On the Subject of Dumb Workers...and the UNDEAD!


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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This came up in an unrelated thread recently when someone mentioned that using animate dead to form the labor for making a castle would result in a castle that was a deathtrap. Presumably because undead are kind of dumb and would thus ruin the castle.

Here's the thing though. Undead aren't really that dumb. They are, however, incapable of thinking for themselves, but they're pretty decent at carrying out instructions. They are like robots. They are like ants. They can do seemingly intelligent things when instructed to do them.

Let's look at the rules here for a moment.

PRD wrote:
Some creatures do not possess an Intelligence score. Their modifier is +0 for any Intelligence-based skills or checks.

A mindless "- Int" creature is mechanically the same as a character with 10-11 Int when it comes to performing skills and/or checks. They are literally just as good at doing Intelligence-based things as any average human being is.

Meanwhile, let's look at Craft and Profession.

PRD-Craft wrote:
Check: You can practice your trade and make a decent living, earning half your check result in gold pieces per week of dedicated work. You know how to use the tools of your trade, how to perform the craft's daily tasks, how to supervise untrained helpers, and how to handle common problems. (Untrained laborers and assistants earn an average of 1 silver piece per day.)
PRD-Profession wrote:
Check: You can earn half your Profession check result in gold pieces per week of dedicated work. You know how to use the tools of your trade, how to perform the profession's daily tasks, how to supervise helpers, and how to handle common problems. You can also answer questions about your Profession. Basic questions are DC 10, while more complex questions are DC 15 or higher.

Now an undead minion, such as our mascot Boney McSkelebone here, is literally only as good - or bad - as your average Joe at doing stuff. If you tell him to dig a hole, he will dig a hole. If you tell him to cut a board 20 inches long, he'll cut a board 20 inches long. He's not great and he's not bad at anything. You can have undead crew your ship, dig your ditches, flip your burgers, and clean your house.

Ever see those events where normal people go and help people that actually know what they are doing build a house for someone to live in really fast? That's basically what's happening here.

If you've got a guy with a sufficiently high Craft or Profession check to do something himself, these guys can do the legwork. You want to build a house with undead labor? Well you don't tell a bunch of undead "go build me a house" and then sit around drinking kool-aid and getting a tan. You make a Craft (Architecture) check to figure out the hard bits and then instruct your workers to do the rest. Again, remembering, that a mindless undead is still just as capable as a normal person.

"Okay you boneheads, here is the plan. I want you to cut boards to these measurements. While he's doing that, I want you two to begin moving those blocks into these positions. I want you to go get water and fill that container over there. The rest of you I want to make bricks out of mud and straw with those brick-templates over there,"

What Does That Mean?
It means that if you want to have a badass pirate ship crewed by the dead with their necromantic captain at the wheel, you can do that.

It means that if you want to build a pyramid, or castle, or cool mage tower on the backs of undead servitors, you can do that.

It means that if you want a maid like Bonehilda from the Sims to take care of your house without burning it down or flooding it, you can do that.

And the best part...literally everything said here about mindless undead also applies to golems. Because we all know that if we couldn't have Alfred, we'd totally take an Iron Golem instead.


Entire castles have been built in ravenloft using the power of undead laborers.
The problem with them is only that they must be surpervisioned all the time, and if you actually have to sleep, you will have to order them to stop working or they will (most likely) screw up.


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shadowkras wrote:

Entire castles have been built in ravenloft using the power of undead laborers.

The problem with them is only that they must be surpervisioned all the time, and if you actually have to sleep, you will have to order them to stop working or they will (most likely) screw up.

That's just when you order them to build a moat. A really deep moat...

How smart '-' is has always varied from game to game for me. In one a spider knew I was spellcasting and wanted to eat me, and in another apparently undead go on a rampage even while doing another task and totally dominated by a cleric, and in another I CdG'd a statue(construct) because it wouldn't defend itself until after our first attack and yet another the construct under the same orders punched a guy before he got the CdG plan off.


shadowkras wrote:

Entire castles have been built in ravenloft using the power of undead laborers.

The problem with them is only that they must be surpervisioned all the time, and if you actually have to sleep, you will have to order them to stop working or they will (most likely) screw up.

There's a pretty good chance that you won't need to sleep or won't care. If you can cast animate dead then there's probably a good chance that you can cast lesser restoration a few times and spend a week staying awake. :P

As MrSin suggested, giving them ongoing orders would be pretty solid. For example, you could tell them to finish what you already told them to do, and if you weren't awake from your nap by the time they were done, just start making bricks until you woke up. There's really not that much that can go wrong with packing mud and straw into some wooden templates, and it takes a while for them to harden anyway.


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MrSin wrote:
shadowkras wrote:

Entire castles have been built in ravenloft using the power of undead laborers.

The problem with them is only that they must be surpervisioned all the time, and if you actually have to sleep, you will have to order them to stop working or they will (most likely) screw up.

That's just when you order them to build a moat. A really deep moat...

How smart '-' is has always varied from game to game for me. In one a spider knew I was spellcasting and wanted to eat me, and in another apparently undead go on a rampage even while doing another task and totally dominated by a cleric, and in another I CdG'd a statue(construct) because it wouldn't defend itself until after our first attack and yet another the construct under the same orders punched a guy before he got the CdG plan off.

Truth be told, how smart "X Int" has always been the same way in my experiences. I've seen animals ran with the tactical genius that would make Napoleon s%&! his pants, and balors run like drooling fungus-brained cretins.

This sums up my thoughts on it the best way I know how.

Quote:

Mindless creatures are like advanced robots. Most are more than capable of performing a variety of tasks, but are incapable of learning or reasoning beyond their basic instincts or instructions. The main difference between a mindless creature and any other, is mindless creatures have no emotions and cannot learn new things. They have no thought of their own.

Virtually all mindless creatures still have two mental statistics: Wisdom and Charisma. This means they are capable of sensing and interacting with the world given the correct instruction. Most mindless creatures possess basic functionality by default; possessing the ability to do things such as avoid obstacles (like choosing to walk around a pit), open doors (if they have the ability to do so), react to threats (moving away from fire, rolling initiative when threatened), and so forth. Mindless creatures are even entitled to Will saving throws against illusion spells and effects and may react accordingly (a golem that senses something is merely an illusion may ignore it, pass through it, or otherwise act based on this information it has processed).
Mindless creatures tend to act in the most direct manner.

Sovereign Court

Interesting analysis. Consider this a dot.


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How can something that can't read or understand 20 inches cut boatds to twenty inches. I think digging moving things etc could all be handled by undead.. provided they are micro managed.

Building castles Is a fairly heavy feat of engineering asigning creatures that will dig to the centre of the earth because they were not told to stop may be a bad engineering plan.


Mojorat wrote:

How can something that can't read or understand 20 inches cut boatds to twenty inches. I think digging moving things etc could all be handled by undead.. provided they are micro managed.

Building castles Is a fairly heavy feat of engineering asigning creatures that will dig to the centre of the earth because they were not told to stop may be a bad engineering plan.

You could hand them a stick template.

"Cut those boards this long." Uneducated people have been used for manual labor in one way or another for thousands of years.


Tiny Coffee Golem wrote:
"Cut those boards this long." Uneducated people have been used for manual labor in one way or another for thousands of years.

"I need you to cut me a board 3 feet long.... Yes! The ones at the bottom of your leg."

Shadow Lodge

Supporting the idea of undead workers, there's a spell in the pirates of the inner sea called skeleton crew, which allows you to raise skeletons with profession sailor.


Research a new spell "Raise Skeletal Laborer"
Starts with Profession (Building)


There is something absolutely wonderful about the idea of a haunted pirate ship, isn't there? :)

Sczarni

Valid points all, but I think the idea that a castle staffed by undead would become a deathtrap isn't referring so much to the undead's ability to do menial labor, but to the fact that unless the necromancer that raised them is himself undead, eventually you're going to have a castle full of undead with nobody left to command them, at which point somebody is going to wander in and the undead, having long since finished their final instruction, will attack them.

Even if you give them a contingency order ("Make bricks until I tell you to do something else") most undead will still turn hostile if living "intruders" show up and start messing with them, and you're not around to command them to "heel". Especially since the "intruders" are likely to be would-be undead slayers.


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Silent Saturn wrote:
Even if you give them a contingency order ("Make bricks until I tell you to do something else") most undead will still turn hostile if living "intruders" show up and start messing with them, and you're not around to command them to "heel". Especially since the "intruders" are likely to be would-be undead slayers.

Source?

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ashiel wrote:

This came up in an unrelated thread recently when someone mentioned that using animate dead to form the labor for making a castle would result in a castle that was a deathtrap. Presumably because undead are kind of dumb and would thus ruin the castle.

Here's the thing though. Undead aren't really that dumb. They are, however, incapable of thinking for themselves, but they're pretty decent at carrying out instructions. They are like robots. They are like ants. They can do seemingly intelligent things when instructed to do them.

Let's look at the rules here for a moment.

PRD wrote:
Some creatures do not possess an Intelligence score. Their modifier is +0 for any Intelligence-based skills or checks.

A mindless "- Int" creature is mechanically the same as a character with 10-11 Int when it comes to performing skills and/or checks. They are literally just as good at doing Intelligence-based things as any average human being is.

Meanwhile, let's look at Craft and Profession.

PRD-Craft wrote:
Check: You can practice your trade and make a decent living, earning half your check result in gold pieces per week of dedicated work. You know how to use the tools of your trade, how to perform the craft's daily tasks, how to supervise untrained helpers, and how to handle common problems. (Untrained laborers and assistants earn an average of 1 silver piece per day.)
PRD-Profession wrote:
Check: You can earn half your Profession check result in gold pieces per week of dedicated work. You know how to use the tools of your trade, how to perform the profession's daily tasks, how to supervise helpers, and how to handle common problems. You can also answer questions about your Profession. Basic questions are DC 10, while more complex questions are DC 15 or higher.
Now an undead minion, such as our mascot Boney McSkelebone here, is literally only as good - or bad - as your average Joe at doing stuff. If you tell him to dig a hole, he will dig a hole. If you tell him to...

Mindless undead aren't untrained workers. They are waldoes that need an hand guiding them. You need a guy that can control them to direct them or they will not follow any direction.

So a castle constructed by an architect that can control the mindless unedead and whose head carpenter, chief stonemason and so on can control the undead is as sound as one made by a normal crew of unskilled labourers directed by skilled labourers, a castle constructed by an unskilled necromancer directing unskilled undead is a deathtrap.

The undead are simply machines, useful if directed by skilled hands, dangerous if directed by incompetents.

MrSin wrote:
shadowkras wrote:

Entire castles have been built in ravenloft using the power of undead laborers.

The problem with them is only that they must be surpervisioned all the time, and if you actually have to sleep, you will have to order them to stop working or they will (most likely) screw up.

That's just when you order them to build a moat. A really deep moat...

Just today I read of a incident where a skilled worker died because the trench which he was excavating collapsed. You don't want unskilled, mindless creature digging a moat without supervision unless you cant a collapsed hole.

