Resurrection states that the soul of a creature must be free and willing in order to be resurrected. Is the soul aware of the situation in which it is trying to be resurrected?

For example, say two different groups were trying to resurrect a creature. One of those groups is friendly and the other is hostile. Ignoring the debate over how much of the creature's body is needed for the resurrection, would the soul know which group had cast the spell first?

  • \$\begingroup\$ By first do you mean chronologically or before deciding if it is free or willing? Also, welcome to the site! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 0:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this a hypothetical question, or is it practical question based on actual problems that you face? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 12:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor This is a hypothetical. There is a potential of this happening in one of my campaigns, and it got me wondering. \$\endgroup\$
    – Crocoduck
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 20:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ But you are the DM, aren't you? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 20:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor Yes, I am. \$\endgroup\$
    – Crocoduck
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


By default, they know some details

DMG page 24 discusses this very topic in the section Bringing Back the Dead:

A soul can't be returned to life if it doesn't wish to be. A soul knows the name, alignment, and patron deity (if any) of the character attempting to revive it and might refuse to return on that basis.

The section goes on to give an example of an evil cleric trying to raise a good knight, and the knight's soul refusing to return based on the information he receives about her from the resurrection, causing the resurrection to automatically fail. It even describes how the evil cleric might want to trick the soul into returning by forcing a good cleric to perform the resurrection and then capturing the raised knight once the process is complete.

Of course, the DM can modify this as they see fit

The DM controls the world, and that can include circumstances surrounding death and resurrection. If they decide that the soul knows more or less information, or is in some way prevented from returning to life, then that's the way the game works. That's why I describe the rules in the DMG as the default; anything in the book can be changed. To get concrete details in your game, ask your DM if their world's rules for resurrection align with those in the DMG.


It's up to the DM.

This depends heavily on how death works in your world. In some D&D cosmologies, the souls of the dead pass out of the Prime Material plane, so they are not aware of what's going on with their bodies at all, unless they somehow remain on the material plane (for example, in the form of a Ghost).

The language "free and willing" is there to prevent Resurrection overriding other game effects that have bound the soul or caused it to be unwilling to return. This can include:

  • A magical contract made with an extraplanar entity such as a devil or deity. If the soul contractually belongs to such a creature, it is not free and cannot be resurrected.
  • A player not wanting to continue playing the dead character. It's really up to the player whether their character's soul is willing to be resurrected.
  • The DM not wanting to return a dead NPC to the game. The DM can decide the character does not want to be resurrected.

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