A tabaxi ranger/assassin in my game made a pact with an unknown power (homebrew deity-like undead necromancer from the Death Plane). To achieve this he became an undead tabaxi (and he took one level in warlock). So now he is a creature that's both humanoid and undead.

Party composition (level 10): paladin, eldritch knight/wizard, ranger/assassin/warlock, rogue, warlock.

What are the mechanical consequences, both in terms of benefits and penalties, that arise for a PC with both humanoid and undead creature types?


5 Answers 5


The most prominent issue is healing.

The majority of healing spells (among them the most frequent ones, Healing Word and Cure Wounds) don't affect the undead. There are still some ways to heal yourself (see this question for ways of healing the undead), but it's "harder" to heal you. Most, if not all, healing spells that rule out undead creatures use the following wording:

This spell has no effect on undead or constructs.

Your paladin's Lay on Hands won't work on you either, for the same reason.

I think it's safe to assume that the mixed-type player character is affected by the restriction.

The best guideline we have on the topic is the Unearthed Arcana article that introduces Centaurs and Minotaurs as playable races. Those two races have the following trait:

Hybrid Nature. You have two creature types: humanoid and monstrosity. You can be affected by a game effect if it works on either of your creature types.

OP's homebrew player race is a mix of humanoid and undead (however that works), but the principle is the same. Note that Unearthed Arcana is only beta-test material, so this is not RAW, and the trait might change if the races are ever released (if they even keep their hybrid nature at all).

Furthermore, the restriction on healing undead specifically rules them out - it doesn't state "this spell works only works on creatures that have a type other than undead or construct". In that case, you could probably affect mixed-type creatures, but the current version is unambiguous in my opinion.

Other issues include clashes with Cleric and Paladin abilities

Most prominently, you would be affected every time a Cleric or Paladin in your vicinity use Channel Divinity for e.g. Turn Undead. That won't be as much of an issue since your party doesn't have a Cleric, but you might still be accompanied by a Cleric NPC, or a player that later joins your group might want to pick one. Also, you do have a Paladin - and while they don't have access to Turn Undead, depending on their subclass, they might have Turn the Unholy, which will affect you as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do note that they still retain their humanoid creature type as well. Wouldn't nose healing spells still work? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch given that it is homebrew, one can't be sure. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 19:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I don't think it matters. I checked the wording for Healing Word and Cure Wounds, although I think it's the same for all spells that have the restriction. Anyways, those two state "This spell has no effect on undead or constructs". Now, if the PC had the Undead type but isn't affected by effects that affect "undead", then what would be the point of the question? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 19:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch also, the system assumes that 1 creature = 1 type. This assumption is only ever broken by the UA about centaurs + minotaurs as playable races. The UA states "You can be affected by a game effect if it works on either of your creature types". Regardless, the 1:1 relation means that you can formulate the limitation as "no effect on undead or constructs" or "affects only creatures of a type other than undead or construct". In the latter case, it would be debatable whether a mixed creature type can be affected. Since they chose the first phrasing, however, I think it's unambiguous. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 20:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @pixelmaster and that's kind of my point. I think an answer that addresses that would be more helpful. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 20:04

Most forms of healing will not work on undead

The primary drawback to playing an undead is that you are unaffected by the spells Cure Wounds, Heal, Healing Word, Mass Cure Wounds, Mass Heal, Mass Healing Word, Power Word Heal, Prayer of Healing and Spare the Dying.

You are also unable to benefit from a paladin's Lay on Hands or a life domain cleric's Preserve Life ability.

Inflict spells no longer heal undead like they did in earlier editions of the game.

Undead type has no inherent mechanical effect in D&D 5e

However, other than specific spell, effects and items which affect undead different, merely being undead has no inherent effects of its own (D&D 5e Monster Manual, page 6):

Certain spells, magic items, class features, and other effects in the game interact in special ways with creatures of a particular type. For example, an arrow of dragon slaying deals extra damage not only to dragons but also other creatures of the dragon type, such as dragon turtles and wyverns.

The game includes the following monster types, which have no rules of their own.

This is different to D&D 3.5, where monster types had their own inherent attributes, such as an Undead having no Constitution score. Part of D&D 5e's design philosophy is to avoid "hidden" rules like these.

As a result, other than vulnerability to those rare few magic items and effects which specifically target undead, the only differences for an undead PC are those the DM decides. Does your undead have additional abilities like poison resistance? Do they draw the ire of undead-hating crusaders or unsympathetic villagefolk? Do they decay? All of these are up to the DM to choose.

Undead traits

While it's widely believed that undead in D&D 5th edition do not need to breathe, eat or sleep, this is not a game rule, but rather a trait which is common among creatures of the undead type. For example, the Dracolich template (Monster Manual p.83):

The dracolich's type changes from dragon to undead, and it no longer requires air, food, drink or sleep.

Most undead appear to have this ability, in addition to resistance to necrotic damage, immunity to poison, and immunity to being charmed, frightened, paralyzed or poisoned.

