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"Who'd have thought being a vampire slayer was so fuckin' easy? Stakes and garlic, waste of time, chuck some feathers from the item store at it!"
The Spoony One, on Final Fantasy VIII's use of this trope

A game mechanic where undead enemies can be quickly defeated with health items or by casting healing/revival magic. From a gameplay standpoint, this simply allows healing skills to do double duty as Turn Undead, and makes the party's dedicated healer not-so-useless when your party is asked to explore that ancient crypt at night. Logically, it's often explained or assumed that the source of healing magic (usually nature or the divine) is anathema to the undead. This particular example is one of the worst cases of Guide Dang It!, since it's unintuitive to cast a healing spell on an enemy if players are unfamiliar with this trope, and they may assume that it's simply not possible to do so for the quite logical reason that no player would want to heal their enemies in any other circumstances.

Another way to look at it is that revival magic/items bring dead things back to life, therefore using them on something that is undead causes it to become unalive... in other words, dead.

For overlooked techniques that are genuinely useless except for one very specific situation, see Not Completely Useless. Compare Sliding Scale of Undead Regeneration for ways the undead can heal without, err, re-dying? Subtrope of Holy Hand Grenade, where Holy magic is explicitly used to kill and maim enemies, living or not. Also a subtrope of Outside-the-Box Tactic, which covers any weakness an enemy might have that is not immediately apparent.


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    Video Games 
  • Absented Age: Squarebound: Undead enemies take damage from healing, which means skills and items that can heal the enemy can be situationally useful. This is especially true if the player is faced with ghost enemies, which resist everything except psychic, light, and healing.
  • Amateur Surgeon: Applying healing gel on Vladimir Ampire from the second game hurts him, but his heart rate is always zero, so it doesn't matter.
  • Ancient Domains of Mystery: Casting various healing spells, including Bless, on undead damages them. Throwing potions of cure corruption also dramatically weakens the chaos beings.
  • Anti-Idle: The Game's Battle Arena has a number of undead enemies, and the Scary Graveyard area only has undead enemies. The Heal spell not only heals you, but also has a "power" stat that indicates how powerful it is against undead enemies proportional to the amount of HP you recover from using the spell. Be careful, however, as some enemies, including undead enemies, can zombify you as well, causing you to be hurt by your own healing; spamming Heal while zombified in an attempt to restore HP or attack undead enemies may result in Yet Another Stupid Death.
  • In Baldur's Gate II, a quest involves defeating a monster that is completely invulnerable to all conventional methods of attack, but will die when even the weakest healing spell is used on it. Thankfully, this isn't hard to find out, and the game helpfully puts a somewhat-hidden healing scroll in the same room.
  • In a variation, the easy way to beat the boss fight against Cyanis in The Bards Tale III is to cast cure on him. He's not a zombie, though, just a good man gone mad from grief.
  • Black & White 2: The Battle of the Gods expansion's "Life" miracle is an Area of Effect that resurrects the dead and instantly destroys the undead. As the expansion's villain often deploys undead armies against your living followers, this can make for an Exploited Immunity, but otherwise has a far higher Mana cost than direct-damage miracles.
  • Bloodborne has a peculiar example; the Choir Bell heals the user and allies and does not damage undead. However, if you attempt to use it on NPCs that are near death it will kill them instead.
  • Bravely Default plays this trope entirely straight; enemies with the Undead type will be damaged by curative spells. Raise and Phoenix Downs kill them instantly, but there's a chance they won't work. Not much of a problem if you just command everyone to Brave to the maximum and have them all try to revive the enemy, especially with the Sage's Staff that allows free use of Raise. One boss later in the game is an undead dragon that will restore to full HP when killed, which only means you have to revive it twice, which you're probably already in the process of doing. Less so with the boss of Everlast Tower; he can be damaged by healing spells but he won't be killed by revival spells. Notably, the recovery inversion applies not only to HP and MP, but to BP as well, which are required to perform actions.
  • This is actually a plot point in Bravely Default II. In the first half of Chapter 4, Wiswald is beseiged by the undead Arcanist Vigintio, who fancies himself the "Mighty Wight" and plans to raise an army of the undead with the citizens of Wiswald itself his latest intended conscripts. Because he himself is undead thanks to his own arts taking effect after Lady Emma killed him, conventional tactics are much less effective on him; indeed, he absorbs Wind magic as well as all three Black Mage elements, and most status effects are ineffectual against him. Of course, he also inherited the undead weakness to life magic, and wald ash wood (like the skeleton of Lily's Mona scarecrow) is brimming with the stuff, making it an ideal material to make a stake out of. Three life bars later, Elvis jams the stake through Vigintio's chest, both resurrecting him (the stake's supercharged enchantment overpowers his undeadening) and killing him all over again (having a sharp piece of wood shoved through your chest will do that to you).
  • In the 3rd Breath of Fire game, you will occasionally run into a large group of Zombie enemies lead by a "ZombieDr". Wail on his team for a bit, and the good Doctor will use the game's most powerful full-party healing spell... at which point this trope turns it into one of the most hilarious things to ever happen in a random encounter in RPG history.
    • In the first dungeon right after the time skip, you encounter a Zombie Dragon boss who loves mass status effects and is incredibly annoying. Level-grind Garr to 26 beforehand and cast Kyrie, hilarity ensues.
  • You can learn a spell in Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin that cures vampirism. It also serves as one of the only two ways to keep red skeletons and axe knights from rising from their ashes.
  • Clive Barker's Undying: This is one way to kill the Skeleton Monks, until you get the Scythe and are able to decapitate them.
  • In Dark Souls II, Holy Water Urns are described as being a soothing potion, but their use in game is limited to throwing them at any Hollowed or undead enemies, including other players, to damage them by "scalding their skin." However, it has no effect, healing or damaging, to any non-Hollowed creatures.
  • In Diablo II, Paladin's skill "Holy bolt" heals allies and hurts undead.
  • Zig-zagged in the Divine Divinity series:
  • In Dragon Quest III, Zoma (the game's final boss) can be severely damaged by healing spells or Medical Herbs. In fact, this is the most effective way to attack him. He has to be weakened first with the Sphere of Light, though. There is absolutely nothing in the game that suggests this is possible. Even the complete walkthrough provided in the NES manual didn't say anything.
  • Earthlock: Ghost type enemies are damaged by healing spells and items. If you use a healing item on them, you have a chance of a Critical Hit.
  • In Elden Ring, this is typically averted for skeletons and other undead, except for the Revenant enemies, who are Humanoid Abominations imbued with the power of death. Casting a healing spell capable of healing allies near them will deal an exceptional amount of damage and open them up for a Critical Hit. This is often the best strategy for defeating them, as the larger Royal Revenants are Demonic Spiders par excellence.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has a variation of this trope; Turn Undead spells are treated as part of the Restoration school alongside healing magic, and characters who master the Restoration school can choose to take the Necromage perk, making all their spells more effective against the undead. Amusingly, characters who turn themselves into vampires and take necromage will find that both their offensive spells are more useful against undead, and buff effects they use on themselves will be more effective.
    • The first DLC, Dawnguard, introduces some Sun damage spells, which specifically only damage undead. It's a partial set compared to the Destruction spells (three compared with the Destruction effects of seven each), and only specifically harms Undead, but it has a very long afterburn damage (even moreso than fire damage's afterburn), and also is significantly cheaper to cast than Destruction spells. They also allow for (usually) worry-free friendly fire, which is helpful when getting them off hapless city-dwellers in the middle of a vamp attack... with the sole exception when your follower happens to be Serana.
  • The Final Fantasy series allows this a lot.
    • This mechanic has been in the series since Final Fantasy II. Final Fantasy instead had the more Turn Undead-style Dia/Harm line of spells.
    • In Final Fantasy IV, Scarmiglione and his zombie minions are hurt and killed by using healing spells and items. Revive spell and items won't kill them outright, but will score huge amounts of damage.
      • In the DS version the second form will counter every physical or black magic attack using a gas that inflicts silence, slow, poison, and confusion. Effectively, the only way to defeat the boss without burning through all of your items was to spam Cure spells and Hi-Potions on him.
    • Final Fantasy V was also the first appearance of the Kill Revives Zombie inversion in the series. It made the Assassin's Dagger pretty much unusable in certain areas.
      • Being a Necromancer or wearing the Bone Mail also make you an undead. In short, Revive Kills You and Kill Revives You.
      • The Moogle Eater boss can be beaten instantly with a Phoenix Down or the Raise spell.
      • You could also use a Gold Needle (which cures Petrification) to get an instant-kill on Stone enemies.
    • Final Fantasy VI
      • While using a Phoenix Down will kill any undead enemy in one hit, they can be expensive to stock up on. Holy Waters turn out to also kill undead enemies instantly, but they cost quite a bit less.
      • The Phantom Train drops from one Phoenix Down.
      • FFVI was supposed to have the reverse to this system as well: while curative magic and items healed regular characters and hurt undead enemies, Seizure and Phantasm would hurt regular characters and heal undead. Unfortunately, due to one of the numerous bugs in the game's battle system, the status effect didn't work like it was supposed to, and actually ended up hurting the monsters that used Seizure instead of healing them. The resultant battles are rather humorous to watch.
      • Another "counter" to this system is the exact reverse of Revive Kills Zombie: kill revives zombie. Using Instant Death effects like the Death spell or the effect of an Assassin's Dagger will on an undead foe will cause them to die... and then instantly regenerate with full HP.
      • Also interesting is that the zombie damage system can be applied to player characters. Anyone wearing a Lich Ring is turned undead without the side effects of the Zombie condition, and so will be healed by Death and Poison, and harmed by Cure. Also applies to Gau raging an undead enemy.
    • Final Fantasy VII
      • A ghost boss can be killed instantly by using an X-potion (restores a living party member to full HP) on it, since it has less than 9999 HP.
      • Casting "Angel Whisper" (ultimate cure-everything-even-death spell) on an undead enemy will result in instant death (no HP loss) + many status ailments.
      • Because Final Fantasy VII's version of White Wind also cures status effects, using it on an undead enemy instantly kills it via petrification unless the monster in question is immune.
    • Final Fantasy VIII
      • There's the Zombie President, which transforms into a zombie after a few hits. After it transforms, it can be killed by a single Phoenix Down. The success rate, however, is quite low, so it actually takes a relatively large number of Phoenix Downs to kill him. His human form also allows you to draw Cure from him, strongly nudging you towards killing him with healing magic.
      • Abaddon. A Phoenix Down will miss, but the Curaga spell will severely damage him. For some unknown reason, he has the spell himself so you don't even need to use up your own magic stock, just keep drawing and casting!
      • The Zombie status effect makes player characters subject to this trope, as well as turning their models a strange shade of green. This is its only effect, so you might wonder why the enemies bother... right up until the point you get one-shotted with a Curaga.
    • Final Fantasy IX
      • The standard cure reversal works, and Life and Full Life both kill undead monsters instantly, while Phoenix Down causes HP to 1 to zombies, allowing even Dagger, whose weapons are the weakest, to finish them off. Oddly enough, though, zombification doesn't wear off upon death, making the game hate you during the Iifa Tree level, where your characters keep getting zombified. You can't revive a zombified party member unless you first remove the zombie status with an item — and Remedy (the cure-all for status effects) doesn't cure zombification or viral infection.
      • And like Final Fantasy V, chucking a Soft at certain 'stone' enemies will kill them instantly — perfect for taking out those Epitaphs (though you don't gain XP using this method).
    • Final Fantasy X
      • Evrae Altana takes twonote . Final boss Yu Yevon, while not a zombie, is vulnerable to zombification (unlike most boss monsters); coupled with his habit of casting a very powerful cure spell during any turn in which his life is not at maximum, this makes it fairly easy to trick him into killing himself.
      • One boss uses this exact tactic against your party, using a Zombie attack on one of your party members followed by Life (which kills Zombies). This can easily be used to your advantage, though: Occasionally he will aim for a party member he did not Zombify, causing nothing to happen. He might even hit a dead party member, reviving him with full HP. A later Sequential Boss Lady Yunalesca also resorts to Zombie effects in her second form which you must "suffer" before defeating her, because the first action of her third form is a global death effect which only Zombied party members or party members with Deathproof armor equipped will survive.
      • Almost the ONLY way for a reasonably leveled party to take on the Dark Flans inside Mount Gagazet is to use a zombie weapon to inflict the status on the flan, then Phoenix Down or Life it to death.
    • Final Fantasy XII
      • This trope is the basis for one of the main game-breakers, where you can farm Dustia, an undead rare monster far beyond your combat level, right at the start of the game by repeatedly spawning it and throwing a Phoenix Down at it for an instant kill. This allows a player to level up Vaan to level 40+ in an absurdly short stint and in turn raises all of your eventual allies levels through Leaked Experience.
      • While in the Lhusu Mines, you can be overwhelmed by undead such as Skull Defenders. You can take care of them by casting Cure spells on them.
      • The game also has the "Reverse" status, which inflicts this trope on non-zombies (damage heals and healing damages). The Esper Ultima likes to inflict this on the party, then spam high-level healing magic.
      • The Nihopalaoa accessory reverses the effect of the wearer's healing items, meaning that a Remedy will inflict enemies with every status ailment they're not immune to, which includes Petrification.
      • In the original game, this is the reason why the Esper Zalera heals using Holy. The game considers him an undead target that absorbs Holy, so the only way he can heal himself is using that spell. Not the case in the Zodiac versions, as he is no longer considered an undead and no longer absorbs Holy.
    • Final Fantasy Tactics
      • Played completely straight, while also adding practicality to the Life 2 spell; both versions of it are lethal to the undead, but the upgraded form is much more accurate. It also makes battles against undead squads the perfect place to deploy a character with the Calculator skill; even if their spell parameters hit everybody on the field, that's hardly a problem if you're casting Cure 4 or Life 2 on your party of living beings.
      • In Final Fantasy Tactics A2 there is one Side Quest where a requester wants a Potion and Hi-Potion to heal up, but winds up hurting herself drinking the Potion because she is a zombie. Luso stops her from drinking the Hi-Potion, which would have been extremely fatal. Keep taking care of her, and you're able to cure her zombism and make her an Optional Party Member.
      • Somewhat notably, undead enemies aren't truly killed when their HP reaches zero — they're out of commission, but come back to life with full HP after a few turns (or in the case of the original, have a chance of reviving when their counter reaches 0). Phoenix Down and the Raise/Revive spells are some of the only ways to put zombies, ghosts, and vampires out of commission permanently, but they have a low probability of actually working unless the undead bad guy in question is pushing up daisies.
    • An unintentional, but still fitting example in Final Fantasy Mystic Quest with the Final Boss, the Dark King. An overflow glitch causes the healing spell Cure to hit the boss for absurd amounts of damage when cast by the main character. note  However, it's also played straight with the undead Flamerus Rex boss and its later pallete swap, with Cure being referred to as a "zombie attack" when its weakness is displayed to the player.
      • Aside from Cure, all of your White Magic takes an offensive bent when used on enemies. Life becomes an insta-kill spell, Heal hits the targeted enemy with every status affliction it would normally cure, and Exit boots them out of reality entirely.
    • Final Fantasy XIV doesn't allow players to use healing magic on enemies - using a spell which heals your target will simply apply the effect to yourself if you're targeting an enemy - so undead enemies have to be beaten the normal way. The final boss in the hard version of the Lost City of Amdapor dungeon has Cure III and Cure IV to heal itself and an altered Regen spell to create a healing field for itself, but it can also use Reverse on itself to reverse the healing properties by having casting Cure III and Cure IV on your party for damage and making the Regen field cause the Bleeding status if you stand in it.
  • Healing magic in Guardian Heroes harms anything that is weak to "Light" elemental spells, often for the undead enemies like animated skeletons and zombies.
  • In Might and Magic: Heroes VI, healing spells with the light element can be used offensively against undead and demons. Since orcs in the setting are part human, part demon, they can use light magic for healing, but can be harmed if an enemy uses light magic against them.
  • Kingdom Hearts: Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 ReMIX have Grand Ghosts, which can only be found in Monstro's stomach. Grand Ghosts are immune to all physical and magic attacks, and can only be defeated by using healing items on them. The stronger the healing item, the more damage dealt and the higher the chance they will drop Frost Stones (and past a certain point, might drop additional Frost Stones).
  • King's Bounty: In the sequels, some healing spells damage Undead troops.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: Oracle Games: The Rod of Seasons carries the blessings of Holodrum's spirits of nature and is used to bring life to the land. As such, the only enemies it's effective on as a weapon are the undead ones — Stalfos, Gibdos, Ghinis, and the two Poe Sisters.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker: The logic behind the Kalle Demos' weakness against Forest Water, as it's an overgrown, vicious plant that seems to thrive on the sullied water of the Forbidden Woods.
  • In Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals, any healing magic harms undead creatures. This makes the battle against the Ghost Ship much easier, as you'll likely have the most powerful healing spells by this point.
  • Magicka: most spells cast using the Life element heal the living and deal damage to zombies. Which explains the ability to place healing mines.
  • In effect in MapleStory, where Undead monsters will immediately become Clerics' favourite monsters to grind on, as the Heal skill heals them, heals all nearby party members and damage any undead monsters in the area. They can just spam the Heal skill on mobs of undead monsters and the only thing they'll ever have to worry about is MP. Not a bad deal.
  • Multipart browser RPG MARDEK has a Zombie status effect (which turns your party members into zombies who attack you) and an item, Holy Water, that cures it. Using Holy Water on a pre-existing zombie does nothing. Healing spells, however, do decent damage to undead.
    • In one of the more oddly hilarious yet annoying cases of this, Vehrn, an overbearingly religious paladin of YALORT, gets a skill in Chapter 3 called Lay Hands. It heals, and can cure curses and zombification. The catch? It deals light damage to a zombified party member Vehrn cures with it.
  • Might and Magic VII plays it straight - characters raised as zombies at a dark-aligned temple or with the Reanimate spell take damage instead of being healed by healing spells such as Heal or Power Cure.
  • Minecraft has several kinds of potions with beneficial or harmful effects. For every type, you can use it on yourself, or turn it into a splash potion to throw at friends or enemies. Undead mobs are healed by potions of Harming but take damage from from potions of Healing. They are, however, fully immune to both poison and regeneration, the slow acting counterparts of these effects.
  • In Bungie's Myth series, healing any undead unit will kill it. A glitch/feature allows you to use this against the final boss of the first game, breaking the otherwise awesomely challenging ending with a One-Hit Kill. The second game averts the trope with all undead boss and mini-boss units – healing them will actually heal them.
  • In NetHack, the Finger of Death spell, one of the most powerful spells in the game, resulting in an instant kill if the target is not undead, only serves to heal Death, while Pestilence can be healed by potions of sickness and damaged by potions of healing.
  • As Neverwinter Nights uses the D&D ruleset, this works as expected. Players mystified by Vampire Priests who unexpectedly die in a flash of white energy might be amused to learn that, when seriously injured, any NPC with standard cleric AI might attempt to use healing magic on themselves, thus committing suicide as undead. (Irritatingly, the XP goes away, too.) The part about undead being healed by necrotic energy is also the case, which can be very inconvenient if, for example, you have hired a cleric to follow you around and they've gotten up to learning Harm, which they will cast on the enemy whether or not you want them to.
    • In the premium module Pirates of the Sword Coast, your character becomes undead. After that point healing spells and potions hurt you, and you must instead chug potions of harm to restore your HP. (Mercifully, if you decide to export your undead character into a different module, they'll retain all the undead immunities but can be healed with normal curative magic.)
  • In the first Ogre Battle, the Cleric and its promoted forms were frail casters whose main spells were dedicated to healing; while they could attack if placed in the front row, said attack was exceptionally weak and the Cleric was likely to be slaughtered if they were on the front lines. When facing against Undead units, however, Clerics suddenly gained the ability to cast their healing spells on their foes for a One-Hit Kill; early in the game, they would likely be the only units who could hope to harm Undead, since Undead were immune to everything but White magic, and the only other white magic spells required rare items, difficult to level up characters, or one-use Tarot cards.
  • Pokémon Diamond & Pearl introduced Black Sludge, an item that harms its holder. That is, unless held by a Poison type, which is healed instead.
  • Played straight in the MMORPG Ragnarok Online, where the Resurrection spell and items that give the same effect have a chance to instantly kill any non-boss creature with the undead element, even other players (assuming they wear armour that gives them the undead element). Healing spells of every sort also damage undead enemies (and allies), the exception being the Alchemist's Potion pitcher skill.
  • Pretty standard in Septerra Core. However, if you don't know the trope, the third boss becomes a Puzzle Boss.details  The healing item that does enough damage cannot be bought at this point yet, but it's pretty hard to miss. Or Level Grinding is an option.
  • Shantae and the Seven Sirens: Shantae's Refresh Dance has this kind of effect on certain enemies. Bonefish are killed instantly by it, mummies are turned into naked zombies before exploding from Defeat by Modesty, while Sickly Silverfish aren't killed so much as have their sickness cured, turn friendly, and start throwing you gems.
  • In Spore, the Grox are vulnerable to hospitable planets, which means that their planets can be conquered by terraforming them.
  • S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl has an oversight which allows you to apply the inverse of this to yourself, in a manner of speaking. The gist of it is that there are artifacts you can attach to your armor to increase your resistance to certain damage types like electricity — get enough of them with strong enough effects and your resistance to that damage type gets so high it wraps around and applies negative damage to you when you take that type of damage, even repairing your armor.
  • Warcraft
    • Done and given an Evil Counterpart in Warcraft III: The Paladin spell Holy Light harms undead and heals the living, while the Death Knight spell Death Coil harms the living and heals the undead.
    • World of Warcraft
      • Usually the game ignores this for gameplay reasons: undead PCs can be healed and revived just like the living. However, the spell Holy Shock was turned into a Healing Shiv, harming enemies and healing allies. When Death Knights became playable, their version of Death Coil can only heal their own summoned creatures or themselves.
      • In the Naxxramas raid, there is even a Death Knight able to wield the Holy Light. He is described as "a paladin in life, so strong in his faith, that even in undeath, the power of the light still heeds his call, smiting his foes in battle".
    • In the Warcraft tabletop RPGnote , it is stated in the rules that using resurrection spells on undead creatures won't work, or if the undead has been "killed", return it back to unlife. This is apparently because resurrection spells return the being's soul to their body, and the undead still have their soul, it's just bound to the undead body (making undeath their "natural" state). Light-based healing should still damage the undead since they're powered by the antithesis of the Light.
    • Word of God says that undead who keep their own will can use and be healed by the light, it just hurts like hell.
      "Wielding the Light is a matter of having willpower or faith in one's own ability to do it. That's why there are evil paladins. For the undead, this requires such a great deal of willpower that it is exceedingly rare, especially since it is self-destructive. When undead channel the Light, it feels (to them) as if their entire bodies are being consumed in righteous fire. Forsaken healed by the Light (whether the healer is Forsaken or not) are effectively cauterized by the effect: sure, the wound is healed, but the healing effect is cripplingly painful."
  • In Xenogears, a particularly notorious enemy not only gets healed by offensive spells, but also by basic physical attacks. The ensuing rage and confusion is usually enough to stop most players from discovering that using even the weaker heals on it drops it pretty quickly — though it seems obvious now, imagine you're experimenting with all the different elements, deathblows, lethal items, trying to find SOMETHING that can stop this thing... experimentation usually stops short of trying to heal your foes, especially when the monster's appearance and name don't exactly give away this trait. They also have an HP to 1 ability. This monster alone takes its place among the game's other puzzles that collectively make the average gamer feel like a dunce.
  • XenoSaga: The most common way to kill the Larva Doll and Larva Face monsters is by healing them, however you can also use KOS-MOS's Gate Ether on them as well, which is actually more helpful because when used on the Larva Doll, they get killed instead of turning into Larva Face.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Originated in the Dungeons & Dragons tabletop roleplaying system, from which a great many of the mechanics of fantasy RPGs, and the tropes based on them, arose.
    • In early editions, this is explained within the rules by stating that undead creatures are powered by negative energy, while healing spells work by channeling positive energy. When the two types meet, they cancel each other out, harming the undead by negating part of their 'life'-force. On the flip side, Inflict Wound spells use negative energy to harm the living, and thus heal undead creatures. Most Necromancy spells, which use negative energy, only heal Undead foes. An exception is "Undeath to Death", one of the very few instant-kill spells that can affect them.
    • The actual return from the dead spells, however, require material components worth thousands of GP (that are consumed by the casting), take several minutes (a minute being ten combat rounds) to cast, and explicitly state they do not work on undead creatures, at least not if the undead creature hasn't been re-killed already (in which case it turns the undead creature back into who it was when it was alive).
      • In second edition and before, however, it did work on undead creatures, either destroying them or turning them into living creatures depending on exactly what rule you looked at. The description of the mummy in first edition stated specifically that a resurrection spell turns it into a normal fighter. Raise Dead acted as Slay Living for undead. (Yeah, it makes sense.) But then, 2nd ed. had the entire concept of "reversible" spells...
      • According to 3.5, undead are in fact turned back to normal by the spell true resurrection, which makes for some very interesting RP opportunities and new chars.
    • Ruins of Zhentil Keep boxed set Monstrous Compendium Appendix. When the undead known as "burnbones" had curative spells (such as Cure Light Wounds) applied to them, they took Hit Points of damage instead of having existing damage healed.
    • Changed in 4th Edition, wherein healing effects work the same on everybody, and the old "positive energy/negative energy" has been changed to "radiant damage/necrotic damage". Undead are resistant to necrotic damage and vulnerable to radiant damage, but enough necrotic damage will still destroy undead, and radiant damage hurts the living too. 5th edition brought back the concept of positive and negative energy in flavor text, but the mechanics behind healing spells and radiant and necrotic damage remain the same as 4th Edition, making the concept The Artifact only useful in defining the nature of undead.
    • In the Endless Quest series published by TSR (a sort of Choose Your Own Adventure IN D&D! series), one ending for Lair of the Lich is to cast raise dead on said lich from his own spell book, turning him into a powerless old man. This doesn't work in the game at all of course, but hey, it was funny.
    • One of the odder monsters of the old-school D&D games was the Nilbog, a goblin that could not be killed with regular attacks and spells, as such attacks would heal him rather than hurt him. The only way to kill him was to use healing spells.
    • This is the basis of the Arrow of Cure Wounds. Hit a living being, it takes damage and gets healed, resulting in minor damage overall (and possibly someone very pissed at you). Hit an undead masquerading as a living being, and it takes massive damage.
  • Justified in Eon; with the way Mundana's Functional Magic works, different aspects of magic within the same "schools" of magecraft tend to be "opposites" of each other. E.g., Pyrotropy and Hydrotropy are opposite aspects within the school of Elemental Forces, meaning it's much harder to use Pyrotropic magic while submerged in water, and it's likewise harder to use Hydrotropic magic while surrounded by raging fires. Biotropy and Necrotropy are opposite aspects within the school of Life Forces, meaning that healing magic cancels out the energies that makes a corpse move, and the kinda energies that makes a corpse move can also cancel out the effects of a healing spell.
  • Exalted has a Charm (Order-Affirming Blow) that undoes Shaping effects. Guess what? The Fair Folk use shaping effects to create their bodies. One-Hit Kill.
  • Fabula Ultima:
    • Zigzagged with NPC undead. When an HP-restoring effect is used on an undead creature, the person who produced the effect can choose to have it heal them normally, or have it damage them for an amount equal to half of what it would have restored.
    • Averted by undead player characters. Curative items and spells have the same effect on them as they do on living characters, so an undead PC who quaffs a Remedy will recover hit points just as their living buddies would.
  • Inverted in Geist: The Sin-Eaters: Death heals Sin-Eaters. The lore states that while death is commonly seen as 'the end of an energy (life)', there is power in death itself, one that Sin-Eaters can tap into. To put in practice, Sin-Eaters can regain health by destroying one of their Haunted Fetter or murdering someone else to tap into said death-energy. And if everything else fails, the Geist can shunt away a Sin-Eater's death to another random person so that person dies in place of the Sin Eater. Karma Meter issues aside, these make Sin-Eaters pretty darn hard to put down.
  • Pathfinder, being based off D&D 3.5, uses the same positive energy/negative energy mechanics for its healing spells, however there are a few modifications:
    • A divine spell caster (such as a Cleric) who can channel positive energy, must choose between channeling energy with the intent of healing living creatures, or channeling with the intent to inflict damage on undead. They cannot do both at the same time, even if living allies and undead enemies are all within the channel's effective area.
    • Resurrection spells have no effect on active undead, and only the more powerful versions can raise somebody from the dead after they've been turned into an undead creature and then destroyed.
    • Some undead creatures, such as the Wight, have a specific weakness to resurrection magic, which can instantly destroy them. Since those spells usually require the caster to touch the target for one to ten minutes, it's not a practical weakness to exploit.

Non-game Examples

    Anime & Manga 
  • The protagonist of Ankoku Kishi No Ore Desu Ga Saikyou No Seikishi Wo Wezashimasu has a Dark-enhanced constitution. As a result, holy and light magic would harm his body instead of properly healing or buffing him. He's Covered in Scars as a result.
  • In Fairy Tail, during the Key of the Starry Skies arc, one of the members of the Reborn Oracion Seis, while not technically undead, gained his newfound powers by losing his memories, and the simple act of them coming back actually causes him physical pain. To defeat him, Wendy hit him with a healing-spell-enhanced Sky Dragon's Roar to cause him to regain all of his memories, freeing him from the Dark Guild's grasp.
  • During the final battle in Flame of Recca, Mori Kouran, hoping to gain immortality by absorbing Yanagi, is instead destroyed when Yanagi, turned into one of Recca's flames, uses her healing powers to "heal" the bodies absorbed by Mori by sending them into the afterlife, leaving Mori to wither and die.
  • In Goblin Slayer, Priestess deals the first blow to a vampire by casting minor heal on it.
  • Inverted in Inuyasha: Sesshoumaru's sword Tenseiga isn't able to harm living beings, but it can cut spirits, ghosts, and other Made of Air entities. As it happens, this little quirk means that Tenseiga can revive the dead by slaying the spirits that come to gather the dead person's soul. In the cat arc, Sesshomaru defeats a monster that had sucked up the souls of four other demons using Tenseiga, and the trapped souls return to their bodies, rendering the Big Bad's butt infinitely more kickable.
  • Apparently, this is an intrinsic property of Hamon/Ripple in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. It's Life Energy and thus antithetical to undead, especially Dio and his lackeys. In Phantom Blood, Jonathan Joestar defeats Knight Bruford by reversing him to a state of living, ending his undeath.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Reversed curse technique is a method to turn cursed energy into positive energy to heal wounds. Since cursed spirits are made up of cursed energy, the positive energy resulting from reversed curse technique is harmful to them. Yuta took advantage of this to exorcise Kurourushi.
  • Time Stop Hero: Members of the Forces of Darkness are burned by healing spells.

    Comic Books 
  • In Magic: the Gathering (IDW), Dack's friend Fadka uses a healing spell to destroy a Golgari zombie.
  • Wonder Woman
    • Wonder Woman (1942): In the last few issues Diana realizes the things slaughtering the Amazons are not truly living shortly before it's revealed Hades has fallen and the souls which once languished in Tartarus are being used as an army. She using the healing Purple Ray on the invaders and it is far more effective than any of the conventional weapons, with a single bolt to the chest disintegrating them.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Decay, who is a essentially a zombie made from Medusa's heart, is destroyed by the restorative powers of Diana's lasso.

