[RPG] Does “Speak with Dead” work with (well preserved) skeletons


The spell Speak with Dead says that we can talk with a dead corpse.

Does that mean it only works with bodies of people who were recently killed? A body that was not yet completely rotten?

I was hoping that a bard NPC would be able to talk with a long dead dwarf who would give some information about his life. Some precisions that the bard is looking for. Obviously, I can just make it work (I'm the DM, after all,) but I am wondering whether the spell is really that limited or not.

P.S. That skeleton has never been an undead. The dwarf just decomposed to a skeleton over the years. We're good on that end.

Best Answer

There are a few corpse references we can look at that might help you make an informed decision.

First is the Animate Dead spell, PHB pg.212;

Choose a pile of bones or a corpse of a Medium or Small humanoid within range. [...] The target becomes a skeleton if you chose bones or a zombie if you chose a corpse.

In this case, a pile of bones does not qualify as a corpse for the purpose of reanimation and the two terms are not interchangeable.

Next is the Create Undead spell (PHB, pg.229) which uses the corpses of humanoids to create ghouls, ghasts, wights, or mummies. Each of which is generally depicted as being more than just a pile of bones. Since it doesn't say that a pile of bones (or skeleton) can be used to create these creatures, we can infer that once again just the bones don't qualfy as a corpse.

As such I would conclude that the Speak with Dead spell cannot be used on a skeleton. But hey, if you want it to work than as the DM you have the power to make it work.