The SRD claims that both the Skeleton and the Zombie have the following mastery in languages:

Languages Understands the languages it spoke in life but can't speak

I've always taken this as that the original creature that turned into the sekeleton or zombie, mastered a certain language and took this knowledge with them when they became an undead creature. However, when looking at the Specter, I noticed it said the following:

Languages Understands the languages it knew in life but can't speak

Is this difference intentional? Does the skeleton or zombie explicitly need to have said something in the language it mastered, or this is just a small overlooked difference that I should ignore?

I suppose it's a situation that rarely comes up, but it could be relevant when a mute creature becomes a zombie. Certain creatures can understand but not speak certain languages, so it could be relevant for those whether their zombified undead could understand such languages.

Does a zombie or skeleton explicitly need to have spoken in life, or is this an unintended difference?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Asking about designers intent is usually poorly received because it is notoriously hard to give answers that are something more than pure speculation. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Jul 4, 2020 at 22:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ What exactly is the question? Asking about designers intent is off-topic, so if you really want to ask about what is intended, then the question is going to be closed. \$\endgroup\$
    – HellSaint
    Jul 5, 2020 at 2:27

1 Answer 1


The SRD doesn't actually say that

The 5.1 version (updated 4th of May, '16) of the SRD does not include the language entry as quoted. For both skeletons (SRD 346) and zombies (SRD 356) it reads:

Languages Understands all languages it knew in life but can't speak

Which is consistent with specters and many other monsters. The change you've found is presumably one made by someone regiving the SRD, for whatever reason they saw fit. A number of places are known to make changes in their versions (annoyingly), either in an attempt to make it better, include their own homebrew, or to evade copyright detection.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I’d add “don’t really know how to or want to copy&paste so end up paraphrasing instead” to the list of reasons for divergence. \$\endgroup\$
    – Cubic
    Jul 5, 2020 at 13:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ You're absolutely right. I have acquired this information by using an API. It turns out that some of the data was copied by hand, and the mistakes were made. Great catch! \$\endgroup\$
    – Randium
    Jul 5, 2020 at 16:25

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