I never really gave this much thought until this question brought it up: Is a dead creature's body considered to be an object? And is it still a creature?

My initial reaction was that it would not be an object, just a dead creature, since objects and creatures are defined differently. However there doesn't appear to be any strict definition of what an object or a creature actually is. And yet both creature and object are two terms that are used numerous times throughout the rule books.

Are these two terms mutually exclusive or can something be described as both?
Constructs for instance are the construction and animation of an object, but are they considered to be both an object and a creature, or are they one or the other? Is the meat suit of a once living, flesh and bone creature still a creature after it dies, does it become an object, or is it both?

Furthermore, what is a corpse in relation to spell targets?

Spells tend to define targets in terms of choosing a creature or choosing objects. Revival spells, such as Raise Dead and Resurrection, specifically target dead Creatures, whereas spells such as Animate Object specifically target objects. To quote part of Animate Object's description:

Objects come to life at your command. Choose up to ten nonmagical objects within range that are not being worn or carried. [...] Each target animates and becomes a creature under your control until the spell ends or until reduced to 0 hit points.

So if creature and object are not mutually exclusive and a dead creature is considered an object, could Animate Object be used on a corpse?


6 Answers 6


The answer is yes, Animate object would work on a corpse. The exact effect would depend on the size of the corpse.

While there are specific defined terms in D&D 5e there are also a equal number of that rely on what the word means in English.

Object - a material thing that can be seen and touched.

Creature - an animal or person.

However there is a caveat. In various effects, powers, and abilities. The D&D 5e rules are consistent in referring to creatures as things that are living or animate. Objects as inanimate things like tables, chairs, rocks, books, feathers, etc. It not spelled out but it is consistent.

The things to remember is that D&D 5e rules are not to function as a wargame. They do not define the boundaries of what is possible during a campaign. The setting is what defines that. Instead they are a tool to aid the referee in adjudicating the action. For example the description of humans don't spell out every detail that could come up. The mechanics about humans are those that the authors feel that are useful or come up often. The important of which is the effect being human on character creation. The author expect referee to use what they know about humans to adjudicate anything that the rules don't cover because it is implied that humans in a D&D setting are just like people in real life only living in that world.

One implication of this is that animate objects doesn't change any other physical property of the object other than to animate with the stats provided. If you were to say animate a block of salt, possible considering what salt miners carved out of their mines, and it was to walk into water, then it is reasonable to rule that it would be affected adversely as salt dissolves in water. Perhaps by treating water as a acid attack on the animated object.

So a corpse animated as a object would still be a corpse and subject to decay, smelling bad, etc. It would not gain the benefits of being undead although at first glance it would be hard pressed for a character to tell the difference. One area where I can see the difference being important is trying to animate a skeleton. It is reasonable to assume that the various create undead spells joins the bones together to form a complete animated skeleton. While a long dead skeleton is merely a pile of separate objects of bone.

For stuff that has no real world analogue, elves, magic, etc. The authors expect the referee to fall back on their knowledge of the fantasy genre. Because the implied assumption that D&D is being used to depict a fantasy setting. Which is why they included a list of inspirational works in Appendix E on page 312.

In fantasy it is tradition for some spells to work on anything, a lightning bolt doesn't care if its target is a person, animal, or a piece of furniture. Some spells to only work on people, for example charming or enchanting a princess. And other spells to work only on objects, like the animated furniture from Fantasia.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Crawford agrees with you, BTW. \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 23:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Crawford also offered this clarification about living bodies and corpses \$\endgroup\$
    – Tim Grant
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 20:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ This would be terrible ruling to rule a dead person as just a corpse and object and not also a creature. Being alive doesn't quantify creature. Merely existing does. It would basically make any raise dead spell obsolete as the wording for them all used the words dead creature and not dead object or dead corpse. \$\endgroup\$
    – Spoo
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 6:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Spoo a object can be a dead creature. All that required that at some point in the past it was a living creature. \$\endgroup\$
    – RS Conley
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 21:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ Crawford's ruling states that a "corpse isn't considered a creature", while True Resurrection and other such spells explicitly target "a creature that has been dead". A dead creature COULD be an object, but it MUST be a creature, or those spells do not work by Rules As Written. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 10:14

A creature is a creature, dead or not

There are various spells meant to target creatures, dead creatures.

