Maximizing undead controlled through Animate Dead

27 posts / 0 new
Last post
Animate dead seems like it only checks caster level when it is cast to determine if you maintain control or lose control of undead.  Let's say you have a dread necromancer 20 with the Southern Magician feat and the Sickening Grasp feat who wants to animate dead.  He has charisma 34 (18 +5 from levels, +5 inherent, +6 Enhancement).  Prior to casting Animate Dead, he downs a Domain Draught for the Charm Domain and one for the Evil Domain, as well as a Vial of the Last Gasp.  

He wears the following items:  Ankh of Ascension, Band of Spell Enhancement, Robe of Arcane Might (attuned to Necromancy), and Strand of Prayer Beads.  He also has an Orange Prism Ioun stone floating about him.  He activates his Bead of Karma and Charm Domain ability.  Then, as a free action, he activates his Ankh of Ascension, as a swift action he activates his Band of Spell Enhancement, and then as a standard action, he finally casts Animate Dead as a divine spell (using his Barbs of Hextor as a divine focus, and Crypt Powder as an additional spell component).  By my calculations, he has an effective caster level of 
37 (20 +4 Ankh, +1 Sickening Grasp, +1 Evil domain, +2 Band, +1 Robe, +4  Bead of Karma, +1 Vial, +1 Crypt Powder, +1 Barb of Hextor, +1 Ioun Stone)
Additionally, his charisma is 38 (34+4 from Charm domain).  So, he can control using Animate Dead a total number of undead equal to class level x (4+Cha Bonus) + (caster level - class level) x 4 = 20 * (4+14) + 17 * 4 = 428.  If he has a Rod of Undead Mastery, this jumps to 856.  This seems really low.  Anyone know of a way I can pump that up?

Am I correct that it doesn't matter that his caster level immediately drops like a sack of potatoes after casting the spell? Losing control of undead is only checked when the spell is cast to see if undead from previous castings will still be controlled?
I don't think it works like that.

You're basing yourself off of:

"If you exceed this number, all the newly created creatures fall under your control, and any excess undead from previous castings become uncontrolled. (You choose which creatures are released.)"

However, it doesn't say "If you exceed this number by casting the spell again" or something like that, it doesn't specify -when- it checks for the exceeding. The part following it is just poorly worded, as can be readily seen in the contradiction just this one part poses.

However, if we look even earlier in the spell description:

"No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level."

It doesn't say "you can only have 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level right after casting." it says you can only "control" that amount. Obviously, if your caster level drops, the amount of undead you can control drops too, so you have to release a bunch.
But, your effective caster level is only known when casting a spell.  Do you have to constantly know what your effective caster level would be if you were to cast the spell at any given moment?  What about while you sleep?  If you have an Ioun stone that gives +1 caster level, you can control 4 more hit dice of animated skeletons than when you go to sleep and have to put the stone away?  What about if you get level drained?  If you are an 8th+ level dread necromancer, and you get to control 4+charisma modifier HD of undead per caster level.  What happens if you get charisma damage?  All of these things would greatly affect the number of undead you could control.

Additionally, caster level effects are based on when a spell is cast.  They don't track a character's status.  If a 5th level caster shoots his caster level up to 20 before casting Magic Vestment, he has a +5 enhancement bonus to his armor for 20 hours.  It doesn't say that if your caster level changes, the total bonus changes with it.  All spell effects are determined when a spell is cast.  Its ongoing effects don't change as things happen to your character later (with the exception of Dispel Magic, or something like that).
I made a mistake in my original calculation for max HD controlled.  I forgot that the charisma bonus only applied to class levels of Dread Necromancer, not caster level.  So, that greatly reduces the max HD.  Turns out, a bonus to charisma is much better than a bonus to caster level.  (Each +2 to charisma grants 20 additional HD while each +2 to caster level grants only 8 additional HD).

The way the spell works is that you control the appropriate amount of undead based on your caster level but any temporary effects, once ended, cause you to lose the excess hit dice of undead. For example if you just simply had the ioun stone to consider in the caster level adjustment when you cast the spell you keep the extra undead until you take the ioun stone off. The same thing would apply if you where wearing a cloak of charisma for the dread necromancer, once taken off you lose the extra hit dice of undead. Though an often over looked trick with controlling undead is that separate caster levels determine separate pools of undead hit dice under your control unless otherwise stated. A good example of this is an unholy scion gains animate dead as a spell like ability at a certain amount of hit dice and in the description it explicitly states that it doesn’t count against you’re total for controlling undead from a separate source.


 
So then, a rogue who uses a scroll of Animate Dead winds up controlling zero HD of undead, since he has no caster level? That seems like it is not in line with the game mechanics.  Check out the answer I got when I posted on Paizo's forum (the Pathfinder version of Animate Dead is identical to the 3.5 version):  here.
Yes, I would say a rouge using a scroll would control no undead since he has no caster level. creating them however, is another story. this is where teh spell control undead comes into play.
Again, I see no evidence that the game mechanics work this way.  The effect of Animate Dead is instantaneous.  I have not seen any evidence provided in the rules, errata, FAQ, etc. that the spell works as any of you are saying.

Well, think of it this way, if animate dead is instantaneous and doesn’t require you to even have a caster level in order for you to control the undead created, that would theoretically mean that if you had no caster level each individual item has its own control limit. In other words, a rouge could load up on a bunch of caster level 5 scrolls of undead (created by a cleric as to be cheaper) and use them back to back, and due to your argument all the hit dice of undead would stack. Why you ask? Since the rouge has no caster level each item would have its own limit for undead hit dice, ergo infinite amounts of undead controlled. This is why the spell assumes that a caster is using the spell, cause if not there is no base caster level to cap the hit dice at.

