Do potions affect undead?

Specifically, I am looking at whether a zombie ettin can benefit from Amaranth Elixir (from the Shackled City adventure path), which provides an enhancement bonus to strength and damages wisdom. However, I plan to treat Amaranth Elixir as a potion, so I think this question generalizes.

I can't quickly find anything suggesting that undead aren't subject to potions, but I have an unshakable intuition that this shouldn't work...


2 Answers 2


To drink a potion, the undead must be corporeal so that it can interact with it, and it must have some kind of mouth so that it can drink it. Note that potions aren't digested, but they must be eaten/drunk ("imbibed") to trigger.

To be affected by a potion when drinking it, the undead must be a legal target of the spell just as if the spell were cast with the undead as a target. I.e. If the spell is mind affecting or requires a fortitude save that does not affect objects, it will have no effect.

From Potions and Oils, how potions are used:

A potion is a magic liquid that produces its effect when imbibed.

How they work:

Potions are like spells cast upon the imbiber. The character taking the potion doesn’t get to make any decisions about the effect —the caster who brewed the potion has already done so. The drinker of a potion is both the effective target and the caster of the effect (though the potion indicates the caster level, the drinker still controls the effect).

They are very straightforward, so you only have to worry about the mechanical or spell limitations I mentioned above.


The Dragon #298 Sage Advice column "Official Answers to Your Questions" includes this exchange:

Can undead, which lack metabolisms, use potions, which require ingestion? I believe undead can use magic oils, which are applied externally.

Potions require swallowing, not ingestion. Any corporeal creature can use a potion (see page 191 in the Dungeon Master’s Guide [2000]), provided it can swallow. Anything with an intact throat can swallow. Some DMs say skeletal creatures cannot swallow, others say they can. Check with your DM. Any corporeal creature can use an oil. (113)

The Sage at the time is Monster Manual (2000) author and D&D Third Edition co-designer Skip Williams. This ruling predates the Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 revision but to my knowledge was never further clarified or later contradicted.

This ruling jibes, by the way, with Potions on Activation that, in part, says, "A creature must be able to swallow a potion…. Because of this, incorporeal creatures cannot use potions or oils. Any corporeal creature can imbibe a potion" (DMG (2003) 229).

Note: In this DM's campaigns, skeletons can totally drink—therefore benefit from—potions because that's hilarious.


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