Tiny Coffee Golem wrote:
Mojorat wrote:

How can something that can't read or understand 20 inches cut boatds to twenty inches. I think digging moving things etc could all be handled by undead.. provided they are micro managed.

Building castles Is a fairly heavy feat of engineering asigning creatures that will dig to the centre of the earth because they were not told to stop may be a bad engineering plan.

You could hand them a stick template.

"Cut those boards this long." Uneducated people have been used for manual labor in one way or another for thousands of years.

Uneducated people learn, mindless undead don't.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
MrSin wrote:
Silent Saturn wrote:
Even if you give them a contingency order ("Make bricks until I tell you to do something else") most undead will still turn hostile if living "intruders" show up and start messing with them, and you're not around to command them to "heel". Especially since the "intruders" are likely to be would-be undead slayers.
Source?

You think that mindless undead don't react to attacks unless they are ordered to do so?

And you control the undead only as long as you are alive/undead. After you are dead you don't have any level, so you don't control any undead.


Diego Rossi wrote:
MrSin wrote:
Silent Saturn wrote:
Even if you give them a contingency order ("Make bricks until I tell you to do something else") most undead will still turn hostile if living "intruders" show up and start messing with them, and you're not around to command them to "heel". Especially since the "intruders" are likely to be would-be undead slayers.
Source?
You think that mindless undead don't react to attacks unless they are ordered to do so?

They are constructs while under the command of a caster. They don't suddenly bite people. There's nothing to suggest they will. They continue their work until instructed otherwise or the spell is broken.

Diego Rossi wrote:
You don't want unskilled, mindless creature digging a moat without supervision unless you cant a collapsed hole.

A trench is different than a moat, and undead are somewhat expendable. The joke is a moat is a thing that takes very little skill to build because its essentially a hole, the workers will work until stopped so it will probably be deep, and if you caught it there was a fridge logic joke they might actually get stuck in it a really deep pit because they're kind of dumb. You could say they're boneheads.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
MrSin wrote:
Diego Rossi wrote:
MrSin wrote:
Silent Saturn wrote:
Even if you give them a contingency order ("Make bricks until I tell you to do something else") most undead will still turn hostile if living "intruders" show up and start messing with them, and you're not around to command them to "heel". Especially since the "intruders" are likely to be would-be undead slayers.
Source?
You think that mindless undead don't react to attacks unless they are ordered to do so?
They are constructs while under the command of a caster. They don't suddenly bite people. There's nothing to suggest they will. They continue their work until instructed otherwise or the spell is broken.

Instead of trying jokes that fall flat, try to be precise. Undead aren't constructs. They don't follow the construct rules in any way. They react if attacked (and even construct do that) unless they are ordered not to attack, but it must be a explicit order, not a "do that until you get further orders" command.

Undead suddenly bite people if they go uncontrolled and you control them only if you are alive/undead, not if you are dead. Your ability to control them is based on your caster level, a stat that is meaningless if you are dead.

MrSin wrote:


Diego Rossi wrote:
You don't want unskilled, mindless creature digging a moat without supervision unless you cant a collapsed hole.
A trench is different than a moat, and undead are somewhat expendable. The joke is a moat is a thing that takes very little skill to build because its essentially a hole, the workers will work until stopped so it will probably be deep, and if you caught it there was a fridge logic joke they might actually get stuck in it a really deep pit because they're kind of dumb. You could say they're boneheads.

Maybe you should learn something about medieval defensive structures before saying that building a moat require very little skill.

Or you could try digging one along a perimeter wall of your house and see how far you get before getting some unpleasant result.


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Diego, your impression of Undead is very interesting, and certainly... fine in terms of its distinction between learning and capability of doing.

That said, by arbitrating things in the way your tone (not your specific wording - which I and Ashiel actually agree with, see below -, but the tone within) suggests, it makes,

Quote:
Their modifier is +0 for any Intelligence-based skills or checks.

... impossible to function. I agree that they are mindless - that they don't learn. But they can function at a +0 bonus to any Intelligence-based skills or checks (which Craft is).

To wit:

Diego Rossi wrote:

So a castle constructed by an architect that can control the mindless unedead and whose head carpenter, chief stonemason and so on can control the undead is as sound as one made by a normal crew of unskilled labourers directed by skilled labourers, a castle constructed by an unskilled necromancer directing unskilled undead is a deathtrap.

The undead are simply machines, useful if directed by skilled hands, dangerous if directed by incompetents.

... is exactly what Ashiel was suggesting, most specifically,

Ashiel wrote:
If you've got a guy with a sufficiently high Craft or Profession check to do something himself, these guys can do the legwork. You want to build a house with undead labor? Well you don't tell a bunch of undead "go build me a house" and then sit around drinking kool-aid and getting a tan. You make a Craft (Architecture) check to figure out the hard bits and then instruct your workers to do the rest. Again, remembering, that a mindless undead is still just as capable as a normal person.

... but with a different tone.

Ashiel was specifically responding to (from my reading) the absolute statement that it "would be a death trap"; your rebuttle isn't actually altering anything he's already said, but rather coming from a more cautionist side of the same argument.

That is not to dismiss your point, but rather to clarify, because I wasn't sure if you'd read what Ashiel was actually saying, or what you thought Ashiel was saying.

I could be wrong - it's possible that you only meant to clarify or show a different side of the same statements, but it's the impression it gave off, and thus I'm letting you know, just in case. :)

Diego Rossi wrote:
Undead suddenly bite people if they go uncontrolled and you control them only if you are alive/undead, not if you are dead. Your ability to control them is based on your caster level, a stat that is meaningless if you are dead.

Citation needed.

(More specifically, citation needed for the fact that they cease following your previous commands at your death.)

Diego Rossi wrote:
Maybe you should learn something about medieval defensive structures before saying that building a moat require very little skill.

This sounds a little harsh, sir.

C'mon, guys. Let's stay cool. There's a good conversation to be had here.

That said, undead are, in fact, not constructs as Diego noted, and have different rules; constructs were being discussed in the opening post, so it's comprehensibly possible to conflate the two.


MrSin wrote:
Tiny Coffee Golem wrote:
"Cut those boards this long." Uneducated people have been used for manual labor in one way or another for thousands of years.
"I need you to cut me a board 3 feet long.... Yes! The ones at the bottom of your leg."

*snap* "Well, at least you have a ruler now".

But yeah, using a basic measuring tool with specific, non-textual instructions could work. A measuring tape/cord could have color coded marks at each foot (1' red, 2' orange, 3' yellow...), for example. Or just give out measuring tools that only go out to the desired measurement (1' cord, 2' cord, etc). Anyway you do it, you just need s command like 'cut wood boards this long until you fill this cart up'.

As someone that has worked in construction (as unskilled labor), I could definitely see how one could simplify a lot of other jobs. Fetching tools, moving material A to spot B, holding things steady, lifting objects, and more could easily be done. More complicated things (Put 4 nails in each shingle, and then put another next to it and repeat) might be somewhat questionable.


One of the things i tried to address in my last post was that undead cant read and cant do aything other than what they are told. If you had people able to micromanage them at every level you could probably use them for construction.

HEres the thing, castles are more or less the highest level of pre-industrial engineering. If you make mistakes, Entire aspects of your castle can be utterly unusable.

Living workers, even untrained ones can notice mistakes or when a beam is crooked or 'off' because they have seen other beams previously. They may not know why it b4eing off is bad if they are uneducated.. but that doesnt mattter they can recognize it and tell somone who does know.

undead will do what they were told, and repeat it if something is 'wrong' they wont notice they will just keep doing it.

Really, asside from speeding up the movement ove rlarge heavy rocks or digging i dont see any benefit to Undead in construction.

However, i think they will speed up the large rock movement and digging imensely.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Tacticslion wrote:
Ashiel was specifically responding to (from my reading) the absolute statement that it "would be a death trap"; your rebuttle isn't actually altering anything he's already said, but rather coming from a more cautionist side of the same argument.

Exact, it not meant to be a rebuttal but a clarification.

If you want a good example of what not adequately supervised mindless undead or constructs will do look Fantasia (the film), The Sorcerer's Apprentice part. That is what they will do.
If they are digging a moat they will continue digging the same piece of terrain until they reach the aquifer and then they will continue. They will not shore the sides of the trench unless someone has ordered them to do that and only that, and then they will shore and re-shore it, without doing anything different unless attacked or ordered to do something different.

Tacticslion wrote:


Diego Rossi wrote:


Undead suddenly bite people if they go uncontrolled and you control them only if you are alive/undead, not if you are dead. Your ability to control them is based on your caster level, a stat that is meaningless if you are dead.

Citation needed.

(More specifically, citation needed for the fact that they cease following your previous commands at your death.)

Beside the little thing that they have an alignment and they go uncontrolled when the controller die?

PRD wrote:
Zombies are unthinking automatons, and can do little more than follow orders. When left unattended, zombies tend to mill about in search of living creatures to slaughter and devour. Zombies attack until destroyed, having no regard for their own safety.

There is not much about what happen when a undead go uncontrolled, but if they follow your last order, why there is any need to control them at all?

Create your maximum number of undead, order them "go in that direction and kill everyone that don't wear a red bandana."
Rinse and repeat.

There is no reason to have a limit on the controlled undead if that is how it work. With that interpretation you need to take control only when you need to change their orders.
A bit too convenient when we are speaking of a aligned, evil creature.

(That was how they worked in the old versions of the game, when the mindless undead were neutral and truly some kind of automaton)

Tacticslion wrote:


Diego Rossi wrote:


Maybe you should learn something about medieval defensive structures before saying that building a moat require very little skill.
This sounds a little harsh, sir.

MrSin posts have a tendency to enter under my skin. My fault. Sometime I don't even know why.

That said, living in a country were you see every day examples of medieval constructions, I know a bit about them. Building a moat isn't simply making a hole and if you try to make one without any knowledge of what you are doing you will end undermining your castle, having the wall of the moat collapse and tons of other problems.

Undead with little supervision will be capable to make a shallow ditch, not a moat.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Mojorat wrote:

One of the things i tried to address in my last post was that undead cant read and cant do aything other than what they are told. If you had people able to micromanage them at every level you could probably use them for construction.

HEres the thing, castles are more or less the highest level of pre-industrial engineering. If you make mistakes, Entire aspects of your castle can be utterly unusable.

Living workers, even untrained ones can notice mistakes or when a beam is crooked or 'off' because they have seen other beams previously. They may not know why it b4eing off is bad if they are uneducated.. but that doesnt mattter they can recognize it and tell somone who does know.

undead will do what they were told, and repeat it if something is 'wrong' they wont notice they will just keep doing it.

Really, asside from speeding up the movement ove rlarge heavy rocks or digging i dont see any benefit to Undead in construction.

However, i think they will speed up the large rock movement and digging imensely.

You could easily make a undead powered treadmill and have it work almost forever. They will keep walking on it until their legs are consumed or the treadmill fall to pieces (if they are controlled).

