Mini-Handbook: Non-animation Ways To Exploit Corpses

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Exploiting Corpses

I thought that I'd write a little mini-handbook for all the ways that one can exploit a corpse. I figured, what the heck, there's tons of stuff that I could do relating to everything important in my life, so why not waste time instead?

Lots of portions were already written in a few different places. I've tried to add some commentary where necessary.

Making Undead
Obviously, the most direct way to exploit a corpse is to create an undead minion. This is not the only way, but perhaps is one of the most powerful methods to get the most bang from your buck. Lots of places for
this info means I won't rewrite anything for this.

  • Animate Dead
  • Create Undead
  • Create Greater Undead
  • Animate Dread Warrior
  • Plague of Undead
  • others...

  • The Dead Walk

  • Necrocarnum Circlet

So, although there's a ton of different ways to make undead, I'm not going to go into the specifics: be aware that all these spells have fairly hefty material component costs, however, and its quite easy to use up 10-20% of your total wealth by level to animate your limit of undead controlled.

Spells to enhance undead, specifically
Spells whose function is self-explanatory:
  • Disguise Undead - obvious
  • Awaken Undead - gives some Int, Wis, and Cha to mindless undead
  • Iron Bones - natural armor for undead
  • Incorporeal Enhancement - AC, HP, attack, turn res. bonuses that scale well
  • Ectoplasmic Enhancement - similar to Incorporeal, but the absolute maximum is higher
  • Defile Snow and Ice - turn and fire resistance

Spells with a bit more explanation needed:
  • Black Sand - negative energy source that does d6 damage per round (ie, heals your undead)
  • Negative Energy Wave - can bolster undead
  • Haunt Shift - consider this Mind Jar for undead, but it can affect objects. Useful to put spellcasting undead into your items to make them less squishy.

Bring them Back!
So, obviously, you can return the creatures to the living.
  • Resurrection, Last Breath, Last Gasp, Reincarnation, Cocoon, Gentle Reposte, Raise Dead, others...

Lots of ways to do this, and the benefits are fairly obvious.

One thing to keep in mind - Reincarnation effects are often a very clever way to get much better creatures than the base creature. For example, if your familiar is a dragon and just happens to die, you can get a stronger dragon familiar via reincarnation.

Besides Making Undead
Other then corpses to fulfill the BSF role, or using them for other more direct ancillary functions, there's several options to use a fresh body in other ways.

Speak with the Dead: There's 3 ways that I know to get this that I'm aware of...
  • know the spell
  • Bind the vestige Acerak
  • take the feat - there's a feat that lets you converse with the recently deceased for a minute or so (eberronian... i need a source for this...)
  • Reveille
  • Last Breath - OK, its tricky, but some creatures might rather be on the material plane in a diminutive form than in a Hell for whatever reason, so there's a chance to use this, too.

Mind Jar Abuse
Potentially the most powerful way to abuse your undead after creating them is to use Mind Jar to switch into them and then essentially get "1-Up" mushrooms for each undead you have. This isn't a [mind] spell, so your undead are totally abusable for this. Have "Disguise Undead" prepared for this, or a Hat of Disguies, as it usually isn't too compatible with most party's allignments.

Mind Jar is vaguely written... its unclear if you are alive or dead when you occupy the gem, and its unclear whether you can actually "die" when the corpse you are occupying is dropped to 0 HP, too. These vagueries
should be addressed immediately by your DM, as it can make a difference to what you can do.

Some "bomb" spells:
  • Transcend Mortality - not sure if this would work, but it might work, again because of the weirdness of the half-state of Mind Jar.
  • Death Throes - The idea here is to use Magic Jar on your mindless horde one at a time with Mind Jar to pop the cork. d8 damage per level isn't much... but it isn't typed, is a 30' radius, and it isn't capped. Abuse with metamagic. Highly DM dependent.
  • Righteous Aura - just as above.
  • Fire Seeds - just carry them over! No DM intervention required, here.