Revivify states that it targets a creature that has died:

You touch a creature that has died within the last minute.

Resurrection talks about 'dead creatures':

You touch a dead creature

Clearly dead creatures are not simply objects, they are still creatures (and thus valid targets for Revivify) and they still retain the type "creature", even if that is qualified with "dead".

A dead creature is also an object

The rules for Improvised Weapons state:

An improvised weapon includes any object you can wield in one or two hands, such as broken glass, a table leg, a frying pan, a wagon wheel, or a dead goblin.

If a dead goblin is an object, presumably so are all dead creatures.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This is actually the most concise & to the point answer, & it uses canonical references. Crawford's statements not withstanding logical review in this case, I believe this answer is more correct and more useful than the current forerunner posted by Conley \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 10:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ The phrases "a creature that has died" and "dead creature" are synonyms for "corpse". They are not "a creature" in the same way "a completely smashed to bits chair" is not "a chair". \$\endgroup\$
    – GcL
    Commented Aug 17, 2022 at 21:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Both phrases refer to the remains of a creature, in the same way ashes might be the remains of an incinerated chair. If intent is that "a creature that has died" is not a creature, the rules could say that, or at the very least, the spell could be errata'd to say "the remains of a creature that has died", which is in keeping with other phrasings used & does not preclude the spell from working by RAW. Absent such corrections or any definitive statement that a dead creature is no longer a creature, intent that a dead creature is a creature & also becomes an object, is reasonable to infer? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19 at 18:34

Parallel Spell Options

Looking closely at the two spells in question, I was surprised to find that having Animate Objects instead of Animate Dead is actually pretty balanced as far as game mechanics go.

  • At 5th Level, both Animate Dead & Animate Objects animates the same amount of medium sized corpses, at with larger bodies or higher levels, Animate Dead works better.

  • Animate Dead lasts at least 24 hours, but the zombies are weaker than Objects

  • Animate Objects gives you tougher creatures, but it's Concentration up to 1 minute.

So, mechanically, there's nothing broken or seriously unbalanced about allowing this.

Common Sense Reading

One of the 5E design goals was to try to get people back into doing common sense readings of the rules rather than legalistically define everything.

Although as I stated above, the two spells are useful in different ways, I'd personally lean against using Animate Object on the simple reasoning that the game has a spell designed to Animate Dead already, and that, once we start trying to push away from the common sense readings of the rules, it starts leading to really weird possibilities and the game stops being about fantasy adventure and becomes the weird world of "technically? What if?"

For example, if we rule corpses count as Objects, then Locate Object allows you to find dead bodies, or Fabricate allows you to take one kind of corpse and make another out of it (then probably animate it on top of all that) and things just start getting really weird.

There'll be enough reasonable edge cases in play that it makes sense to stick to the common sense reading of rules rather than open the door for finding several more places to confuse yourself.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think it is weird at all. Animating Corpses via Animate Object could work as an awesome theme for a puppet master Big Bad! \$\endgroup\$
    – T. Sar
    Commented May 14, 2018 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I feel this answer is less meandering than the #1. I'm not sure I see any mechanical problem with Locate Object on a corpse, & Fabricate explicitly does NOT let you change what kind of material is used. Tin remains tin, the material just gets manipulated into an object MADE OF that material. Fabricate also specifies that it can't transmute creatures; & if a corpse is not a creature, True Resurrection doesn't work, so... I think mechanically, a corpse must be both an object and a creature, for the game to work as intended. Might want to mention resurrection spells, as they relate to this topic? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 10:02

If corpses are objects, you can reattach severed body parts using Mending. Therefore, I doubt the intent is that corpses = objects.

While you usually need at least the 7th-level spell Resurrect to revive a creature and restore its body parts (or, alternatively, Regenerate, which is also level 7), you can achieve almost the same thing using Mending and Raise Dead (or Gentle Repose, Mending and Revivify, due to Mending's 1-minute casting time).

In addition, if corpses were intended to be considered objects, one would assume that the Mending spell would mention them. However, its language heavily suggests that it only intended for non-corpse objects.

Granted, Jeremy Crawford does say (source)that ...

A non-undead corpse isn't considered a creature. It's effectively an object.

However, the use of "effectively" suggests that this is not final, but instead just a "rule-of-thumb" (in my opinion). Regardless, Crawford can't possibly think of every abusive combination that might result from one of his rulings, and I hardly think the Mending+Revivify combo is intended.

In conclusion, I don't think that corpses being considered objects is the intent. For further details on the Mending-Revivify combo see this Q&A of mine, which caused me to post this answer.

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    \$\begingroup\$ How one hand do you have a direct quote from Crawford stating it's effectively an object and on the other state you don't think the intent is it should be an object? You literally have Crawford stating his intent. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 19:46
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch it's just too broken. No offense towards Crawford, but he's often inconsistent. Feel free to disagree, but in this case I believe he didn't think his answer through thoroughly enough. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 11, 2018 at 8:44
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    \$\begingroup\$ If corpses aren't creatures you you can't bring back the dead via magic. All spells to bring back the dead quantify 'touch a creature', revivify, raise dead, true resurrection. Regardless of what people think, it is possible to be both a creature and an object. In fact if DND used english dictionary correctly all creatures are objects by merely existing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Spoo
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 6:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ In general, such spells say "a dead creature" or "a creature that has died", which is arguably somewhat different from just saying "a creature". The former two expressions are effectively just another way to say "the corpse of a creature", generally speaking. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Commented Jun 1, 2020 at 22:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Mending a corpse seems perfectly valid; it's not like it's much of an exploit seeing as it requires you to die, then be mended before the time limit for revivify expires otherwise you're permanently dead without higher level resurrection spells. \$\endgroup\$
    – Haravikk
    Commented Apr 8, 2022 at 8:29

If I really wanted to get nitty-gritty with the DMG, one could also call it a structure, because it's composed of many cells/organs.

From DMG p. 246:

For the purpose of these rules, an object is a discrete, inanimate item like a window, door, sword, book, table, chair, or stone, not a building or a vehicle that is composed of many other objects.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Weirdly, the DMG defines "objects" as NOT being composed of many other objects. It's quite self-contradictory on the subject, such that I don't believe "object" in D&D has a viable definition! Note that the page in question says "an object is a discrete, inanimate item" ~ "not a building or a vehicle", & yet under Object Hit Points it lists a Cart (a 200lb vehicle with several parts specified as craftable\repairable) as a large object, & in the Damage Threshold definition, it says "Big objects such as castle walls often have extra resilience"... So vehicles and walls are & aren't objects? 🙃 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 7, 2021 at 10:47

A dead body is a type of object.

It is inanimate and can be assigned 'HP' (how much abuse can it take before it's an unrecognizable pile of hair, flesh and shattered bone aka loses it's structural integrity) and an AC (how difficult it is to mutilate based on armor it might be wearing or how tough the hide is or whatnot). A dead body is also immune to poison and psychic damage like all other objects having a nonfunctional circulatory system which won't spread poison and no mind to be affected by psychic damage. These defining characteristics of an object are found in the DMG p. 246-247.

This object can be specially targeted by certain spells of the raise dead type to cease being an object and become a creature/PC/NPC as long as its willing spirit joins it. A soul or other animating essence is primarily what separates a creature from an object. Gaining or losing this essence changes something's status. Pinocchio starts as a creature, a tree, then becomes an object, lumber, then formed into another object, a puppet, then becomes a creature, a free-willed wood golem, and then gets polymorphed into another creature, a boy, for example.

There is no other line as clear as gaining or losing an animating essence or soul from which to determine whether or not something is an object or creature. If you kill a deer, is it still a creature when all four legs are used to hold its hide in a bowl shape over a fire that a stew is being made in out of the rest of the deer? All the parts are there and connected but it's not a creature, it's dinner. So, if not at the killing, when its spirit left, where in between that and dinner did it change from creature to object. Suppose a sparrow dies of old age in the woods, how much has to rot away before it stops being a creature if it didn't stop the moment its heart and mind did?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Paragraph breaks would improve the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tommi
    Commented Feb 14, 2019 at 10:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unless the tree Pinocchio was made from, was animated enough to have a statblock, it's not a D&D 5e creature; it's just a plant. There are lots of plants listed in D&D that aren't classified as creatures. Some effects, even have triggers specific to one or the other. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19 at 18:48

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