    Fan Works 
  • Daylight Burning: The Lunar guards are technically undead, and as such healing potions burn them and cause their flesh to crumble into ashes.
  • Not the intended use (Zantetsuken Reverse): Chapter 15 mentions healing energy emissions, for normal people, that hurt the undead:
    emitted magic that made living people feel better but hurt the undead

  • Many household items and materials that have a known healing effect are often associated to be used against evil spirits or creatures.
    • For example, silver is a known germicide (it's toxic to germs like many heavy metals, but not toxic enough to kill humans, at least not from incidental contact) and has been used instead of antibiotics throughout history. Werewolves are hurt by silver, as well as vampires and possibly other evil creatures.
    • For that matter, garlic. Good for humans. BAD for vampires. It can be used as to ward them off (rubbing into window panes and door knobs, for instance) and also to poison them. It helps that it was seen as medicinal and it was considered a repellent for serpents and leeches.
  • According to some accounts, the nuckelavee (a skinless, plague-bearing centaur... or, "a very large head on two small arms") was hurt by contact with fresh water.
  • Vampires and evil spirits were believed to be incapable of crossing running water. It's probably based on the ancients noticing that drinking from stagnant water, which was often loaded with dangerous microbes, caused illness, while running water was considered safe for drinking.

  • In The Black Mountains by Fred Saberhagen, Som the Dead, a local viceroy of a vicious empire, has made himself immortal and invulnerable by becoming a living dead. Any attacks against him wound the attacker. He is finally destroyed when, mistaking him for someone horribly wounded and gangrenous, Draffut throws a measure of concentrated liquid life force at him.
  • The Hunter from the Coldfire Trilogy is a strange example. As a consequence of the Deal with the Devil that made him immortal, his very being is so twisted that healing magic would have no effect on him. Worse, if he tried to use it himself it would kill him. When Damian learns this he muses on the irony of being punished for an act of compassion.
  • In Dead Silver, Hawke is a shaman and causes discomfort in undead. His staff, filled with life energy, physically harms any undead it touches.
  • Legend of the Shadow Warriors: The villain, Voivod the High Lord of Death, War and Chaos, and one of the most frightful Champions of Death, Disease and Decay, can only be defeated by reviving him with the Spear of Doom, turning him from an all-powerful Undead Lord into an old man, joyful to be alive again. Destroying Voivod in combat will only have him resurrecting within seconds.
  • In Legend of the Shadow Warriors, the only true way to defeat the undead Tin Tyrant Big Bad Voivod is to use the Spear of Doom to resurrect him, which strips him of his powers and causes him to burst into tears "with the simple joy of being alive".
  • The Licanius Trilogy: Shammaeloth is repelled and harmed by Essence, the magical energy generated by living things. His own magic, kan, is anathema to Essence, and when he makes his final assault on the Deillanis rift he has to send his Banes before him to kill everything in his path, because the plants and animals and people generate enough Essence to slow and harm him.
  • In Night on Mispec Moor by Larry Niven, an alien plant reproduces by infecting newly killed corpses and rallying their bodies for one last lurch. On a battlefield an off-worlder is cornered by these plausible zombies. He's in deep trouble until, in desperation, he tries spritzing one with his pan-spectrum cure spray.
  • For a limited time, the hard copy of Brendan Atkins' online Ommatidia stories came with a personalised story based on the buyer's prompt. Story 34 of 101 was a fictionalised account of a battle against a boss character called The Weeping Boy, in which the text noted The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard with, among other things: "He's undead, but immune to reverse heals!"
  • In Rappaccini's Daughter, the daughter of a botanist, Beatrice Rappaccini, grows up in a poisonous garden and, as a result, becomes poisonous herself. A man falls in love with her from afar and, in desperation, gives her an antidote so they can try to live together. Guess what happens...
  • Jalan in The Red Queen's War briefly is cursed with light magic, which heals humans, but destroys the undead.
  • In the third Way of the Tiger book, Usurper!, you are attacked by Ringwraith expies, the only way to kill one happens to be scrolls of raise dead. Holy water and other attacks merely drive them off.
  • Averted in Wearing the Cape. When Doctor Cornelius speaks the Word of Healing in the presence of Jackie (a vampire), it turns her back into a living human instead of destroying her.
  • Averted in the Xanth series, where water from a healing spring can patch up damage dealt to undead creatures - fairly useful to the (good guy) Zombie Master, since his zombies don't heal naturally. It can't return them to true life, though, only return them to an intact corpse state.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Ricky Fitness saves his fellow Aquabats from grimy sludge monsters with his anti-bacterial hand gel. They later subvert the trope against a fairly clean "lint and cleaning chemicals" monster by using Crash McLarson's lucky socks.
  • Dangerous Zombie's undead powers, as the main characters figure out, are countered by this. Emu uses the reprogramming function of the Maximum Mighty X gashat to refill Kuroto's health bar, which was previously empty and facilitating the undead powers of the form. After that, Parado succeeds in killing him, to Emu's dismay.

  • In The Adventure Zone: Balance Magic Brian tries to convince Merle that healing magic would hurt him, despite the fact that he is a drow (not undead).

