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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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    \$\begingroup\$ Related: Can raise dead or reincarnate revive creatures who died of old age? \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    May 3, 2021 at 21:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi HNQ visitors! I would just like to remind you that comments are not for answering the question. If you have advice to solve the problem, please put it in an answer below along with the support to back it up. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    May 4, 2021 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you specifically asking about the spell named resurrection (as opposed to spells that bring people back to life in general)? \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 6, 2021 at 21:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ You might want to title it as "... died of magically-induced old age?" - that would reflect the situation you're asking about, and give some justification for trying to work around the clear statements in the rules that spells like Resurrection simply don't do anything. (Or at this point perhaps a new question, since most of the existing answers haven't tried to give a way for the aging-curse to get removed in order to allow a normal resurrection.) \$\endgroup\$ May 7, 2021 at 8:36

6 Answers 6

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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\$ May 3, 2021 at 22:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nice. With a bigger random table? Or what do you mean? \$\endgroup\$ May 3, 2021 at 22:58
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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\$ May 4, 2021 at 0:11
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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, Xanathar’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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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 6, 2021 at 21:03
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The difference in effect of the various spells that bring the dead back to life are in the additional effects beyond returning the target back to life.

In the case of 5e spells: Revivify: Brings you back to 1 HP if used within 1 minute of death. Raise Dead: also neutralizes poisons, heals all HPs, and removes diseases if used within 10 days of death, but applies a temporary penalty. Resurrection: also regrows missing body parts, if used within a century of its death, but applies the same penalty as Raise Dead. True Resurrection also lifts curses and cures any magical diseases if used within 200 years of death, and applies no penalties at the moment of resurrection.

Reincarnate, on the other hand, brings the soul back and places it in a completely new body that, traditionally, is right at the beginning stage of adulthood. Traditionally, this could affect those who died of old age, but was limited in other ways, like closer proximity to the time of death. And, depending on the player's views about race/lineage, and how that race/lineage fits their character's class, the fact that you might become physically Very different from your original choice might also be a pretty big negative... like going from a huge half-orc barbarian to a tiny halfling barbarian.

Or becoming a Drow in a strongly Dwarven campaign.

In the end, I'd roll with tradition: Reincarnation is the only spell that returns a person from death by old age.

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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
    May 5, 2021 at 2:59
  • \$\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\$ May 6, 2021 at 10:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPG.SE! Take the tour if you haven't already, and check out the help center for more guidance. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    May 6, 2021 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ OP presented a curse of their own creation that kills a creature if the resulting age is greater than their maximum life expectancy. Normally, aging, even by curses, doesn't work that way in d&d. There's no rule that says that a character or any creature will die if their age excedes their race expected one by X ammount of years or even by any factor of years. By RAW you could have a nonmagical 2000 year old human... there's just no rule that says they die at any point. A DM wouldn't have it, most likely, and it's reasonable not to. \$\endgroup\$
    – Chebi
    Jun 29, 2021 at 3:13

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