Other Uses
So, I was hoping for a lot more of these, but unfortunately there isn't that much in 3.5 dnd.
  • Rejuvenative Corpse - very flavorful spell that allows your undead to feast on each other to get fast healing 1 for 50 rounds. A medium creature gives 10 meals, for 500 HP of healing.
  • Undead Lieutenant - great for truly large hordes of undead, but not all that exciting. However, commanding undead to do stuff is one of the most boring jobs around, so this spell is nice for not having to do that.
  • Vile Death - theoretically, could be used to bind specific fiends into your horde... could be useful for certain campaigns.
  • Gentle Repost - preserves a corpse... not particularly "exploitation", but mentioned for completeness.

Roleplaying Options
This is all DM and campaign dependent, but here's a few ideas
  • Gentle Repose = preserving corpses for vampires. Resell fresh blood!
  • Animate Objects = confuse the HECK out of Clerics when they waste time trying to turn your Animate Objects corpses!
  • Biological weapons... mummies down a town well = biotoxin'd well
  • Metamagic Components - lots of body parts of various critters get you metamagic'd spells. check out the variant UA rules (

3.0 and 3rd party
I looked up spells in three books that my DM had (and that we play with), and have tried to list them here.

Book - Undead (AEG, 2001):
  • Animation Field - 1 d / L, 100' / level rad, permancy-able, turns every creature that dies in radius into a zombie under caster's control.
  • Feign Life - transmutation that makes undead appear alive.
  • Havrokr's Blessing (3 versions of this spell) - undead get a +1 to +3 sacred bonus on one of - attack / damage; AC / saves; initiative; or an extra attack.
  • Heal Undead - better than inflict serious, same level, only affects undead (there's a whole series of this spell).
  • Mask Undead - undead doesn't appear to be an undead from spells.
  • Mass Animation - similar to legion of skeletons or-whatever-its-called, but lower level, minutes per round, and ignores the limitation on the amount of undead controllable at one time.
  • Strengthen Undead - minute/level buffs for lots of different things.

Book - The Secret College of Necromancy (Arcana, 2000 ?)
  • Call Undead - brings undead to you (huge area)
  • Dead Man's Eyes - see the last thing a dead corpse saw
  • Mend Corpse - more undead healing
  • Cannabalize - sacrifice an undead you control for d3 hp/HD; chance to turn you undead(!)
  • Death Knight Pact - makes a death knight
  • Infuse Dead Flesh - gives undead +2 HP / 2 levels (permanent) (!)
  • Blood / flesh / rot / bone Golem - you need corpses as material component
  • Bolster Undead - like bolstering in effect
  • Bone Machine - build undead constructs
  • legion of skeletons / zombies / mummies / ghouls / wraiths / shadows - permanent ways to get d4 - d6 / level undead. not really exploiting corpses, but you need body parts for material components from undead.
  • soul switch - similar to mind jar in effect
  • From the Ashes - like a contingent "i return as an undead" spell. pretty fun.

Book - Evil (AEG, 2001)
  • Bone Spikes - skeletons do an extra d6 damage with any melee attack (permanent) (!)
  • Bonewand - make, essentially, a 1-charge staff out of bone (permanent undtil discharged). can only have 1 at a time.
  • Necromantic Channel - caster gets all the benefits of a target draining undead's "drain" ability (for example, temporary HP, temporary CL)... this could get very interesting in a CharOp sense... like a poor-man's affinity field...
  • Spirit Link - caster gains d6 temp str / con / or 3d6 HP; target loses same amount.
  • Undead Attraction - similar to the one above.

  • Necromantic Conduit - use an undead to cast necromancy spells through. Unfortunately, I don't have a source for this, but it seems like really good stuff if allowed.

So, that's all I've got for now. I didn't find as much as I was hoping for, but the 3rd party material seems to have a lot going for it (sacrificing corpses for healing, channeling a vampire's level drain bonuses to yourself, and some other random stuff).

Imported from the BG boards.