Last night, we boarded a pirate ship to collect 500g for its captain's head. The Paladin, being a clever Shield Master boy, shoved him off the edge of the ship for the giant sharks in the water to take care of. After we cleaned up the rest of the crew, we Polymorphed the Paladin to go get the corpse back.

Problem is, we only found the gem-riddled cloak and scimitar the captain was wielding, and bits of his body (a hand and a leg). The rest of him, the sharks got. We need his head to collect his bounty. What options do we have, as a level 13 party with a Vengeance Paladin, Necromancer Wizard, Storm Sorcerer, Samurai Fighter, and Shadow/Chain SorcLock?

We thought we could Resurrect the dude, kill him again, and voilá, we had his dead. But that is not very lucrative to do.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How will the validity / identity of the presented head be checked? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega May 24 at 10:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Szega visual confirmation and detect magic, most likely \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 May 24 at 11:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are alternative answers to "how do we prove death without a body" count? Or is this specific to accomplishing the task of creating a body part (head)? \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri May 24 at 12:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri Hmm. If there is no way to feasibly re-create the body part, I guess yeah, other ways to prove the death would be valid! \$\endgroup\$ – BlueMoon93 May 24 at 13:07

Kill the shark and get the head back.

Something we learn from the Silmarillion: when you're on a quest to "go get the thing, and don't come back without it", and the thing gets eaten by a monster, you can show up empty-handed, and hope your patron respects your effort. Or you can hunt down the monster and cut the thing out of its stomach, like a boss.

So get a harpoon and a bigger boat and go to work.

I mention this option first because it's probably the most fun.

Habeas corpse

You also mention the option of resurrecting the pirate using the remaining parts, but it's been suggested he wouldn't consent to that. I wouldn't be so quick to assume. He might not come back just so you can decapitate him, but what if you offered to turn him in alive? Even if he's facing a death sentence, if you can get him a blessing or burial rites or whatever else priests do in your culture to guide people into the afterlife, it may well be a better deal than he's getting now. And there's always the slim chance he could escape.

You'd need to communicate this offer to him somehow, but you've got a 13th-level necromancer, right?

All right, you really want to create a replacement head.

An issue with this plan is that any method for replicating a head you used to have is also a method for replicating a head that's still attached to its owner. If your patron isn't stupid, they must be aware of the risk of receiving a substitute head (most likely from the pirate himself, who would have the most incentive to fake his death as well as access to the real head). In particular, speak with dead is a simple way to authenticate the head and will really ruin your day.

However, if you're set on trying this plan, the go-to option is the 4th-level spell fabricate:

Choose raw materials that you can see within range. You can fabricate a Large or smaller object (contained within a 10-foot cube, or eight connected 5-foot cubes), given a sufficient quantity of raw material. If you are working with metal, stone, or another mineral substance, however, the fabricated object can be no larger than Medium (contained within a single 5-foot cube). The quality of objects made by the spell is commensurate with the quality of the raw materials.

Note that a severed head is an object, not a creature.

To produce finely crafted items, you have to have an appropriate craft proficiency, and I don't think there is one here, other than maybe Medicine. On the other hand, one can hardly expect a pirate's head to be delivered in mint condition.

As for raw materials, a pig carcass should serve, though you might prefer to use the body parts you do have, just in case they do a DNA test or something.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I had to +1 for Habeas Corpse 8^D \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 25 at 23:24

I would suggest finding alternative proof

I can't think of any ways using existing spells that can do this kind of thing, so I think the best thing you can do is flip the question, and look at the result you want, and find alternative methods.

What you are looking to do is provide proof that you have killed this person, and that is where I am focusing this answer.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and any of these methods are probably going to require some kind of persuasion to ensure they are accepted (and certain people won't be persuaded to accept anything so these answers aren't foolproof):

Persuasion: you could try telling the story in a convincing manner, and maybe a persuasion check will work in your favour.

Proof of truth: magic such as zone of truth can be used to ensure you tell the truth, you can submit to having the NPC or an ally of his cast this upon you. Not always an option, but will prove you are correct at least. Detect thoughts, and suggestion can do similar things, as can probably more spells.

Hand over the loot: no self respecting pirate captain will part with cool loot like that, so that may be taken as proof

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's also the tried and true "ask the DM". Given the dm opted already to remove the head from play, they may have never intended this to be a success. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch May 24 at 18:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch or maybe DM wanted to give a lesson "do not destroy what you known you'll need". Especially if players might reasonably expect the sharks. \$\endgroup\$ – Mołot May 24 at 19:20

Make a fake

Do they care if the head is made of stone? You could use stone shape (wiz 4) to make a stone head in the dude's likeness, then say the party's thinking was that a stone head would retain its features longer than a rotting flesh one. Someone with a decent Deception check could aid in selling this story.

You touch a stone object of Medium size or smaller or a section of stone no more than 5 feet in any dimension and form it into any shape that suits your purpose.

Or alternatively, major image (wiz 3) or similar to create an illusory head resembling the dude.

You create the image of an object, a creature, or some other visible phenomenon that is no larger than a 20-foot cube. The image appears at a spot that you can see within range and lasts for the Duration. It seems completely real, including sounds, smells, and temperature appropriate to the thing depicted.

Of course, since major image doesn't hold up to physical scrutiny, that adds additional complications since you can't actually hand it over. But they could see it, confirm the identity, then you could 'destroy' it.

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