With the spell Skeleton crew you can create several harmless skeletons who can't harm anybody and who only last some days maximum.

The spell animate dead states:

A destroyed skeleton or zombie can't be animated again

Does that mean that by casting skeleton crew on some corpses I can prevent them from being animated as true/permanent undead?

In movies you often see that the dead are laid on a boat which is set adrift and then flaming arrows are shot at the boat. By using the skeleton crew spell the dead could crew their own boat and thus be protected from animate dead. Do I get that right?

  • \$\begingroup\$ To me, this is both a mechanics question (which I'm not qualified to answer) and a roleplaying question. If the undead can't be animated because their soul was destroyed, then a church might really frown on this tactic... \$\endgroup\$
    – Ghotir
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ghotir Unlike the spells animate dead et al. the spell skeleton crew lacks the evil descriptor. If the Pathfinder version of Pelor (the good one, not this one) is okay with his clerics casting skeleton crew, everybody else should be, too. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Fair enough. I haven't played Pathfinder; last I played D&D was 2nd Edition Advanced back in the early 90s. (This is one of the reasons I made my very abbreviated two-sentence knee-jerk response a comment and not an answer.) If that's the same Pelor of AD&D 2nd's World of Greyhawk setting, and he's chill with it, it's probably fine. In my not-so-humble opinion, however, any sort of necromantic spell (or something that even sounds necromantic to a layman) deserves some thought as to social issues. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ghotir
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ghotir O, hey, it's cool, and you're correct that Pelorians… Pelorites… priests of Pelor would likely frown on a frivolous use of what smells like an evil spell even if technically it isn't one, and many would certainly ask hard questions of a fellow who insisted on crewing his ships in such a way rather than with proper sailors! (Replace italicized phrases with beat with a mace if appropriate.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:29

2 Answers 2


It really depends on what you consider "destroyed". Sadly this term is really ill-defined in pathfinder. (In fact it's not defined at all.)

The Undead type states:

Not at risk of death from massive damage, but is immediately destroyed when reduced to 0 hit points.

This only specified an undead is "destroyed" when it reaches 0 hit points. It doesn't specify what happens when an undead creature suddenly stops being animated.

Also the limitation of not being able to reanimate a corpse after it appears to only apply to animate dead and not Create Undead. So even if your DM would rule that Skeleton Crew prevents the Animate Dead spell from animating the creatures, a caster could simply cast a different spell.

You could however, cast Skeleton Crew on the corspes and then fireball the skeletons (The skeletons got 6 hp, should be an easy job). This would "destroy" the skeletons according to the quoted Undead type and thus prevent Animate Dead from affecting the corpses.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Your first point was the reason why I added the part about them piloting a boat which is then put to the torch. That should take care of 1HD Skeletons without the ability to defend themselves. But you sure are right with your second point. I had not noticed this. But at least it would protect from lower level necromancers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Umbranus
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 14:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Do destroyed undead even leave behind corpses? (Like constructs, I tend to imagine undead remains being closer to, like, wreckage or essence than a proper corpse, but I can overimagine sometimes.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 14:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Umbranus I didn't realise you wanted to destroy the skeletons, guess my edit was redundant then. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snappie
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I guess that depends on how you destroy it and what kind of undead it was, I'd say a zombie would generally remain in tact and a skeleton would just fall apart. of course you could always use the Restore Corpse spell if you want the flesh back. \$\endgroup\$
    – Snappie
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 14:16


Regardless of the state of the skeletons after Skeleton Crew was cast, they cannot be animated again only if they were destroyed, otherwise they return to their original state as corpses. Corpses are valid targets to Animate Dead and Create Undead.

The description of Skeleton Crew does not state that they are destroyed upon the end of the spell. And unlike animate/create undead, which are permanent, skeleton crew has a duration.

However, you cannot create zombies with Animate Dead, only skeletons, as their flesh melts away into fog.

A skeletal crew member can only be created from a mostly intact humanoid corpse. The corpse must have bones. When you cast this spell, any flesh left on the corpses melts away into fog.

From a rules as written perspective, note also that only Animate Dead has the clause about not reanimating the targets again. Which means that Skeleton Crew could be re-cast over and over again on the same targets, even if they were destroyed.

A destroyed skeleton or zombie can't be animated again.

Create Undead, however, simply says that it's a more potent spell than Animate Dead, so any undead created using it are fair game, even Ghouls or Huecuvas.

A necromancer that is worried about the lack of corpses (the world mysteriously has few cemeteries), should consider raising them as Bloody Skeletons instead.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I started an answer and got hung up on exactly this: skeleton crew is on a clock. Does destroying a skeleton while it's affected by crew then letting the crew spell expire result in a destroyed skeleton, a destroyed corpse, or an intact corpse? I think, literally as written, it might be the last, but that's so dumb that I've left my answer unposted. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ A skeleton corpse and undead skeleton are different things, so we have to look at the context. If the phrase is talking about corpses, then a skeleton on that context is a skeletal corpse. But if it's talking about undead skeletons, then it's a creature. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 17:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Im wondering now if a destroyed corpse could be a valid target for Make Whole, as it can target objects and corpses are objects. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are corpses officially objects in Pathfinder? (I know that 3.5e has a FAQ ruling that makes corpses objects (and is otherwise silent), despite such a ruling making the game wonky in so wide a variety of ways that, personally, I reject the ruling. I thought, however, thus far, Pathfinder had left it to the GM to determine whether corpses are objects or, instead, the more playable creatures with the dead condition.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 18:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ To be honest i dont think so, it's just something commonly affirmed on the forums. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Oct 19, 2016 at 19:31

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