Inspired by the current OOTS story thread, I was trying to think my way around a resolution for the situation and wondered:

Would it be valid for an undead cleric to cast resurrect on himself?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Great question. I love the ones that seem to "break" the meta. \$\endgroup\$
    – 13ruce1337
    Jun 21, 2014 at 22:16

5 Answers 5


YES!! It took longer than it should have but I found it.

Yes, an Undead Cleric could resurrect himself, although, not directly as would normally happen. This is assuming that, aside from his Undead state, he would otherwise be eligible for resurrection. (Mainly that he has been dead (including Undead) for less than 10 years.

First the caveats:

  1. The first hurdle, which was brought up in the other answer is that your Cleric must still have it's Cleric abilities. To my knowledge, Pelor is not in the habit of granting spells to Undead. And deities who love Undead would be not be inclined to grant a spell to make him un-Undead. Wee-Jas may have no problem with this, and in fact with material in the Complete Divine would probably gladly endorse such things. Also, Clerics who have no Deity but instead worship an "ideal" should retain their abilities (even if their ideals change upon being Undead). (Resurrection is not a good spell so evil Clerics can cast it)

  2. The MAIN hurdle, as was pointed out earlier, is Undead creatures can NOT be resurrected. However, "You can resurrect someone...who has been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed."

So how do we overcome? Well we have to be prepared to destroy ourselves!

From "Complete Arcane" we have a feat called "CRAFT CONTINGENT SPELL" available to casters of atleast 11th Level. Direct quote from the text: "Triggers for contingent spells are usually events that happen to the bearer of the spell, and can include death."

This is an Item Creation Feat so there are significant additional costs to use this but it gets the Cleric his life back which is apparently what this Cleric wants so I'm sure it's a completely acceptable cost.

NOW we have an interesting dilemma. How long, in levels, has your Cleric been Undead? Was he level 5 when he was "turned" and now he's level 13...is your Cleric prepared to go to level 4 when resurrected? I'm not sure that he has to, but it appears so. I think I read another question on the matter but I can't find it right now. If I do I'll link it in later, if not it would make for an interesting related question.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 Nice answer. There's one "hurdle" left out though: Would the now-undead and now-evil creature be willing to be destroyed and then resurrected to a good-aligned God? (or it could be an addendum to hurdle #1) \$\endgroup\$
    – Roflo
    Apr 3, 2013 at 21:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ I just won the excavator badge for editing this answer... What an unerring coincidence :) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22, 2014 at 15:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Roflo sorry I totally missed your comment before. What you are asking doesn't even come into play. If he's resurrecting himself it's whatever deity (or ideal) he's worshiping himself. The workings of which was covered in the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben-Jamin
    Nov 26, 2014 at 18:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Roflo the real question would be, if this cleric had no deity but instead worshiped ideals, and his ideals changed as an undead, would he keep his same ideals or would he revert back to his pre-undead ideals. (note that this probably wouldnt have happened or if so has already course corrected else under most circumstances the undead cleric probably wouldn't want to return to life) \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben-Jamin
    Nov 26, 2014 at 18:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ben-Jamin, I just meant to point out that even if he could resurrect himself we have no guarantee that he's willing to do so. Granted, it's more of a role-play issue than mechanics-wise. Anyway, your answer is still very good as it stands. \$\endgroup\$
    – Roflo
    Nov 26, 2014 at 18:34

No, because the cleric is not dead.

Target: Dead creature touched

You can resurrect someone [...] who has been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed. [...U]ndead creatures can’t be resurrected.

The vampire/zombie/etc must first be destroyed, and then resurrected, as an undead creature is not a dead creature and thus is not a valid target regardless of who casts the spell.

I suppose a properly-worded contingency spell keyed on the cleric's death might work, but I seem to recall that D&D spells often suffer from a lack of ontological inertia. So that would have to be looked into.

But he can't cast anyway (potential spoilers).