  • Destroy the Godmodder: This is used occasionally, but once resulted in a week-long series of hilarity when one player flooded the field with a variant of holy water (which was used twice), most notably unholy water (which was used three times), each time the godmodder was somehow transformed into whatever would benefit from the flood. Culminating in the mass of floods canceling each other out and killing everything but the godmodder.
  • In Roll To Dodge: Savral, holy-based healing spells will harm undead, including zombies, ghosts and liches. One of the players tries to heal himself as a ghost but ends up getting fried instead, though being cursed by Cathy didn't help matters.

    Web Comics 
  • Subverted in Adventurers!: Ardam brings a zombie back to life with a healing spell only for him to die again while being hit by a train during his celebration.
  • In Dominic Deegan, white magic (which usually has restorative and invigorating effects) is not only very effective against undead and necromancers, but potentially lethal to infernomancers. This is apparently not an inherent feature of the magic itself, but rather because demons (and, by extension, their mortal servants) are vulnerable to faith, and white magic has a strong association with holiness among Callanians. For the orcs, who assign little spiritual significance to light or darkness but hold ice to be sacred, ice-based magic is just as effective against demonic foes as white magic is for Callanians.
  • Penny Arcade made a World of Warcraft-related comic about a group of Horde characters gathered around their fallen Undead friend, who was asking politely to be rezzed; the others ponder whether or not casting revival on a zombie would be a good thing or if it would finish him off.
  • In 8-Bit Theater, Chaos has just about torn his way into the dimension in order to turn it into his own hellish playground. The depowered protagonists are helpless and as Chaos goes One-Winged Angel it appears all was doomed... until four healing characters show up and purify Chaos with White Magic.
    White Mage: And then we zapped enough white magic to bring down a vile god of chaotic energy.
    Priest: Which he was.
    Healer: So, that worked out.
  • Referenced in a combination of this Ctrl+Alt+Del strip and the one straight after it. Although in this case it may be that Ethan did not intend the trope's meaning. The fact that the arc so far has a heavy tabletop games theme running through it though seems to indicate that he would know about it.
  • Full Frontal Nerdity played this with regards to a Left 4 Dead-inspired campaign. Cure Disease would kill the zombies by eliminating the virus animating them while a resurrection would return them to life... at which point the other zombies would tear the newly-revived character apart.
  • In The Order of the Stick, this is to be expected as the comic is based on D&D rules.
    • In strip #446, a negative energy spell heals Xykon, a lich.
    • Later, a healing spell harms Malack, a vampire.
    • In strip #1018, a group of clerics attack vampires with "Mass Cure Serious Wounds," while the vampires' allies cast "Mass Inflict Serious Wounds" to heal the vampires.
    • Exploited both ways in #1119 when a group of living characters fights a group of undead: the living use a Mass Cure Wounds Area of Effect spell that simultaneously heals themselves and harms the undead, while the undead use a Mass Inflict Wounds spell that does the opposite.
  • In Homestuck Jane's Trickster mode's life powers kill the undead enemies that inhabit her world. Jade suggests they would also kill Rainbow Drinkers (Troll vampires) like Kanaya. Kanaya thinks Jade doesn't really know a lot about how Rainbow Drinkers work.
  • Subverted in the planned ending of Chainmail Bikini. When fighting the final boss, a lich sorcerer, the party throws a resurrection potion at him, clearly thinking this will happen. The GM rules that instead the lich is simply brought back to life.
  • El Goonish Shive: Curing an aberration of vampirism will instantly kill them.
  • Monsters Can Be Heroes Too: One of the monsters that Coal the Kobold recruits to her party is a skeleton named Shelley who is ironically a White Mage, who joins Coal after she accidentally killed one of her skeleton allies by trying to heal them, causing the other skeletons to turn on her.

    Web Videos 
  • At one point in Tales From My D&D Campaign, the heroes encounter a giant zombie worm that can only be killed by healing magic. It will regenerate damage from any other source.
  • In Noob, the main guild's healer accidentally heals enemies on a regular basis, which is quite annoying for his guildmates... except when they happen to be dealing with undead enemies.

    Western Animation 
  • On Adventure Time, the Lich is hurt by Guardian blood, which has healing properties. It causes his powers to disappear and flesh to grow over his bones and seemingly "reboot" him into a living, apparently harmless, baby who is later named Sweet P. However, the Lich still lives within Sweet P until he eventually rebels against his past self.
  • In The Ghost and Molly McGee, Molly's spectral touch can purify other ghosts. Not so much for the Chairman, who just dies.
  • In one episode ofThe Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Grim gets sick with an illness and gets taken to an underworld hospital to be healed, but since Grim is a skeleton, he "comes back to life" and gets turned into a human instead of being cured.
  • Not undead per se, but in The Legend of Korra, the Dark Avatar is killed off using a form of spiritual waterbending which normally calms down and/or cleanses spirits, presumably because being Made of Evil means there's not much left once the technique's done. For extra irony points, the Dark Avatar's host was the one who taught Korra how to do this.
  • Tigtone:
    • In the first episode of Season 1, Tigtone is sent on a quest to kill an undead villain using the Reverse Dagger, which has the power to stab the dead back to life. The dagger doesn't directly kill undead creatures, but turns them back into living creatures, making them easier to kill, and it doesn't restore missing body parts, so if it revives a zombie missing something important, they do die immediately.
    • In another episode, Tigtone fights against the elemental king of blood. The blood king turns out to have a weakness against healing potions because they cause blood to coagulate into scabs.
  • Wakfu: After being flooded in pure bamboo milk, the zombified village of Pandalusia returns to normal.