Raise Dead (and other resurrection spells) all have a variant of this clause:

Raise Dead: If the creature's soul is both willing and at liberty to rejoin the body, the creature returns to life

Resurrection: If its soul is free and willing, the target returns to life

True Resurrection: If the creature's soul is free and willing, the creature is restored to life

(Emphasis added).

Night Hags bring souls to Hades in their soul bags. While in the bag, the soul is trapped, but what happens once the soul is released from the bag and ends up in Hades? Is it still trapped?

Is a character's soul free to be resurrected once it reaches Hades by way of a Night Hag's soul bag?


4 Answers 4


DM's Call

This answer is primarily based upon the information I have from the Player's Handbook (PHB), the Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG), and Mordenkainan's Tome of Foes (MToF). There may be additional sources that expand on this.

Given that this question focuses solely upon Hades, it's important to recognize that the soul has been taken to a plane which is NOT the Nine Hells nor the Abyss and thus the applicable lore associated with those planes is not relevant. If you look on page 302 of the PHB, there is a chart, which depicts all of the outer planes. Notably, Hades is situated squarely at the bottom equally between Law & Chaos, therefore, this plane as a whole is Neutral Evil. This is made further definitive by the table on page 58 of the DMG.

If you defer to page 63 of the DMG, there's a brief description of Hades which indicates that most of the souls that end up here are those which are unclaimed by the Upper Planes or other Lower Planes, eventually becoming larva. Furthermore, it goes on to say that night hags (along with other magically-oriented evil creatures) like to harvest the larvae for use in unspecified vile rituals and that other fiends like to feed on them.

Finally, throughout Chapter 1 of MToF, it details multiple elements of the Blood War including notably the risks of dying in the afterworld on the plane that a fiend is native to. If a devil dies in the Nine Hells, they are dead forever (with the notable exception of lemures); however, if they die in the Abyss they simply reform in the Nine Hells.

So to answer your question, is a character's soul free to be resurrected once it reaches Hades by way of a Night Hag's soul bag?

This DM would rule maybe.

While the soul is contained within the soul bag, it is not free to be resurrected per that item's description. However, the soul bag can specifically only contain one soul. Furthermore, per the lore above, the Night Hag is likely to want to remove the soul from the bag for the purpose of forcing it to become a larva which they can harvest for 'vile rituals'.

Given that Night Hags canonically delight in corrupting creatures, I am inclined to think that whatever 'vile ritual' they may want to perform upon a larva captured in this manner is not likely to be done in 10 minutes.

Thus, this DM would roll a d6 and whatever comes up would be the number of days that the night hag's going to spend performing vile rituals before the larva succumbs and the soul is utterly destroyed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Feb 17, 2022 at 21:01

This is up to your DM

(Note: this answer reiterates content from this answer which is for an overlapping question. It compiles findings from several related questions, answers and discussions, in an attempt to summarize.)

Reanimation Spells

There are several spells to recall the soul and reunite it with the dead body of the creature it belonged to: Revivify, Raise Dead, Reincarnate, Resurrection, True Resurrection and Wish. They all differ slightly but (with the exception of Wish) share language that the soul must be free and willing to return, and there is also a general statement on p.24 DMG that a soul cannot be returned to life if it does not wish to be.

For the rest of this answer, we assume willingness. It is highly likely that a soul being tormented in Hades wants to escape and return to life. Moreover, in case it is the soul of a player character whose player wants to continue playing the character then we can assume the soul wants to return. If not, the soul cannot be reunited with the body, and the story ends here.

So the only question we need to answer is: is the soul free to return?

Released in Hades

The duration of how long the released soul will stick around before being used is DM territory. Is it free to be resurrected during this time?

The consensus says this is not clearly defined, and hence up to the DM.

There is no limitiation for Hades as a plane that would treat the souls there as trapped (as possibly would be the case in Carceri). From this perspective, they are free to be resurrected and it would be up to the DM to rule the soul used by a Night Hag or its customers for trading or experiments is stored in a way that keeps it trapped. The party, to resurrect their friend, would need to

  • travel to Hades (via Plane Shift or similar means), and free the soul from its prison
  • contact the Night Hag or the soul's current owner and negotiate terms for release

If the released soul would be a manifested soul i.e. and insubstantial shade that is the soul, we have precedent from the Specter. The text on Specter states such a form can exist (MM p. 279: "A specter is the angry, unfettered spirit of a humanoid that has been prevented from passing to the afterlife. (...) Some are spawned when dark magic or the touch of a wraith rips a soul from a living body.)" If so, it is accepted it can be recalled and brought back to life.

Made into a Larva

It is not clear if souls in Hades are immediately transformed into larvae, or if there is a time -- up to forever -- during which they remain insubstantial shades. This would be up to the DM.

According the the DMG, souls in Hades mortal souls take the form of insubstantial shades (Greek cosmology, p. 44), and Hades is the destination of many souls that are unclaimed (...). These souls become larvae (p. 63). It is unclear if only some souls become larvae, as in earlier editions), or all do. The wording on p. 63 suggests all do, the shades on p. 44 contradict it.

I think this is a cosmology-building decision left to the DM.

Does the form of the larva impose entrapment?

It also is not clear if the fact that the larva is an actual, living creature would block it from being resurrected. The text of most reanimation spells requires touching a "dead creature". So this comes down to answering the question:

What is a dead creature?

There is no consensus if the dead creature refers to the corpse of the former creature (now an object, technically speaking), because this is what you can touch, of if it refers to the combination of body and departed soul.

  • If it refers to the corpse, then the status of the soul is immaterial and it can be recalled.
  • If it refers to the combination of departed soul and corpse one can argue that both parts need to be dead for the overall creature to be dead (if a soul could ever be dead). Since the larva is alive, the overall creature then could not be target of a spell that cares about the creature being dead. Revivify stills work in this case, because it only requires a "creature that has died", not a "dead creature", and die they certainly did when the soul departed. But it has such a short window of time, it is highly unlikely that it matters.