A Good cleric, getting his spells from a Good god, would upon becoming an Evil undead creature be violating one of the basic cleric class requirements.

A cleric’s alignment must be within one step of his deity’s.

And is probably considered to have violated his god's code of conduct, too.

A cleric who grossly violates the code of conduct required by his god loses all spells and class features, except for armor and shield proficiencies and proficiency with simple weapons.

So this is all academic for the poor guy, though we can of course envision a Whatever Neutral priest of Wee Jas or Olidammara retaining her spellcasting abilities in a similar scenario.

[Please note that casting resurrection is not itself an act with Good or Bad connotations in the D&D alignment mechanics: it has no Good or Evil spell descriptor. It would be a foolish god indeed who banned the resurrection of his champions, so the spell is available to any caster with the appropriate class levels and spell list.]


Assuming you are of high enough level there's a pretty simple way to do it:

Delay Spell.

It's going to take some epic feats to have a high enough level spell slot but it can be done. Cast it, destroy yourself and you come back living.

Lower level but more expensive would be to craft a metamagic item of greater delay spell.

Personally, I'd allow it anyway on a willing target.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting workaround, but a stickler for rules would point out that you're not a valid target for the spell to be cast until you're dead, so the spell would fizzle immediately (as you have to choose targets when it's first cast). \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Apr 2, 2013 at 2:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @BESW Presumably, during the delay, the undead cleric sees to it that he will be a valid target when the delay ends and the spell goes off, if you catch my drift. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 2, 2013 at 3:25

Yes, he can.
Here is a quote from the undead type found in the SRD:

Not affected by raise dead and reincarnate spells or abilities. Resurrection and true resurrection can affect undead creatures. These spells turn undead creatures back into the living creatures they were before becoming undead.

Of course, the problem with this is that a cleric who does this, will, by RAW, not retain any experience he gained while being undead. In fact, he might not even remember being undead, because he turns into the living creature he was before becoming undead.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While the Monster Manual is the primary source on creatures, the Player's Handbook is the primary source on spells, and the spells resurrection and true resurrection mandate an undead be destroyed before those spells can bring back from the dead the creature the undead once was; why this rather important detail was omitted from the undead type description in the Monster Manual is a mystery. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 21, 2014 at 22:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ My interpretation is, that a resurrection won't work while someone is undead, unless the spell is cast directly on the undead creature. \$\endgroup\$
    – Orderic
    Jun 22, 2014 at 16:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Oderic That's an interesting house rule, but your answer should be clear that's a house rule--the spells raise dead et al. all inherit the entry Target: Dead creature touched; the spells make exceptions only for undead creatures that have been, instead, destroyed. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 22, 2014 at 18:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for pointing out one heck of a plot hook. You have been just ressurected as a good character, but you have no idea of the evil you wrought while an undead monster... \$\endgroup\$ Oct 10, 2017 at 23:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I know, this Q/A is about 8 years old... but it shows in "related", and may still help people (other than TS, probably). I think, issue of targetting is overcomplicated here (as it is in highest-rated answer). By saying "it can’t resurrect undead creatures", true resurrection (TR) says it can't bring back a destroyed zombe, made out of a Bob the farmer. There are no problems in bringing back Bob himself (who was not an undead creature). Its just while he is present in an undead form, you have to cast TR on the creature (as quoted by this answer). You can't create new body. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 29, 2022 at 21:15

Resurrection or True Resurrection and a bottle of experience (Complete Arcane) would allow a cleric to resurrect him or herself while retaining all levels gained while undead.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The question asked was whether an undead cleric could resurrcet themselves, not whether they could retain xp gained while undead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Nov 26, 2014 at 7:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ A couple of things are needed to make this a sufficient answer: please cite why Resurrection works, and if it's not obvious, your answer would benefit from how the bottle should be used. The citation of why those spells work is important, because it was raised in another answer - and is in doubt, because those spells themselves require the cleric to be destroyed first. (The current top answer has explained the mechanism by which they can be used anyway.) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 26, 2014 at 11:50

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