If I were to raise an undead zombie but I wanted a skeleton instead could I burn or peel off the flesh of the zombie in order to obtain a skeleton? If I did that would the zombie's stats change to a skeleton's or remain a zombie's?

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    \$\begingroup\$ can I ask the obvious question: since Animate Undead can create either zombies or skeletons, why not just butcher the corpses first then animate the resulting skeletons? Or are you hoping to get at something that looks like a skeleton but has zombie stats? Or are you just in a glut of zombies and would like to convert some? \$\endgroup\$ – nitsua60 May 18 '16 at 22:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/93646/… - My favorite question on here, and it's relevant! \$\endgroup\$ – Ethan The Brave Mar 23 '17 at 12:38

Yes, but you'll have to kill it and strip the flesh off first. Not necessarily in that order. Peeling the flesh off of a zombie would cause it to fall apart and die.

Animate Dead (PHB p.212) describes that you need to cast the spell on "a pile of bones or a corpse of a Medium or Small creature". If you pick the former you'll get a skeleton. Zombies have bones, but given how the rules phrase it you'll need to have a pile of bones to make a skeleton rather than pulling them out of a creature. So to turn a zombie into a skeleton you'll need to kill it, strip its flesh off, pile the bones, then cast Animate Dead on it. Voila, you now have a skeleton instead of a zombie!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does a zombie really need bones to be "alive"? \$\endgroup\$ – Premier Bromanov May 19 '16 at 2:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @PremierBromanov As I understand this answer, it is just that any process involving separating zombie from bones would necessarily result in lethal damage. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie May 19 '16 at 2:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SevenSidedDie Yes, that's what I meant. Also, I know that in at least one earlier edition (3.5) there is a monster that is specifically the animated flesh that stays behind when animating a skeleton. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Jacobs May 20 '16 at 12:42

I believe that you cannot, as Animate Dead ruling (PHB p.212) stipulates that you need to "Choose a pile of bones or a corpse of a Medium or Small humanoid within range". Using the stat block, as proposed by Jeremy Crawford's tweet (see below), the animated corpse becomes a zombie, a undead type creature. It ceases to be a humanoid and won't ever be a legal for the animate dead spell again.

I believe the answer above is incorrect.

The tweet:

Q: When animate dead is cast on a corpse/skeleton, do you use the Monster manual statistics, or add a template? — @Johnathan_Lin on Feb 8, 2016

A: When you cast animate dead, use the skeleton/zombie stat block from the Monster Manual or appendix D in the PH. — @JeremyECrawford on Feb 8, 2016

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  • \$\begingroup\$ To improve this answer, I think you should flesh (no pun intended) out the details of the change of creature type. Does a corpse of a humanoid that has been raised as a zombie, then killed again change it back to the corpse of a humanoid, or is it a corpse of an undead? \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov Jun 29 at 20:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi, welcome to RPG.se. Please take our tour when you have time. Great catch on the wording being "of a humanoid" rather than "of a creature". As Thomas mentioned, the answer could be improved by backing it up on how a creature that has been animated into a zombie stops being a humanoid. IIRC there is a Crawford tweet about it, but you also could find stuff about that in other questions about revivifying creatures. \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jun 29 at 21:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your great comment. I initially assumed that the zombie created was from drawn from the stat block. Luckily enough my hunch could be verified. \$\endgroup\$ – MastaJeet Jun 30 at 21:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Given you're asserting the other answer is incorrect, you may want to address the "pile of bones" thing, which is what it's proposing as a way to raise a skeleton. (Note that the other answer never claims you can directly animate the zombie corpse itself.) \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jun 30 at 22:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I believe the proposed interpretation is "a pile of bones of a Medium or Small humanoid". \$\endgroup\$ – HellSaint Jul 1 at 2:45

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