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I have been thinking of making a necromancer, and I feel like I am missing something.

Do all zombies and skeletons, regardless of the corpse they used as an ingredient, become the creature listed as zombie/skeleton in the stat block?

The main source of confusion I'm having is caused by this text in the animate dead spell description:

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).

This sounds to me like each skeleton has different statistics that are only known (or decided upon) by the DM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I take it you decided to try a different character concept after all? Can't get much further away from nature than necromancy, I'll give you that! Good luck with the new character! \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS May 28 at 10:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ My thoughts exactly. XD \$\endgroup\$ – Maiko Chikyu May 28 at 10:41
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Yes, each creature will either have the statistics for the standard skeleton or zombie

When the spells say that a creature becomes a zombie or a skeleton they are referring to the respective creatures with those names in the rules. It isn't clear why they felt the need to add the part about the DM having the creature's statistics however, but there really isn't any other reasonable way to interpret the effect.

It would not be in line with any other spell effect, for example, to interpret this to meant that the DM comes up with the statistics from scratch each time for every creature that is raised. And there is no zombie or skeleton monster template, so there is no way for a DM to create individual stats for a monster-turned-undead. Really the only interpretation we are left with then is that the spell wants you to use the standard statistics for those creatures.

It is worth noting that the "the DM has the creature’s game statistics" language appears in all Conjure X spells (plus some others).1

One thing that might be different from creature to creature is equipment as discussed in this Q&A.2 Your DM might provide you with slightly different statistics based on that, but the base will always be those standard stat blocks.

Jeremy Crawford has unofficially clarified the intent on Twitter though:

Q: When animate dead is cast on a corpse/skeleton, do you use the Monster manual statistics, or add a template?

JC: When you cast animate dead, use the skeleton/zombie stat block from the Monster Manual or appendix D in the PH.


1 - thanks @Miniman

2 - thanks @Someone_Evil

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is it worth mentioning the sidebar that talks about weapons and armour? Animating a skeleton in plate mail potentially improves the stats. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri May 28 at 11:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri are you suggesting adding that part to my answer? I think that my mention and link to the Q&A covers that does it not? Or was it a specific part of the text that you thought I should reference? \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose May 28 at 11:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I missed that part :( \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri May 28 at 11:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri no worries! Do let me know if you think it can be improved :) \$\endgroup\$ – Rubiksmoose May 28 at 11:31
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Yes, Animate Dead can only create a Skeleton or Zombie

Animate Dead is only a 3rd level spell, so it only has the ability to create these two creatures. The DM may rule that the creatures only have access to the weapons around them when raised, otherwise you'd default to the given stat blocks.

If you wanted to raise a more powerful creature, you'd use spells such as Create Undead to create Ghouls

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