Skeleton and Zombie Weapon Proficiencies?


Rules Questions


The skeleton and zombie entries say the following under attacks:

"A skeleton/zombie retains all the natural weapons, manufactured weapon attacks, and weapon proficiencies of the base creature."

It also says the following under feats:

"A skeleton/zombie loses all feats possessed by the base creature."

Two questions:
1. Does "base creature" refer to the creature type (e.g., humanoid) or the creature itself (e.g., hill giant)? A basic humanoid is not proficient with greatclubs but a hill giant is because hill giants have the greatclub martial weapon proficiency feat.

2. If "base creature" in this example means hill giant and not humanoid, would a skeleton or zombie hill giant retain its proficiency with greatclubs? Which takes precedence--the undead retaining its old weapon proficiency or its loss of all feats, including weapon proficiency feats?

Thoughts?


1. The creature itself.

2. This is a really good question. By RAI, it is clear that it would. I'm unsure how this comes down as RAW. Does keeping weapon proficiencies mean it keeps specific feats that grant weapon proficiencies?

Liberty's Edge

They seem to have a unique entry in their description, making them able to use weapons and armor through the animation effect, not through some link as to what they were. (bolded relevant part). I would take this as a unique exception to the normal proficiency rules. Their ability to use them is in a supernatural nature, not from training.

PRD Entry for Skeleton:

Skeleton

The pile of bones suddenly stirs, rising up to take on a human shape. Its long, bony fingers reach out to claw at the living.

Human Skeleton CR 1/3

XP 135

NE Medium undead

Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +0

Defense

AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 14 (+2 armor, +2 Dex, +2 natural)

hp 4 (1d8)

Fort +0, Ref +2, Will +2

DR 5/bludgeoning; Immune cold, undead traits

Offense

Speed 30 ft.

Melee broken scimitar +0 (1d6), claw –3 (1d4+1) or 2 claws +2 (1d4+2)

Statistics

Str 15, Dex 14, Con —, Int —, Wis 10, Cha 10

Base Atk +0; CMB +2; CMD 14

Feats Improved InitiativeB

Gear broken chain shirt, broken scimitar

Ecology

Environment any

Organization any

Treasure none

Skeletons are the animated bones of the dead, brought to unlife through foul magic. While most skeletons are mindless automatons, they still possess an evil cunning imparted to them by their animating force—a cunning that allows them to wield weapons and wear armor.
Creating a Skeleton

“Skeleton” is an acquired template that can be added to any corporeal creature (other than an undead) that has a skeletal system (referred to hereafter as the base creature).

Challenge Rating: Depends on Hit Dice, as follows:
HD CR XP
1/2 1/6 65
1 1/3 135
2–3 1 400
4–5 2 600
6–7 3 800
8–9 4 1,200
10–11 5 1,600
12–14 6 2,400
15–17 7 3,200
18–20 8 4,800

Alignment: Always neutral evil.

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.

Armor Class: Natural armor bonus changes as follows:
Skeleton Size Natural Armor Bonus
Tiny or smaller +0
Small +1
Medium or Large +2
Huge +3
Gargantuan +6
Colossal +10

Hit Dice: A skeleton drops any HD gained from class levels and changes racial HD to d8s. Creatures without racial HD are treated as if they have 1 racial HD. If the creature has more than 20 Hit Dice, it can't be made into a skeleton by the animate dead spell. A skeleton uses its Cha modifier (instead of its Con modifier) to determine bonus hit points.

Saves: Base save bonuses are Fort +1/3 HD, Ref +1/3 HD, and Will +1/2 HD + 2.

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.

Speed: A winged skeleton can't use its wings to fly. If the base creature flew magically, so can the skeleton. All other movement types are retained.

Attacks: A skeleton retains all the natural weapons, manufactured weapon attacks, and weapon proficiencies of the base creature, except for attacks that can't work without flesh. A creature with hands gains one claw attack per hand; the skeleton can strike with each of its claw attacks at its full attack bonus. A claw attack deals damage depending on the skeleton's size (see Natural Attacks). If the base creature already had claw attacks with its hands, use the skeleton claw damage only if it's better.

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

Abilities: A skeleton's Dexterity increases by +2. It has no Constitution or Intelligence score, and its Wisdom and Charisma scores change to 10.

BAB: A skeleton's base attack bonus is equal to 3/4 of its Hit Dice.

Skills: A skeleton loses all skill ranks possessed by the base creature and gains none of its own.

Feats: A skeleton loses all feats possessed by the base creature and gains Improved Initiative as a bonus feat.

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.

Environment: Any, usually the same as base creature.

Organization: Any.

