In 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, the spell Scrying is described, in part, as follows:

You can see and hear a particular creature you choose that is on the same plane of existence as you. The target must make a Wisdom saving throw [...]

and also

On a successful save, the target isn't affected, and you can't use this spell against it again for 24 hours.

If the creature you choose is dead, what happens? Can you observe their corpse? Are you barred from using Scrying again with that creature as the target for 24 hours? What, if anything, do you learn about their location and state?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Related discussion on whether a dead creature counts as a creature: Is a dead creature's body considered an object? \$\endgroup\$
    – aantia
    Commented Jun 10 at 9:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ Probably requires a separate follow-up question, but there could be some scenarios where it would work if they were raised as an undead, and then it might depend on the type of undead. Zombie? probably not. Vampire, Lich, or Ghost? Sure. Wight? Maybe? \$\endgroup\$
    – RisingZan
    Commented Jun 11 at 1:58

6 Answers 6


A corpse is not a valid target

You can see and hear a particular creature you choose that is on the same plane of existence as you. [...]

Corpses are objects. Because the Corpse is not a creature but an object, you can not target the corpse in the first place. As such, the spell fails at the target stage, you don't even get to rolling the save.

Because you chose no valid target, the spell fails and you learn nothing but that your spell failed for any of the many reasons [including, but not limited to: different plane, invalid target, valid target made willpower save, valid target is protected from scrying].

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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, you learn something. You learn that the creature you are targeting is either dead or on another plane (or have a really high Wisdom; though I would say its DMs judgement as to whether you can tell the difference between the spell failing due to a successful save and failing to an invalid target). \$\endgroup\$
    – PJRZ
    Commented Jun 11 at 7:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PJRZ It is also possible that the target is somehow protected from scrying. As the DM I would narrate this somehow as "You try to magically reach out to [creature] across this whole plane of existence, but for some reason your powers are unable to find them." \$\endgroup\$
    – Philipp
    Commented Jun 11 at 13:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PJRZ Rules don't say you get to learn for what reason your spell failed. There are at least 4 reasons the spell can fail, invalid target is just one of them. But I give you that you do learn that the spell did fail. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Jun 12 at 8:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PJRZ Personally I feel casters know the difference between failed to even try and tried but failed. They don't know why in either vase. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 13 at 14:41

Scrying has two viable targets: creatures and locations.

The Scrying spell allows to target a creature

You can see and hear a particular creature you choose that is on the same plane of existence as you.

or a location

Instead of targeting a creature, you can choose a location you have seen before as the target of this spell. When you do, the sensor appears at that location and doesn't move.

Since a dead creature is an object and not a creature in game terms, Scrying automatically fails, since the target is not viable, but if you have seen the location where the corpse lies, you can cast Scrying targeting that location

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's a step missing in the last paragraph. but if you have seen the location where the corpse lies and know the corpse is there, you can cast[...] — the question doesn't imply the caster knows the creature is dead. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11 at 16:49

It might work, if you are on the right plane

Everyone else has identified the potential issues with targeting a corpse because it's an object, not a creature. However, it's very common within the lore of D&D that creatures who die don't just dissipate into nothing, rather their spirits go to some other plane appropriate to their alignment or deity. In other words, the after life is very real in these worlds.

As such, the scrying probably fails not because you've attempted to target a dead creature, but rather because you probably made your attempt while on the Material Plane and your target is on a different plane of existence.

To that end, if you wanted to Scry upon a creature who was Lawful Evil and elected to do so while you were in the Nine Hells, you might succeed1.

1How the afterlife gets handled is generally subject to DM discretion. So this may not work for your game depending on how the DM views the afterlife.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is an interesting concept, the only problem with this is that souls go to afterlife, not entire creatures, and they don’t keep their original form, so sure, it might be the soul of your old buddy but now it’s a lemure no. 573645, not your buddy anymore \$\endgroup\$
    – AnnaAG
    Commented Jun 10 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AnnaAG this is fuzzy area and has probably been left deliberately vague by the designers to allow for DM adjudication. If you look at True Resurrection, though, you can simply speak a creature's name and they can be brought back in a new body, thus there's some sort of connection to a creature's original existence and whatever afterlife it has. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 10 at 17:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eddymage I'm aware. Hence why this is subject to DM discretion. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11 at 13:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MindwinRememberMonica the discussion on this issue prompted me to post a question about this issue here: rpg.stackexchange.com/q/212234/31402 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11 at 17:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pyrotechnical awesome. More Q&A is always good. I'll see you over there. Let's build this bloody knowledge base. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 11 at 17:06

The spell fails

A dead creature is not a creature anymore, it's an object. Scrying doesn't allow an object as a target, just a creature or location.

As to:

What, if anything, do you learn about their location and state?

Well, assuming you don't already know the creature is dead, you do learn that they're not a valid target for Scrying - and being dead is one of the possibilities why, although not the only one.


Can you Eldritch Blast a door?

To some people, the answer is "clearly no, the spell says it targets creatures, and a door is not a creature". Similarly, can you use it to determine if someone is faking being dead? If you cast Eldritch Blast on someone who has cast Feign Death, does it fail to fire if and only if they are actually dead?

To other people, Eldritch Blast is a spell that creates beams of force that fire out from your hand. The description covers its typical use - to attack creatures - and leaves other uses up to the DM's adjudication.

So Eldritch Blast in this case can be used to blast a door (doing force damage), or a corpse, or whatever else.

I thought I asked about Scrying

Now, in this case, the Scrying spell describes two uses - scrying on a creature and on a location. You can treat this as an exact hard limitation on how the spell works.

Or you can say "corpses of creatures are very creature-like". And as a DM, you can determine how scrying works in that case. Maybe it doesn't work and the caster learns no information. Maybe it doesn't work right, and you get a hazy view of where the corpse is. Maybe it tries to target the soul of the departed, which hangs around the corpse for a period of time before leaving to another plane (which is why lower level resurrection magic is time limited).

As a general rule, if you do allow such flexibility, I'd gate it behind an arcana check and a casting attribute check. The arcana check is if a PC knows what could possibly happen when you violate the strict formula of a spell, and the casting attribute check might cover how well the spellcaster handles the "warped behavior" of the spell used "off-book".


The spell fails...

As mentioned in other answers, a corpse is an object, and thus an invalid target for the spell. So with the rules as written, you shouldn't be able to benefit from the effects of the spell, and it should fail.

... but how does it fail?

This Q&A treats the topic in-depths, but the overall answer is that (optional rules aside) your DM decides. This means that whether or not you learn why the spell failed, how much you learn about this, and even if you waste your spell slot or not is in your DM's hands.

Ask your DM

For this kind of unusual situation with no strict rules, it is best to ask your DM about how they would handle this situation beforehand. This will both allow them to think about it before it hits them during play, and avoid potential frustration on your end in case your DM rules this wastes a spell slot or gives less intel than you expected.


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