That is not true.  There is the caster level of the item, which confers that caster level to the item wielder as the spell effect takes place.  The spell confers control of a maximum of 4*CL HD of undead to the rogue.  If the rogue then uses another item with a new source of Animate dead, the item is not the source.  The spell Animate Dead is the source.  By stacking rules, the same spell cannot stack with itself, so the rogue would have only one pool of dice from the most recently cast version of Animate Dead.  Again, I have never seen any support for this interpretation of the rules where the same spell cast from different sources would ever stack.  Now, if the rogue were to use first a divine scroll of Animate Dead, then an arcane one, I could see this having a separate effect, as it is a different spell.
Oh, I forgot Death Knell for another +1 to caster level.

I think you're a little mistaken on how an item works. The items caster level IS what determines the spells caster level. That is the inherent flaw in assuming that the caster level for animate dead only matters during casting. If said rouge used a scroll of animate dead at a minimum caster level for its lowest spell level (for a spell level of 3 and a caster level of 5) he then can animate 20 hit dice worth of undead, now let’s say that the same rouge uses a wand of animate dead made by a wizard. The wizard has accesses to animate dead as a 4th level spell only, meaning he casts it at a minimum caster level of 7, 2 levels higher than the scroll.


This means that he can animate 28 hit dice of undead. Now, what happens if he casts animate dead from another scroll created by a cleric? Which hid dice pool would he use? What undead would he lose control of?


Mean while how does this work with actual casters who have caster levels? With the way you’re trying to argue animate dead, that means that if a 5th level cleric got hold of a scroll of animate dead that had a caster level of 20 he could indefinitely control 80 hit dice of undead as long as he doesn’t cast the spell himself afterwards, how does this seem balanced or within the game mechanics?


This would mean that a rouge with no caster level at all could control two great wyrm dragon zombies of any age and type aside from a gold with a single scroll. Doesn’t this strike you as a little off? It’s these reasons why the benefits of animate dead are determined by the permanent caster level in the long run. Temporary boost lead to only temporary undead under you control, long and short it’s the fairest and most mechanically sound way for the spell to work.


Furthermore to bring up a point that Unahim noted, if you cast the spell with caster level buff on which expire eventually you lose control of any excess undead. To this you noted that “But, your effective caster level is only known when casting a spell” which is not the case. Your caster level is a set constant as determined by your class levels. If you throw a ring of arcane might onto a 10th level wizard to give him a caster level of 11, HE still has a caster level of 10.


In this scenario if he were to animate the full allotment of 44 hit dice worth of undead and then take the ring off, 4 hit dice of undead would no longer be under his control since HIS caster level is no longer high enough to sustain that amount of undead. The same would be said if he gained a negative level.

Absolutely it seems fair! How many 20th level clerics do you know of running around selling scrolls (at maximum caster level) to random 5th level clerics?  The terrible secrets of necromancy are protected, not distributed to every acolyte with a couple gold burning a hole in their coin purse. 

As far as the rogue with access to an arcane and a divine scroll of Animate Dead, one at CL 7 (arcane) and one at CL 5 (divine): this has already been ruled by Wizards. He adds the two pools together. So long as the pools are from different sources (in this case, arcane and divine), they stack.  If he had two arcane scrolls of Animate Dead, then they are the same spell, hence the same source.  Therefore, they would not stack.  Only the most recent casting would apply.  

In addition to this being mechanically sound, it has a ton of flavor. The cleric who performs an unholy ritual where they cast Death Knell to boost their caster level just prior to casting Animate Dead in order to eke out the most undead possible to be under their control.  The magic is stable once cast, but casting is not a stable process.  Hence why undead can become unbound during casting.  That is the only time the spell mentions undead becoming unbound.  It is ONLY during casting of the spell that you check caster level to determine a cap on HD.  Then the effect is instantaneous.

Now, let's talk about this 5th level cleric a bit more.  Not only did he manage to find a scroll of Animate Dead at 20th caster level, but he also managed to get his hand on the corpses of two great wyrm dragons?  Are you kidding me?  Let's take a look at the cost of this for your 5th level cleric:  Scroll of Animate Dead (20th Caster Level): 20*3*25=1500 (base cost) + 1,000gp (onyx material component) (one casting can only animate 40 HD of undead (2x20 = 40) unless there is a desecrate effect).  So, he needs two such scrolls (unless he can convince the 20th level cleric that he will have a desecrate effect before he animates the corpses).  So, either 5,000gp for the two scrolls, or 3,500gp for a single scroll with double the onyx used to create it.  Now, he needs to find the corpses.  At his level, his best bet is probably gonna be attempting to craft statues of great wyrm dragons using the bones and flesh of smaller dragons.  That means a TON of raw dragon hide.  Once he has his statue made, he can attempt to use a scroll of Polymorph Any Object to turn his monstrosity into an actual corpse of a great wyrm dragon (so, our cleric needs to have the Trickery Domain at this point in order for him to even have that spell).  Assuming he does, that is an 8th level spell at a minimum of 15th caster level.  Because the kingdom is the same (dragon bones to dragon bones), it is the same size, and the same intelligence, it would be permanent.  Now, that scroll would cost the cleric 3,000gp.  Since he is looking to make a Zombie Dragon and not a Skeleton Dragon, he is gonna need enough dragon hide to create Full Plate Armor for his dragon skeleton (I would say at the very least, as he needs flesh covering the whole corpse in order to get a zombie out of it).  That means he needs the equivalent of Colossal Full Plate Dragonhide Barding.  Cost: 1,650 (cost of masterwork full plate) x2 (dragonhide is 2x as much as normal masterwork full plate) x32 (see SRD for armor created for unusual creatures) = 105,600gp.  Now, if this 5th level cleric has access to that kind of wealth, he should, by all means, have a permanently controlled Zombie Dragon.

