Zombies are generally seen as mindless minions, as beings of INT 3 barely have an Ego.

Polymorph and True Polymorph change out the mental Ability Scores, so if you transform it into a Acolyte (CR 0.25) or a Guard (CR 0.125), who both have INT 10, what would happen to it? Its personality would be unchanged by the Polymorph, but as it was barely there anyway, how would the increased Intelligence and Wisdom impact its behavior? Would it "regain" its personality from before its death or would you just get the personality of Higher Undead but with an unchanged hunger for living flesh?

  • 6
    \$\begingroup\$ Is this specific to zombies, or more generically "what happens if the new form is much smarter"? Animals are also valid targets and have comparable intelligence. It also works on rocks and trees and other completely mindless things. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erik
    May 19 at 12:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ I di have it with polymorphing a "Finger of Death" made Zombie in midn, but basically yes, any unintelligent being would work with that question? You could also ask: What is the personality of beings, that don't have an actual Ego and how would they react to hightened Intelligence \$\endgroup\$
    – Luz Fire
    May 19 at 13:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ Related: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/184062/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    May 19 at 13:51

They don't retain their human personality as necromantic magic is animating them.

p315 of the monster manual has a more detailed description of zombies.

Dark Servants. Sinister necromantic magic infuses the remains of the dead, causing them to rise as zombies that do their creator’s bidding without fear or hesitation. They move with a jerky, uneven gait, clad in the moldering apparel they wore when put to rest, and carrying the stench of decay...

A zombie retains no vestiges of its former self, its mind devoid of thought and imagination. A zombie left without orders simply stands in place and rots unless something comes along that it can kill. The magic animating a zombie imbues it with evil, so left without purpose, it attacks any living creature it encounters.

Since their personality comes from the magic animating a zombie not from the soul (which is off in the afterlife or somewhere else) then if you increase their intellect, they'll still want to attack living creatures. They may have the intellect to do so in a more nuanced fashion, using lies, ambushes, and complex tactics to achieve their desires.

Of course, there's a lot of flexibility for DMs to handle things in a different way. Their undead might retain vestiges of personality of the original person, to add some extra horror, or they may decide that the zombie's hate of humanity is removed when they are polymorphed, as they are now another creature type and are no longer animated by necromantic magic.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So even if i made a Zombie (Finger of Death created, for less complications) into a Guard(NPC) to guard my keep, would he feed himself from the nearby Kitchen? Or would he just stand there because i never specified that he needs to eat to stay alive (and never said that he could get food if he is hungry) Basically, does he get the usual autonomy, that we get from normal intelligent Beings. Generally, Undead that become Living are depicted to forget their Needs because they didn't have to take Care of them. \$\endgroup\$
    – Luz Fire
    May 23 at 20:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ He probably would feed himself from the nearby kitchens, especially if there were some tasty cooks there to murder. Their intelligence score is high enough for them to know they need to eat, and to plan around that to achieve their goal of attacking living creatures. As an aside, polymorph doesn't work on job types. You'd transform someone into a human, and then persuade them to guard stuff or whatever. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    May 24 at 0:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well there are NPC's called Guards and since True Polymorph goes: "If you turn a creature into another kind of creature, the new form can be any kind you choose whose challenge rating is equal to or less than the target’s" there isn't anything stopping you from making them assume the form of a Guard. Sure, the personality is still the same Live-despising Zombie but if we are still talking about Finger of Death created, he has to obey you, from what i've gathered \$\endgroup\$
    – Luz Fire
    May 25 at 8:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, if you just want the appearance that's fine. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nepene Nep
    May 25 at 11:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Makes your Home look less Evil, if you got Living Humanoids guarding the Reception Room and the other non-restricted Areas. Also makes for a wonderful Battlemap-Idea. Players won't know who is really evil and who is just hired And the best part, Acolyte can heal the other polymorphed, so the Guards can be more effective than Zombies \$\endgroup\$
    – Luz Fire
    May 25 at 21:58

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