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Are lich corpse and or other undead bodies/corpses, valid targets for the spell animate dead or create undead?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I now have an amusing idea for how Liches living in isolated locales get all their undead; constantly destroy themselves, let the phylactery build them a new body, raise the old body as undead. It's an Army of Me!. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 17, 2021 at 12:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well... I was extra curious... because what if they used create undead on their corpse... I have not seen anything that excludes it.... Create undead doesnt state the new body needs a soul.... Can they just have skeletal champion versions of themselves running around? Can they Contingency Create Undead themselves, to make their body's skeleton fight some poor unfortunate adventurer group a second time in the same fight? \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Nov 17, 2021 at 14:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Erudaki "Can they Contingency Create Undead themselves, to make their body's skeleton fight some poor unfortunate adventurer group a second time in the same fight?" I think the correct way to look at this is "would it make a cool encounter if I add this". And maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. I'd personally think it could be fun as a bit of a comedy relief - players fight the big bad lich and then the remains are resurrected as a lowly skeleton by a weak contingency necromancy spell that was supposed to be a distraction or something. \$\endgroup\$
    – VLAZ
    Nov 17, 2021 at 19:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ The reason I am asking is also partly because my character has taken the time, effort, and gold cost, to become a lich themselves. Also a skeletal champion are hardly weak. They retain all abilities, intelligence, and gain physical bonuses, and can be given the bloody template, which make them only killable from positive energy. In other words, it would have full spellcasting capability of the lich before they were killed, and potentially be back to full hp + bonus. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Nov 18, 2021 at 2:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Also potentially come back from their phylactery at the same time and effectively clone themselves. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Nov 18, 2021 at 2:51

3 Answers 3

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A lich's body can be used for Create Undead, but the raised creature won't be a lich anymore.

Animate Dead won't work per RAW. When casting on a corpse, the creature raised is given the Skeleton template or Zombie template (chosen by the caster). There are some variations, such as burning skeleton or bloody skeleton, but none of them are a Lich.

Additionally, these templates have the restriction that they don't apply to undead creatures.

“Skeleton” is an acquired template that can be added to any corporeal creature (other than an undead) that has a skeletal system (referred to hereafter as the base creature).

“Zombie” is an acquired template that can be added to any corporeal creature (other than an undead), referred to hereafter as the base creature.

Since the lich was undead, they are excluded from receiving this template.

Maybe the GM deviates from the RAW and allows the lich's corpse to count as a dead humanoid wizard. Even so, the animated skeleton or zombie loses its mental ability scores, feats, class levels, and special abilities like regeneration or spellcasting. Any DR and resistances are replaced by those specified in the appropriate template. Using a standard human wizard Lich, the resulting creature would just be a mindless undead minion with a weak melee attack and 4 (1d8) hp.

Create Undead is different because the newly raised undead doesn't depend on the corpse's original creature statistics. The caster can use any corpse for the spell, but they must choose to raise it as one of the undead options in the spell description. None of those options are a lich. The caster could use a lich's body as part of the casting, but they can't raise it as a lich.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Raising it as a bloody skeletal champion could be nearly as effective. It may lose the lich template, but it retains full casting ability, and a deathless trait. Seems like a really powerful option if a lich can get along with themselves. Marking as answer over mine because better formatting and more details in regards to mechanics as to how to apply templates. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Dec 18, 2021 at 0:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Erudaki No, the skeletal champion template is not an available option for Animate Dead, and it can't be applied to undead creatures. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeQ
    Dec 18, 2021 at 0:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair. As you say in your answer tho, if the GM would allow animate to work, then skeletal champions should work all the same as well. Also, I am of the opinion that if create undead strictly raises new undead at the base monster listing statistic, then it really shouldnt be such a high spell level. None of the creatures listed are even relevant at the levels it takes to raise them. So in the hands of a player, its a near useless spell. But thats also just my opinion lol. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Dec 18, 2021 at 13:36
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From research I have done, it seems as if it may be possible. When undead are defeated, the language the rules use is they are "destroyed". Animate dead specifies that the corpse in question needs to be in-tact, and it is unclear as per the rules whether or not "destroyed" invalidates that.

However in most cases, I believe there would be heavy argument for raising previously undead creatures. Creatures like ghouls, who clearly have bones, and are defeated, would likely be intact enough to be raised as a skeleton or a zombie.

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No. Liches are not a valid target for animate dead or create undead.

Both spells have a corpse as the target, and while the glossary has no definition of a corpse, a Lich does not fulfill it. My reasoning for this is how other spells interact with corpses and the undead. Decompose Corpse has different effects for instance. It won't change a zombie into a skeleton for instance, it merely inconveniences them. Then we have raise dead which simply will not work if they have been made into an undead. It's unknown to me if you can destroy an undead, and then cast raise dead, because I know you can't generally use destroyed undead as material for a new undead.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Sorry. I will clarify my question. I ment to imply that the lich body has been slain and is now just a corpse. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Nov 17, 2021 at 2:21

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