A skull and some bones on wet ground
Spells that Resurrect the Dead in D&D 5e

Written by Phil

Phil was a world-traveler, writing, playing games, and exploring. Now he lives in Toronto and plays D&D, Root, and Terraforming Mars online. Most recently, he has been exploring the asymmetric games by Leder Games. Links to Other Writing: Persuasive Writing; Coffee Website.

On the go? Listen to the audio version of the article here:

Dying in D&D is easy – anything from a stray arrow to dragon’s breath can end your life as an adventurer. Thankfully, there are ways to bring you back from the afterlife! Resurrection spells can bring characters back from the dead – and may even come with the perk to heal horrid injuries. That is, of course, if you are willing to pay the price! 

In 5e, there are six spells that can resurrect deceased characters: Revivify, Raise Dead, Resurrection, Reincarnate, True Resurrection, and Wish can all bring characters back from the dead, allowing us to keep them alive for the next adventure. There are also non-spell ways to resurrect.

Curious about the ups and downs of each? Read on to find out!

What is Resurrection? 

Resurrection in 5e refers to bringing someone’s soul back from the astral plane to their body—memories and skills intact. With this definition, resurrection does not include undeath. In addition, this means Clone and Magic Jar don’t count as resurrection – but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Uses for Resurrection Spells

Keeping your Player Characters (PCs) alive, of course! Bear in mind, resurrection spells can also bring back NPCs!  Failed to save the king from an assassination? Simply revivify him—disaster averted. 

Need to learn forbidden knowledge from a long-dead wizard? Disturb him from his slumber with true resurrection. Some may not take kindly to being re-awoken, but sometimes you gotta take that chance!


Frighten Your Players

In a dark room, Jon is on the edge of his seat. He’s afraid his next act will be his doom.

Everyone holds their breath—except you, the DM. You enjoy watching them sweat as tension comes to a head.

Do something!” Sara shouts, causing everyone to jump. Rattled, Jon does something stupid.

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Check out Weeping Walls, our haunted house intended to fit into any campaign.


A Breakdown of the Resurrection Spells

Revivify 

(Player’s Handbook, pg 272)

Classes: Artificer, Cleric, Paladin, (Celestial) Warlock, (Wildfire) Druid

Revivify is the earliest resurrection spells you can get. Clerics gain access to this spell as early as level 5; paladins at level 9. 

The material cost of the spell is relatively affordable. Some say this spell is primarily for combat – keeping members alive. Being a level 3 spell – clerics can use this spell endlessly with no problem – supposing they are carrying enough 300gp diamonds

Just make sure to keep vital organs (like their head) intact – otherwise, the spell will fizzle. 

Raise Dead 

(Player’s Handbook, pg 270)

Classes: Bard, Cleric, Paladin, (Alchemist) Artificer, 

Raise Dead is the next available resurrection spell. Compared to Revivify, Raise Dead has a longer window of effectiveness—10 days. This extension is a big plus. However, Raise Dead comes with some catches. 

Whereas Revivify can be used in battle, Raise Dead takes 1 hour to cast. 

Revivify requires a 300gp diamond to be consumed every cast; Raise Dead will set you back a 500gp diamond.

As well, remember that those resurrected by Raise Dead get a -4 penalty to all rolls—and must take at least 4 long rests to get rid of it. Much like revivify, make sure you find a way to keep their body intact; otherwise, the spell fails. 

Reincarnate 

(Player’s Handbook, pg 271) 

Classes: Druid 

If your party healer is a druid, Reincarnate is one way to access resurrection. Much like Raise Dead, it can only resurrect corpses that have been dead for no more than 10 days

One perk is that Reincarnate can resurrect someone from just a strand of hair. 

The downside: you will have to roll to randomly inhabit a new race and body—changing your stat bonuses and racial features to match. Unless you’ve wanted to change your race, this might be a significant drawback. 


Discover Ancient Treasure

The party is tired, hurting, and in need of shelter when they discover a mysterious, ancient stone crypt.

The dusty tomb could hold immense treasure, danger, or both – depending on how they approach it.

Perhaps they’ll foolishly wander into this setting-agnostic, densely-written classic dungeon that provides plenty of unique choices and twists on old favorites.

Check out the promotional version (on the product page) before you buy the Mound of Harald the Conqueror!


Resurrection 

(Player’s Handbook, pg 272) 

Classes: Bard, Cleric, (Divine Soul) Sorcerer 

Ah, yes, the namesake of this article. Resurrection is simply an upgraded Raise Dead. Unlike Raise Dead, however, Resurrection will restore missing body parts and can resurrect corpses up to a century old! 

The drawbacks are similar to those before it but also inflict worse penalties on the caster. Magic-users who attempt this spell on a corpse that is one year or older will be unable to cast spells and will have disadvantage for all attack, ability, and saving throws—until they take a long rest. 

Between all the other spells, Resurrection provides the most value. At a price of a 1000gp diamond, it’s relatively affordable and can restore even the most mangled corpses back to near-perfect health! 

True Resurrection 

(Player’s Handbook, pg 284) 

Classes: Cleric, Druid, (Divine Soul) Sorcerer 

True Resurrection is the cream of the crop for res spells. It will purge all diseases, curses, and poisons. It can return the undead to a living state and can even resurrect creatures with no corpses.  

