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Corpses are considered objects, and the Mending cantrip can do the following:

This spell repairs a single break or tear in an object you touch, such as a broken chain link, two halves of a broken key, a torn cloak, or a leaking wineskin. As long as the break or tear is no larger than 1 foot in any dimension, you mend it, leaving no trace of the former damage.

This spell can physically repair a magic item or construct, but the spell can't restore magic to such an object.

Could you, therefore, use the Mending cantrip on your dead party member who had his body parts chopped off, to reattach those body parts?

The benefit of doing so would be to be able to use a spell such as Revivify, instead of having to resort to higher level spells like Resurrection or a Regenerate + Revivify combo.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ due to the significant shift in game balancing due to this combo, I don't think anymore that corpses should be considered objects. I've posted an answer to the corresponding question to express my concerns: Is a dead creature's body considered an “object”? \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Dec 10 '18 at 14:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that mending takes 1 min to cast, and revivify only works if the target died in the last minute, so you'd need at least 2 casters to pull this off (if it even works). \$\endgroup\$ – GreySage Dec 10 '18 at 19:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Gentle Repose fixes that particular problem just fine, and gives you all the time you'd need. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Barden Dec 10 '18 at 22:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @GreySage I mentioned the same thing Ben Barden said in my answer :) \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Dec 11 '18 at 8:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ I can't get to my books to give a real answer, but I love this use because it's creative and fun, which is more important than pretty much anything else, including what the books says or the opinions of designers. \$\endgroup\$ – user47897 Dec 13 '18 at 15:16
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RAW yes, RAI probably not.

RAW:

Let's analyze Mending's description:

This spell repairs a single break or tear in an object you touch, such as a broken chain link, two halves of a broken key, a torn cloak, or a leaking wineskin. As long as the break or tear is no larger than 1 foot in any dimension, you mend it, leaving no trace of the former damage.

This spell can physically repair a magic item or construct, but the spell can't restore magic to such an object.

  • "a single break or tear": the dictionary defines a tear as "a hole in a piece of paper, cloth, or other material, where it has been torn"; being torn is defined as "to pull or be pulled apart, or to pull pieces off". If a giant rips off your arm, that clearly fall into the category of "pulled apart", therefore it would be considered a tear. Technically, if a knight cut off your head instead, that would not be "torn off", but for the sake of argument, let's just assume that any severed body parts count as "torn off" - it wouldn't make any sense if the spell could repair a ragged, ripped-off head, but not a cleanly cut off head (or other body part, for that matter).
  • "object you touch": unless you have necrophobia, you'll probably be able to touch your companion (and if not, you can't use Revivify either). And, as mentioned, corpses are considered objects.
  • "As long as the break or tear is no larger than 1 foot in any dimension": My reading here is that it doesn't matter how big your head is, as long as the part where it is severed is only 1 foot in any direction. This should be true for most necks or other points of dismemberment unless you got cut in half at the hip (or vertically. Ugh.)
  • "you mend it": defined as "to repair something that is broken or damaged" - this is the case here. If a severed head doesn't count as "damaged", I don't know what does.
  • "leaving no trace of the former damage": this suggests that all internal organs, arteries etc. are healed, otherwise, there would be "a trace of the former damage".
  • "This spell can physically repair a magic item or construct, but the spell can't restore magic to such an object": this only applies to magic items and constructs, but even if it didn't, it wouldn't matter, since your head (probably) isn't attached by magic means.

Therefore, we can conclude, that RAW, Mending can be used to "heal" / repair dismembered corpses. The corpse will still be a corpse, but it now qualifies for spells like Revivify or Raise Dead (none of which could otherwise restore missing body parts).

Note that, due to Mending's 1-minute casting time, you'll have to take measures such as casting Gentle Repose, otherwise, you won't be able to use Revivify, which only works within 1 minute of the target's death.


RAI:

There is a spell dedicated to restoring or reattaching dismembered body parts, Regenerate, which is a 7th-level spell. Granted, it also restores hit points when cast and over time, but still way higher level than an at-will cantrip.

