How does reincarnation affect feats and ability score increases?

I'm running a campaign with a group of fairly high (16th-18th) level characters and the only "bring back the dead" option they currently have (or are likely to have for a while) is Reincarnate.

The Reincarnate Spell states:

The magic fashions a new body for the creature to inhabit, which likely causes the creature's race to change. The DM rolls a d100 and consults the following table to determine what form the creature takes when restored to life, or the DM chooses a form .
The reincarnated creature recalls its former life and experiences. It retains the capabilities it had in its original form (emphasis mine), except it exchanges its original race for the new one and changes its Racial Traits accordingly.

More than one player has used the various feats they've gained to either max out an ability score and/or they've taken some racial feats.

So what then happens to the racial feats if the character comes back as a race that doesn't have them?

Additionally, a new (better) racial bonus to an ability stat could conceivably make an ability score over 20, unless I mandate the starting score is lowered so the final result isn't greater than 20.

(And yes, I could also Deus-Ex this by having them come back as the same race, but I honestly think the random race-change would make for good storytelling and make the effect of being reincarnated more profound )

As the DM, I'd just be tempted to simplify everything and let the player re-spec their feats, along with their ability scores, but is there an official ruling on this?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Be careful that what you honestly think and what your players honestly think line up. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Aug 9, 2020 at 10:54

1 Answer 1


Racial Feats.

Whenever you have questions about magic and its effects, remember the saying "Magic does what it says it does." Whatever is listed in the magic spell description is the rules, anything beyond that is conjecture.

This is an easy trick to fall into, to make logical assumptions about how things would fall. However, when going by Rules as Written. Magic does what it says it does. Logic need not apply, because MAGIC.

It retains the capabilities it had in its original form, except it exchanges its original race for the new one and changes its Racial Traits accordingly.

Literally everything on the character sheet remains the same, except for Racial Traits.

The real question is "How does the DM handle now - invalid feats?"

Officially. You have already selected the feat, but you no longer meet the prerequisite. Again, there is already a RAW answer: In the Chapter 6: Feats section.

You must meet any prerequisite specified in a feat to take that feat. If you ever lose a feat’s prerequisite, you can’t use that feat until you regain the prerequisite.

Your racial feats have still been chosen, however they are now disabled until you regain the prerequisite.

Ability Scores limit.

The ability scores you are correct never increase your ability above 20. Because even they are still limited by their original text.

As normal, you can’t increase an ability score above 20 using this feature.

Interestingly enough, there might be an edge case in which there is still a benefit, if your ability score were to be lowered for some reason, the extra ability score (over 20) could increase your score back up toward 20.

How to get back what was lost.

There are options however. Firstly, 100% by the book you may reincarnate until you return to your original race. Not a cheap option, and not even possible if your race falls outside of the PHB.

Other than that option, you can petition your DM to allow some form of quest, downtime activity or magic (Wish?) to allow you to reselect your feats from previous levels. Unfortunately 5e opted to not include any official retraining rules.

Related Content.

Variant Humans and Reincarnation

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Personally I would let them respec racial feats they took. "Ok you can't have this feat so when you level up replace it with a different feat or stat increase". that feel like being fair while still making it a significant effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Aug 9, 2020 at 2:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would as well, however he did ask "Is there an official ruling on this" Officially, they are out of luck. \$\endgroup\$
    – Daveman
    Aug 9, 2020 at 3:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ I recommend altering your header. "Magic does what it says" is fine as an argument, but the header is best suited to introduce a section (i.e. "racial traits and feats") or directly answer the main question (i.e. "racial traits are exchanged and racial feats become unusable"). \$\endgroup\$
    – Ruse
    Aug 9, 2020 at 4:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ I believe you're correct. The only RAW on this is basically "you no longer meet the prerequisite for the feat." - Beyond that, unfortunately racial traits do include ability score bonuses so you could be stuck with ability score bonuses that are invalid, and I think you comment about the prerequisites causing feats to vanish cover that as well. I guess it beats being dead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Σ of eDπ
    Aug 9, 2020 at 7:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is a pretty thorough answer, but for completeness I’d like to see mention of the Variant Human outright losing their starting feat. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 9, 2020 at 9:51

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