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.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to answer a tiny piece of your question, there are elemental undead: d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/monster-listings/undead/fire-phantom . \$\endgroup\$
    – Carduus
    Dec 10, 2019 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't feel like that's directly related because it's an undead creature with ties to elementals, not a raised elemental. Still interesting \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Dec 11, 2019 at 15:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fering So far answers seem to be primarily referencing animate dead because you bring it up, are you also interested in non-skeletal/zombie undead? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Dec 11, 2019 at 15:36

4 Answers 4

  • 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.


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, 2019 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\$ Sep 12, 2019 at 3:57

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. I wouldn't allow elementals to be turned into just any type of undead, but other GM's might allow it.

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.

I don't know of any official port for most of them, but D&D 3.5 had undead elemental creatures.

Methods for creating these would need to be worked out with the GM of the game.


Technically speaking, nothing prevents any random creature in particular from being reanimated as an undead. However, specific creatures can have a prohibition from their creature type, or a special ability (like the shabti you mentioned) that would prevent them from being turned into undead. Logically, this would still apply, as they would need to be dead first before the can become undead.

Certain creatures have immunity to being reanimated as undead due to their very nature. Other undead are an obvious example of this, as when an undead is killed (brought to 0 hp) it is destroyed and cannot thereafter be turned into a new undead. Or, for example, an Iron Golem cannot become undead, as it was never alive to begin with.

Another thing to remember is that Animate Dead and Create Undead specifically require you to target a corpse to work. A puddle of water, or a bashed up pile of stone or iron would not usually be considered a corpse, even if it's shaped like a living creature.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! Take the tour. Does the game say somewhere that the remains left behind by a slain water elemental, destroyed iron golem, or destroyed stone golem count as objects, debris, or something other than corpses? It's totally legit, by the way, to rely here on common sense; I'm just wondering the rules support that position. (I also want to confirm that I didn't overlook anything in my own answer!) Anyway, thank you for participating and have fun! \$\endgroup\$ Dec 10, 2019 at 17:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ I would argue that a shabti cant become a lich as an example of living to undead skipping that whole dead part. However as the ritual is never actually explained, it is possible that becoming dead is part of it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Dec 10, 2019 at 17:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know that the rules for certain support either position, as I can't find a specification either way. This is either a case of the developers intentionally leaving it ambiguous, or relying on common sense to get the job done. I think this probably leaves the RAW territory and veers straight into RAI. My personal opinion (and it is just opinion) is that a pile of iron that happens to be dude shaped isn't really a valid target for animate dead and similar, as otherwise, what prevents any "necromancer" from just massing a pile of iron and animating it into a zombie/skeleton? \$\endgroup\$ Dec 10, 2019 at 19:29

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .