This is based on How do I prevent a character from being resurrected?

One of the answers was that a good way to keep them dead is to threaten a loved one, but then the comments pointed out that you could simply Raise the loved one as well.

This made me think that I'm sure it's written down somewhere that returning from the dead is a huge ordeal and that the vast majority of people simply aren't interested because the afterlife is pretty rad and they don't have anything they desperately want to do on the Material Plane.

And as such, Raise Dead and the like would only work on people who are highly motivated about something they need to do in their life, and everyone else will simply refuse.

This was added specifically so that you couldn't bypass entire adventures by simply ressurrecting whatever dead NPC triggered the start of it and as an explanation for why dead kings weren´t simply brought back to life when they were assassinated or succumbed to disease or whatever.

But I can't for the life of me remember where I read this. I'm quite sure it's in one of the official D&D books, I think it was 3.5e, but I don't know which one.

Does anyone remember a rule or a block of info in any of the books saying anything about who is or is not willing to be brought back from the dead?

  • 9
    \$\begingroup\$ Historical note: Prior to Third Edition, resurrection spells included a chance of failure-and-not-being-able-to-try-again, so the kind of setting detail being asked for here was less necessary. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented Jun 29, 2016 at 7:17

3 Answers 3


I think the passage you are recalling is the text from the Raise Dead spell itself.

The only 3/3.5 content that I thought might have some stuff about resurrection was the Complete Divine splatbook, and I was right. Chapter 6 talks about what might happen after you die and what life might be like depending on the plane your god lives in.

You can read the whole thing yourself, the core points I took away from it were that you know the name/alignment/deity of the person trying to raise you and you also know the quality of the spell they're using (level and/or con loss or not) but you know nothing else. It would make sense for nobles+royalty to refuse resurrections on the off chance their enemies would be the ones casting the spell.

One other thing included was the idea that gods sometimes give new bodies to people. So if the person in question was highly favored by that god, maybe they shuffle them off to a new body almost immediately, preventing resurrection because the person isn't actually dead anymore.

As to commoners...well...they'd probably accept. But the spell costs 5k per person, assuming you're using the cheapest Raise Dead that doesn't repair the corpse and has level loss.


This is not a rule-based answer (Ye have been warned).

My opinion as DM is that unless the commoner has a really good reason to want to come back, the draw of the afterlife will probably keep them away. Think about it, they are going from a world where they could die at any time, suffer from diseases or just be struck down for being in the way, have to pay taxes, etc etc etc to a world where none of that really matters. They don't have to struggle day to day to survive.

Now, this entirely depends on your universe's cosmos and organization. If, for example, the vast majority of souls go to a purgatory that is worse than the real world, then of course they would come back as quickly as possible. However, in my imagining of the cosmos, the afterlife is appropriate for the alignment that goes there (so a LG afterlife is built to be perfect for the LG, while a CE one is built to be perfect for the CE people). Since commoners tend towards their race's alignment (which for humans is TN), I'd say the vast majority of commoners would end up in an appropriate afterlife that has many advantages over the real world. (To the point where I would make this a hard and fast rule that Resurrection type spells only apply to important NPCs and PCs. Maybe allow Wish and Miracle to rip a commoner soul back to the mortal plane, but that wouldn't be worth it. Speak with Dead is cheaper.).

If a Commoner spirit was willing to return, they likely have unfinished business and would be taking the form of a spirit or ghost, haunting a place or people.

I have never had to use the above concepts or rules because my players honestly would use Speak with Dead and not bother with bringing any unimportant NPC back from the dead.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Personal opinions aren't an answer to this question. We can all talk about why we think yes or why we think no, the question is whether the game says so. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 23:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ You'd think that this would depend on the afterlife. Some of the DnD afterlives are less pleasant than others. \$\endgroup\$
    – gmatht
    Commented Jun 25, 2017 at 16:03

In at least 3.5, a soul "knows the name, alignment, and patron deity (if any) of the character attempting to revive it and may refuse to return on that basis." (PHB5.3e, p.71)

Presumably, if it wasn't someone the soul trusted, it would just refuse. 5th edition does not have this same detail yet.


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