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I know the Resurrection spell brings something back to life, but what happens when casting it on a zombie? A zombie is already dead, but now undead—does it "die" and is brought back to life, or does nothing happen?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 18 down vote accepted

If the zombie is still 'alive', then Resurrection does nothing.

From the spell description:

You can resurrect someone killed by a death effect or someone who has been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed. You cannot resurrect someone who has died of old age. Constructs, elementals, outsiders, and undead creatures can’t be resurrected.

If you 'kill' the zombie, then you can resurrect the corpse. Also from the spell description

You can resurrect someone killed by a death effect or someone who has been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed.

If a human is killed, raised as a zombie, the zombie is destroyed and then the remaining corpse ressurected, you have a human again.

Getting to -10 HP turns a person into a corpse.

Going to 0 hp turns an undead into a corpse.

Resurrection turns a corpse into a human.

Animate dead turns a corpse into a zombie.

Nothing I know of turns a human into a zombie, or a zombie into a human without them spending some time as a corpse. Someone will no doubt point out some way with some nonsense from Libris Mortis.

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Are zombies not considered undead? and would otherwise not be able to be resurrected? –  13ruce1337 Aug 15 at 3:07
    
I'm not sure if I follow. Say a random creature dies (not from age) and is turned into a zombie, which then is destroyed. Should I resurrect it, will it be the original creature or the zombie? –  kadu Aug 15 at 6:05
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The original creature. Getting to -10 HP turns a person into a corpse. Going to 0 hp turns an undead into a corpse. Resurrection turns a corpse into a human. Animate dead turns a corpse into a zombie. Nothing I know of turns a human into a zombie, or a zombie into a human without them spending some time as a corpse. Someone will no doubt point out some way with some nonsense from Libris Mortis. –  Scott Aug 15 at 6:09
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It's a little weird that you quote the same text twice.. –  MrLemon Aug 15 at 15:31
    
@MrLemon If you look at the edit history, you'll see that the comment was made first, and then incorporated into the answer afterwards. –  Alex Aug 16 at 9:51

The Rules Are Contradictory

The 7th-level Clr spell resurrection [conj] (PH 272-3) and the 9th-level Clr spell true resurrection [conj] (PH 296) say that

You can [bring back from the dead] someone killed by a death effect or someone who has been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed.

(emphasis mine), but the spells inherit the entry Target: Dead creature touched from the 5th-level Clr spell raise dead [conj] (PH 268), which means that when the Monster Manual describes the type undead, saying that

Resurrection and true resurrection can affect undead creatures. These spells turn undead creatures back into the living creatures they were before becoming undead. (317)

it's saying an undead creature can be the target of spells that the spells say can't target an undead creature.

The Player's Handbook is the final authority on spells, but the Monster Manual is the final authority on creatures. Thus it's best if the DM decides whether this is a spell issue or a creature issue and makes a house rule to resolve this contradiction accordingly.

This rules quirk remains even in the updated 2013 printings of the Player's Handbook and Monster Manual.

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There's a problem with using the second rule. The following sentence in your first quote is "You cannot resurrect someone who has died of old age". Following the second rule, wouldn't you make it possible to turn someone who dies of old age into a zombie and then resurrect them? Or is it impossible to turn them into a zombie in the first place? –  kadu Aug 15 at 6:08
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@kadu the spell animate dead's entry Target: One or more corpses doesn't appear to care how the corpses occur, so corpses of those who died of old age should be valid targets. Upon those undead creatures' destruction, however, subsequent raise dead et al. magic will fail; the corpses came about due age. They should have seen death's approach and made arrangements for a druid to cast reincarnate on them after their suicides. D&D 3.5's a pretty messed up place. –  Hey I Can Chan Aug 15 at 9:29

They wouldn't come back.

A zombie is a creature, it is not 'a corpse' which is the specified target for Resurrection. True Resurrection would arguably work, since it doesn't require a corpse. In that case, what happened to the Zombie would be up to the GM. It might conceivably continue to exist, as the True Resurrection spell creates a new body for the soul.

That said, if you have the zombie, just kill it. Then it is a corpse again, and a target for Resurrection.

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Ok I just wanted to know cause it came up during my gane –  Jayjay Aug 14 at 22:14
    
If you have a GM who likes to bend rules, and be a bit cruel, he could allow the resurrection, but if the zombie was under control, the control would persist. HOWEVER: That is not the rules, and should be reserved as a GM stunt for story telling only. –  Brian Aug 15 at 1:34
    
The target is "dead creature touched", not a corpse. –  Hassassin Aug 15 at 8:52

If the zombie used to be a resurrectable creature in life, it is resurrected as that creature.

The relevant quote from the description of the undead type is:

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.

The resurrection spell does not directly contradict this. What it does say is:

You can resurrect someone killed by a death effect or someone who has been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed. [...] Constructs, elementals, outsiders, and undead creatures can’t be resurrected.

The first part tells you the original creature can be resurrected if they were turned into an undead and destroyed, unlike with raise dead. The latter tells you you can't re-reanimate destroyed undead.

You could interpret it as saying you can't cast resurrection on undead, but then it would also be saying you can't cast it on "living" constructs, elementals or outsiders. That clearly isn't the purpose (target is a dead creature touched); instead, it's saying those creatures, once destroyed/killed cannot be returned back to "life".

So an undead cannot be resurrected as an undead, but can be resurrected as the original creature (where available) whether it is first destroyed (the spell description) or not (the type description).

In practice, with 10 minute casting time, you are not going to be using it on a zombie that you couldn't just as easily first destroy, so it's moot anyway.

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This seems to neglect the Target: One dead creature entry of the spells raise dead et al. –  Hey I Can Chan Aug 16 at 0:53
    
Undead are dead. –  Hassassin Aug 20 at 16:32
    
No, dead creatures have the condition dead. Undead creatures have the type undead and are destroyed at 0 hp. –  Hey I Can Chan Aug 20 at 17:44

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