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So a bit of backstory to the question. One of the players in my game is a death cleric and enjoys having a small army of zombies accompany him. We had come to a situation where it is not plausible for him to keep the zombies with him for the 24 hour period, but he spent the change (on a government writ) to get them locked up until his return, so he can try to regain control over his minions.

Now to the question. Is it possible to cast Animate Dead on a Zombie and have the spell work as normal. Is a zombie considered a corpse, technically? Also, if you say that it should work in theory, here comes the sticky part. He also wants to use this spell on a Mummy Lord (that he doesn't know is a Mummy Lord, yet). Does it simply not work since it's an undead creature and not a corpse?

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From my understanding of the Rules as Written, once you lost control over a Zombie (or Skeleton) that you raised from the dead using Animate Dead, casting the spell again does not give you control again.

As mentioned by Dale M., killing the zombie/skeleton gives you a new pile of raw material that you can re-raise. Probably the easiest way to deal with the matter in this case.

As for the Mummy, you need to use the Create Undead with a spell slot of level 9, and that only works with regular Mummies, not Mummy Lords. The Create Undead spell also gives the Cleric the ability to reassert control over undeads. It is not clear, though, whether it would be undead you animated yourself or any undead. Only "re-"assert seems to mean that you had control over them before and thus most certainly means that you would only be able to control undead you created and not some that were created by other clerics.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Create Undead , the 'upgrade' to Animate Dead; CAN actually create Zombies, Skeletons, Wights, Ghouls, and...at the precipice of it's power, Mummy (Lords?). \$\endgroup\$ – Airatome Feb 3 '16 at 8:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Airatome Not likely. Mummy Lord is CR 15. Mummy is CR 3. Most mummies that spells controls is two. When you cast this spell using a 9th‑level spell slot, you can animate or reassert control over six ghouls, three ghasts or wights, or two mummies. (From SRD) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Feb 3 '16 at 13:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast I wasn't sure if it was a Lord or not, didn't have the references in front of me. Thanks for the clarification! The point was there is a spell that can raise and control a Mummy. Now I know it's just not a mummy Lord. \$\endgroup\$ – Airatome Feb 3 '16 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Airatome, thank you for the note. I applied a heavy correction to my last paragraph. \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Feb 3 '16 at 20:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ As a side note, the question is really about Animate Dead, but I guess it is a good idea to mention the other spell as a solution to this problem. \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Feb 3 '16 at 21:12
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Animate Dead says:

Choose a pile of bones or a corpse of a Medium or Small humanoid within range.

Zombies are creatures and are neither "a pile of bones or a corpse" so they are not a valid target for the spell.

Once you have killed the Zombie, it is once again a corpse and can be animated, or even resurrected.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note that the spell can be cast further on a Zombie you created to extend the duration... But that probably does not have any effect on a pre-existing Zombie or a Zombie that broke free, which is really the question. \$\endgroup\$ – Alexis Wilke Feb 3 '16 at 0:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ The only nit picky observation I'd make is that it's a corpse of an undead (creature type) and not the corpse of a humanoid, unless one grandfathers in the "it started as a humanoid originally" to then classify it as a humanoid corpse. \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Oct 4 '17 at 13:19
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Zombies and skeletons are the creature type undead, not humanoid. The animate dead spell does not target that creature type.

Type: A monster's type speaks to its fundamental nature. (Basic Rules(DM) p. 2-3)

The rules list the following creature types: Aberrations, Beasts, Celestials, Constructs, Dragons, Elementals, Fey, Giants, Humanoids, Monstrosities, Oozes, Plants and Undead

Animate Dead (from the spell description)

This spell creates an undead servant. Choose a pile of bones or a corpse of a Medium or Small humanoid within range. Your spell imbues the target with a foul mimicry of life, raising it as an undead creature. The target becomes a skeleton if you chose bones or a zombie if you chose a corpse (the GM has the creature’s game statistics). (p. 115 SRD V 5.1)

Creature type - beast, humanoid, undead, fey, aberration, celestial, etc. - has been a staple of the rules for several editions. It has many mechanical implications, such as valid targets for a spell.

In comparison, resurrection targets the corpse of any creature. Animate dead targets only the corpse of a Small or Medium humanoid.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this argument should to be backed up with the rules. It's a very interesting addition, if supported. (But I don't know of such a rule). \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Oct 4 '17 at 8:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Creature type--beast, humanoid, undead, fey, aberration, celestial, etc.--has been a staple of the rules for several editions. It has many mechanical implications, such as valid targets for a spell. \$\endgroup\$ – rodneyAnonymous Oct 4 '17 at 8:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Creature type, yes. Corpse type not that I know, though. Also, the entry on zombies specifically mentions that Resurrection is capable of restoring the creature to its previous self (once you slay the zombie, anyway) which suggests that at the time of death it becomes a humanoid corpse again. \$\endgroup\$ – Erik Oct 4 '17 at 8:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Resurrection targets the corpse of any creature. Animate dead targets only the corpse of a Small or Medium humanoid. There is no reason for something to lose its creature type when it dies. \$\endgroup\$ – rodneyAnonymous Oct 4 '17 at 9:05
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    \$\begingroup\$ If you wish to act on the suggestion, I suggest updating your post with the requested citation and then flagging the comments for removal. If you'd rather not act on the suggestion, you may just flag the comments for removal anyway (flag as "no longer needed"). The common theme here is comments are temporary and get removed. You don't really need to use them to argue a point with someone. In this case though, one-line answers are very rarely up to our quality standards, so I strongly recommend adding some citation or backup to make it self-evident that your answer is correct. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Oct 4 '17 at 10:11

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