(Zombie by David Sutherland, 1st ed Monster Manual)
As DM I try not to say “you see two zombies; roll for initiative” or “a ghost is floating in the room”. I prefer to describe what the party actually sees which may be confusing and difficult to identify. The undead don’t wear name tags. They should be unusual and mysterious and horrifying.
So the party sees a menacing figure approaching from the shadows, but only when it is closer can they tell it resembles a walking corpse or a shadowy presence surrounded by an evil chill. After the party has encountered a zombie or a wraith I can tell them later when they see another undead that looks similar. Precise identification of some types will remain difficult, especially the various non-corporeal ones.
Clerics can get extra hints about undead especially at higher character levels. They should be the experts on the spirit world and how the boundary with the material world should and should not be crossed.
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