Probably you can even get them to square rocks to a specific, pre determined size and shape if you give them a model to follow.

The problem is that you need some kind of spellcaster or an undead with the ability to control other undead to keep them controlled. And the controller need the right skills if you want to get a passable result.

I don't know so many clerics or wizards that will take Craft carpentry, stonemasonry and so on as their skills.


For the first and last, fair 'nough. Posts can really get under my skin too, sometimes: I understand entirely!

That said...

Diego Rossi wrote:

Beside the little thing that they have an alignment and they go uncontrolled when the controller die?

PRD wrote wrote:

Zombies are unthinking automatons, and can do little more than follow orders. When left unattended, zombies tend to mill about in search of living creatures to slaughter and devour. Zombies attack until destroyed, having no regard for their own safety.

There is not much about what happen when a undead go uncontrolled, but if they follow your last order, why there is any need to control them at all?

Create your maximum number of undead, order them "go in that direction and kill everyone that don't wear a red bandana."

Rinse and repeat.
There is no reason to have a limit on the controlled undead if that is how it work. With that interpretation you need to take control only when you need to change their orders.
A bit too convenient when we are speaking of a aligned, evil creature.

(That was how they worked in the old versions of the game, when the mindless undead were neutral and truly some kind of automaton)

Thanks for the quote and reference! That helps a lot.

I see what you mean, but, there are a couple of interesting things, here. First,

PRD wrote:
Skeletons are the animated bones of the dead, brought to unlife through foul magic. While most skeletons are mindless automatons, they still possess an evil cunning imparted to them by their animating force—a cunning that allows them to wield weapons and wear armor.

... lacks the aggressive wording of the zombie entry. They are capable of wielding weapons and wearing armor, but this doesn't actually caust them to go hunting or killing. The only undead I noted Ashiel actually talking about was skeletons, so it kind of works, though, yeah, given that, I'd be strongly suspicious of doing this with zombies myself. Skeletons don't seem to have that clause, however.

Second, looking at,

PRD wrote:

Zombies are the animated corpses of dead creatures, forced into foul unlife via necromantic magic like animate dead. While the most commonly encountered zombies are slow and tough, others possess a variety of traits, allowing them to spread disease or move with increased speed.

Zombies are unthinking automatons, and can do little more than follow orders. When left unattended, zombies tend to mill about in search of living creatures to slaughter and devour. Zombies attack until destroyed, having no regard for their own safety.

Although capable of following orders, zombies are more often unleashed into an area with no command other than to kill living creatures. As a result, zombies are often encountered in packs, wandering around places the living frequent, looking for victims. Most zombies are created using animate dead. Such zombies are always of the standard type, unless the creator also casts haste or remove paralysis to create fast zombies, or contagion to create plague zombies.

... seems to imply that just sending 'em out, like,

Quote:

Create your maximum number of undead, order them "go in that direction and kill everyone that don't wear a red bandana."

Rinse and repeat.

... actually is common practice. Which is interesting, because I hadn't really thought of it before.

Basically, zombies are dangerous ravening hordes to launch in waves against your foes, while skeletons are the more obedient, keep-it-close guardians. An interesting dichotomy that I'd kind of internalized, but hadn't really externalized. (Of course, this may, eventually, become prohibitively cost-prohibitive.)

The third thing is that I think we're talking about slightly different things, or looking at something differently, which I can totally understand. Possibly due to me more thinking of the skeleton entry and you more thinking of the zombie entry.

I've seen skeletons effectively used for exactly what is being discussed - "do this until otherwise ordered" (although in this case it's guard against anyone who touches <X>, so still violent) - even long after the caster has died and moved on.

In terms of undead (specifically skeletons; alternatively golems) preforming menial labor, I could certainly see it being dangerous to just out-and-out attack the skeletons, but it would be fascinating to me, as a player, to wander into a castle that is constantly maintained by skeletons doing menial chores forever, that only attacked when I did. As a GM, it would be a really interesting "what you take with you" test - do you attack the undead doing nothing wrong, or do you go in all guns blazing? Frankly, even anti-undead creatures are more likely to snipe - take one at a time - instead of attacking the group all at once, which is interesting as well.

Cool ideas, all together.

Sczarni

MrSin wrote:
Silent Saturn wrote:
Even if you give them a contingency order ("Make bricks until I tell you to do something else") most undead will still turn hostile if living "intruders" show up and start messing with them, and you're not around to command them to "heel". Especially since the "intruders" are likely to be would-be undead slayers.
Source?

In addition to that already quoted, there's also the text of the Command Undead spell.

Command Undead said wrote:


This spell allows you a degree of control over an undead creature. If the subject is intelligent, it perceives your words and actions favorably (treat its attitude as friendly). It will not attack you while the spell lasts. You can give the subject orders, but you must win an opposed Charisma check to convince it to do anything it wouldn't ordinarily do. Retries are not allowed. An intelligent commanded undead never obeys suicidal or obviously harmful orders, but it might be convinced that something very dangerous is worth doing.

A nonintelligent undead creature gets no saving throw against this spell. When you control a mindless being, you can communicate only basic commands, such as "come here," "go there," "fight," "stand still," and so on. Nonintelligent undead won't resist suicidal or obviously harmful orders.

Any act by you or your apparent allies that threatens the commanded undead (regardless of its Intelligence) breaks the spell.

Your commands are not telepathic. The undead creature must be able to hear you.

