Raising the Dead 5e D&D Guide to Undeath

Necromancy Bringing Families Together Since 1st Edition D&D.

Although necromancy is generally frowned upon in fantasy realms and dungeons Masters almost always reserve it to the Big Bad Evil Guy, necromancy was my favorite school for spellcasting ever since I first bought the Player’s Handbook for Chapter 3.5 Edition. 

The best way to portray a necromancer is to do what they love: raise the dead.

How do you wake the dead from their eternal sleep? What if your friend is killed in combat and you want to bring them back to the mortal realm?

A Note on Death

The spells and abilities discussed here only raise the dead or return them to the grave as some type of undead. 

While some spells are capable of bringing the dead back into life, others can be very restrictive or come at a high price (in terms of spell slots and material components).

You should consider Revivify and Raise Dead, Resurrection if you want to bring someone back from the dead.

Which classes are the best?

Five spells can bring back the dead. 

Many of these spells are only available to School of Necromancy wizards and Cleric domains. 

While warlocks may be able to learn some of these spells for a limited time, mastering the undead is best done with other classes.

Death Domain Clerics

Raising the Dead 5e

Dungeon Master’s Guide p.96

Note – I recommend talking to your Dungeon Master about this subclass before you decide on it. It is not well fleshed out for the typical player character.

Only two ways can raise dead Clerics have access, and only if they’re in the Death Domain. 

Life Domain Clerics have access to the “restoration” spells but not the cool ones that reanimate. Don’t let the Grave Cleric fool you. 

They are inherently against raising dead, and they don’t have the same spells. We’re looking for one of the Dungeon Master’s Guide recommended Villain NPCs.

Death Clerics have access to Animate dead without having to prepare it at the 5th level. They also have access to Create Undead at the 6th level. 

Clerics can stand on the front lines alongside their reanimated friends and fight their battles independently, unlike Wizards.

Although Clerics don’t have the complete suite of spells that can raise the dead, I want to honorably mention that they have access to the only spells that can bring a dead creature back into life (and no undead monstrosity). 

Renew, Revival, and True Death Resurrection are all part of the Cleric’s toolkit. They can be extremely useful.

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They don’t get Create Undead until then. Some of the Necromancy spells are available to them, as well as a range of utility spells. 

Death Domain Clerics are a formidable frontline for undead friends, due to their inherent beefiness. However, you won’t have nearly as many (or as powerful!) buddies as our 5th Edition alternative.

Circle of Spores Druid

These druids are also able to cast reanimation spells, such as the ability to use fungus to animate the dead. 

At the 5th level, they are given Animate Dead and at the 6th level, they get Fungal Infestation which is their most powerful ability for raising the dead.

Although the range is very limited and you will need to use your reaction, this ability can only be used if you have a high Wisdom score. These zombies can only attack and last an hour.


Only wizards have access to the Necromancy spells they need. These spells can convert our enemies into our undead friends. 

They also give your undead minions a lot more power than zombified flunkies.

School of Necromancy wizards have Undead Thoralls at 6th Level, which allows them *Animate Dead and *****, as well as three additional benefits when casting the spell.

  • When casting the spell, they can also target another corpse (or piles of bones), allowing them to have more minions.
  • This spell grants minions bonus Hit Points equal to or greater than the Wizard’s level.
  • These creatures increase your proficiency bonus on their weapon damage rolls.

These three books are very appealing to raising the dead. You not only get more vampires, but you also get stronger ones! 

At level 14, wizards have access to Command Undead, which allows them to take control of undead scum and add them to their collection.

Two spells are available to wizards. These spells allow them to kill enemies and raise them as animated zombies.

You may or not be able to control these zombies. These spells will be covered later. However, Clerics don’t have access.


While Warlocks might be able to access spells that can raise the dead and they may have some class abilities, they don’t have any class capabilities to work with their undead minions.

They can access the more advanced necromancy spells, such as Danse Macabre or Create Undead, but they are unable to access the most basic spell Animate dead. Due to their inability to cast spells, Warlocks are not well-suited for creating a zombie factory.

Multiclassing into Wizard could be a way to circumvent this, but it doesn’t offer much more than picking another class.

Honorable Mentions

Two more ways to raise the dead are available, but it isn’t worth it if you want to create a large zombie army.

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Oathbreaker Paladins can access Animate Death and use their Channel Divinity in the same way as School of Necromancy wizards to control undead. They are limited to this ability, unfortunately.

