If you slay an undead creature can you cast animate dead on the corpse to bring it back as a zombie or skeleton?


The 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell animate dead [necro] (Player's Handbook 198—9) says, "This spell turns the bones or bodies of dead creatures into undead skeletons or zombies that follow your spoken commands" (emphasis mine). Also, as this answer says, the spell animate dead parenthetically says, "A destroyed skeleton or zombie can’t be animated again," making it so a lone corpse can't become a zombie repeatedly, for instance, but the question of animating the remains of, for example, a ghoul or wight (ahem) remains.

When reduced to 0 hit points, the typical creature that possesses the type undead (Monster Manual 317) is destroyed. The game never properly defines destroyed, but even if the case is made that dead and destroyed are—I dunno—secretly synonyms, an animated dead creature "can be created only from a mostly intact corpse or skeleton" (199), and I suspect only the most generous DM will rule that a destroyed undead creature's form is mostly intact.

That said, if the DM does rule that a creature that possess the type undead keeps the condition dead upon its destruction and the DM rules that the creature's destruction leaves the resultant corpse largely intact and the creature wasn't previously animated via the spell animate dead, then—finally!—the animate dead spell can be used on that largely intact dead and destroyed and not-previously-animated-by-animate-dead creature… if sticking to the core rules.

Beyond the core rules (like this answer mentions), Libris Mortis on Undead Healing says

What would disable or render unconscious a living creature destroys an undead creature beyond recall. (In game terms, when an undead is reduced to 0 hit points or less, it is permanently destroyed.) No aid, magical or mundane, is sufficient to restore the undead to its previous state of animation. (10)

This makes it clear—outside obvious exceptions like the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell revive undead [necro] (Spell Compendium 175—6)—that the spell animate dead can't animate a creature that possesses the type undead that's been destroyed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ We can infer from the existence of a higher level spell that restores undead that animated that should not work this way. \$\endgroup\$ – Three Diag Jan 25 '18 at 19:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ThreeDiag I considered that, but the spell revive undead revives back that specific destroyed undead while animate dead typically makes a new skeleton or zombie. That is, casting revive undead on a destroyed ghoul sorcerer 12 will get back that ghoul sorcerer 12, but casting animate dead on that destroyed ghoul—if the DM agrees that's even possible—will probably just yield a boring ol' zombie. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 25 '18 at 19:47

The animate dead spell can't target a destroyed undead since it only target a dead creature, not a destroyed one (Yes, there is a difference). The Libris Mortis talk about this in details but you can't reanimate an undead that was destroyed (Zombies and skeletons are the main example). The gist of it would be "You can't kill what is already dead, you destroy it."

To make use of a former undead, you should use the Revive Undead spell (Libris Mortis/Spell Compendium).

  • \$\begingroup\$ I disagree with your claim that a destroyed undead creature is not still also a dead creature. Can you back that up? \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 25 '18 at 17:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan LM pg10: "In game terms, when an undead is reduced to 0 hit points or less, it is permanently destroyed. No aid, magical or mundane, is sufficient to restore the undead to its previous state of animation. Since they are already dead, undead that are destroyed cannot be returned to existence through raise dead or reincarnate." If they can't be used in raise dead and reincarnate, I believe they don't qualify as dead creatures after being destroyed. \$\endgroup\$ – Aguinaldo Silvestre Jan 25 '18 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ That literally says “since they are already dead.” \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 25 '18 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan Yes, at its previous state, they are dead, then destroyed and can't be used in a raise dead spell. For a living being its previous state would be alive, then dead and a valid target for a raise dead spell. \$\endgroup\$ – Aguinaldo Silvestre Jan 25 '18 at 18:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan The target of a Raise Dead spell is a dead creature, if it does not qualifies as a target of the aforementioned spell, it is not a dead creature. Spells like True Ressurection explicitly says that they can ressurect a destroyed undead as a living being, but not a normal just dead undead. Specific beats general like always. \$\endgroup\$ – Aguinaldo Silvestre Jan 25 '18 at 19:01

The answer is definitely not lesser undead, straight from the players handbook.

First paragraph page 199. Yes 3.5e, and 3e and 2e.

This spell turns the bones or bodies of dead creatures into undead skeletons or zombies that follow your spoken commands. The undead can follow you, or they can remain in an area and attack any creature (or just a specific kind of creature) entering the place. They remain animated until they are destroyed. (A destroyed skeleton or zombie can’t be animated again.)

I would also argue a creature that is destroyed has no body. From Wish on page 302

Revive the dead. A wish can bring a dead creature back to life by duplicating a resurrection spell. A wish can revive a dead creature whose body has been destroyed, but the task takes two wishes, one to recreate the body and another to infuse the body with life again. A wish cannot prevent a character who was brought back to life from losing an experience level.

  • \$\begingroup\$ It would help you to quote the Player’s Handbook, since I for one don’t see it there. Note that the question is about D&D 3.5e, not the latest D&D 5e. The D&D 5e Player’s Handbook does indeed say that, but it’s not relevant to D&D 3.5e. The D&D 3.5e Player’s Handbook does not say that, as far as I can tell (feel free to prove me wrong with a quote and page number). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 26 '18 at 5:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ If that second paragraph there is a quote, please indicate that by putting it in a quotebox (> at the start of the paragraph). \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 26 '18 at 5:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ The second paragraph was indeed a quote, edited now to reflect that and to add something else I found. \$\endgroup\$ – Cro Jan 26 '18 at 5:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ Wow, I have no idea how the four people answering here missed that. Thanks for pointing it out, and sorry I doubted you. Though I’d point out—as HeyICanChan did in another comment—that the existence of higher-power spells reviving undead, whether it be wish or revive undead, doesn’t quite demonstrate all that much because those are much more powerful, returning an undead creature to its previous state rather than turning it into a generic zombie or skeleton. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 26 '18 at 5:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan I think you didn't grasped what Cro says. I assume he says 'destroyed' in the "when reduced to 0 hit points, undead creature is destroyed" (from undead type) and 'destroyed' in "dead creature whose body has been destroyed..." (from Wish) is the same destroyed so you can't cast Animate Dead on both. It's not true, but I think it was the vision of this answer's author. Of course, authoritative clarification is welcome! \$\endgroup\$ – annoying imp Jan 26 '18 at 6:46

Rules as written, animate dead works on a dead humanoid, not an dead undead. So no.

That said, I and, many DMs chose to ignore this distinction and let people animate anything they can. There are animated undead hands in the monster manual so there is a precedent that you don't even need an intact body.

In conclusion: DM's discretion.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That’s false, animate dead works on “One or more corpses touched,” with no reference made to the initial creature type. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Jan 25 '18 at 17:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ PHB, Animate Dead sentence two "Choose a pile of bones or a corpse of a Medium of Small humanoid within Range, " \$\endgroup\$ – Overthinks Jan 25 '18 at 17:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ Question's about 3.5e not 5e. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 25 '18 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ That will teach me to double check the tags. \$\endgroup\$ – Overthinks Jan 25 '18 at 17:19

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