I'll give you that Dan the Necro-Carpenter, Foreman of Necronstruction, Inc., could break down the labor of castle construction into "basic commands" that a zombie could carry out. But his command over them ends if any of his "apparent allies" [which I would read as any living laborers, the castle's inhabitants, or anyone invited in] threatens them. As for trespassers, the undead would most likely parse them as their master's enemies and attack them on sight.

The spell also has a duration (in days per level) so Necronstruction, Inc. needs to keep a tight reign on its Inhuman Resources, and if the Foreman suffers an on-the-job accident, we're never more than three weeks away from Castle Deathtrap.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

@ Tacticslion

Golarion and Pathfinder lore is that all undead (with the possible exceptions of ghosts) are evil.

As I see it, regardless of the kind of mindless undead you make, it is possible to send them like an horde in a direction, but when they become uncontrolled they will not follow your orders anymore.

So, raise your skeletons, send them west with the order of killing whoever they met if he don't wear a red bandana. So far no problem.

Now raise a new group of skeletons going above your limit for the number of HD of undead you can control. The older set of skeletons go uncontrolled. They will still move westward as that was the direction in which they were moving and they have no reason to change direction, but they will not follow your orders as they are uncontrolled, so if they meet someone with a red bandana they will follow their alignment, Neutral Evil, and try to kill him. If he tries to flee toward south they will follow him in that direction and after dispatching or losing him they will move in that direction or stand still until they see a potential target.
That is how they work in Golarion lore AFAIK. You can ask JJ for further informations.

- * -

Silent Saturn citation of the command undead spell show us that the order need to be very simple:

PRD wrote:
When you control a mindless being, you can communicate only basic commands, such as "come here," "go there," "fight," "stand still," and so on. Nonintelligent undead won't resist suicidal or obviously harmful orders.

"Dig a hole here" is already at the limit of what you can order them to do. "Take a board from this pile and cut it in pieces as long as this string" seem above the complexity of the example commands. So putting them at work digging a moat would require breaking the task into very specific sets of actions.

Skeleton 1: "dig a hole here and put the earth in a barrow there."
Skeleton 2: "take a full barrow from here, go in that spot and dump the earth there, then return here and repeat"
Skeleton 3: "take a empty barrow from that spot and bring it here, the return there and repeat"
As soon as something don't go smoothly (a tool break, the pile of earth in the point where you drop it is to high, anything) the whole thing will start falling apart.
Skeleton 1 will still dig a hole and fill the same barrow even if skeleton 2 is not moving away the full barrows. He will not care if the barrow is overfilled and the earth is falling back in the hole he is digging, he will still follow its orders.


Diego Rossi wrote:
PRD wrote:
When you control a mindless being, you can communicate only basic commands, such as "come here," "go there," "fight," "stand still," and so on. Nonintelligent undead won't resist suicidal or obviously harmful orders.

"Dig a hole here" is already at the limit of what you can order them to do. "Take a board from this pile and cut it in pieces as long as this string" seem above the complexity of the example commands. So putting them at work digging a moat would require breaking the task into very specific sets of actions.

Skeleton 1: "dig a hole here and put the earth in a barrow there."
Skeleton 2: "take a full barrow from here, go in that spot and dump the earth there, then return here and repeat"...

Hmmm...but could you use multiple skeletons to do the cutting?

Skeleton 1: one up the end of this string with the end of this board and stretch it out
Skeleton 2: cut just slightly after the other end of the string

Of course...yes, a lot of dead bodies for a simple task, since you would also likely need skeletons to clear away the cut pieces too. And it is very, very, very likely that skele 1 is going to get its hand sawed through.


You know it costs more for 1 skeleton than it does to pay a peasant for a year...


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Your examples of the undead doing very basic tasks to complete a simple goal is making me think of a huge if grisly Rube Goldberg Machine.


Silent Saturn wrote:
I'll give you that Dan the Necro-Carpenter, Foreman of Necronstruction, Inc., could break down the labor of castle construction into "basic commands" that a zombie could carry out. But his command over them ends if any of his "apparent allies" [which I would read as any living laborers, the castle's inhabitants, or anyone invited in] threatens them. As for trespassers, the undead would most likely parse them as their master's enemies and attack them on sight.

How does it know the difference between a trespasser and an invited guest or inhabitant? Why would it attack a trespasser?

Putting a bit more into this than is written imo.

Sczarni

MrSin wrote:
Silent Saturn wrote:
I'll give you that Dan the Necro-Carpenter, Foreman of Necronstruction, Inc., could break down the labor of castle construction into "basic commands" that a zombie could carry out. But his command over them ends if any of his "apparent allies" [which I would read as any living laborers, the castle's inhabitants, or anyone invited in] threatens them. As for trespassers, the undead would most likely parse them as their master's enemies and attack them on sight.

How does it know the difference between a trespasser and an invited guest or inhabitant? Why would it attack a trespasser?

Putting a bit more into this than is written imo.

That's a good question, I admit, but the phrase "apparent allies" implies that somehow it can. Maybe it can sense the hostile body language of its controller? Trespassers that the Foreman are unaware of are probably safe, then, but if the undead's friend-or-foe recognition is flawed in any way, then there's a whole 'nother issue. What if there's an argument in the castle and the Foreman takes a side? What if the Foreman swings a hammer and accidentally hits someone while a zombie watches? The fact that it's left so vague is probably why undead laborers are considered to be so dangerous.

Even if the vagaries are cleared up, there's still the issue of that duration, and the fact that Command Undead doesn't exactly include a fail-safe way of disposing of the undead after the castle is built. You could try and destroy them the old-fashioned way, but the wording of Command Undead sounds like once the first blow is struck, the spell ends for ALL affected undead, which means only the first one will obediently shamble into the meat grinder. You could seal them off in a dungeon or an oubliette, which might make a convenient defense against invading armies, but does little to dispel the "Castle Deathtrap" conception.


