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There have been quite a few questions about corpses and creatures, such as here where it is argued a dead creature is still a creature, here where the opposite is argued, and here where resurrecting an animated corpse is up in the air.

It has already been discussed here what happens when allowing spells to target objects, and while corpses would be included in that question I would like to ask if treating corpses as creatures in particular causes any negative or unintended side-effects, as there are many spells that normally work only on living creatures but would now also work on corpses (dead creatures).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ @nautArch I just think it's a specific case that probably wasn't thought about. For example you can now awaken corpses, give them temporary hit points with heroism, increase their hitpoints using Aid, etc... \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jun 15 '19 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch it would be corpse-object with creature type/ corpse-object-creature. Though I think it hinges on a mis/understanding of this argument rpg.stackexchange.com/a/149909/44723 and if the second is the case it may have some ramifications. \$\endgroup\$ – Akixkisu Jun 15 '19 at 18:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll leave it to others, but it seems like the concern about corpses should be an answer to this question and that this is a duplicate. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Jun 15 '19 at 19:40
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There are no unintended consequences, because there are no rules for dead creatures, so all interactions are up to the DM.

Death is not a status effect. There are no stats for dead bodies, no special rules concerning them. Nothing describes what happens, mechanically, to a creature after they die.

The reason for this is because death is universal. There's no need to explain what being dead means to anyone, so it isn't explained. Because of this, any questions that do come up are left to the DM.

That said, I'll go over a few of the likely suspects:

  1. Cure Wounds, or any kind of healing (outside of explicit resurrection) has no effect. Being dead is not a result of being at 0 hit points, so even if casting a healing spell on a body is possible, it wouldn't bring them back to life. It could be argued that their body would be healed, but all resurrection methods specify the HP total the creature returns to, so DM fiat would be required for this to even have any effect.

  2. Dominate Person and other such enchantments all require wisdom saving throws. There are no rules provided for what the wisdom save of a dead person is, but even assuming that translates into an automatic failure, a dead person can't move or do anything whatsoever, so such control would be entirely pointless.

  3. Teleport, and other spells that specify "willing creatures" can't target a body because dead creatures are not willing creatures. They're dead, and thus unable to perform the positive action of being willing.

  4. Sacred Flame and other creature-targeting damage spells. This would technically be a change, as you can now attack corpses, however there is no shortage of ways to attack objects, and having a few new ones doesn't really change anything.

  5. Sneak attack, while not a spell, could be argued to work if your dead ally was adjacent to your target. However, the adjacent creature need to be "hostile", which is again an positive action much like being "willing". Dead creatures can't do anything, so they can't be hostile.

At the end of the day, due to the lack of rules concerning death and dead bodies, any possible strange interaction that might arise from dead creatures being considered creatures is up to the DM to decide. And since the DM is deciding every consequence, there are no unintended consequences.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "Sneak attack, while not a spell, could be argued to work if your dead ally was adjacent to your target." I don't think this is true, because the "other enemy" of the target of Sneak Attack needs to not be incapacitated to qualify for Sneak Attack: "You don’t need advantage on the attack roll if another enemy of the target is within 5 feet of it, that enemy isn’t incapacitated, and you don’t have disadvantage on the attack roll." I think it's safe to say dead bodies are incapacitated at the least. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 18 '19 at 10:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @agentpaper One reason the game could have explained being dead is to know what remains when you are ressurected, see this question \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Jun 18 '19 at 10:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast A dead person isn't incapacitated, they're dead. At any rate it's only meant as an example. \$\endgroup\$ – AgentPaper Jun 19 '19 at 3:38
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AgentPaper: I'm aware, but I'm just going off the logic of this answer. Sneak Attack doesn't work with just a corpse next to the enemy anyway. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jun 19 '19 at 3:43

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