It also is unclear if Larvae are manifested souls, or if they are new creatures composed of body and soul. There is language in the DMG supporting both views. For the purpose of resurrection it is not important, important is only if the soul is alive or not, in case one follows the argument that original body and soul make up the creature.

In conclusion, there is neither clear language nor consensus if it would be possible to resurrect a creature whose soul has been turned into a larva. So, this is up to the DM to rule.

Killed in Hades

What happens if the soul as an insubstantial shade (similar to a Specter) gets destroyed? We do not have consensus answers to guide us yet. This is up to the DM.

Hades is crawling with larvae. Night hags, liches, and rakshasas harvest them for use in vile rituals. Other fiends like to feed on them.

Lastly, once a Larva and harvested for use or fed upon, is it destroyed forever, or does this free the soul to be resurrected?

There is consensus that larvae are native to the plane of Hades. There also is precedent both for demons, and devils (the denizens of other lower planes) that they are utterly destroyed when they die on their native plane:

The only way to truly destroy a demon is to seek it in the Abyss and kill it there. (MM p.51) Devils that die in the Nine Hells are destroyed forever. (MM p. 67).

Do these examples mean that if a Larva dies in Hades, it also would be truly destroyed? There is no explicit language about it for Hades, so in the end it is up to the DM.

Final Conclusion

For most points we are not able to establish clear answers from the Rules as Written and published lore, so they comes down to DM to adjucate.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Carceri doesn’t really “trap” souls, at least by default. The effect is more subtle than that—it undermines people's attempts to leave, and if they somehow do, e.g. by being raised by someone else, the plane has an insidious “pull” on them, luring them back. It’s not strong, but it is persistent—it isn't enough to pull them out of other situations that might lay claim to their soul, but it does mean that, left to their own devices, they’ll almost certainly find their way back. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 18, 2022 at 13:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you @KRyan. I think 5e has amped this up a bit with this Optional Rule (DMG p 63): PRISON PLANE. No one can leave Carceri easily. Magical efforts to leave the plane by any spell other than a wish simply fail. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 18, 2022 at 13:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ That does read to me more as though it was referring to the prisoner’s own magic, and external assistance short of wish could still work. I’d also argue that making it hard and fast misses the point of Carceri. It’s evil-by-chaotic-evil for a reason: it is a mockery of a prison, but it isn’t actually a good one. The real thing holding you there is just yourself. Making it actually effective makes it more lawful rather than the mockery of law it’s supposed to be. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 18, 2022 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Thank you, I did soften the language after your comment. If you feel it is still too much, I can take it out, as it is only tangential for Hades anyways. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 18, 2022 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, that’s a reasonable reference to the “optional” rule in the DMG. I just disagree with the way they implemented it, optional or not. But then, my comment was more for your information/interest than it was a suggestion on the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 18, 2022 at 15:09

No, souls brought to Hades are transformed into larva (a creature) and are thus not free for resurrection

The Dungeon Masters Guide section on Hades specifies:

[...] Hades is the destination of many souls that are unclaimed by the gods of the Upper Planes or the fiendish rulers of the Lower Planes. These souls become larvae and spend eternity in this place that lacks a sun, a moon, stars, or seasons.

So, as they are brought to Hades in the Night Hag's soul bag, once on the plane, they are immediately transformed into a larva by the plane itself. By virtue of being ensconced within a creature (the larva) they are no longer "free" to be resurrected.

Creatures that die on Hades are also transformed:

Optional Rule: Vile Transformation

[...] If the creature reaches six levels of exhaustion, it doesn't die. Instead, the creature is permanently transforms into a larva, whereupon all levels of exhaustion afflicting the creature are removed. [...]

Hades is crawling with larvae. Night hags, liches, and rakshasas harvest them for use in vile rituals. Other fiends like to feed on them.

As to why they might want to do this, the last paragraph makes it clear, they use larvae in their "vile rituals", so maintaining a steady supply of larvae is important to them.

Why do I assert that they are no longer "free" once they are transformed?

All of the resurrection spells specify that the creature must be dead. By virtue of them being a new creature that is alive they are no longer dead. Thus they lose the primary criteria for being resurrected by one of these spells. Larvae certainly fulfil the criteria of being alive (and they aren't listed as being undead or any other category of creature that is no alive).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – Someone_Evil
    Feb 17, 2022 at 14:31

This is within the realm of rulings

The RAW do not give a description as to what dictates that one is free or willing in the "free and willing" clause of many resurrection spells.

On the one hand, as illustro has pointed out the soul has transformed into a fiend and furthermore, as Pyrotechnical has mentioned the larvae are often taken for the sake of rituals or food for other fiends. I, personally, would consider a larva captured to be not free. There's also the matter of if the soul has been destroyed already, either eaten soon after return used as an ingredient. Otherwise, there is no evidence RAW that a transformed soul cannot be considered free. The only case I could find RAW, is the clone spell, which states:

The original creature's physical remains, if they still exist, become inert and can't thereafter be restored to life, since the creature's soul is elsewhere.

There is no other rule precedent for being another creature causing a lack of ability to return, even reincarnate, which also makes a new body for the target.

There's also the matter of willingness. A larva has become a neutral evil fiend, with little memories beyond foggy recollections of its past. Knowing it will be helping the party again, and likely indebted to them would that creature choose to return to life? I'd argue generally yes, but it depends on their memories remaining.

I'd personally rule, generally yes if cast swiftly enough, before this transformed soul can be eaten, or jarred for future use. I would make this a highly luck-based affair.


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