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Diego Rossi wrote:

@ Tacticslion

Golarion and Pathfinder lore is that all undead (with the possible exceptions of ghosts) are evil.

As I see it, regardless of the kind of mindless undead you make, it is possible to send them like an horde in a direction, but when they become uncontrolled they will not follow your orders anymore.

So, raise your skeletons, send them west with the order of killing whoever they met if he don't wear a red bandana. So far no problem.

Now raise a new group of skeletons going above your limit for the number of HD of undead you can control. The older set of skeletons go uncontrolled. They will still move westward as that was the direction in which they were moving and they have no reason to change direction, but they will not follow your orders as they are uncontrolled, so if they meet someone with a red bandana they will follow their alignment, Neutral Evil, and try to kill him. If he tries to flee toward south they will follow him in that direction and after dispatching or losing him they will move in that direction or stand still until they see a potential target.
That is how they work in Golarion lore AFAIK. You can ask JJ for further informations.

JJ has confirmed that not all undead other that ghosts are inherently evil (and there are canon non-evil and even good ghosts), though he's also stated that they would not introduce such a thing unless they felt very strongly about the value of the story.

(I am one of those that feel extremely frustrated by the purposeful retcon of the juju oracle; first in saying, "no they're still evil" and then in saying, "that's not the supported one, this one is instead, and we'll never reference the other again, but oh, yeah, the other one is totally valid except for the part where we invalidated it by retcon" so, you know, that's worth keeping in mind. :D)

Regardless, the skeleton entry has nothing similar to the zombie entry.

I still think we're talking past each other.

I'm not suggesting that you set skeletons free over time, but rather that, upon your death, unlike zombies, they don't revert to hunting-killing attitude and instead continue on their tasks because, as you pointed out, they can't learn - they simply do what they do, and that's all.

Reference the "raise and release" side-conversation, here's how an evil necromancer might go about what I was describing:

1) raise zombies; send them west with, "Go attack that town." (or whatever)
2) after they leave, raise more zombies; send them west with, "Go attack that town." (or whatever)
3) after they leave, raise more zombies; send them west with, "Go attack that town." (or whatever)
[note: if they're uninterested in slow waves of this nature, instead build up a bit, and then send them all and then lather/rinse/repeat - some amount of similar control can be established with spells, as noted]
4) repeat to taste/wealth
5) after the zombies are all gone, raise some skeletons; they're not likely to attack you if they're accidentally freed, as per their description (the zombies have the notation that this is their nature - the skeletons do not)

The idea that something will go wrong is one way to take it, but not the only. It may well go wrong, but it doesn't always have to, and no one ever said the typical necromancer sending roving packs of zombies are consistently all that stable or wise. :)

But, of course, why would the necromancer do this? I dunno, any number of reasons, including (but not limited to):
1) revenge
2) madness
3) cruelty
4) experimentation
5) religious conviction or fervor
6) egomania
7) some other reason I can't think of at present
8) some combination of the above

That's why I suggested it seems very much so that the zombie "flavor" is that they are simply created en masse, sent "that way", and then released to work their awful (because that's why they were raised as zombies).

Now, none of this (what I wrote above) actually directly pertains to player characters (though, I suppose, it could, if the game was supposed to be that way) or the core topic (that of using undead to build your stuff), but rather to the probable general uses of said mindless undead.

On to the actual topic, skeletons are probably quite stable - and, in fact, from my recollection, have been repeatedly utilized as such long-term "this is what they do" style servants in the past.

But, above all, they are great for labor.

As far as skeletons performing conditional tasks, I've seen it in more than one printed adventure - in Serpent's Skull, for example, at one point, there's a pen of them. They just kind of hang out in the pen.

super-minor spoiler, it's mostly just about stealth:
They are under instructions to rattle their chains and bang their sabers if they see anyone; they attack if and only if people approach within 5 ft. of the fence.

That's... pretty broad instruction, really, complete with differing levels of response based on varying and changeable situations.

They're at least partially being used for violence... but there's not particular reason inherent to them, so much as the person using them was a bad person who wanted to use them for violent purposes (and additionally has no craft or profession skills).

I agree that most necromancers wouldn't necessarily have those skills - but the OP presumption is that the person in question is skilled (and specifically notes that you'd have to do all the hard part, and keep them overseen).

Also worth noting, the command undead spell is a specific effect. Animate dead states:

Quote:
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. Undead you control through the Command Undead feat do not count toward this limit.

While I submit that zombies note they need to be attended, they are still under your control, so long as you follow the rules of the spell in terms of HD limits. It's only if those are broken (and you substitute the command undead spell or similar effects) that you get into the danger of an ally attacking the undead turning the undead loose (as well as other limits).

Finally,

Quote:
You know it costs more for 1 skeleton than it does to pay a peasant for a year...

If you're talking about an untrained hireling (1 s/day), there are two things with that:

1) if you raise a skeleton of a human (or any non-HD race) it costs you 25 gold; it would cost you 36 gold 5 silver and 3 copper (rounded up) to higher a peasant for a year
2) those laborers would naturally have a poor standard of living and never have an opportunity to break out of that vicious cycle as a result (as 100% of their earnings - 1s/day or 30s/month or 3g/month - would go toward covering that lifestyle); thus sparing them the hard labor and using the resultant time (and additional money, see above) saved to enable them to learn marketable skills would actually be better for them in the long and short runs (especially if you supplement their diet with magic).

