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In the DMG section on "Bringing Back the Dead" (chapter 1, p. 24), it describes what happens when a creature dies:

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.

So what happens with the soul of something like a frog which is unaligned? Is there some plane corresponding to "unaligned", like the Outlands which correspond to neutrality? Does the soul get "stuck" in the Astral Plane when it can't go "to abide" elsewhere? Or do unaligned creatures somehow not have souls, or maybe they all worship a deity?

I'm aware that a DM can build the cosmology of their multiverse however they want (and the DMG specifically encourages such), and could make any reasonable decision here, even when using existing published settings. I'm just curious if there is any "official" or published guidance, both from a mechanics perspective (for things like raise dead where the soul apparently needs to be willing and at liberty to come back), and from a lore perspective (like is there some plane with a ton of animal souls while most Outer Planes don't have any?).

For published lore, I'd prefer knowing if there's any information about the handling of unaligned souls within the Forgotten Realms just as that's the published multiverse I'm most familiar with, but if other settings specifically tackle this question that would be interesting as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Not sure a frog has a soul. \$\endgroup\$ – Verdan Sep 19 at 4:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to bring up a very particular unaligned creature, that might serve as a more prominent example than a frog: the Tarrasque. \$\endgroup\$ – StackLloyd Sep 19 at 8:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast This was just entirely me reading the DMG paragraph and being curious about it; I have no immediate gaming problem that needs solving. I have no particular objection to adding the "lore" tag if that makes this more answerable, and was in fact considering doing so when writing the question, but planes and souls seem to have some mechanical implications too (particularly with spells that bring back from (or communicate with) the dead). The section on "Bringing Back the Dead" that I quoted from seems more like rules than like flavor, though obviously they're all intertwined here. \$\endgroup\$ – user37158 Sep 19 at 12:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ OK, I'll add the lore tag since I think it fits. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 19 at 12:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Which setting are you interested in? \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Sep 19 at 13:34
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The rules on this are not specific in D&D 5e, leaving it up to the DM.

There's no particular rule that says one needs an alignment to have a soul. In fact, Dungeon Master's Guide p.24, "Bringing Back the Dead", would imply that all living creatures have souls which depart upon death, as cited in the question:

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.

These are the only two rules in the books that specify where a soul goes after death: the plane of their deity, or the plane of their alignment.

However, according to Player's Handbook p. 122, "Alignment in the Multiverse", unaligned creatures do not have an alignment at all:

Most creatures that lack the capacity for rational thought do not have alignments—they are unaligned.

Assuming that frogs don't have a deity either, this means that there is no rule to cover this circumstance. All we know is from the first line of the "Bringing Back the Dead" quote:

  • When a creature (including a frog) dies, its soul departs its body
  • Its soul departs the Material Plane and travels through the Astral Plane
  • No rule defines where an unaligned agnostic frog soul goes after this. It's up to the DM.

The spell description of raise dead (PHB p.270) states that it works on any dead creature (other than undead), which implies that frogs can be raised, suggesting that their souls go somewhere from where they can be recovered. Dungeon Master's Guide p.43, "Putting the Planes Together", suggests that most campaigns require a place where mortal spirits go, which would in general include unaligned creatures.

Lore from previous editions of the game

The Great Wheel cosmology is described in the D&D 3rd edition version of the Manual of the Planes. On p. 141, it asserts that some animals may go to the Wilderness of the Beastlands:

It is a domain of natural savagery and plenty. It is the forest eternal. It is where the most loyal animal companions go when they die.

Page 199 of this book asserts that while it's entirely up to the DM, by default any creature with Intelligence and Wisdom scores of 1 may become a petitioner, a soul inhabiting the Outer Planes. Animals are very specifically stated to qualify for petitioner status. This is partly because D&D 3e generally asserted that animals were True Neutral in alignment, rather than Unaligned.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I just totally love that we're talking about an "unaligned agnostic frog soul" \$\endgroup\$ – Gloweye Sep 19 at 9:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Gloweye That was why I asked the question, because the text to my mind certainly implies that it exists. But yeah, this is all weird. \$\endgroup\$ – user37158 Sep 19 at 12:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ If lore from prior editions is useful, then it might help to note that in editions 0th, 1st, and 2nd, spells like raise dead were restricted to PC-races only, and explicitly noted those as the ones with souls/spirits. \$\endgroup\$ – Daniel R. Collins Sep 19 at 13:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ Don't most of the mythologies have a neutral Death-domain deity who's job is to manage souls that don't have another place to go? 4e introduced the Raven Queen. \$\endgroup\$ – aherocalledFrog Sep 19 at 13:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh, so "If the creature didn't worship a deity, its soul departs to the plane corresponding to its alignment." is a change in the universe of forgotten realms. Wasn't it before in forgotten realms, that these souls of not worshipping a deity would travel to the ninehells and become property of Azmodeus? \$\endgroup\$ – Zaibis Sep 20 at 7:58
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First of all, any creature that worships a deity goes to that plane irrespective of alignment, so we need only concern ourselves with impious frogs (the realm of any nature deity would generally be appropriate, e.g. Obad-Hai in Greyhawk).

