As a follow up to this question: Could both an alive and an undead version of a creature exist?

Does an undead creature raised via create undead retain any memories or personality of the living creature they came from?

The rules indicate that most undead seem to retain whatever languages they knew in life.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ What creature? Lich is not a skeleton is not a ghost. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Nov 23 at 9:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I voted to leave the question open, but I will note that if you are only interested in the undead that player characters can raise as a follow up to your other question, you might get an answer better suited to your inquiry. \$\endgroup\$
    – Akixkisu
    Nov 23 at 10:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ I am picturing a skeleton hiring a lawyer to sue the living version of themselves \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Nov 23 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don’t feel this question ever should have been closed—as the existing answers prove, it is trivial to answer in the space of a Stack answer, so it definitely is not too broad. The duplicate suggestion is better, but still not quite, IMO. The edit, meanwhile, undermines those answers. The edited question is also good—maybe even better, since the original question had some pretty trivial answers—but it isn't fair to those who answered the original question. In my opinion this should be referred and reopened, and a second question about create undead should be asked. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 24 at 20:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ That was “reverted,” not “referred.” Stupid phone. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Nov 24 at 22:28

This varies with the Undead in question, but such information is almost always available in (and often a key part of) their description in the various monster manuals they are found in.

It ranges all the way from Liches (who basically keep their entire personality) down to Zombies (who are pretty much clueless about their previous history) and everything in between.


Most undead retain their memory.

It depends on the particular creature in question, but most types of undead retain at least some memory of their previous life.

Sometimes, the undead has a clear and sharp memory of who they were, like for a mummy, ghost, wight, or lich -- some forms of undeath are, for most purposes, simply life continued by other means.

In other cases, it's a vague recollection. Wraiths "might retain a few memories of their mortal life as shadowy echoes"; a flameskull "dimly recalls its former life"; and skeletons "sometimes pantomime actions from their past lives, their bones echoing the rote behaviors of their former living selves."

A few kinds of undead specifically have no memory of being alive. A zombie in particular is entirely mindless, and "retains no vestiges of its former self."

In the specific case of create undead, wights are clearly stated to retain their memories of life, though they are bound to the entity that turned them.

But it's ambiguous for some.

Some undead creatures' memories aren't clearly defined in the official write-up. Notable for create undead, the descriptions for Ghouls and Ghasts doesn't address the question of memories one way or the other. Meanwhile, the section on Vampires in the Monster Manual equivocates: "Whether or not a vampire retains any memories from its former life..." There is no explanation offered about what the options are, how common they might be, or what factors or situations can lead to either the retention of memories or the failure to do so.

In general, it's case-by-case and you'll have to look up the specific undead you're dealing with to find out whether they have a memory of life and to what degree, though the book still may not entirely answer the question.


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