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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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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
  • \$\begingroup\$ The issue of whether animate dead can be cast on the corpses of undead creatures is now explicitly addressed in the latest Sage Advice Compendium: "Can I cast animate dead on the humanoid-shaped corpse of an undead creature such as a zombie or a ghast? No. Animate dead targets only the corpses of creatures that have the humanoid creature type." You may want to update your answer accordingly. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 6 at 5:51
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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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