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Situation: I am playing a Hexblade Warlock. With the willing participation of another party member, my character slays the party member. Having killed a character, the hexblade can cause their spirit to rise as a spectre via the accursed spectre feature. That spectre could then be used, say to float through a wall and unlock a door.

So long as revivify is cast within one minute of the party member dying, does this work? I would assume that the spectre vanishes with the casting of revivify spell as the party member is brought back to life.

To clarify:

  1. Kill a willing party member
  2. Raise the spectre
  3. Have it do spectre things for less than 1 minute
  4. Cleric revivifies the party member

Question:

Is this series of events within rules?
Is there any restriction on raising a spectre of a PC?
Are there restrictions on revivify on a body whose spirit has been raised?

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5 Answers 5

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Yes

There is no reason you can't resurrect the party member without its spirit.

You can cause its spirit to rise from its corpse as a specter, the statistics for which are in the Monster Manual.

Then when you cast revivify, the only requirement is that the creature died in the last minute.

You touch a creature that has died within the last minute. That creature returns to life with 1 hit point.

You could technically keep the specter even with the revived party member (at least until your next long rest).

Floating through walls?

It is unclear whether a specter could float through a wall as you suggest.

Incorporeal Movement: The specter can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object.

[emphasis mine]

A wall is an object according to the object HP rules in the Dungeon Master's Guide, so you could likely move through a well-defined wall (but a cave wall is another question entirely).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ NVM, we discussed in chat and it looks like a sound assumption: the interaction with material things. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 6, 2018 at 13:23
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Yes, if spirit = soul

Let's look at what this specter is:

Starting at 6th level, you can curse the soul of a person you slay, temporarily binding it to your service. When you slay a humanoid, you can cause its spirit to rise from its corpse as a specter... (XGtE)

The soul/spirit is changed temporarily; it remains the soul of the slain character.

Is the creature's spirit the same thing as the creature's soul?

Humanoids have souls, and presumably some undead have souls (what does a lich keep in its phylactery?). In this case a spirit is being temporarily transformed into a creature.

  • Does the creation of a specter now establish another soul?

    If it did that raises problems for this working, however, the creation of another soul looks to be a level of power beyond a 6th level character ability (and is overly complicated). Beyond that, the text of this ability suggests that the soul and the spirit are the same, given that the spirit goes to the afterlife, which is where souls are before the raise dead spell can bring a willing soul back.

    The specter remains in your service until the end of your next long rest, at which point it vanishes to the afterlife. (XGtE, p. 56)

Does anything in revivify prevent this?

Revivify as a spell has very few restrictions.

You touch a creature that has died within the last minute. That creature returns to life with 1 hit point. This spell can’t return to life a creature that has died of old age, nor can it restore any missing body part. (PHB)

As long as revivify is cast within the one minute of the party member dying, by touching the dead PC (the soul's standing right there), then if soul = spirit the body and soul are reunited.

  • Caution; make sure to touch the dead PC; the specter isn't dead -- it's undead

    A specter is available under this power because a dead creature's soul/spirit was available. The PC is not at 0 HP; the PC is dead. Based on the raise dead spell (and other spells) there is a separation of body and soul at death).

If the creature’s soul is both willing and at liberty to rejoin the body, the creature returns to life with 1 hit point. (PHB, Raise Dead; see also body and soul separation in Reincarnate, Resurrection text).

What happens to the specter?

Since it was the soul of the dead PC that was acting as a specter, the specter vanishes with the casting of the revivify spell as the party member is brought back to life. It is very clear that the soul and body are connected in living creatures based on spells that discuss the existence of the soul: Astral Spell, Clone, Magic Jar, Raise Dead, Resurrection, Reincarnate, et al.

Does being a specter prevent this from working?

No, the specter should be able to go through walls. @Axoren noted that in the rules for objects (DMG), Castle Walls are cited as being objects (specifically ones with a damage threshold). A wall is thus an object for purposes of a specter going through objects:

Incorporeal Movement. The specter can move through other creatures and objects as if they were difficult terrain. It takes 5 (1d10) force damage if it ends its turn inside an object. (MM, Specter)

Beyond that, the door to be opened would be an object that the specter could pass through. (Thanks to @Pharap for that point)

Also, see the RP opportunity below for side effects on being a specter for a little while.

Specter / Medium undead, chaotic evil (etc)

Nothing in the monster description indicates an adverse interaction with revivify.

Creature type? No restriction.