Treasure: Generally none, although sometimes a skeleton's creator arms it with magical armor or weapons.


I would let it use whatever armor and weapon proficiencies it had in life. Animated warriors could likely use any common weapon. Animated peasants could probably only use a spear or a club.

Liberty's Edge

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The thing is, they are mindless. They have no past, no former life, therefor no access to what they knew in the previous life. They are distinctly different than skeletal champions, which retain aspects of the former life


Shar Tahl wrote:
The thing is, they are mindless. They have no past, no former life, therefor no access to what they knew in the previous life. They are distinctly different than skeletal champions, which retain aspects of the former life

"While most skeletons are mindless automatons, they still possess an evil cunning imparted to them by their animating force—a cunning that allows them to wield weapons and wear armor."

Also, using the example Human Skeleton, it's wielding a broken scimitar.

A skeleton retains all the weapon proficiencies of the base creature. If the "base creature" is "human," then as a human it had no racial weapon proficiency, and it should be taking a -4 non-proficiency penalty on it's attacks.

Melee broken scimitar +0 (1d6)
Str 15, Base Atk +0, Broken condition -2.

The only way the skeleton stat block can be right is if it had martial weapon proficiency in life, and retained it when the template was applied.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

i like playing Pimp my Skeleton and giving it a regular or a masterwork scimitar from time to time.

Liberty's Edge

Grick wrote:
Shar Tahl wrote:
The thing is, they are mindless. They have no past, no former life, therefor no access to what they knew in the previous life. They are distinctly different than skeletal champions, which retain aspects of the former life

"While most skeletons are mindless automatons, they still possess an evil cunning imparted to them by their animating force—a cunning that allows them to wield weapons and wear armor."

Also, using the example Human Skeleton, it's wielding a broken scimitar.

A skeleton retains all the weapon proficiencies of the base creature. If the "base creature" is "human," then as a human it had no racial weapon proficiency, and it should be taking a -4 non-proficiency penalty on it's attacks.

Melee broken scimitar +0 (1d6)
Str 15, Base Atk +0, Broken condition -2.

The only way the skeleton stat block can be right is if it had martial weapon proficiency in life, and retained it when the template was applied.

You just quoted the part that allows the weapons and armor without penalty. The animating force that imparts it, not anything dealing with their former selves. That medium skeleton could have been a level 1 commoner with no martial proficiency and would still be ok at using that broken weapon. This exists outside the proficiency rules as a unique exception. You can put you medium skeleton in full plate and a great axe. This allows for great scene setups, like a house decorated with antique suits of armor complete with a weapon, but each has a skeleton inside that cannot be readily seen, leading to a dangerous encounter.

It can be no other way, since a base humanoid does not have martial weapon proficiency and there is no distinction as to what class that guy was before he died and was risen, because it doesn't matter. The magic lets him use weapons and armor. The statblock it right because this is an exception to the normal rule of proficiency.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
jreyst wrote:

The skeleton and zombie entries say the following under attacks:

"A skeleton/zombie retains all the natural weapons, manufactured weapon attacks, and weapon proficiencies of the base creature."

It also says the following under feats:

"A skeleton/zombie loses all feats possessed by the base creature."

Two questions:
1. Does "base creature" refer to the creature type (e.g., humanoid) or the creature itself (e.g., hill giant)? A basic humanoid is not proficient with greatclubs but a hill giant is because hill giants have the greatclub martial weapon proficiency feat.

It's a reference to the specific creature, not the creature type (e.g. to a hill giant, and not a humanoid).

Quote:
2. If "base creature" in this example means hill giant and not humanoid, would a skeleton or zombie hill giant retain its proficiency with greatclubs? Which takes precedence--the undead retaining its old weapon proficiency or its loss of all feats, including weapon proficiency feats?

I think that it would - the line about it retaining proficiencies is fairly specific in what is retained, versus the more general listing in the Feats entry. Specific, in my mind, trumps general - particularly since the game is built around exception-based rules.


Shar Tahl wrote:
You just quoted the part that allows the weapons and armor without penalty. The animating force that imparts it, not anything dealing with their former selves. That medium skeleton could have been a level 1 commoner with no martial proficiency and would still be ok at using that broken weapon. This exists outside the proficiency rules as a unique exception.

If skeletons have proficiency in all weapons and armor (and, presumably, shields?), then why would the rules say they retain the weapon proficiencies of the base creature?

Though, it doesn't say anything about armor proficiency, and that penalty isn't included in the statblock either.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

It's worth noting that this debate is going to be moot virtually 99% of the time - the undead creature type says:

Pathfinder SRD wrote:

•Proficient with its natural weapons, all simple weapons, and any weapons mentioned in its entry.

