply isn't included. Resurrection spells like revivify or resurrection are not on the cleric's spell list for clerics playing in my universe.

If you removed resurrection magic from your game, then you would also sidestep the plot hole you've identified in your question. Your game, your universe, your rules. To clarify, I'm not proposing you remove every means of resurrection (i.e. the necromancy practices of this "ancient spell book" you mention), just cleric-style resurrection.

However, since it is part of the published rules, you should make sure that your players are happy with this, so if the game hasn't started yet, be sure to tell them of this restriction (especially if any of them planned to play a cleric or a Path of the Zealot barbarian).

If the game has started, then if it's still early days, you might still be able to talk to your players about it, but if they are resistant (especially for reasons that concern their character builds, such as if they are playing as clerics, etc), then it might be that this sidestep won't work. In which case you'll have to get creative (maybe a god has cursed this villain so that his child can't be affected by resurrection magic or something, but now we're into "ideas brainstorming", which this site is not about, so I'll stop there...)

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    \$\begingroup\$ I did something similar in my game. I left Revivify in, but all the other rez spells are gone. Revivify is more for saving somebody who is 'flatlining on the table', still kind of between life and death, than for bringing somebody who has previously died, so I have no real problem with it, and the diamond cost means it's STILL outside the reach of all but the most wealthy. \$\endgroup\$ – Darth Pseudonym May 27 '18 at 2:48

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