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In D&D (Forgotten Realms) lore, is there any kind of answer for how long it takes the soul to leave the body after death? If not, is there any answer implied by other rules or effects (such as resurrection spells)?

The reason I ask is because I think that this might be the reason that revivify does not require the soul to be willing whereas other spells do (since revivify must be done within a minute after death (Basic Rules, p. 104)).

Though I am asking about 5e, answers supported by earlier edition lore can be considered.

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The rules don't specify; revivify's limit is a good starting point

As with a lot of things, the D&D 5e rules leave a lot of latitude for interpretation. @Aviose came up with a good conceptual model in a comment on an answer to a question about souls in 2015.
I'm taking this opportunity to pull it out of a comment and put it into an answer that it fits.

Best way to view revivify working is simply stating that it takes about one minute (maybe more) for the soul to leave the body upon death. Consider that the in-world time to brain-death and look at revivify as an advanced form of CPR.

Of interest: I was looking in my 1e and 2e AD&D material and find that the explicit link between souls and raise dead / resurrect spells comes from 3e and later. I'll follow up with BECMI/BX info when I get back to where that is

An example of the immediate departure of a soul in FR is Kelemvor's soul:

Kelemvor's soul was absorbed into Cyric's sentient sword, Godsbane, in the moment he was killed on top of Blackstaff Tower.

Given the agency and nature of the sword involved, that may be an exception rather than a rule (This appears to be during the FR's AD&D 2e continuity, Prince of Lies).

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The soul leaves immediately upon death

I'm going to quote the DMG, p. 24, under "Bringing Back the Dead", but the section before that quoted in Goopbgone's answer:

When a creature dies, its soul departs its body, leaves the Material Plane, travels through the Astral Plane, and goes to abide on the plane where the creature's deity resides. If the creature didn't worship a deity, its soul departs to the plane corresponding to its alignment.

That sure sounds to me that the soul departs the body when it dies, that is to say right away.

I can imagine that the journey of the soul through the Astral Plane to where it will eventually abide might take some time, so perhaps if it's shortly after death the soul would still be on the Astral Plane. But regardless, I can't see a reading that would allow for the soul to remain in the body while the body was dead.

Revivify can only be cast on a creature which has died. There may be some disagreement on whether one applies the next part of the "Bringing Back the Dead" rules that say that all returning from the dead requires the soul to approve of it, or whether one sees revivify as an exception to that general rule, but either way I think it's clear that the soul would have left the body by that point in order for it to be able to be reunited.

As further evidence that the soul has left the body already even if used within the time limit of revivify, the Tomb of Annihilation introduction says:

Any spell that breathes life into the dead (including revivify, raise dead, resurrection, and true resurrection) automatically fails if cast on a humanoid whose soul is either trapped in the Soulmonger or has been devoured by the atropal…

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On DMG page 24, under "Bringing Back the Dead", it states that you cannot bring back the soul of an unwilling creature:

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. For example, if the honorable knight Sturm Brightblade is slain and a high priestess of Takhisis (god of evil dragons) grabs his body, Sturm might not wish to be raised from the dead by her. Any attempts she makes to revive him automatically fail. If the evil cleric wants to revive Sturm to interrogate him, she needs to find some way to trick his soul, such as duping a good cleric into raising him and then capturing him once he is alive again.

I quote the fact that the chapter says bringing back from the dead, and revivify states “You touch a creature that has died”.

Another thing to consider 5e is when a PC gets below 0 they go into death saving throws, which is the character fighting off death before dying.

From all that I assume the soul leaves the body the moment you die.


In my opinion, this rule also protects players from not being able to die when their character is super tired of things or done with life but circumstance keeps trying to bring them back. It has also protected me as a GM from player shenanigans.

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    \$\begingroup\$ What conclusion do you draw from quoting that fact? You don't actually state your conclusion of when the soul leaves the body, which is necessary to answer the question. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Dec 15 '18 at 12:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh I gues I wasn’t clear, I’ll edit it. my conclusion is the soil leaves the body when you die period \$\endgroup\$ – Goopbgone Dec 15 '18 at 12:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ wraiths form the monster manual add a bit of support, "When a mortal humanoid lives a debased life or enters into a fiendish pact, it consigns its soul to eternal damnation in the Lower Planes. However, sometimes the soul becomes so suffused with negative energy that it collapses in on itself and ceases to exist the instant before it can shuffle off to some horrible afterlife...." \$\endgroup\$ – John Dec 15 '18 at 16:17

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