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The Scenario: Three-thousand years ago, a powerful mage has died. As soon as he died, someone cast Temporal Stasis on him. The effects of the spell are as follows:

You must succeed on a melee touch attack. You place the subject into a state of suspended animation. For the creature, time ceases to flow and its condition becomes fixed. The creature does not grow older. Its body functions virtually cease, and no force or effect can harm it. This state persists until the magic is removed (such as by a successful dispel magic spell or a freedom spell).

Now, in the present, a Cleric wishes to resurrect this individual. Clearly, he has been dead for far too long for the spell to work. However, Temporal Stasis would have frozen the body in time. Hence, no time actually passed, which would make the spell work... Possibly.

The question is threefold:

1) Does Temporal Stasis work on a corpse? Or can it only be cast on a living target?

2) Would the spell also affect the soul the body belonged to? After all, the reason resurrection spells don't work after a while is due to the state of the soul, not the body.

3) If this would not work, how else could I make sure that the 3000 year dead individual can be resurrected?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Is this cleric a player? Are you looking for a RAW answer? Are you the DM? Would the story be radical different if the Temporal Stasis was cast when he was in the process of dying? That is, not technically dead, but also is not what anyone would call it being alive. \$\endgroup\$ – Chepelink Mar 12 '17 at 12:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is all purely hypothetical, but yes, we can say that the player is a Cleric. I am the DM, and while a RAW answer would be preferrable, it's not needed. \$\endgroup\$ – Arthaban Mar 12 '17 at 12:41
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Note: This DM wouldn't have temporal stasis cast on the recently dead wizard but have his followers and acolytes immediately slather him in unguent of timelessness. If the idiosyncrasies of bringing back the dead in don't interest you, skip to the section Besides maybe temporal stasis, what other means can preserve a dead creature for 3,000 years? as subquestions are answered in the order they appear in the question.

Can the caster of temporal stasis target a dead creature with the spell?

Ask the DM. However, this DM believes it's possible despite the FAQ ruling that a corpse is an object. (Both sides of this divide are addressed in answers to this question.) In short, ths DM reads the 5th-level Clr spell raise dead [conj] (PH 268)—that has as its target entry Target: Dead creature touched—as simply being a more specific target than case the 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell temporal stasis [trans] (PH 293) with its target entry Target: Creature touched. Unlike the spell raise dead that can only target (formerly) living creatures possessing the condition dead, this DM allows the spell temporal stasis to target living creatures, (formerly) living creatures with the condition dead, and nonliving creatures like shield guardians and liches.

Rulings may vary by table or campaign, of course, but even if the DM has dead creatures becoming objects rather than dead creatures remaining creatures, long-term corpse preservation alternatives exist beyond the now-nixed temporal stasis (see below).

Does a corpse in some kind of stasis retain its soul?

Probably. The 3rd-level Sor/Wiz spell gentle repose [necro] (PH 235) says that because the spell "preserve[s] the remains of a dead creature so that they do not decay" that the spell "effectively extends the time limit on raising that creature from the dead [and that d]ays spent under the influence of this spell don’t count against the time limit." This strongly implies that any method (or, perhaps, any magical method) of corpse preservation causes the dead creature to remain more easily returned from the dead (and if the DM rules that this is possible such effects would include having cast the spell temporal stasis upon a dead creature).

An unusual wrinkle is added by Complete Divine, the game's campaign-neutral source for a lot of information about death. On the Moment of Death says, "When characters die, their souls… linger in the body for a round or two[, and i]f the corpse was completely destroyed, they linger at the location of death. The last breath spell [originally CD 167-8 but updated on Spell Compendium 130] works the way it does [i.e. if cast within 1 round of the subject's death, the subject suffers no level loss] because the soul of the deceased hasn’t gone anywhere yet" (125). But Complete Divine implicitly contradicts the 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell soul bind [necro] (PH 281)—a core rules spell therefore from a primary source and taking precedence—, that says, "You draw the soul from a newly dead body[, and t]he subject must have been dead no more than 1 round per caster level." Hence the core rules say that souls loiter in the corpses for any amount of time… assuming an arbitrarily high caster level!

In other words, the core rules make the body–soul connection a little tighter, essentially locking the soul into the body either so long as the corpse is magically preserved or until a high enough level wizard can be found to bind that soul. But if using Complete Divine, the soul's gone to its final reward one or two rounds after the creature's death.

Thus magic is contradictory. This DM assumes that any effect that suspends a a dead creature's decay (or similarly, places a dead creature in stasis) functions like, by extension, the spell gentle repose; and that the spell soul bind does, in fact, work as written, and can yank a soul from a dead creature—somehow!—despite the dead creature having been dead any length of time… assuming an arbitrary high caster level (keep in mind, though, that binding the soul of a creature that's been dead for 3,000 years does require a caster level of 15,768,000,000—better get hackin'!); but that, otherwise, Complete Divine's ticking clock on the presence of a dead creature's soul only counts down from a maximum of two.

Besides maybe temporal stasis, what other means can preserve a dead creature for 3,000 years?

Below are several in order of convenience.