Furthermore, the higher-level resurrection spells like Resurrection and True Resurrection explicitly specify that they restore missing body parts, while Revivify and Raise Dead explicitly specify that they cannot. The intent seems to be that restoring missing body parts is a high-level feature.

In conclusion, using a cantrip and a 3rd-level-spell to partly emulate the effects of the 7th-level spell Resurrection (without restoring all hit points or curing poisons and diseases) does not seem to be the intent. In addition, the language of the Mending spells suggests that it is meant for objects other than corpses, since it makes no mention of those.


Conclusion:

Whether or not you can use this combination therefore depends on your DM. I personally don't think I would allow it - but then again, introducing any limb-loss mechanics into the game is homebrew territory anyways and, if at all, will only happen due to RP reasons in games that I DM, such as a thief choosing to have his hand chopped off instead of going to prison.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I think the major flaw is that a removed body part is not "a single tear". All of the examples in the spell show that the two pieces are made of a single, uniform material. Where as a body would need to mend the bone, the cartilage, muscle, veins, nerve endings, skin, etc. As I pointed out in this semi-related question, rpg.stackexchange.com/a/120001/38834, you can try mending all the little pieces together, but without advanced knowledge of how the body works, Medicine DC 40, you're best-guessing and whatever gets attached won't work anyways when you revive the corpse. \$\endgroup\$ – MivaScott Dec 10 '18 at 17:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MivaScott that's certainly open to interpretation. I think, however, that the reason why it was phrased as "a single tear" is to prevent you from re-creating e.g. a burnt object from its ashes, or a mirror shattered into a hundred pieces (not that the latter would be game-breaking). \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Dec 10 '18 at 18:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ I did not downvote, but asking for comments on downvotes is not something we actively encourage. Please see this meta for more on why. I fully understand wanting clarification, but those who want to do so will do so and if folks don't want to, that's more than okay. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 10 '18 at 19:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ How are you equating a single break/tear to all of the torn bits that a severed limb is made up of? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Dec 10 '18 at 19:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch, if I may, even a torn satchel is actually made up of thousands of tears to individual threads, yet the rules clearly don't mean you can only fix one of them! From what I've read there is no mention of the complexity of the object either; I could envisage a particularly nice cloak of a nobel being made from many fabrics layered on one another, again I would take it that the spell repairs all layers as they are part of the one tear. I'd view all the severed limbs in the same way. \$\endgroup\$ – RyanfaeScotland Dec 11 '18 at 7:43
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With enough time and the right knowledge.

As you've stated, Mending can only fix:

a single break or tear in an object you touch

A severed limb is made up of a very significant number of breaks and tears. We're talking about bones, ligaments, veins, arteries, skin, flesh, etc. In order to successfully reattach a limb, you'd have to mend each of them.

But given that Mending takes a minute to perform, it is unlikely that you'll have enough time, even if you have the knowledge, to reattach so that you could cast a spell like Revivify.

Dammit Players, you're adventurers, not physicians!

As there is no formal training in medicine or physiology within D&D, it is going to be up to the DM determine if the players have the knowledge required in order to identify and mend each severed item. But given the reliance on magic for healing and that the players have not focused on any formal medical education, it is unlikely that they would have the information required to identify and properly mend and reattach a severed limb.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I have a couple of issues with this question. 1) Just use Gentle Repose or switch to Raise Dead, -boom- issue fixed, and you still only need a 5th level spell at most, not a 7th level. 2) How can you assume that the characters didn't have a formal medical education? And 3), nothing in the spell states that the object with the tear has to be one material. If you have a piece of cloth made up of differently colored threads and you tear it apart, does Mending not work either? I think it does work. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Dec 11 '18 at 8:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ Commenting in the hopes of being alerted to a response to @PixelMaster's comment which echo's some of my own thoughts in a comment on the other answer. \$\endgroup\$ – RyanfaeScotland Dec 11 '18 at 12:07

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