You are wrong about caster level being a set constant.  Class level is a term.  The texts refer to it often.  When things are based off class level, the text will say so.  When things are based off of caster level, they say so.  When they are, boosting your caster level with temporary boosts affects the spells you are casting.  

Now, if you still don't believe me, check the Revised Necromancer's Handbook right here on this site:

The Deathbound Domain errata and a Desecrate area
Most people don’t even know that the Deatbound domain was seriously changed in the errata, so it up to tell your DM about the change or not.  That being said, some people are confused as to how the domain works withDesecrate, as the errata on the Deathbound domain power lets you create up to three times your caster level in undead per casting(instead of your double your caster level), and Desecrate allows you to create up to twice your usual limit of 2 HD per caster level of undead(instead of your caster level).  You are thinking “How you they stack, if ever?” The answer is that we go to the rules in animate dead itself. When you cast the spell, you specifically control every creature you animate with that casting – losing only creatures from previous castings. This means that you actually can use you whole 6HD per caster level of animated dead – even though your control limit is only 4HD per caster level. This is pretty neat, as it allows a basic Necromancer to create undead armies in one go that are larger than what he can make in multiple steps. You can also make individual undead that are so large that to have a second undead servitor you’d need a Rod of Undead Mastery*.



The necromancy gurus here have already decided that the spell works that way. 
Oops! I didn't even notice that a colossal dragon takes up a 30 foot cube.  A 30 foot cube is 27,000 cubic feet.  Polymorph Any Object only works on 100 cubic feet per caster level, so he needs the scroll at 270th caster level in order to be able to actually affect his statue.  At 270th caster level, he needs to hit a DC 265 caster level check in order to use the scroll without mishap.  Looks like a bad day for your cleric (after he spends the 54,000gp for the Scroll of Polymorph Any Object CL 270)

Edit: Apparently,  this scroll is not epic.  I just rechecked the rules on epic scrolls, and a caster level beyond 20th does not count towards a x10 factor for making epic items.

Ok, I’m not sure where your getting the entire pollymorphing dragon parts together in this scenario but let’s just establish that a 5th level cleric getting a scroll of animate dead with a caster level of 20 was a theoretical statement to show how extreme one could push this idea for how the spell works. Coincidently, saying that the secrets of necromancy are a well guarded lot has no mechanical value to the argument, and is for the most part fluff that is based solely in the game world at the time. A campaign could just as easily be necromancy heavy as it could be completely bare of it.


Now, let’s go back to this odd assumption that a 5th level cleric cant cast desecrate, because when last I checked desecrate was a 2nd level cleric spell, meaning he was able to cast it since he was level 3 (see here for confirmation www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/desecrate.htm). As for the scroll, once again it was simply an example but if you want to get into logistics a 5th level cleric according to the dm’s guide should have a character wealth of 9000 gp, the scroll in question would cost 3,500 gp (spell level of 3 X caster level of 20 X raw material cost of 25= 1,500 gp + 2000 gp onyx for material component), so this scroll would only be a little over 1/3 the average character wealth for a level 5 cleric. Combining that with the paltry amount of money required to cast desecrate the only thing that IS hard about this scenario is finding two great wyrm dragons to animate into zombies, so let’s dump that for now and go with a horde of level 1 kobold warriors, which are oh so easy to come by.


Now the average kobold horde numbers in the hundreds, if not about maybe a grand and a half in populace depending on its resources. In addition to this they are already adept miners, so they could even have a nice stock pile of onyx in there layer. This makes for a very good target for the up and coming necromancer. The crew goes in, and the toughest thing they have to deal with will most likely be the traps and maybe some adepts, sorcerers if the DM is making them work for it. In the course of about a week I would say that a substantial amount of the colony is killed, maybe about 15-30% of it if the party is putting a decent effort into it and using some consumables, wands, potions, ect.


Setting aside the potential for a nice amount of onyx to begin with, you’re also laying waste to an entire community that has a bulk of wealth, and if done properly you could even seize control of the whole colony, but that’s a little bit harder to do. Assuming you meet your body quota in the long run, you now have the accumulated treasure of around 70-90 cr 1/4th with standard treasure (I’ll skip the math and just say that it could add up). Now you have a hefty supply of bodies! Now it’s time to invest in that scroll if you haven’t already. Why invest in the scroll you ask? Simple, because that gives you more undead than you could control by your argument, meaning by investing a measly 3,500 gp into a scroll (already shown to be doable outside of storyline fluff) he could have an army of up to 80 kobold skeletons that are each a cr 1/3rd. 12 of these are considered a level 3 encounter, and guess what, if you didn’t break any of their weapons they are already armed. Giving them all sling shots (what a kobold usually has as a ranged weapon) gives them a free ranged weapon that could have potentially limitless ammo (use rocks and deal with the negatives) and give them the spears back and they can do melee, or sell the spears and let them use claw attacks.


Compare this to the 20 hit dice worth of undead that the cleric could normally control and you see where this becomes a game breaking mechanic. Even more so if we think about the fact that a half elf with 2 lvs bard and 3 lvs half elf paragon that invested in a divine scroll of animate dead and an arcane scroll of animate dead at minimum caster levels he would be able to control 48 hit dice worth of undead easily. He could take the hardened criminal feat for use magic device and skill focus in it and pull off a 27 every time assuming he had a charisma of 18.