Plane Schift: Zendikar Vampire Race offers a handy little feature called blood Thirst which can return a slain enemy as a null.

This is Zendikar’s version of a zombie/vampire hunter. It does not deal 1+1d6 damage and must kill an enemy to make them a thrull. This makes it very difficult to win the last blow.

School of Necromancy Wizards is the best option for someone who wants to raise dead but does not offer the same powerful crowd-controlling effects as other magic schools.

Clerics, on the other hand, don’t provide the same number of spells to raise dead but they offer more utility overall and can pack an even bigger punch with some Channel Divinity. 

Also, large evil Clerics wearing heavy armor sound great and subvert the tropes of your average necromancer.

If I’m going to play a character that wants to raise the dead and I have a plan to do so, 9/10 times I will choose School of Necromancy. It is just as well-equipped and allows me to live out my dreams of ruling the country.

How do I raise the dead?

Let’s now talk about the spells that can be used to raise our undead armies. 

These spells are great and offer many ways to reanimate corpses.

Two of them are high-damaging spells.

Animate Dead

A third-level Cleric and Wizard spell

This is the simplest of all spells. Simply pick a dead body within 10 feet and you’ll make it your friend. 

You can add two additional targets to each spell slot if you cast it at a higher level than the 3rd. 

This will give you the best undead value for your money and is truly a cornerstone in necromancy.

Remember that School of Necromancy Wizards can add this spell to the spellbook at 6th level through UndeadThralls.

They can target another corpse and their zombies are more powerful overall.

Negative Energy Flood

Xanathar’s Guide to Everything p.163

A 5th-level Warlock and Wizard spell

This is my favorite spell, simply for the chaos. When this spell deals a fatal blow to an enemy, they will return as zombies on their next turn to attack anyone who is nearest to them. 

It is important to remember that this spell does not allow you to control the zombie. It only attacks those closest to it. 

To cast this spell you must be a School of Necromancy wizard. However, Command Undead allows you to take control of the zombie.

This spell can permanently grant you an undead minon. This spell does not specify that it must be recast to keep the zombie alive.

As long as you succeed with Command Undead, your friend will remain yours forever.

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Danse Macabre

5th level Warlock/Wizard spell.

Ever wanted to be a part of a zombie army now? Danse Macabre gives you five undead friends to keep you company for as long as an hour (if you can concentrate). 

Although this friendship is only temporary, it does give you an additional bonus to attack or damage rolls equal to your Spellcasting MODIF. 

Your army-in-a can grow as you increase the number of spells you cast.

Although this spell can be useful in a pinch it is not a good option for friendships that last a long time. The undead will no longer exist after the hour ends. 

It can be very useful to summon up several of your deceased enemies.

Create Undead

Player’s Handbook, p.229

6th level Cleric/Warlock/Wizard spell.

Animate dead’s brother Create Undead lets you have more ghouls and more powerful spells. These ghouls are more powerful than other reanimation spells that create a zombie.

Ghouls have an AC that is higher than zombies and deals more damage. Their Claws attack does a bit less damage than their Bite attack but can paralyze an enemy for up to a minute.

These will not get affected by Undead Thoralls, which means that they won’t get the bonuses Wizards get.

This is why you need to consider this when deciding which spell you should prepare.

Finger of death

7th level Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard spell.

Give them the finger when in doubt

This spell is extremely damaging and can kill a humanoid. If it does, it will return them to life as a permanent zombie

Similar to Negative Energie Flood but without the need for Command Undead. This spell is quite basic, but it takes longer to master 7th-level spells.

There are often better options for damage at this level.


How can you raise the dead in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition?

Animate Dead, the best spell to raise dead, is available to many classes. It can be scaled with higher spell slots. School of Necromancy Wizards gain stronger zombies by their class ability.

Which class is best for a Necromancer?

School of Necromancy Wizards makes the best necromancer characters. Their spell list is the most extensive, and many of their class features will enhance your undead minions.

Who can bring the dead to life in 5th Edition?

School of Necromancy Wizards and Death Domain Clerics, Oathbreaker Paladins, Warlocks, and Warlocks have access to spells that create zombies using at least one spell.Raising the dead in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition doesn’t require a lot of skill. Players have a variety of classes to choose from. You’ll be able to start your undead minions collection in no time, depending on the rules of your Dungeon Master and the setting in which your campaign takes place. To maximize your experience, make sure you weigh all options and talk to your Dungeon Masters.