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The entry for skeletons implies they have shortbow and shortsword attacks. If you cast animate dead and create a skeleton, does it magically acquire an unlimited-ammo shortbow and shortsword to use like the monster, or would the player need to equip the skeleton accordingly?

This is for the Adventurer's League ruleset.

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From the description of the spell:

The target becomes a Skeleton if you chose bones or a Zombie if you chose a corpse (the DM has the creature's game statistics).

"[T]he creature's game statistics" includes the actions shortsword and shortbow. However, unless the skeleton has a shortsword /shortbow (and arrows) this is an action that is not available to them. They would need to be provided with these weapons.

In the absence of these, they can use the Attack action to make an unarmed strike. If you give them different weapons they can use the Attack action to attack with those, however, the DM would need to decide if they were proficient with them.

As for your assertion that a skeleton has an "an unlimited-ammo shortbow" - this is just wrong. From the Monster Manual p. 11:

AMMUNITION

A monster carries enough ammunition to make its ranged attacks. You can assume that a monster has 2d4 pieces of ammunition for a thrown weapon attack, and 2d10 pieces of ammunition for a projectile weapon such as a bow or crossbow.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ My mistake then, I was looking at the donjon monster list for the stats. So their only available attack, by default, would be unarmed strikes? \$\endgroup\$ – MonopolyLegend Jun 20 '17 at 4:50
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MonopolyLegend correct, unless you animate a corpse or skeleton that is described as having weapons nearby (like a fallen warrior or something). Note you might want to explicitly command it to pick up weapons that are around. \$\endgroup\$ – Robotnik Jun 20 '18 at 2:01

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