Now for the sake of the argument let’s put everyone in this theoretical party at level 7 so the wizard can cast animate dead as well. Assuming that the wizard and cleric invested in a 20th caster level scroll they would have a combined total of 160 hit dice of undead at their disposal, If we rearrange the feet progression or simply allow flaws the bard could be 2 levels into the dirge singer prestige class and with scrolls 2 caster levels higher each, controlling 64 hit dice of undead. Now this party is one person short (figuratively since they now have a collective total of 224 undead hit dice at their command) so let’s add the fourth weal to this undead crate of amusement and make the guy an artificer.


Why artificer you ask? Simple, the ruling on scrolls and wands for artificer state that they are not divine or arcane, but rather personal in nature and that only an artificer can use his wares (at least as far as wands and scrolls go. It’s been a while since I looked at the artificers errata so if I’m wrong, anyone feel free to correct me). Now why is this distinction for the artificer wand/scroll so important? Because now he has THREE pools of undead he can use. That’s right, a grand total of three, one from an arcane source, one from a divine source and one from his artificer abilities. Let’s make this artificer a simple level 7, no prestige’s or anything, and as a human.


He eventually gets mastery in spell craft and use magic device but let’s once again give him the hardened criminal feet (prerequisite iron will) and both skill focus use magic dive and magical aptitude. He should have a charisma of around 19 and let’s just push it as far as we can go and give him a circlet of persuasion for another +3 bonuses to use magic device, meaning his total modifier should be 18, and since he can take 10 on use magic device, he can pull of a 28 (30 if he has the appropriate item creation feet that corresponds to an item he is activating).He has the lovely benefit of being able to craft a scroll of animate dead using the lowest spell level since it appears on two different lists and he can do it at a caster level of 8, meaning his artificer scroll gives him 32 HD of undead alone; and he can easily use two separate scrolls of animate dead (arcane and divine). So with two 10th level scrolls plus his artificer scroll he can himself control 192 HD of undead.


This brings the parties total collective hit dice of undead all the way up to 336 HD of undead between a group of four level sevens. See how all of that ridiculously adds up when you push for it? I know what you’re thinking, how in the world did they get all those scrolls of animate dead? Well, put your mind to it and you can get just about any magic item in D&D for the one time investiture of 8,400 gp to get a candle of invocation. Your pretty much set as long as there is a lawful evil person in your party to command an efreeti. Well you’re at it, simply use a wish to get the corpses of great wyrm dragons in the first place, and see how broken that gets you.


Now once again, the above was just a rundown of how using animate dead the way you suggest can be easily broken, Lord knows I would never allow my players to do it, these reasons are why animate dead (at least the way the spell was intended to work) are based on the casters defiant level, and once any temporary boons to the caster level are gone you lose control of the excess undead. Otherwise you could have a group of clever level sevens running around with close to 400 hid dice of undead under their belt, with a potential that almost half of it is between five great wyrm zombie dragons.

Then I am glad you are not my DM.  The point of this thread was not to debate how you feel it should work.  I am of the opinion that it does work.  As I posted above, the Revised Necromancer Handbook agrees with me.  You are now the only one who does not.  I am looking for additional ways to boost caster level and/or charisma.  If anyone has any suggestions, I am all ears!  But, this debate is pointless.  Your arguments are based on the idea that if a player tries to break the game, he can.  I agree.  Many game mechanics are like that.  But, that does not change the fact that RAW, this is legal.  This is a character optimization forum, not one where we debate the intent of the rules (about which I also disagree with you).  I am trying to optimize a necromancer's ability to control undead.  One necromancer.  Meaning, he should have control over all of the undead.  No additional party members bearing some of the load.  If having a party could help him increase his own control capacity, by all means, I am open to the suggestion.

Really? Because you first post pretty much just asked if that was how the rules worked.


Animate dead seems like it only checks caster level when it is cast to determine if you maintain control or lose control of undead.  Let's say you have a dread necromancer 20 with the Southern Magician feat and the Sickening Grasp feat who wants to animate dead.  He has charisma 34 (18 +5 from levels, +5 inherent, +6 Enhancement).  Prior to casting Animate Dead, he downs a Domain Draught for the Charm Domain and one for the Evil Domain, as well as a Vial of the Last Gasp.  

He wears the following items:  Ankh of Ascension, Band of Spell Enhancement, Robe of Arcane Might (attuned to Necromancy), and Strand of Prayer Beads.  He also has an Orange Prism Ioun stone floating about him.  He activates his Bead of Karma and Charm Domain ability.  Then, as a free action, he activates his Ankh of Ascension, as a swift action he activates his Band of Spell Enhancement, and then as a standard action, he finally casts Animate Dead as a divine spell (using his Barbs of Hextor as a divine focus, and Crypt Powder as an additional spell component).  By my calculations, he has an effective caster level of 
37 (20 +4 Ankh, +1 Sickening Grasp, +1 Evil domain, +2 Band, +1 Robe, +4  Bead of Karma, +1 Vial, +1 Crypt Powder, +1 Barb of Hextor, +1 Ioun Stone)
Additionally, his charisma is 38 (34+4 from Charm domain).  So, he can control using Animate Dead a total number of undead equal to class level x (4+Cha Bonus) + (caster level - class level) x 4 = 20 * (4+14) + 17 * 4 = 428.  If he has a Rod of Undead Mastery, this jumps to 856.  This seems really low.  Anyone know of a way I can pump that up?

Am I correct that it doesn't matter that his caster level immediately drops like a sack of potatoes after casting the spell? Losing control of undead is only checked when the spell is cast to see if undead from previous castings will still be controlled?