However, not all undead have these abilities—they are features of that particular monster, not the undead type. For example, the vampire and vampire spawn do not require air, but are given no special exemption from the other needs to eat, drink and sleep.

As presumably a custom type of undead, it is up to the DM in this case what traits this character gains.

Other game rules which affect undead

The drawbacks of being undead include:

  • Cure Wounds, Heal, Healing Word, Mass Cure Wounds, Mass Heal, Mass Healing Word, Power Word Heal, Prayer of Healing, Spare the Dying do not affect you.
  • You are subject to a cleric's turn undead, or certain paladins with the same ability
  • A ranger with undead as a favored enemy is effective against you
  • You are vulnerable to a paladin's Divine Sense and Divine Smite
  • You can't benefit from a Life domain cleric's Channel Divinity
  • You have disadvantage on an Oath of Vengeance paladin's Abjurt Enemy effect
  • You can't benefit from a paladin's Lay on Hands
  • 20th level paladins with the Oath of Devotion have advantage on spells cast by you
  • 14th level necromancers can command you
  • You cannot benefit from antitoxin
  • Holy water deals damage to you
  • Chill Touch, Sunbeam and Sunburst are more harmful to you
  • Commune with Nature and Detect Evil and Good can sense you
  • Dispel Evil and Good, Holy Aura and Protection from Evil and Good can affect you
  • Forbiddance, Hallow and Magic Circle can exclude you
  • You may be vulnerable to an Oathbreaker paladin's Control Undead
  • You are vulnerable to the effects of the Helm of Brilliance, Holy Avenger, Mace of Disruption, a Scroll of Protection against undead, Sun Blade, Moonblade, Book of Exalted Deeds, Sword of Kas,
  • You can trigger an enemy's Scarab of Protection
  • You are vulnerable to a sprite's Heart Sight ability

Some of the advantages include:

  • You are immune to the effects of the spells Antilife Shell, Blight, Command, Hold Monster, Phantasmal Force, and Sleep
  • A necromancer can't benefit from Grim Harvest for killing you
  • You can benefit from an Oathbreaker paladin's Aura of Hate
  • You have an advantage when standing on desecrated ground
  • You are immune to some of the special effects of the Nine Lives Stealer sword, Sword of Life Stealin and Blackrazor (which now actually heals you if you're hit with it)
  • You are immune to various monster attacks, including the Banshee's Horrifying Visage and Wail, the Beholder's Sleep Ray, the Bearded Devil's Glaive effect, the Horned Devil's Tail effect, a Ghost's Horrifying Visage, a Ghast or Ghoul's Claws, a Jackalwere's Sleep Gaze, a Mummy Lord's Blasphemous Word, a Myconid's Rapport Spores, to name a few.
  • You benefit from a Death Knight's Marshal Undead ability and a Mummy Lord's lair abilities.
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    \$\begingroup\$ "14th level necromancers can command you", that's an excellent detail for my campaign. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vadruk
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 20:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Thanks, I had omitted this important information. I have now updated my answer to include a long list of things which affect undead, and noted the difficulty of receiving healing as an undead. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 21:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast In Europe, they call me the Royale with Cheese. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 23:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ A very detailed answer, +1. Did you consider XGtE's spells and the like? Haven't seen Healing spirit and other spells. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 7:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ This is my favorite answer due to its extensive a and helpful list of consequences, and it's clarification on common traits. However, I chose the current accepted answer over this one because it addresses the mixed-race situation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Vadruk
    Commented Nov 22, 2018 at 9:05

An undead PC becomes immune to effects that omit undead, and becomes a valid target for undead-targeting effects.

This means becoming immune to certain spells and effects, both helpful and harmful. It also means the PC becomes susceptible to additional harmful features that are designed to harm undead. Overall, gaining the undead creature type is not very advantageous.

As in Quadratic Wizard's answer, there are no built-in mechanics to being undead. Many undead are evil, or immune to exhaustion or poison or disease, but some are not. So we cannot assume that becoming undead automatically causes the PC to gain or lose any features. Technically, an undead can still benefit from rest, be charmed or confused, or grow old with age.

There are two major changes. First, the PC would become immune to any effect that specifically omits undead or has no effect on undead. There are pros and cons. Some notable examples include:

  • bypassing Antilife Shell
  • immunity to Blight, Cause Fear, Command, Sleep
  • if killed by a necromancy wizard, the wizard won't gain hit points via Grim Harvest
  • cannot be healed by Cure Wounds, Heal, Healing Spirit, Healing Word, Mass Cure Wounds, Mass Heal
  • cannot be healed by a paladin's Lay on Hands feature
  • cannot benefit from Raise Dead, Spare the Dying

Second, the PC is now a valid target for spells and features that apply to (or have additional effects for) undead; most of these are harmful to undead. Some notable examples include:

  • a cleric's Turn Undead and Destroy Undead features
  • a necromancy wizard's Command Undead feature
  • a paladin's Divine Sense feature, +1d8 damage from Divine Smite, and various other features
  • various ranger features if they chose undead as their Favored Enemy
  • Detect Evil and Good, Protection from Evil and Good, Dispel Evil and Good
  • True Resurrection would restore them to their non-undead form