•Proficient with whatever type of armor (light, medium, or heavy) it is described as wearing, as well as all lighter types. Undead not indicated as wearing armor are not proficient with armor. Undead are proficient with shields if they are proficient with any form of armor.

Virtually the only time proficiencies will be in question is if the skeleton or zombie loses the weapon in its entry and picks up a different weapon to attack with...which seems unlikely, given their intelligence; they'd probably just fall back on natural attacks.


Alzrius wrote:

It's worth noting that this debate is going to be moot virtually 99% of the time - the undead creature type says:

Pathfinder SRD wrote:

•Proficient with its natural weapons, all simple weapons, and any weapons mentioned in its entry.

•Proficient with whatever type of armor (light, medium, or heavy) it is described as wearing, as well as all lighter types. Undead not indicated as wearing armor are not proficient with armor. Undead are proficient with shields if they are proficient with any form of armor.
Virtually the only time proficiencies will be in question is if the skeleton or zombie loses the weapon in its entry and picks up a different weapon to attack with...which seems unlikely, given their intelligence; they'd probably just fall back on natural attacks.

If you raise a creature with the Animate Dead spell you apply the relevant template to it. It doesn't have a pre-exisitng statblock that includes what weapons it wields. That is where this issue is most relevant, I think.

Dark Archive

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Why add needless complication to simple rules? Just give it a weapon and roll to hit at no penalty.

Silver Crusade

jreyst wrote:

The skeleton and zombie entries say the following under attacks:

"A skeleton/zombie retains all the natural weapons, manufactured weapon attacks, and weapon proficiencies of the base creature."

It also says the following under feats:

"A skeleton/zombie loses all feats possessed by the base creature."

Two questions:
1. Does "base creature" refer to the creature type (e.g., humanoid) or the creature itself (e.g., hill giant)? A basic humanoid is not proficient with greatclubs but a hill giant is because hill giants have the greatclub martial weapon proficiency feat.

2. If "base creature" in this example means hill giant and not humanoid, would a skeleton or zombie hill giant retain its proficiency with greatclubs? Which takes precedence--the undead retaining its old weapon proficiency or its loss of all feats, including weapon proficiency feats?

Thoughts?

Dude, how many boards are you going to ask this question on? :-)

And from what I remember of the situation, this is all stemming from a party member animating a hill giant skelton, and a discussion ensuing as to what weapons it can weild and what armor it can wear.

So, it stands to reason this thread may have some importance to the necromancer types in your group.

My answer remains the same - it retains the weapon proficiencies it had before it became undead. It doesn't lose weapon proficiencies because weapon proficiency is a racial or class ability, and not a feat (barring exotic weapon proficiencies). If you don't know what weapon proficiencies the creature had, assume it has the same ones as the generic entry in the Bestiary.


sowhereaminow wrote:
jreyst wrote:

The skeleton and zombie entries say the following under attacks:

"A skeleton/zombie retains all the natural weapons, manufactured weapon attacks, and weapon proficiencies of the base creature."

It also says the following under feats:

"A skeleton/zombie loses all feats possessed by the base creature."

Two questions:
1. Does "base creature" refer to the creature type (e.g., humanoid) or the creature itself (e.g., hill giant)? A basic humanoid is not proficient with greatclubs but a hill giant is because hill giants have the greatclub martial weapon proficiency feat.

2. If "base creature" in this example means hill giant and not humanoid, would a skeleton or zombie hill giant retain its proficiency with greatclubs? Which takes precedence--the undead retaining its old weapon proficiency or its loss of all feats, including weapon proficiency feats?

Thoughts?

Dude, how many boards are you going to ask this question on? :-)

And from what I remember of the situation, this is all stemming from a party member animating a hill giant skelton, and a discussion ensuing as to what weapons it can weild and what armor it can wear.

So, it stands to reason this thread may have some importance to the necromancer types in your group.

My answer remains the same - it retains the weapon proficiencies it had before it became undead. It doesn't lose weapon proficiencies because weapon proficiency is a racial or class ability, and not a feat (barring exotic weapon proficiencies). If you don't know what weapon proficiencies the creature had, assume it has the same ones as the generic entry in the Bestiary.

Martial weapon proficiency feats exist. Also, if you have a weapon proficiency because of a class feature, you lose that feature when you become a skeleton.

In the case of the hill giant, it is clear he retains his weapon proficiencies because they are granted neither by proficiency feats nor class features.


Skeletons use scimitars, they always have!

But good point on the mindlessness. I don't give zombies weapons. Use Gheden barbarians for that sort of business (they rock the cemetery).

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