After this you pretty much disagreed with the only other two people who bothered to post and really haven’t given a point aside from you disagree with the way a spell is suppose to work. I’m not here to get into a raw vs. rai debate, but if you’re interested on other people in the op boards thoughts on this, hear is a thread for you to read (community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...).


If you’re interested simply in jacking up the number of undead you can control than go ahead and read the hand book but do so at the mentioning of most people don’t allow raw that clearly just brakes the game. Saying that the death bound domain allows you to control more than 4 HD of undead per caster level is awesome indeed, but just because they say it works, doesn’t mean that’s the rule. If you want to go by that logic, two people in this thread have told you the spell does not work the way you say it does, meaning we are right. See how circular that reasoning is? It makes no sense, and well on the topic of no sense I haven’t seen a single argument from you that even backs up your clam aside from a partial quote from a handbook that is based on methods subject to interpretation, not on what is written, but go on if you want to try and figure ways to make excessive amounts of undead if you want.


In the mean time, let’s analyze the wording of each piece of this puzzle and put a few things to rest.


1)      Animate dead reads as follows from the srd: “This spell turns the bones or bodies of dead creatures into undead skeletons or zombies that follow your spoken commands.


The undead can follow you, or they can remain in an area and attack any creature (or just a specific kind of creature) entering the place. They remain animated until they are destroyed. (A destroyed skeleton or zombie can’t be animated again.)


Regardless of the type of undead you create with this spell, you can’t create more HD of undead than twice your caster level with a single casting of animate dead. (The desecrate spell doubles this limit)


The undead you create remain under your control indefinitely. No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level. If you exceed this number, all the newly created creatures fall under your control, and any excess undead from previous castings become uncontrolled. (You choose which creatures are released.) If you are a cleric, any undead you might command by virtue of your power to command or rebuke undead do not count toward the limit.


Skeletons

A skeleton can be created only from a mostly intact corpse or skeleton. The corpse must have bones. If a skeleton is made from a corpse, the flesh falls off the bones.


Zombies

A zombie can be created only from a mostly intact corpse. The corpse must be that of a creature with a true anatomy.


Material Component

You must place a black onyx gem worth at least 25 gp per Hit Die of the undead into the mouth or eye socket of each corpse you intend to animate. The magic of the spell turns these gems into worthless, burned-out shells.”


2)      Of everything in this spell these are the main factors to note: “Regardless of the type of undead you create with this spell, you can’t create more HD of undead than twice your caster level with a single casting of animate dead. (The desecrate spell doubles this limit)” –and- “The undead you create remain under your control indefinitely. No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level.”


3)      The death bound domain ability in its errata form reads as follows: Page 60: Deathbound Domain Under the domain’s granted power, change the word “controlling” to “creating,” so that the granted power reads as follows: “Your limit for creating undead animated with spells increases to three times your caster level instead of the normal two times caster level.”


 So right there that shuts down your concept. The death bound domain allows you to create more hit dice of undead in a single casting, not control. There are various ways to temporarily boost the amount of undead you can command that are legitimate. Casting death knell will increase your caster level for creating and controlling undead, but only for a finite time until the effects ware off.

If you note, the build I proposed at the beginning does not have the Deathbound Domain, nor was I suggesting that it allowed a character to keep more than their maximum number of undead at any time period.  The piece that I quoted was in regards to when undead are lost.  It is at the time of casting.  At no other point does the spell suggest that undead are removed from your arsenal other than at the time of casting.

Your argument about game balance is extremely shaky.  Access to corpses is completely within the control of the DM.  An army of kobold skeletons or zombies might sound really cool, but practically, at 5th level, unless you can give them all magic weapons, they will do zero damage to any creature with DR/magic.  Zero maximum, not zero average.  Of CR 5 monsters in Core alone:

Show
No DR:

Achaierai
Arrowhawk, adult
Basilisk
Cloaker
Dire lion
Djinni (genie)
Gibbering mouther (has DR/Bludgeoning, so slings would work, spears and claws, no)
Green hag
Hieracosphinx
Hydra, six-headed
Manticore
Monstrous spider, Huge
Nightmare
Ochre jelly (ooze) (Slings would work, spears and claws, no)
Orca
Phase spider
Rast
Ravid (Although they can animate objects each round)
Shadow mastiff
Skeleton, ettin (DR/Bludgeoning, so slings would work, spears and claws, no)
Snake, giant constrictor
Spider eater
Tojanida, adult
Troll (although it has regeneration)
Troll (Scrag) (again, has regeneration)
Winter wolf
Yuan-ti, halfblood
Zombie, umber hulk (DR/Slashing, so only claws work)


DR:
Barghest, greater
Bearded devil (barbazu)
Elemental, Large (Air)
Elemental, Large (Earth)
Elemental, Large (Fire)
Elemental, Large (Water)
Gibbering mouther (has DR/Bludgeoning, so slings would work, spears and claws, no)
Mummy
Ochre jelly (ooze) (Slings would work, spears and claws, no)
Skeleton, ettin (DR/Bludgeoning, so slings would work, spears and claws, no)
Pixie (with Otto’s Irresistible Dance)
Werebear (lycanthrope)
Weretiger (lycanthrope)
Zombie, umber hulk (DR/Slashing, so only claws work)


Incorporeal:
Wraith (cannot be affected without magical weapons)


Hardness (even better than DR):
Animated object, Huge



Nearly a third of the core CR5 monsters would be immune to damage from the kobolds.  Combine that with the cost of replacing them, and you have a completely worthless "game breaking" mechanic.  In other words, Animate Dead is only as broken as a DM allows it to be.  Your interpretation of the rules doesn't promote game balance.  Your interpretation is not consistent with the way spellcasting works overall.  Your interpretation is not based on anything other than your own opinion.  I don't see anything gamebreaking about the scenarios you have described, other than a stupid DM giving players ridiculous things at ridiculously low levels.  A player who focuses on controlling a large number of hit dice of undead is investing a LOT of his character's capabilities on that task.  He should be rewarded for it, not arbitrarily limited.  The reward actually scales with the effort, in this rare case.  And all of the rewards can easily be destroyed by the DM if they become in any way problematic. Skeletons and Zombies are rather frail, overall.