An impious frog, being unaligned, does not go to any aligned plane when it dies, including the neutrally aligned plane (the Outlands). Page 43 of the DMG tells us the DM must choose a place where mortal souls (like frog souls, for example) go when they die, and that the planes whence originate fiends, celestials, and/or elementals are appropriate. Provided the DM wishes not to create a new plane for unaligned souls, then, and the planes whence originate celestials and fiends being prohibited by alignment, the choice most encouraged by the DMG section on cosmology is to pick one or all of the elemental planes.

Note, however, that the DMG section on the cosmology of the planes as well as afterlife stuff strongly encourages the DM to come up with whatever they want-- in addition to the typical Great Wheel cosmology, the manual presents numerous other systems for the planes and just because the manual seems to suggest on page 43 that the origin plane(s) for elementals are a good choice for an afterlife doesn't mean that e.g. the Feywild or a plane you made up for this purpose wouldn't do just as well or fit with the instructions in the DMG nearly equally.

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Depends on the DM, yet there is some established FR lore to guide us.

The answer by Quadratic Wizard is well-written for a generic D&D setting, but it was written before the question was tagged Forgotten Realms, so it does not fully address the specifics of the Forgotten Realms setting, where the fate of souls has been different from the generic treatments in the DMGs in most editions of D&D, including 5e.

According to the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide (page 20):

Most humans believe the souls of the recently deceased are spirited away to the Fugue Plane, ... The servants of the gods come to collect such souls and, if they are worthy, they are taken to their awaited afterlife in the deity's domain. Occasionally, the faithful are sent back to be reborn into the world to finish work that was left undone.

Souls that are unclaimed by the servants of the gods are judged by Kelemvor, who decides the fate of each one. Some are charged with serving as guides for other lost souls, while others are transformed into squirming larvae and cast into the dust. The truly false and faithless are mortared into the Wall of the Faithless, the great barrier that bounds the City of the Dead, where their souls slowly dissolve and begin to become part of the stuff of the Wall itself.

These statements are in agreement with the lore established in the past editions of D&D (since at least the 2e, added by the TSR designers on to Greenwood's Realms, as you can read in his tweets here and here). For example Faiths and Avatars (2e) states:

A person's patron deity is the power that eventually escorts that person's spirit from the Fugue Plain, the place where spirits go after people die, to its afterlife as a petitioner in the Outer Planes in the realm (or at least the plane) of its patron deity.

In short, where the souls go, whether they were believers or not, is not an issue of alignment in the Forgotten Realms, it is about which deity collects them. The critical part that surely needs interpretation is whether unaligned creatures do have souls. Most unaligned creatures from the Monster Manual are animals (beasts) or monstrous creatures, while there are also elementals and constructs as well. One DM might argue that none of these have souls, while another might rule that animals have souls, while the the spirit of an elemental or the spirit that animates a construct is not really a soul and goes directly to the inner planes.

If you decide that the dead animal had a soul, it is likely be collected by the agents of Silvanus if it was a wild animal, or by the agents of Mielikki if it had been a companion of a ranger or other follower of Mielikki, or by the agents of Chauntea if it was domesticated. A particularly vicious animal's soul might also end up in Malar's domain, some deadly spiders might even go to Lolth's domain, as the DM sees fit.

It is worth noting that in 2e (the latest edition which had the 5e's Great Wheel Cosmology applied to the FR), the domain of Silvanus was on the Outlands, Mielikki's was on the Beastlands, Chauntea's was on Elysium, Malar's was on Carceri and Lolth's was in the Abyss. If no deity's agents pick up the souls, it is reasonable to assume that Kelemvor would send the souls with animal intelligence to the most relevant plane.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Fascinating! So soul travel in the Forgotten Realms is explicitly different from that given in the DMG? When it says "recently deceased", is there any other context indicating if that's meant to apply to just humans, or all intelligent creatures, or all creatures? Or maybe it's leaving open the possibility that what the humans believe is actually wrong, while the DMG lists what actually happens? Regardless, this is certainly a relevant quote I'd missed. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ – user37158 Sep 19 at 16:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCooperJr.: As far as I know, the past lore mostly talked about all sentient beings. However given that 5e text relates to all creatures, I see no reason why any being with a soul will get different treatment, regardless of their sentience. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Sep 19 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCooperJr.: The two paragraphs that I quoted are well-established lore in the past editions. I can speculate that the 'most humans believe' phrase was probably added to allow individual DMs to create alternatives as the fate of faithless and false has been a thorny topic amongst players. \$\endgroup\$ – ZwiQ Sep 19 at 17:20
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This should be up to the DM to decide whether specific animals have souls vs. spirits, and which domain they fall under, I personally like the idea that all unaligned animals are filtered into random neutral planes depending on the choice of the deity responsible for them.

My understanding would be that animal souls are bound to the material plane under Melora and sorted (reincarnated) on the spot, or letting their souls float around as energy in the weave to be used by wayward adventurers.

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