Undead are once living creatures brought to a horrifying state of undeath through the practice of necromantic magic or some unholy curse. Undead include walking corpses, such as vampires and zombies, as well as bodiless spirits, such as ghosts and specters.

Since the condition is temporary, you could view this transformation into a specter as a limited form of polymorph.

Humanoids are the main peoples of a fantasy gaming world (MM, Humanoids)

... and humanoids have souls, which is what makes this whole exercise possible if spirit = soul.

RP opportunity

If the spirit = the soul, then the self sacrificing character's soul's alignment was changed for a little while to chaotic evil (per the specter spell description). This opens up some interesting side effects (work with your DM on this) if the character's original alignment wasn't chaotic evil.

How serious is death in your campaign?

If you tried this in Tomb of Annihilation, your the PCs might be in for a jolt. Likewise in Curse of Strahd. Some tables, and some DMs, treat death (not dropping to 0 HP) as a significant traumatic and violent experience. Repeated abuse of this (clever) combination could lead to serious side effects: for example, insanity. You can review the tables in the DMG on insanity, or adapt the insanity element from the Out of the Abyss published adventure for models of how insanity can influence game play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ sorry this so late. a minor quibble re "the text of this ability suggests that the soul and the spirit are the same". While I agree that the text suggests that, and for most intents and purposes it is likely effectively the same, the description of Wraith in MM indicates explicitly that it is a spirit that become a soulless wraith. (As opposed to a specter which explicitly is a spirit that has a soul consistent with your answer.) \$\endgroup\$
    – Weiramon
    Mar 3, 2021 at 20:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Weiramon I'll take a deeper look a bit later, thanks for the heads up. :) \$\endgroup\$ Mar 3, 2021 at 21:54
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Your party member can be revived

The spell can't return an undead creature to life.

This is not a line of text from the Revivify spell. This is the only resurrection spell I'm aware of that does NOT have this clause.

This simplifies the conversation a bit.

  • You slew the party member 1 minute ago. This makes them a valid target for Accursed Specter.
  • The fact that they were a spector for the past minute does not matter.
    • For other spells, we would need to determine whether or not this counts as them being undead for the purposes of revival. We skip needing to do this.
  • Their time as a spector ends at the same time as them being on their last possible moment for revivify.
  • Revivify works on them.
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No this will not work

The Specter has the following elements in it's description (which is also rules text in 5e):

A specter is the angry, unfettered spirit of a humanoid that has been prevented from passing to the afterlife. Specters no longer possess connections to who or what they were, yet are condemned to walk the world forever.

[...]

When a ghost's unfinished business is completed, it can rest at last. No such rest or redemption awaits a specter. It is doomed to the Material Plane, it's only end the oblivion that comes with the destruction of it's soul.

That last sentence in particular

It is doomed to the Material Plane, it's only end the oblivion that comes with the destruction of it's soul.

provides a specific exception to the rules on resurrection for Specters. Their only end is the oblivion that comes with the destruction of it's soul.

This rules out them being raised from the dead by any means.

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Yes, you can use this feature on a party member. Assuming they are a person (and a humanoid) There is no restriction on revivifying except the 1 minute limit, and I would either think the soul would be returned to the body, or until the next long rest (If I was dealing with this as a GM) I'd say the soul was just outside his body until it was slain or otherwise "released".

It could make for some very interesting roleplay! Actually, in response to the post above me that I can't reply to.

This kind of specter is not a traditional one, it is a temporary curse of the soul, not a permanent one.

Regular specters have the Beyond Redemption curse (Beyond Redemption. When a ghost’s unfinished business is completed, it can rest at last. No such rest or redemption awaits a specter. It is doomed to the Material Plane, its only end the oblivion that comes with the destruction of its soul. Until then, it bears out its lonely life in forlorn places, carrying on forgotten through the ages of the world.)

They also have the dwellers in darkness feature where they retreat at the first light of dawn and come out when the sun goes down.

These temporary specters don't follow any of those rules or restrictions. ("The specter remains in your service until the end of your next long rest, at which point it vanishes to the afterlife.")

Also Revivify would work as the corpse itself is not undead... the soul is just temporarily cursed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the stack, take the tour when you have a moment. This is not a traditional discussion forum, and we do have some quirks about how answers are written. Content wise, I think your answer is probably on the right track, it certainly would be with a little more support from the rules, but the frequent use of ellipses and smiley faces makes it a bit hard to follow, I think it would be improved significantly by removing those. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 2 at 1:25

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