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Applying Zombie / Skeleton Templates: Do they retain spell-like abilities?


Rules Questions


3 people marked this as FAQ candidate.

TL;DR: Neither the zombie nor skeleton templates state that spell-like abilities are lost. Does that mean they are retained?

Both the zombie and skeleton template descriptions enumerate many attributes of the base creature that are lost upon applying the template. However, at the beginning of each template it states very explicitly:

Quote:

TYPE: The creature's type changes to undead. It retains any subtype except for alignment subtypes (such as good) and subtypes that indicate kind (such as giant). It does not gain the augmented subtype. It uses all the base creature's statistics and special abilities except as noted here.

(emphasis mine)

The templates go on to list all of the statistics and abilities that are modified or lost; specifically:

  • challenge rating
  • alignment
  • type
  • armor class
  • hit dice
  • saves
  • defensive abilities
  • speed
  • attacks
  • special attacks
  • ability scores
  • base attack bonus
  • skills
  • feats
  • special qualities
  • environment
  • organization
  • treasure

These are each elements of the creature's stat block, which are fully defined in the rules here.

The following stat block elements are not mentioned in the zombie/skeleton templates:

  • size
  • init
  • senses
  • aura
  • weaknesses
  • space/reach
  • spell-like abilities
  • spells known/prepared
  • languages
  • special abilities

Spells known and languages are both things that are usually tied to class levels, intelligence and skills, which are explicitly lost when applying the templates. Initiative is a derived value, and is usually modified only by feats or special abilities mentioned elsewhere. That leaves the following statistics untouched by the templates:

  • size
  • senses
  • aura
  • weaknesses
  • space/reach
  • spell-like abilities
  • special abilities

Am I correct in interpreting, then, that a creature's spell-like abilities are not lost when applying the zombie or skeleton template?


Necroing this thread because I have the same questions and they haven't been answered in this thread

Sovereign Court

Zombie template wrote:


Defensive Abilities: Zombies lose their defensive abilities and gain all of the qualities and immunities granted by the undead type. Zombies gain DR 5/slashing.

Special Attacks: A zombie retains none of the base creature's special attacks.

Special Qualities: A zombie loses most special qualities of the base creature. It retains any extraordinary special qualities that improve its melee or ranged attacks. A zombie gains the following special quality.

I believe that would strip away SLAs quite thoroughly.

Skeleton template wrote:

Defensive Abilities: A skeleton loses the base creature's defensive abilities and gains DR 5/bludgeoning and immunity to cold. It also gains all of the standard immunities and traits possessed by undead creatures.

Special Attacks: A skeleton retains none of the base creature's special attacks.

Special Qualities: A skeleton loses most special qualities of the base creature. It retains any extraordinary special qualities that improve its melee or ranged attacks.

Same story.

Liberty's Edge

The Necromancy is STRONG

As Ascalaphus states, Special Qualities are lost unless they are extraordinary and boost attacks. Special Qualitities are a subset of Special Abilities and are found on the SQ line in a stat block. The rules about losing most Special Qualitities only apply to Special Qualities and not Special Abilities such as Spell-Like Abilities.

As written, I can't find anything that states that spell-like abilities are lost or changed when raising skeletons and zombies. My Occultist would appreciate your input!

Scarab Sages

ShieldLawrence wrote:
As written, I can't find anything that states that spell-like abilities are lost or changed when raising skeletons and zombies. My Occultist would appreciate your input!

They would change if the spell-like ability's casting stat changes. That would be the big one.

A Zombie of a Kinetisist PC would likely be using CHA instead of CON for their spell-like abilties (like kinetic blasts). This would likely have a large impact on the DC for a spell-like ability.


I haven't seen any stat blocks for an NPC kineticist, but I'm pretty confident (based on those of other classes with offensive spell-like abilities) that kinetic blast would show up under Special Attacks and, thus, would not be kept.

Stat blocks are annoying. I've always assumed that all spell-like abilities were dropped by those two templates.

Liberty's Edge

Of course class levels are dropped with those base templates, so I'm not too worried about class granted SLAs...

But I recently raised a devil corpse and the Greater Teleport at will got me thinking about it.


ShieldLawrence wrote:

Of course class levels are dropped with those base templates, so I'm not too worried about class granted SLAs...

But I recently raised a devil corpse and the Greater Teleport at will got me thinking about it.

Teleporting zombies.... O_O

If only I could go back in time and cash in during the most recent zombie movie epidemic...!

Liberty's Edge

And how does Mindless play into Spell Like Abilities. It seems off that a Skeleton couldn't activate an Ioun Stone but could cast a spell.

Scarab Sages

blahpers wrote:
Stat blocks are annoying. I've always assumed that all spell-like abilities were dropped by those two templates.

Even if they retain them, I don't think mindless zombies would use Spell-like abilties as a default attack. They might at the direct order of their controller, like via Command Undead, but I doubt they'd use spell-like abilities otherwise (at least not the ones from their former life).

Additionally, spell like abilities that require a full round or full action casting time may be difficult for a zombie, due to Staggered (Ex) which the creature obtains becoming a zombie.

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