There may be some unusual consequences of a PC having multiple creature types (both humanoid and undead). Many effects in 5E assume that creatures have one type; some spells that target a certain type don't explicitly omit others (e.g. Charm Person, Dominate Person, Calm Emotions, Reincarnate). With two creature types, this is no longer the case. The PC is now susceptible to both humanoid-targeting and undead-targeting abilities.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Mike, it's not many, it's all. Check the MM, Volos, and Mord's. Every creature in the game has one type. As I was leafing through all of those tomes, that realization of 'one type per creature' as a bedrock design criterion began to shout at me from the pages. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 23:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ Might be relevant to note that the UA versions of the Centaur and Minotaur races had a “hybrid nature” trait which meant they counted as both humanoid and monstrosity, with any effect that affected either type affecting them, but that trait was removed for the final published versions in the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 24, 2018 at 6:15

Most healing magic will not work

For example, Cure Wounds specifies

This spell has no effect on undead or constructs (PHB, 230).

Healing Word, Mass Healing Word, Heal, Mass Heal, and Power Word Heal have similar restrictions, and Resurrection also doesn't work on Undead. Most healing class features, such as Lay on Hands and the Life Domain Cleric's Channel Divinity: Preserve Life also will not work on undead.

What this means is that your undead PC will likely need to rely on potions and rests for all of their healing, as well as the odd spell like Heroes' Feast and Regenerate.

Note, this list is not comprehensive, and other spells will also affect or react to the PC differently, such as Detect Evil and Good. In fact due to having 2 creature types, the PC will be affected by all spells and effects that only work on Undead, (Such as Channel Divinity: Turn Undead), as well as all that only affect Humanoids (such as Hold Person), as well as being excluded from anything that explicitly ignores Undead (such as the healing spells listed above) or Humanoids (I don't have anything for this right now, will come back later).

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do note that they still retain their humanoid creature type as well. Wouldn't nose healing spells still work? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 19:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch That seems to be the core problem. The game as written is "each creature has one type for one" which has a ripple effect. By creating "two creature types in one " this homebrew stumbles over a host of basic assumptions and game structure. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 19:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch I don't know, I read the explicit exclusion of undead as more specific than it also works on humanoids. Specific beats general and all that. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch You can still read it as given. As the player has a type of undead, which the spell explicitly calls out as not effecting, I would rule that it has no effect on creatures that have the undead type regardless of what else it has. \$\endgroup\$
    – dphil
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 19:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch By the literal manner in which D&D 5e rules are traditionally interpreted, Cure Wounds doesn't affect you because it specifically doesn't affect undead, and you're undead. Being also humanoid doesn't change anything, because you're still undead. I'd house rule it that this particular undead can still benefit from healing spells despite their type, like the warforged could in D&D 3e. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 21:13

Few Effects, But Some

Unlike editions past, becoming Undead isn't a massive change to a character/monster, but there are going to be some minor changes.

Don't Sleep... or Eat. Or Breathe.

Undead don't have to sleep, but they do appear to still gain the benefits of a short or long rest, including the ability to use HD to heal, strangely enough. Jeremy Crawford confirms this via Twitter:

By default, any creature, including an undead minion, can use its HD during a short rest.

This really isn't a big change, though; this is similar to an Elf!

Additionally, you can't starve, and you can't suffocate.

Some Minor Immunities

Undead are immune to becoming exhausted/fatigued and cannot be poisoned. But note that general immunities that existed in previous additions, including disease and charms, are not in 5e.

Healing is Harder... but not Hard

Many healing spells specifically say that they don't work on undead (such as Cure Wounds), but any spell that doesn't specifically exclude undead will work, such as regenerate or heroes feast. And, if you have access to Xanthar's Guide to Everything, negative energy flood is a spell that specifically heals undead.

There are also no restrictions listed on undead taking potions, so feel free to heal them through potion use as well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ suffocation? food and drink? \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 19:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! Is there a source where all of this information is combined in one of the books? \$\endgroup\$
    – Vadruk
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 19:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do note that they still retain their humanoid creature type as well. Wouldn't nose healing spells still work? in addition, are those undead attributes you listed tie directly to be in an undead creature or as part of an unknown creature stat block that are dependent on the creature itself? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 19:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch These are the undead traits I can find that aren't tied to a creature. Certain things, like disease immunity, necrotic immunity, and radiance vulnerability are common among undead, but seemingly not universal. Spells like Cure Wound specify that they don't work on undead and constructs, and I believe some other spells specify living targets, but spells lacking those restrictions are fair game. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael W.
    Commented Nov 21, 2018 at 22:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Most undead don't need to breathe, eat, drink or sleep, but that doesn't seem to be explicitly stated as a feature of all undead anywhere. And there are undead who are exceptions to this pattern - vampires sleep and drink, for example, and ghouls eat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Nov 3, 2020 at 12:59

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