D&D 5E Can I use animate dead to reanimate a zombie that has been killed?

Having read through Raise Dead, Resurrection, and True Resurrection, I can now say very clearly that the designers didn't answer this question. It's exactly ambiguous enough to not actually answer it.

5e says:

Raise Dead: "The spell can't return an undead creature to life."

Resurrection: "You touch a dead creature that has been dead for no more than a century, that didn't die of old age, and that isn't undead."

True Resurrection: "If the creature was undead, it is restored to its non-undead form."

The trouble is the fact that the stupid spells insist on calling the target a "creature" so it's completely ambiguous if they mean that you're casting it on an unliving undead creature or a destroyed undead creature.

3.5e made an explicit distinction between casting the spell on undead and destroyed undead:

Raise Dead: "A creature who has been turned into an undead creature or killed by a death effect can’t be raised by this spell. Constructs, elementals, outsiders, and undead creatures can’t be raised. The spell cannot bring back a creature that has died of old age."

Resurrection: "You can resurrect someone killed by a death effect or someone who has been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed. You cannot resurrect someone who has died of old age. Constructs, elementals, outsiders, and undead creatures can’t be resurrected."

True Resurrection: "You can revive someone killed by a death effect or someone who has been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed. This spell can also resurrect elementals or outsiders, but it can’t resurrect constructs or undead creatures."

So 3e in Resurrection and True Resurrection makes a very clear distinction between casting the spell on an undead creature that has been destroyed and and undead creature that has not been destroyed (the latter of which doesn't work). 5e, feels like it keeps half of that language, but not all of it. It doesn't feel clear to me what the intent here really is.

God help me, I think we'd need an official answer.
 

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niklinna

Legend
So 3e in Resurrection and True Resurrection makes a very clear distinction between casting the spell on an undead creature that has been destroyed and and undead creature that has not been destroyed (the latter of which doesn't work). 5e, feels like it keeps half of that language, but not all of it. It doesn't feel clear to me what the intent here really is.
Yep, sounds like how 5e goes about things, all right. 😉
 

niklinna

Legend
For the avoidance of any doubt, there is also true resurrection:

This spell closes all wounds, neutralizes any poison, cures all diseases, and lifts any curses affecting the creature when it died. The spell replaces damaged or missing organs and limbs. If the creature was undead, it is restored to its non-undead form.

That's about as explicit as it gets right there.

Of course the implication here is that due to that explicitness, ONLY true resurrection restores a former undead to it's living form (resurrection, raise dead and revivify are not enough).
It may be explicit in that context, but it leaves anybody playing or DMing at a lower level, who might perhaps only have read the lower-level spells—or anybody looking up the spell actually being used in the moment, because who can remember all these details?—ignorant of that fact. It's just bad design and/or writing.

Hm, maybe I should cross-post this to the Quality thread! 😉
 


Rule of Cool says that if it's a player character who is turned into a zombie and then brought back, they are now Reborn, Dhampr, Hollow One or a Phantom Rogue.
I know a certain Hollow One Undead Warlock / Shadow Sorcerer that was literally turned into a zombie and then "brought back." 🧟‍♀️
FEz34efXsAIWhmT
 

There's a reason for the different wording between Resurrection and True Resurrection.

Hint... has to do with the phrase "If the creature was undead" (emphasis mine).

At our table, we're going with the spell descriptions over the zombie fluff text if such an edge case ever comes up.
 

Which is weird. Why talk about 'powerful magic' and Resurrection if Raise Dead or even Revivify would suffice? I suspect it might be a mistake and they meant to say True Resurrection. Also, this is in the fluff section, so I wouldn't treat it as rules, though it can certainly give an insight to the intent.


Well, that really doesn't matter. There often are things in the fluff that doesn't strictly follow the rules and even more so if we talk about stuff produced under a different edition.


Mechanically it is a zombie that died. The rules do not differentiate between destroyed and dead for creatures. Mechanically constructs and undead 'die' when they run out of hit points. I agree that Crawford's ruling is intuitively weird, but it seems to be in accordance with RAW.


What I feel is confusing that you seem to be vacillating between plain English and rules definitions of things. I assume the rule text refers to rules concepts, thus when rules refer to 'dead' creature they mean a creature that has become permanently inactive due running out hit points regardless of creature type and when they refer to corpse of a given creature type they refer to a corpse left by a creature of that creature type.


Ok, so according to this Raise Dead is sufficient...

(Also, am I expected to search every adventure module to learn how the rules in PHB are supposed to work?)



But according to this, it is not and you need True Resurrection... o_O This is a mess!

I knew that True Resurrection can do it, which to me pretty strongly imply that other spells cannot!

True Resurrection clearly expressly does it. Resurrection and Raise Dead each seem a maybe (with stronger support for the former, and some support for the latter).

My view is Revivify wont work by RAW because you don't kill a Zombie (you destroy it). So unless the destroyed Zombie was also (in the preceding minute) a living creature, who died during that minute, Revivify wont work at all.
 

There's a reason for the different wording between Resurrection and True Resurrection.

Hint... has to do with the phrase "If the creature was undead" (emphasis mine).

At our table, we're going with the spell descriptions over the zombie fluff text if such an edge case ever comes up.

Which is all well and good, but effectively by animating a dead person as a Zombie (or other undead) you mess with the corpse to the extent that (barring a True Resurrection) they can never be raised from the dead.

Surely that makes the whole 'Good aligned altruistic Necromancer' a lot harder to justify yeah?
 

True Resurrection clearly expressly does it. Resurrection and Raise Dead each seem a maybe (with stronger support for the former, and some support for the latter).
That True Resurrection clearly expressly says it can do it to me is a pretty damn strong indication that any spell that doesn't say that can't!

My view is Revivify wont work by RAW because you don't kill a Zombie (you destroy it). So unless the destroyed Zombie was also (in the preceding minute) a living creature, who died during that minute, Revivify wont work at all.
By RAW this absolutely is not the case. This dead/destroyed distinction doesn't exist in the rules at all. There are rules for what happens when creatures run out of hit points and they refer to dying. If those rules do not apply to the undead, they become hella more dangerous, as running out of hit points don't affect them in any way at all!

Which is all well and good, but effectively by animating a dead person as a Zombie (or other undead) you mess with the corpse to the extent that (barring a True Resurrection) they can never be raised from the dead.
Yep. This is basically what I assume happens.

Surely that makes the whole 'Good aligned altruistic Necromancer' a lot harder to justify yeah?
A bit. Though it it very 1% problem; some poor peasants would never be raised from dead in the first place.
 

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