The shabti are the only race I know of which seem to have a built in defense against becoming undead. But dont they become corpses once they die and lose all their abilities, thus becoming able to be raised?

I know animate dead has some restrictions like must have a skeleton to become a skeleton, and create undead has its own requirements for creating those undead. But is there anything from creating an undead zombie out of an elemental that has been called, gated, or anything but summoned?

Immune to Undeath (1 RP): Shabti can’t become undead. Spells and abilities that would transform a shabti into an undead creature have no effect.

The shabti thing is not the focus of my question, its creating elemental undead. I thought some exist, but I havent been able to find any examples of an elemental undead, or constructs that have been turned into undead, not to be confused with a undead construct.

  • Can an elemental that's called be turned into an undead creature like a zombie?

    I am unaware of the game saying specifically that a creature that possesses the subtype elemental is forbidden from being transformed by the spell animate dead into a zombie. However, I am also unaware of the game saying that a PC can't enter play with a dozen rings of three wishes and Cthulhu as a pet. Seriously, the game doesn't say a lot more than it does say, and it relies on readers to fill in the gaps. The short version? Ask the GM.

    The long version: The restrictions that the spell animate dead has on transforming a corpse into a zombie are that a "zombie can be created only from a mostly intact corpse" —and there are remains when an elemental dies—and that the "corpse must be that of a creature with a physical anatomy"—but the game doesn't define the term physical anatomy, and that's kind of a sticking point. Even if a reader just hits the darn dictionary to define those words, whether the author of the animate dead spell intended readers to emphasize the word physical (as opposed to, for example, incorporeal), the word anatomy (as opposed to, for example, being comprised a single undifferentiated mass animated by a spirit), or both is a mystery.

    To be clear, an "elemental is a being composed entirely from one of the four classical elements: air, earth, fire, or water" (Bestiary 311 and emphasis mine) and "[t]rue elementals are simple creatures, thriving spirits animating bodies of pure elemental matter" (Ultimate Magic 108 and emphasis mine), and this reader can't know how a GM applies that information to the animate dead spell. It might mean that an elemental has sufficient "physical anatomy" for the the animate dead spell to turn an elemental into a zombie or it might not. Only the GM knows for sure.

    By the way, there are, of course, a vast number of ways that a creature can be transformed into an undead creature other than with the spell animate dead, and an elemental just by virtue of of its subtype or its outsider type doesn't possess any particular defense against this grisly fate. If an elemental meets the criteria for transformation into an undead creature, it'll be transformed into an undead creature just like any other creature would. (For example, a vampire that was itself originally an elemental can use its energy drain ability so that its create spawn ability transforms elementals it kills into vampire elementals. And, y'know, I don't say it often, but good on Paizo for making that a crazy and weird possibility.)

    Finally, the type construct grants immunity to necromancy effects, and as the spell animate dead is a spell of the necromancy school, a construct can't typically be the subject of it. In addition, the construct type grants immunity to a host of other potential ways that undead creatures use to transform other creatures into undead creatures. Nonetheless, given Pathfinder's vastness, I'm certain that there's an undead creature or some combination of spells or magic items or something that can get around the construct type's formidable defenses and, for example, transform an iron golem into some kind of undead iron golem.

  • Does a dead creature lose all abilities?

    This is actually an extremely contentious question. Ask the GM. The game doesn't typically say whether or not a dead creature loses any of its abilities, and my understanding from reading a lot of Internet messageboards is that players can expect each GM to handle this issue differently. Among other decisions the GM must make about a dead creature, it's up to the GM to decide if a creature that possesses the dead condition maintains after death the abilities it had before its death or if it's an empty, lacking-all-abilities shell.

Note: So you know, in the Pathfinder antecedent D&D 3.5 that game's Main FAQ says that corpses are objects, but Pathfinder developers have never, to my knowledge, made such a ruling, leading to the sidebar next to the condition dead. There are strong arguments for and against both positions.


The ability to raise an Undead must be left to the GM

The bar for what can be an Undead (and which type of Undead) is generally subjective.

The Templates for quickly converting to undead (see Skeleton and Zombie) have requirements that generally (probably) prevent an Elemental from being used.

...can be added to any corporeal creature...that has a skeletal system; ...can be added to any corporeal creature

We can assume that this is any creature without the incorporeal subtype, or we can assume the dictionary definition of corporeal.

1 : having, consisting of, or relating to a physical material body: such as
a : not spiritual
b : not immaterial or intangible

I lean toward the second because clearly a creature that is "composed entirely from one of the four classical elements" does not have a physical body to be turned into a Zombie.


Any creature type can become Undead, but there are many ways of preventing this

An example of a general Undead-making ability is that of creatures with the Floodslain template.

While the template only says up front that it can be applied to "any non-aquatic living creature" (which would include elementals except aquatic ones), the Create Spawn ability of the Floodslain template says:

Any creature killed by a floodslain creature rises as a floodslain creature if it’s left immersed in water for 24 hours. These spawn aren’t under the control of their creators.

Which provides a way to get the template on any creature (including Undead) rather than merely any living creature. Most methods of necromancing Constructs will be similarly abusive of omissions in Create Spawn abilities.

In any case, it is not true that any corpse can be undeadified. Many options exist for ensuring a given creature cannot be so raised. These include:

  • The Consecrate spell, which says "Undead cannot be created within or summoned into a consecrated area."

  • The Ring of Sealed Souls, which says "If the wearer of this braided ring is slain while wearing the ring, he cannot be raised as undead."

  • The Fractal Etch nanites, which say "A creature that dies from this sickness cannot rise as undead."

  • Spawn Ward, which says an affected creature "cannot be made into undead spawn if killed while the spell is in effect." (this doesn't block other types of animation, of course)

  • A Cryptguard, which says "A corporeal creature slain by a cryptguard cannot be transformed into an undead creature unless the body is allowed to lie in state for a minimum of 24 hours in an area under the effects of a desecrate or an unhallow spell."

  • Hallow, which says "any dead body interred in a hallowed site cannot be turned into an undead creature"

So there are a lot of options of varying strengths to protect against being animated as an undead.

In conclusion, then, any kind of corpse may be the sort of corpse that might animate as an Undead creature, but not every corpse can be made into an undead being

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't feel like a list of exceptions really answers OP (who is asking about creature types, not how to prevent undeadification) \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Sep 12 at 3:21
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Then the first part of the answer is enough for them. The rest is addressing that there is more to preventing said effects than just being that one race. \$\endgroup\$ – Please stop being evil Sep 12 at 3:57

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