A)    You didn’t propose a build, you listed a character with 20 class levels and about 3 feats and a large amount of magic items followed by asking if they worked a specific way. Yes, corps allotment is within the granted dominion of a dm, to an extent. Unless you game is taking place within an extreme environment a particular race dose not flourish in, it’s within reason to assume that you can find living creatures to imply kill, that was the base point. If a DM says that there is a kobold lair, there is a Kobold lair. If he doesn’t then there isn’t one, simple as that, once again you’re taking an example and trying to pin it as “this is how you play, not everyone else” which is somewhat odd coming from a person who is trying to “optimize” a necromancy build well saying that a body as simple as a kobold is a gift from the dm. which brings us too…


 


B)    ALL BODYS ARE SUBJECT TO DM DISCRETION, HE DESIDES WHAT IS AVALABLE TO FIGHT. If you want to argue that a tribe of around 100-500 kobolds is a bit of a stretch (read races of the dragon and you’ll find out yourself) lord knows you’re going to have a hard time getting a decent zombie any way.


 


C)    I’m aware that the death bound domain was not in your build, I simply disproved your quotation of how it worked because that seems to be the only foot holds you’re basing your argument on.


 


D)    If you don’t see how your supposed proper game mechanic of the spell isn’t broken, then either you haven’t thought about it, or you’re not reading the same thread I am. Yes, a decent amount of monsters on that list have DR, even more don’t, that’s actually a side not when you consider that with a horde of undead you could easily sack towns for wealth, have an unpaid work force that doesn’t eat or sleep (granted they could only do hard labor, but so what, free miners for more onyx) and easily regain, if not triple their investment.


 


E)     At this point I’ve pretty much dismantled any argument you’ve posed (you haven’t actually shown that caster levels are just there to “check” for the hit dice when you cast the spell, and your one clam that the death bound domain backed your idea was disproven as well). So, I really don’t see any more point in dealing with this since anything else you’ve been saying is just “I’m right, your wrong, do it my way or you’re not right” talk. If you can show somewhere, like maybe an entry in a monster block or a pre-generated villain, that shows animate dead works the way you do, then I would applaud you and say neat trick you found and immediately start doing it that way. Until then, I’ll go with the way the English language it’s written in dictates it does, and not some silly meta ruling to try and squeeze another few dead bodies into my arsenal.

This discussion was over the moment I pointed out that it says you can only "control" undead equal to your caster level x 4... Continuing to reason against it, at that point, is just an obvious attempt to hang onto your gimmick.

Think about it: the spell is instantaneous. This means that, once it has been cast and its effect applied, it essentially seizes to exist. So what is keeping the undead in check, since the spell is no longer there? It is your caster level, your "will" if you will. Since the spell is no longer there, nothing is recording what your caster level was at the point of casting, and thus the limit can only be based on your current caster level.


B)    ALL BODYS ARE SUBJECT TO DM DISCRETION, HE DESIDES WHAT IS AVALABLE TO FIGHT. If you want to argue that a tribe of around 100-500 kobolds is a bit of a stretch (read races of the dragon and you’ll find out yourself) lord knows you’re going to have a hard time getting a decent zombie any way.




No, I argued that an army of kobolds is not worthwhile. I argued that great wyrm dragon corpses is a stretch.

 


C)    I’m aware that the death bound domain was not in your build, I simply disproved your quotation of how it worked because that seems to be the only foot holds you’re basing your argument on.




You did not disprove my quotation.  My quotation included a very important piece of information.  The only time the spell mentions when HD of undead are lost is when it discusses when controlled HD of undead are released from a subsequent casting of Animate Dead.  When the spell is cast, you check the HD cap.  If you exceed it, you release undead from your control, beginning with ones from previous castings.  If, after casting the spell, your caster level drops significantly, you don't check the HD cap again until you cast the spell again.  It is not as if you buff your caster level to create a Wall of Stone, then when you drop in caster level, the wall you created crumbles.  That wouldn't make sense.  Nor would a nonmagical bond that exists between you and your animated dead.   

 


D)    If you don’t see how your supposed proper game mechanic of the spell isn’t broken, then either you haven’t thought about it, or you’re not reading the same thread I am. Yes, a decent amount of monsters on that list have DR, even more don’t, that’s actually a side not when you consider that with a horde of undead you could easily sack towns for wealth, have an unpaid work force that doesn’t eat or sleep (granted they could only do hard labor, but so what, free miners for more onyx) and easily regain, if not triple their investment.





You put mindless creatures in a mine, and you are gonna need a new supply of miners.  Ever heard of cave-ins? Creatures with intelligence can cause them.  You put creatures without intelligence to work in a mine, and you are doomed before you begin.  And a horde of undead that could easily sack towns for wealth would immediately draw the attention of good clerics.  A group of 10 low-level clerics could pop your entire army of undead before you could bat an eyelash.  So, you better be hanging out with them at all times, giving them a contant Rebuke Undead effect to increase their effective hit dice for when just such an occurrence happens.  Or do you play with DMs who decide that no one notices when someone starts bringing around a horde of undead demanding tribute?  In the real world, a horde of uzi carrying criminals could easily demand tribute from towns.  And they do!  What stops everyone from doing that? Oh yeah, there are consequences for your actions.  In D&D, there are tons of things a player could do to extort money from a town.  Having a horde of undead is quite a bit less effective for that task than you might think.

