As I've read there are some types of undead that can be frightened and some types which cannot be frightened (see here Can undead be frightened? for reference).

The list which undead can be frightened and which not is quite counter intuitive.

As example:

Zombies, Skeletons, and Wraiths can be frightened. Ghosts, Shadows, and Mummies cannot be (to me there seems to be no clear separation there as the most automaton like can be frightened, but also some not so automaton like. Also its not all corporeal that can be frightened, and not all non corporeal that cannot be frightened).

I find the list counter intuitive because I would have expected the list to either contain only low level undead that can be frightened OR that it contains only intelligent undead (thus no automatons as automatons normally don't have the mental faculty expected to feel fear, while intelligent undead should have that). But from what I can see it encompasses different levels of difficulty of undead AND also automatons and non automatons.

My question here is, is there anywhere mentioned WHY the list is as it is? Thus is there any reason in the rules or in the fluff text for the undead or fear, or any commentary from developers, that gives any indication to why this list is so counter intuitive?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Pure speculation makes for poor answers. I suggest you emphasize in your question that speculation is not appropriate and answers are expected to demonstrate that the answer presented is actually the reason that the developers had in mind when they made these choices. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 22:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I'm tempted to close this as opinion based. I understand you're looking for a reference, but do you really expect there to be one? This is going to draw a lot (has already started) of random opinion and theorizing we're going to have to spend time downvoting and policing and making people sad. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 23:19

1 Answer 1


Two of the three creatures you listed as being immune to the frightened condition have abilities that can give that condition to others, while none of the creatures listed as susceptible do.

It makes sense that creatures capable of frightening others would be impossible to frighten.

However, this does not account for the shadow.

After further examination, this pattern seems to hold true for all the undead in the SRD. Creatures with immunity to being frightened tend to have the ability to frighten, while those without never do.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ Do you have any evidence that this is actually the reason that the designers made things this way? Otherwise, pure speculation makes for a poor answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 11, 2016 at 22:25
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Conjecture is the only answer to this question. Does that mean that the question should be closed, then? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 0:41
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Actually, not so; it is possible that the developers have commented on this. I don’t think they have, but if they had it would be a great answer. Alternatively, since 5e is in active development and the developers have a Twitter feed, they can be simply asked; some users have had success answering questions that way in the past. Or it might be possible to back up the answer another way; this question references a divergence from past editions, but another question might be answerable by going back to those, for example. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented Apr 12, 2016 at 0:48

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