  • Preserving the dead creature using unguent of timelessness (DMG 268) (150 gp; 0 lbs.) causes it to age but 1 day for each year that passes. Thus a wizard slain 3,000 years ago that's been preserved by the unguent of timelessness has a corpse that's as fresh and healthy looking as it would be after only 3,000 days—or about 8 years 2 months. This is well within the 10-years-per-caster-level limit of any typical cleric capable of casting the 7th-level Clr spell resurrection [conj] (PH 272-3).
  • This answer's suggestion of accumulating enough material to submerge the dead creature by using the 4th-level shaper power quintessence [metacreativity] (XPH 128) is a fine one, although getting sufficient 1" dollops to submerge a corpse might be problematic without enough shapers on hand! (A quick Web search says that the typical human male's surface area is 1.9 m2, but whether a quintessence dollop is like a drop of water, a pat of butter, or a sphere like a marble isn't clear from the text.)
  • Sealing the dead creature within a husk globe (Libris Mortis 78-9) (8,500 gp; 700 lbs.) causes the dead creature "to remain perfectly preserved and on display indefinitely." Further, 1/week another creature can wave its hand over the globe and ask the englobed creature questions. Note: Yes, seven hundred pounds.
  • Arrange a vigil for the dead creature, during which the spell gentle repose is periodically used on it. Or even say that what was used was a wand of gentle repose modified by the metamagic feat Extend Spell (3rd-level spell modified to a 4th-level slot at caster level 5,475,500) (32,850,000 gp/charge; 0 lbs.), although that probably sets a bad precedent, but such an item may have been the product of ancient magic now lost. (Even a planar metropolis (Epic Level Handbook 113-4) won't have such a wand available!) Alternatively, having much the same effect (but with far wider campaign implications) is a gentle repose boon trap (Dungeonscape 136-7) (15,250 gp; architecture).

    A more amusing version of the spell gentle repose is the 6th-level Clr spell preserve corpse [necro] (Book of Exalted Deeds 106-7) that delays a dead creature's decay and stores the dead creature in a holy symbol. However, whenever the spell expires, the dead creature reappears, and the spell must be cast again. This allows folks to prepare for the miraculous reappearance of the dead creature whenever is appropriate only to have the clerics use their arbitrarily-high-caster-level, relic-worthy staff of preserve corpse to return once again the dead creature to the holy symbol.

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1) You may or may not be able to Temporal Stasis a corpse. It's not super relevant, though, because even if you could it wouldn't delay the time the creature you are trying to raise spends being dead (that creature is off in an afterlife somewhere unaffected by the Temporal Stasis applied to its body).

2) You are correct that the soul is the important thing here. That's why you need to cast Temporal Stasis on the soul for this method to work. You can do that by sojourning to the wizard's afterlife via Plane Shift or equivalent and using any of a variety of methods to then locate the creature, the most expedient of which would be Discern Location. You should note that the stasis-locked soul might need to be subjected to Dispel Magic or similar before being raised depending on whether your GM rules that Temporal Stasis renders a soul not 'free and willing' or not.

3) A great number of things could be used to accomplish the same effect. Manipulation of planar time traits accomplishes this in much the same way (i.e. by actual temporal machinations), as does the application of quintessence. You could also alter the effective time spent dead as by an unguent of timelessness, the CL of the caster as by Death Knell, the time at which the resurrection takes place as by Teleport Through Time, or the time at which the death occurred as by Wish.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you walk me through this more slowly? A) Cast temporal stasis on the wizard that's to be preserved for 3,000 years. B) Um. What? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Mar 13 '17 at 16:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ A) cast temporal stasis on the wizard after her dies. B) raise said wizard from the dead later. Alternatively A) kill wizard who worships Rok, God of Slowness, whose plane is at a 1 year: 1round time ratio with the material plane. 3000 material plane years later (or about 5 hours from the wizard's perspective), raise him from the dead. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Mar 13 '17 at 16:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Can explain what parts were gone through too fast? \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Mar 13 '17 at 16:36
  • \$\begingroup\$ Okay. So the wizard dies, and one of the wizard's followers casts temporal stasis on the dead wizard so as to preserve the corpse. So to answer the question's questions: 1) Yes, 2) No, and 3) Create a custom cosmology. Have I that right? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Mar 13 '17 at 16:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ No, you cast temporal stasis on the dead wizard to preserve him. You do not cast it on the corpse. You probably need to discern location and plane shift to find the dead wizard after he dies so you can temporal stasis him, but you may not need to, depending on situation. The answers are 1) irrelevant because you need to cast it on the soul, not the body, and the souls is definitely a creature, 2) No, and that's important because you need to target the soul as 2 points out, and 3) Use the Planar Time Traits (creating a custom cosmology is one way. Genesis or first party is another). \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Mar 13 '17 at 21:48
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Whether or not temporal stasis works on a corpse is a matter of some contention. See this question about animate objects on corpses for more details.

In the other hand, the psionic power quintessence creates a gel-like substance that stops time within, for everything within. That will definitely work. A coffin filled with quintessence would leave the corpse as fresh as the day he died.

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