When a character gets turned into an undead, the Raise Dead and Reincarnate spells do not work on that character, and Resurrection is needed.

As an example: a PC becomes a vampire, then is destroyed, then is brought back from the dead as a nonvampire PC by resurrection. If the PC then dies again, does the PC need a resurrection spell to be brought back from the dead, or is raise dead enough?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Consider including a clarifying example like this: "A PC becomes vampire then is destroyed then is brought back from the dead as a nonvampire PC by resurrection. If the PC then dies again, does the PC need a resurrection spell to be brought back from the dead, or is raise dead enough?" (If your question is something different from this, please change the example!) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2021 at 12:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alright, I'll use your example right away if it's no problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Aug 19, 2021 at 12:33

4 Answers 4


RAW could be interpreted either way.

The English present perfect tense/aspect can be used to describe either 1) a present state arising from a past event or 2) merely something having occurred some time in the past. Of course, often those are effectively the same thing. When they're not, the ambiguity is usually resolved based on context.

For example, if you're waiting for a train and hear an announcement that "the train has been delayed", your natural interpretation would be that the train is currently running late (i.e. #1) and not that the train has certainly been delayed at least once in the past (i.e. #2), as the latter would be a useless and absurd thing to announce.

On the other hand, if you're applying for a visa to visit a foreign country, and the form asks you "have you been deported from or denied entry to any country?", you'd better believe that it doesn't mean "last week" or "last year", but rather "ever in your life". If you answer "no" and it turns out that you were in fact denied entry 20 years ago, the consulate will assume that you deliberately lied to them and no amount of grammar quibbling is going to get you that visa.

So, how does that relate to Pathfinder? As That_Knight_Guy notes, the descriptions of Raise Dead and Reincarnate both contain the following text (emphasis mine):

A creature that has been turned into an undead creature or killed by a death effect can't be returned to life by this spell.

So, does this mean that:

  1. the creature is currently in the state of having been turned into an undead (even if that undead has since been destroyed), or that
  2. the creature has ever been turned into an undead in the past, even if they were later restored to normal life?

Technically, the rules don't say. Had the writers wanted, they could've amended the quoted sentence to explicitly resolve this ambiguity, but they didn't. There are valid arguments in favor of either interpretation, and a GM could choose to rule either way.

As GM, I would definitely allow Raise Dead to work in this case.

It simply makes no sense to me that, after a creature has been turned into an undead, destroyed and returned to normal life by Resurrection or True Resurrection, the "stain" of having once been undead would still linger upon them and prevent Raise Dead and Reincarnate from ever again working on them.

Also, one grammatical argument in favor of this interpretation is that, if the authors of the rules had intended Raise Dead to never again work on such creatures, they could've easily made that explicit by inserting the word "ever" into the sentence I quoted. Since they didn't, that was presumably not their intent.

(It's not an airtight argument, however, since the omission of the word "ever" could've also simply resulted from insufficient care and attention to possible alternative interpretations.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Kill the undead thing, animate it as a flesh puppet for secondsies \$\endgroup\$ Aug 20, 2021 at 8:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could even read it as "has been turned into an undead, and still is". Which would mean you can't Raise Dead a current zombie, but once "dead" sure no problem. \$\endgroup\$
    – Yakk
    Aug 20, 2021 at 18:13

Most important statement relevant to your case comes from this article and it is:

The choice between "fun to read" and "precise" needs to be handled on a case-by-case basis. Certain rules can be simple and straightforward, while other matters can be handled more conversationally or filled with inspirational descriptions of people, places, or events.

The rule in the spells you are referring falls into "fun to read" category, not into "precise"category.

The way my table was playing, this rule was only applied to the most recent death. If your table prefers "once and for all" interpretation, it is your right. I don't believe it is what authors meant, but frankly my belief has nothing to do with how you play your game.


Rules as Written, No Resurrection or better is required

Both Raise Dead and Reincarnate contain the following text:

A creature that has been turned into an undead creature or killed by a death effect can’t be returned to life by this spell.

This quite clearly states that if the creature has been turned into an undead creature, they cannot be returned to life with these spells. No caveat is included in the text of the spell that specifies the undead magic has to be 'recent'.

True Resurrection will also work, given the undead has been destroyed

Resurrection And True Resurrection state:

You can (resurrect/revive) someone killed by a death effect or someone who has been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed.

The use of Resurrect and Revive is the only difference between the wording of the spells. This quite clearly states that as long as the undead has been destroyed, you may return the creature to life. Given that in this situation, the undead has been destroyed and revived, the spell would generally work as intended.

Both Resurrection and True Resurrection also state that they cannot revive someone who has died of old age. If the creature in question died of old age, they cannot be returned to life by any means.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The asker is interested in the case of persons who have previously been turned into an undead and then raised via (True) Resurrection. Note the example at the end of the question: a person is turned into a vampire, is destroyed, raised via Resurrection, then dies again via stabbing or falling off a cliff or whatever. Do Raise Dead & Reincarnate check whether this person has ever been undead, or only if their most recent death involved a stint as an undead? \$\endgroup\$
    – Oblivious Sage
    Aug 19, 2021 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ObliviousSage Oops, misread the question. I've updated my answer. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2021 at 13:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ The title and the body of the question ask different questions (and the one in the body is actually an A-or-B question, not a yes-or-no question). It's not clear which question your "no" is answering — and if it's the one in the question title, that seems to contradict your following explanation. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2021 at 13:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ @IlmariKaronen They do not ask different questions, just the same question in a different form. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2021 at 13:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ The part on True Resurrection is kinda redundant, of course if Resurrection is enough better spells will get the job done. And of course old age was not implied, since in that case no spell will bring a character back (except for maybe Wish/Miracle, but those are up to the GM) \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Aug 19, 2021 at 14:08

Yes. The reason for this is because they have a shiny new dead body in which the spells are able to target. In the original situation, the dead body has been turned into an undead and is no longer a suitable target for the spell. Whereas having just died from fall damage and not become undead it can be done. Basically you need the dead body, so situations like disintegration would also have the same effect.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ I could be misunderstanding, but the body is not a factor in this question. The party always has the corpse, and the undead form has been defeated, I'm asking something else. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snakehelm
    Aug 19, 2021 at 11:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Reincarnate does not require a body present, while Resurrection requires at least part of the body. The presence of the body is not relevant. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2021 at 13:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ It looks to me that you answer yes (you will need a more powerful spell than raise dead at each following death) and then argue the opposite. Please check. \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Aug 20, 2021 at 9:33

You must log in to answer this question.

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