 

E)     At this point I’ve pretty much dismantled any argument you’ve posed (you haven’t actually shown that caster levels are just there to “check” for the hit dice when you cast the spell, and your one clam that the death bound domain backed your idea was disproven as well). So, I really don’t see any more point in dealing with this since anything else you’ve been saying is just “I’m right, your wrong, do it my way or you’re not right” talk. If you can show somewhere, like maybe an entry in a monster block or a pre-generated villain, that shows animate dead works the way you do, then I would applaud you and say neat trick you found and immediately start doing it that way. Until then, I’ll go with the way the English language it’s written in dictates it does, and not some silly meta ruling to try and squeeze another few dead bodies into my arsenal.




At this point, you've pretty much trolled every argument I've posted without actually supporting any of your own arguments.  You just keep saying you are right and I am wrong.  My only claim is that the way spells are cast, caster level dependent effects are determined at casting time, not afterwards.  If you want to play differently, that's fine.  But, it is not the "correct" interpretation.  My interpretation is equally valid.  Your claim that you are going the way the English language is written is laughable.  In reality, you are threatened that I made many good points that you never bothered to address.  Every time I made a good one, you ignored it.  I can go back through my posts and point out plenty of points that I made that completely dismantled every good point you made.  In the end, we are not going to agree.  Please stop trolling. 


And with that I'm done. The only other two people to post in you're thred have explicetly said you are wrong, and you're just not listening. have a wonderful time discussing this topic with whoever else posts, and have a wonderful day.
And with that I'm done. The only other two people to post in you're thred have explicetly said you are wrong, and you're just not listening. have a wonderful time discussing this topic with whoever else posts, and have a wonderful day.



That is half true.  I was paying attention.  I responded to your arguments, explaining why they were wrong each time.  I have the same arguments now that I did at the beginning, because aside from telling me that I am wrong, you have provided no evidence that you are correct.  I already explained that this has come down to a matter of opinion, since you cannot provide any reference in the rules to indicate that your interpretation is more accurate.  I provided two posts (one from this forum, and one from another) with posts of agreement (in both cases, I did not participate in the discussion), so without me, the number of people siding with me is two, siding against is two.  

If you want more evidence, this is from the SRD:

Caster Level


A spell’s power often depends on its caster level, which for most spellcasting characters is equal to your class level in the class you’re using to cast the spell.


You can cast a spell at a lower caster level than normal, but the caster level you choose must be high enough for you to cast the spell in question, and all level-dependent features must be based on the same caster level.


In the event that a class feature, domain granted power, or other special ability provides an adjustment to your caster level, that adjustment applies not only to effects based on caster level (such as range, duration, and damage dealt) but also to your caster level check to overcome your target’s spell resistance and to the caster level used in dispel checks (both the dispel check and the DC of the check).


Caster Level Checks

To make a caster level check, roll 1d20 and add your caster level (in the relevant class). If the result equals or exceeds the DC (or the spell resistance, in the case of caster level checks made for spell resistance), the check succeeds.




There is no mention that caster level is a fixed value equal to a character's permanent caster level.  In fact, quite the contrary.  It explicitly states that adjustments to your caster level apply to all effects based on caster level.  So, permanent bonuses such as the Evil domain (a permanent +1 caster level to Evil spells) would definitely apply. 

Additionally, as I stated, I wasn't ignoring you.  I have been trying to find evidence one way or another.  Since you have not offered a single rule to support your claim, and I have offered several to support mine (that you did not agree with), the only evidence that you have provided is that it would be game breaking if it were allowed.  I disagreed that it would be game breaking.  The examples you gave were utterly ridiculous.  You claim that an undead kobold army is broken.  Let's look at that.  You said 100-150 kobolds could be animated if the spell worked the way I claim.  So, let's assume 150 kobolds could be animated.  Let's keep the HD low, and say we only make skeletons.  That is 150 hit dice of undead.  So, we said the 5th level cleric would use a scroll of Animate Dead (CL 20, 2,000gp of onyx used) for a cost of 3,500gp.  The DC to activate the scroll is 21 (caster level +1), and the cleric probably has the evil domain (so 1d20+6).  That means the cleric needs a 15 or better on the die.  We can also assume that for the Wisdom check to avoid a mishap, anything other than a 1 will succeed.  Doing a little math, we discover that the cleric has about a 90% chance of succeeding on the spell eventually (in other words, they can keep trying until they either succeed or mishap, and there is a 90% chance they will eventually succeed).  We can assume that is 100%.  Next, the cleric needs a desecrated area for another 50gp.  Then, the cleric animates 80HD of undead.  That leaves 70 HD for the rest of the party.  That's easy! The artificer just needs to activate a scroll at 18th caster level.  Let's assume the artificer can make the DC 38 Use Magic Device check without any problem.  That means he just needs to buys the scroll, and it will only cost 3100gp.  So, all told, the party spent 6,650gp to animate 150 kobolds.  What are the benefits of having undead?  They are completely loyal.  They don't eat or sleep.  They never get sick.  What are the drawbacks?  They are mindless.  That is a pretty big drawback.  They draw no conclusions of their own.  They just do as ordered.  This means mining is out.  On the other hand, for the same price, you could hire 150 skilled laborers at 3sp per day (per SRD) for 148 days.  They could mine.  Not only that, but they can hold towns hostage.  They can ransom them off.  And, if someone gets pissed off and kills one of the thugs you hired, replacing them is still just 3sp per day.  You get a kobold croaked, and you are out at least 25gp.  