Casters do not receive the same penalties as they do with Resurrection and can resurrect corpses no older than 200 years. The one thing holding this spell back is that it’s 9th level – and the cost of 25,000gp worth of diamonds. You didn’t scoff back when I said 1000gp was affordable, didn’t you?

Realistically, you can expect to cast this spell only once or twice in a campaign, given its price. But for bringing back PC’s (or NPC’s) from the afterlife, nothing beats True Resurrection.

It should also be noted that some people like to play some hijinx here. What constitutes a body “no longer existing”? Must you destroy the body? What if it’s simply missing? 

What if, bear with me, you cast True Polymorph on the original body, use True Resurrection to create a new body, cancel the polymorph, then Resurrect the original corpse? (Note: some descriptions of True Polymorph require the target to start with at least 1hp, but some do not)

Oh, the fun of loopholes! Run these by the DM first, always.


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For easy-to-use resources for any D&D game, check out the selections at Dungeon Vault!


Wish 

(Player’s Handbook, pg 288)

Classes: Sorcerer, Wizard, (Arcana) Cleric, (Arcane Trickster) Rogue, (Eldritch Knight) Fighter, (Genie) Warlock 

Rules-as-Written (RAW), you can simply use Wish to cast Resurrection with no need for material components. However, you would need a body to Wish them to life—some say you need two wishes, with one to wish for the body to fabricate nearby.

Of course – you can do a lot more than “simple” resurrection, but doing so requires “DM permission” (Groan (just kidding, we love you DMs)). 

Are there other ways of resurrection apart from spells? 

There is the Rod of Resurrection (DMG 197) as well as scrolls of the various Resurrection spells (DMG 200-208) – however, they can be difficult to access for players depending on the DM’s whims. 

Apart from these options, the only alternative would be the 2% chance of reincarnation through the sorcerer’s Wild Magic Surge (PHB 104) — except you need to cast it before the sorcerer themselves die and have rolled a 91-92. 

I wouldn’t bank on it. 


Frighten Your Players

In a dark room, Jon is on the edge of his seat. He’s afraid his next act will be his doom.

Everyone holds their breath—except you, the DM. You enjoy watching them sweat as tension comes to a head.

Do something!” Sara shouts, causing everyone to jump. Rattled, Jon does something stupid.

For less than a Starbucks coffee, gift a thrilling night for you and your crew;

Check out Weeping Walls, our haunted house intended to fit into any campaign.


Non-Resurrection “Resurrection” Spells 

Clone 

(Player’s Handbook, pg 222) 

Classes: Wizard, (Arcana) Cleric, (Arcane Trickster) Rogue, (Eldritch Knight) Fighter 

Clone is technically a resurrection spell, creating copies of yourself and allowing you to transfer into one of these new bodies upon death. Unlike the other resurrection spells in this list, Clone requires advanced preparation. 

You’ll need a cube of your flesh, a 1000gp diamond, and a container worth 2000gp to hold your clone (a medium creature, for most). Once casted, your clone will take 120 days to grow.

After that, your chia-pet self will be ready indefinitely. 

The need to keep your clone in a large, secure container brings problems.  You will likely have to leave your clone in a single secure area, like a castle. 

If your adventures are across the country, you will have trouble catching up after you “resurrect” into your clone. 

The unique perk with Clone is it’s the only way to true immortality. Unlike the True Resurrection and the other spells, Clone allows you to survive death from old age

If ever you’re going to have a campaign that’ll last centuries, Clone is the way to go.

Magic Jar 

(Player’s Handbook, pg 257)

Classes: Wizard, (Arcana) Cleric, (Arcane Trickster) Rogue, (Eldritch Knight) Fighter 

Magic Jar puts your body in a coma whilst your soul enters the jar. You may then choose to possess a creature within 100ft of you – and the creature must make a charisma saving throw. On a fail – you gain possession of the body. On a fail, you’ll just have to look for another target. 

You now inherit the stats of the creature—maintaining your class features, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. 

As a resurrection substitute, it’s unreliable. If the body you possessed dies, you must make a Charisma roll against your OWN spell save DC. On a fail – you die. 

Keep in mind Magic Jar cannot be used like a lich’s phylactery. If you choose to return to your body – the spell ends. If the spell is forced to end or the jar is destroyed, you are forced back to your body. If your body is dead or away from the jar? Game over.

This spell has better applications for deception and exploiting enemy creatures. This spell is terrible at saving you from death.

Summary

Dying and losing a character will always be painful. Luckily, resurrection spells are here to save the day. 

With so many spells to choose from, here are things to keep in mind: 

  • Resurrection spells are expensive (except for Revivify) – so always keep gold handy and/or some expensive diamonds at hand! 
  • Revivify is your only way to resurrect someone in combat, so make sure your party has a cleric or paladin with the spell!  
  • Raise Dead is your budget option, and True Resurrection is the cream of the crop. Reincarnate takes the cake as the best res spell in terms of cost-effectiveness. 
  • When you do not have access to a resurrection spell, use Wish. If you need to save your own skin and have time, prepare a Clone – but never use Magic Jar as a substitute resurrection spell… unless it’s your only option. 

With a plethora of spells to choose from, players will always have ways to foil a DM’s plans and cheat death. Just don’t abuse them, lest your DM finds further motivation to permanently kill you. 

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