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In a campaign I run, one of the characters faces the real danger of succumbing to a curse that will add enough age to them that they would easily exceed their race's life expectancy. The curse description states that the character dies if this "new" age exceeds the maximum life expectancy. My question is:

What should result from a Resurrection or even True Resurrection spell cast on this character to bring them back to life?

My gut tells me that they would resurrect, sort of, plainly to die soon again. I know this is a real "corner case", but do any of the RAW or RAI speak to this?

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Resurrection doesn't work...

...because it doesn't work on creatures that died of old age.

...but Reincarnate should work.

As Reincarnate states:

You touch a dead humanoid or a piece of a dead humanoid. Provided that the creature has been dead no longer than 10 days, the spell forms a new adult body for it and then calls the soul to enter that body. If the target's soul isn't free or willing to do so, the spell fails.

So that could be a way to save that character.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There are some pretty fantastic expanded Reincarnation lists online too :) \$\endgroup\$ – ScorpioSymbol 2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice. With a bigger random table? Or what do you mean? \$\endgroup\$ – TheKhileyan 2 days ago
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    \$\begingroup\$ Yes, much larger tables to roll on :) Just google expanded reincarnation table 5e and you'll find dozens of peoples work -- it's apparently a popular thing :) \$\endgroup\$ – ScorpioSymbol 2 days ago
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(True-) Resurrection does not work on someone that died from old age.

Resurrection states:

You touch a dead creature that has been dead for no more than a century, that didn't die of old age, and that isn't undead.

True resurrection has a similar clause:

You touch a creature that has been dead for no longer than 200 years and that died for any reason except old age.

As for what happens if you try, Xanthar’s Guide gives some optional guidance on Invalid Spell Targets:

If you cast a spell on someone or something that can’t be affected by the spell, nothing happens to that target, but if you used a spell slot to cast the spell, the slot is still expended.

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Depending on your DM it might be possible within the bounds of RAW

It had already been mentioned that neither resurrection nor true resurrection can bring someone back to life who has died of old age as it states this clearly in the text of these spells. So, if these spells are cast, they simply fail (PHB, pp. 272,284).

There are other options. If the death from old age has occurred within the past 10 days, then you can use reincarnate (PHB, p.271). This spell does not specify not being able to use reincarnation to bring someone back who died of old age. There is a d100 table which determines your new form, or the DM can simply choose. It says you come back as an adult, so as a DM I would use the age ranges shown in the PHB to guide me.

You touch a dead humanoid or a piece of a dead humanoid. Provided that the creature has been dead no longer than 10 days, the spell forms a new adult body for it and then calls the soul to enter that body. If the target's soul isn't free or willing to do so, the spell fails.

This question goes into more detail regarding reincarnate and raise dead: Can raise dead or reincarnate revive creatures who died of old age?

You could try a wish spell. In 5e, wish allows the caster to replicate any spell which is 8th level or lower, but it also provides the option of achieving something more difficult, e.g. resurrection of a character that dies from old age. However, if the caster tries this more difficult option, there may be unintended consequences, and there's a 33% chance the caster will never be able to cast wish again. This is a serious risk and for that reason I would normally try to accommodate an extraordinary wish as long as it does not ruin or break a campaign. The PC is only likely to be able to make an extraordinary wish 1-3 times.

"You might be able to achieve something beyond the scope of the above examples. State your wish to the DM as precisely as possible. The DM has great latitude in ruling what occurs in such an instance; the greater the wish, the greater the likelihood that something goes wrong. This spell might simply fail, the effect you desire might only be partly achieved, or you might suffer some unforeseen consequence as a result of how you worded the wish." (PHB, p.288)

Also, if the PC has not yet died of old age but is soon to, you can think of ways of preventing the death in the first place. This questions has some very good answers in it covering this topic: What magic extends life or grants immortality?

In short, plan ahead to not die of old age. Or, as is my preference, use reincarnate as it can be fun to suddenly change races during a campaign. My favourite unexpected reincarnation so far has been a Satyr!

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As other answers already stated, Resurrection would not work on something that dies from old age.

But let's think outside the box.
If the curse is not yet triggered (the character is still alive) and the curse is removed on character death. Than if someone kill the character before the curse come into effect and than Resurrect him it should work out well.

So just make it as a ritual, kill the cursed guy with a dagger in his heart, and resurrect him.

Or just let the character die (because this curse was put for some valid reason, so lessons must be learned) and re-roll new character to continue playing if DM/Party agrees.

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I disagree with all of these answers, on two levels.

The first is a philosophical matter that doesn't really apply, but I'm gonna bring it up anyway: No one dies of old age. They die of heart-failure or a stroke or multiple conditions the coroner can't figure out or decides aren't worth sorting out, so he just shrugs and says, "They were old."

The second is more to the point: Dying of old age (if we accept that concept ;-)) is a natural condition. If someone is magically aged by a curse, they were killed by the curse. That is, I would interpret "did not die of old age" as "did not die of old age caused naturally".

Just my opinion of course. But if you allow for old-age-curses to be irrevocable, even among characters epic enough to have access to resurrection, just be aware of the power balance. (Ghosts become super scary at that point, I guess, moreso than certain powerful demons and dragons.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to rpg.se! This is an interesting perspective but it would benefit your answer if you directly addressed how that interpretation works when the rules specifically state "die of old age". Some additional rules support would improve your answer. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin yesterday
  • \$\begingroup\$ re: last paragraph: Ghost aging can be reversed by Greater Restoration, within 24 hours. If this works even on a corpse, before resurrection, then you're going to be ok as long as it's not a TPK that means your other allies can't help you until outside that time window. Or if you don't instantly drop dead of old age, you'd need a party member to get to you with a Greater Resto in the next round or so. Most "epic enough" characters will generally have access to timely Greater Resto as well, for this and other threats. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes 24 mins ago

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