I have yet to see where these mechanics are broken.  The gp requirement is a great limiting factor.  Not to mention, if allowing temporary caster level to create a high HD cap until the next casting of the spell, if you want to replenish your forces, you need to expect the exact same resources AGAIN to increase your HD cap to the same amount.  The resources required is intense.  So, again, I don't see how this is broken.
''you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level'' Controlling, unless I'm having trouble with that, wich is not the case, is a continuous effect. It doesn't end with the end of your casting... If it was the case, you would lose all the control right ahead after the spell being cast! So, if your caster level if off the hook for whatever reason while you cast, good for you, but as soon as it drops, your control drops too !! It's simple as that. There is no debate to have, there is no question to ask. If you don't agree with that, it's because you don't understand english or you want to play by your own rules without those of WoC... Lashius is 100% right. Peace out
K's Necro handbook had been available for 6 years, when this thread appeared.  Google even longer.

community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...

Here comes your 19th forums breakdown ... ohh who's to blame, it ain't 5E driving you insane.

 

Unfortunately K's 'handbook' is mostly wrong/misinterpreted/misresearched/out of date or all of the above. I could spend a big post pointing out the faults, but to address the point at hand:


Animate Dead clearly states in its description that it is capped by your caster level, so if it's cast as a cleric spell, you use your clerical caster level, if it's cast as a wizard, you use your wizard caster level, if you cast it as a dread necromancer, you use your dread necromancer caster levels. If you happen to have multiple of those classes with that same spell, whichever class you cast it from its class determines the maximum. A bard 1/cleric 15 that casts 'cure light wounds' as a bard uses the bards caster level, not the clerics; animate dead is the same way.


Temporarily inflating your caster level will increase the number of undead created, however once this temporary inflation ends, you will loose control of your undead. This is also in the spell description: If you exceed this number, all the newly created creatures fall under your control, and any excess undead from previous castings become uncontrolled. (You choose which creatures are released.)


The ability to control the undead you create with a magical item depends on what the item is and how you were able to use it: Scrolls were designed to be used by a member of the class the scroll was made by, otherwise you must 'trick' it with Use magic device; if you use the scroll as intended, after the initial animation, you would use your actual level to determine control. If you used UMD to activate the scroll, your control caster level would end up 0,and you just made a mob of uncontrolled undead. If you were using a wand or other non-one-use-item, that item would supply then control for the animated dead, until all charges were used up, or the item was otherwise destroyed.

The way the control paragraph in animate dead is written does suggest that it's talking about a situation where you're adding newly created undead with another casting of the spell, rather than a situation where caster level changes without a spell being cast:

d20SRD wrote:
The undead you create remain under your control indefinitely. No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level. If you exceed this number, all the newly created creatures fall under your control, and any excess undead from previous castings become uncontrolled. (You choose which creatures are released.) If you are a cleric, any undead you might command by virtue of your power to command or rebuke undead do not count toward the limit.

I cannot say whether this is the ideal way to handle the spell, but the creation of new undead with a second casting does appear to be the situation the paragraph is intended to cover, and the wording appears to address this specific situation without implying a similar occurence in other circumstances.

I would, however, have to disagree with the idea of creating a legitimate corpse through polymorph any object; until the new form has been alive and then died, it isn't truly a corpse even if it looks like one and is made of all the same materials, and even if the form it had before being polymorphed was a legitimate corpse (or made of material from corpses).  The state of being a corpse isn't something you can bestow with a magical change in form (except the old-fashioned way) because it depends on the object having a specific event (death) occur in its past, and you reset that by giving it a new form.  And having it live and then die to become a corpse would cause it to revert to its original form.

You could actually use polymorph any object to turn a corpse into exactly the same form and it wouldn't be able to be validly animated because its new (and otherwise identical) form hasn't lived and died.  Though if it was reverted to its original form, it would then be valid for animation, even though no outward change has occurred.

The kraken stirs. And ten billion sushi dinners cry out for vengeance. - Good Omens

Co-Author of the Dreamfane, Euralden Eye, Gajuisan Crawler, Gruesome Lurker, Fulminating Crab, Ironglass Rose, Sheengrass Swarm, Spryjack, Usunag, and Warp Drifter, and author of the Magmal Horror from Force of Nature.

My most popular campaign item; for all your adventuring convenience.
Zauber's Mutable Rod: This rod has a number of useful functions that make it easier to live in the wilderness. It is made of polished wood, with five studlike buttons on one end. Each button produces a different effect when pressed. Unless otherwise noted, the rod’s functions have no limit on the number of times they can be employed. When button 1 is pressed, one end of the rod produces a small flame, equivalent to a candle. When button 2 is pressed, the rod unfolds into a two-person tent, complete with bedrolls and warm blankets. When button 3 is pressed, the rod becomes a one-handed hammer, suitable for pounding pitons into a wall. When button 4 is pressed, the rod becomes a sturdy iron spade. When button 5 is pressed, the rod becomes a wooden bucket able to hold 2 gallons of liquid. Once per day, it can be commanded to fill with fresh water. If the rod is seriously damaged or broken in any of its alternate forms (button 2, 3, 4, or 5), it reverts to its basic rod form and cannot be activated for 24 hours. Moderate conjuration; CL 9th; Craft Rod, minor creation; Price 375 gp; Weight 2 lb.