The party defeats a group of creatures by killing them, earning XP. Can they then raise the corpses as undead, release control so they're uncontrolled undead, then kill the undead for more XP?

Is experience granted for both killing the creatures and for the undead?


4 Answers 4


Technically, yes.

DMG 260 states,

When adventurers defeat one or more monsters-typically by killing, routing, or capturing them, they divide the total XP value of the monsters evenly among themselves.

The lowest level creation of undead is the "Animate Dead" spell, which states:

If you issue no commands, the creature only defends itself against hostile creatures. ... The creature is under your control for 24 hours, after which it stops obeying any command you've given it.

Thus, if you lose control of it and then attack, it defends itself, and you have yourself a fight where you can plausibly gain XP.

It's not worth it

Assuming your DM is somehow ok with this ploy, killing a zombie or skeleton nets you 50 XP. The earliest level you could do this is 5th level, where you get two spell slots to cast this spell. Assuming that you're the only one fighting the zombie/skeleton, you get an extra 100 xp a day. You need an additional 7500 XP to level up from 5 to 6, so you'd get 1.3% of a new level each day by doing this ploy, or 77 days to level up. Note that I'm describing the fastest progression--this strategy gets even less effective at any higher level. Doing this also means you can't use your 3rd level spell slots for anything else.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 12:55
  • 11
    \$\begingroup\$ @mzyzplk I'm not sure if that was an extended discussion for chat. Each of those comments were separate suggestions for improving the answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 13:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ By this rule, you'd be a lot better off beating them up, capturing them, then letting them go so you can beat them up again. No need to go for that costly kill-and-raise thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 21:05

Technically Yes.

There's nothing in RAW to prevent this. However, there are a few things to consider as to whether it would be worth doing so.

  1. 50 XP per zombie or skeleton: This isn't a lot, even before considering having to split it based on number of player characters participating in combat: 12.5 XP for a four member party.

  2. 7,500 XP to go from level 5 to level 6: A Level 5 spellcaster is the minimum required to cast Animate Dead. They get two 3rd level spell slots, meaning it can be cast twice per long rest, which means 25 extra XP per day at the expense of more vital Fireball spells perhaps.

  3. Experience is just that: Experience

    As your character goes on adventures and overcomes challenges, he or she gains experience, represented by experience points.

    How much growth do the characters gain from slaughtering a single skeleton or zombie over and over again? As a GM, I'd probably allow this a few times before ruling they gain nothing after a few kills.



According to the Monster Manual (p. 9)

Unless something tells you otherwise, a monster summoned by a spell or other magical ability is worth the XP noted in its stat block.

And all the descriptions of Experience Points in the Player's Handbook, DM's Guide, and Monster Manual describe getting experience points for killing or defeating monsters. They do not say that these monsters must be hostile.

Some possible wrinkles:

  • The DMG (p. 260) urges you to count NPCs as part of the party when dividing up experience points "if the party received substantial assistance from one or more NPCs". Your DM might consider the undead standing there and letting you kill it to be "substantial assistance", and thus add it to the number of combatants on your side, reducing your share of XP (for example, if your party has 3 PCs, you might only each get 1/4 of the undead's XP value if it counts as a party member for that fight).
  • Raising undead usually takes at least a 3rd level spell slot. The low CR of most raisable undead make this a rather expensive strategy.
  • \$\begingroup\$ That looks more like expected. :) It's less something to apologise for, and more something that can get more negative voter reaction than some people are prepared for. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 4:55
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I would add another wrinkle: Although the Animate Dead description may not mention it, I think it would be reasonable for a DM to rule that the corpse must at least be mostly intact to raise as a corporeal undead. And repeatedly hacking and bashing the same corpse is going to leave it in a pretty bad state after a couple of slaughters! (Especially as killing an undead corpse implies you need to do enough damage to basically stop it from animating!) \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Commented Mar 29, 2018 at 7:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PJRZ The way you write this wrinkle suggests that a corpse could be killed and animated repeatedly with Animate Dead. Note that this spell requires you to target "a pile of bones or a corpse of a Medium or Small humanoid" (PHB, p. 212 bold added). Once a humanoid corpse has been Animated and then killed again, it is no longer a humanoid corpse but an undead corpse and cannot be Animated a second time. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 8, 2020 at 6:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme: You're right. I had not considered that \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Commented Feb 8, 2020 at 10:48

Yes, but it's best at training relatively weak characters.

As the other answers have stated, this would be valid, but extremely inefficient for training characters of high enough level to cast the necessary spells.

However, this would be an excellent training tool for mid to high level adventurers that wanted to help train NPCs, or other PCs that were coming in at a lower level for some reason.

I can very easily see a few weeks being spent with some 8th level adventurers advising/heckling the four town guards that survived the goblin attack as they train, and helping them rise from level one to level three or so, and helping the town to survive once they've moved on as a result.


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