:D

(Also, as Ashiel noted, the "cheap" way of doing this is undead. The better way is Constructs.)

Oh, and I don't think it's been said, but mindless creatures can (generally speaking, not perfectly consistently always) achieve decent bonuses on the INT-based skills via Aid Another, which, you know, is actually really interesting.


Silent Saturn wrote:
That's a good question, I admit, but the phrase "apparent allies" implies that somehow it can. Maybe it can sense the hostile body language of its controller? Trespassers that the Foreman are unaware of are probably safe, then, but if the undead's friend-or-foe recognition is flawed in any way, then there's a whole 'nother issue. What if there's an argument in the castle and the Foreman takes a side? What if the Foreman swings a hammer and accidentally hits someone while a zombie watches? The fact that it's left so vague is probably why undead laborers are considered to be so dangerous.

The awkward thing is there really isn't any way for it to know. Regardless of any fighting going on, they really should only attack if ordered. The fact that its left so vague doesn't really sound like a reason why it would be dangerous. Doesn't take much to figure out I'd imagine.

Silent Saturn wrote:
Even if the vagaries are cleared up, there's still the issue of that duration, and the fact that Command Undead doesn't exactly include a fail-safe way of disposing of the undead after the castle is built. You could try and destroy them the old-fashioned way, but the wording of Command Undead sounds like once the first blow is struck, the spell ends for ALL affected undead, which means only the first one will obediently shamble into the meat grinder.

You order them to kill themselves, or you carry them on to another job. Mindless undead under the effects of command undead will do suicidal acts if asked, but the spell breaks if you attack them yourself(why waste the effort anyway?). You can always cast the spell again, they won't resist. day/level gives you plenty of time.

Lantern Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

Semi-tangent to the topic at hand:

A spellcaster who specifically plans on doing things like this would most certainly have some ranks in one or more craft skills. They have plenty of ranks to spare.

Further, with the False Focus feat & a sufficiently valuable divine focus (at least 25gp for 1HD skeletons), after that initial investment, extra minions are free. A caster with a holy symbol tattoo (100gp value, max the feat can support) can even make beefier skellies such as horses or oxen. For free. Over and over.


Also the wording on lesser animate dead causes me to wonder if it's free or not. I haven't thought about or looked into it enough to guess yet, though, and am being called to go to sleep.


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Mojorat wrote:
You know it costs more for 1 skeleton than it does to pay a peasant for a year...

Not really. Peasants taking 10 on their profession checks make 5 gp a week. That means that the skeleton would pay for itself in material components in about 1.25 months worth of labor.

However, getting a humanoid corpse can be the tricky part. However there are many morally fine methods of acquiring such fare in a D&D game. It's highly likely that by the time you've reached a level where casting animate dead and building a castle or sailing a ship is feasible, you have probably killed enough orcs, goblins, bugbears, troglodytes, bandits, and so forth to stack into a hill of corpses, and the motto of the necromancer is "waste not, want not" (also "recycle, reuse, reanimate").

Also while I appreciate Diego Rossi's input, alignment doesn't work that way. The skeleton entry says nothing about mindlessly wandering around slaughtering people. Further, alignment itself does not force you to undertake actions. In fact it does nothing beyond be affected by your actions (IF you are capable of moral reasoning in the first place) and determine how certain game mechanics affect you.

Ergo, I find "skeletons are evil, thus they must murder" to be nonsensical. There's not anything in the rules that actually says such. Also unlike command undead which is different from animate dead, animate dead says that the undead you animate and control follow your spoken commands and makes no special consideration for the complexity of those orders.

Also, for the record, since the Pathfinder RPG is a replacement for 3.5, there is no more reason to assume that every post discussing some thing that you can do in the PF-RPG automatically means anything to the world of Golarion. Golarion has its own special considerations, and even then when it comes to alignment Golarion is full of crap (in a good way), because you have good-aligned fiends and non-evil undead pop up in adventure paths.

It's stuff like this that makes me sad. People don't even read the alignment rules and try to crush actual legitimately cool things that you can do within the rules in order to push their opinion that is not supported by the rules onto others. I mean, what's wrong with being able to tell your PCs...

GM: "Before you stands the Gray Keep, that only four years past was assembled for the necromancer Malkorvis, by the living dead he created from the bodies of the orc rebels who sought to overthrow him. Now it stands as a grim reminder that those that seek to oppose him will in the end only further increase his dark power."

And it actually be possible? Anyone? Can anyone explain why this is a problem? Is there a legitimate problem with this from a PC perspective? Does literally everything have to be about combat?

Player: "I'm going to use my army of orc skeletons and a few ox skeletons to build me a sweet castle to be my base of operations. It's going to be so cool!"

GM: "All your undead go mad and kill everyone. Also they set your castle on fire, because reasons, also alignment, yeah. Also, they kill you, your party, your dog, and your family in your sleep, because they didn't have orders at the time,"

For pity's sake. -_-

We could also talk about how cool it would be to make lots of cheap (relatively) noncombat animated objects to do menial labor, because having a magic broom and dust pan that keep your pad clean is both stylish and awesome.

Sczarni

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Well, then we might as well get into the REAL reason that castles with undead servants and laborers have become synonymous with deathtraps-- because whenever the PC's encounter one, their owners are the BBEG's and have been actively trying to kill the PC's since long before they showed up at the castle. Or because the original necrolord is gone and the serfs who live under the shadow of Castle Deathtrap specifically asked the PCs to go in there and clean out the undead. Or because the next-of-kin of the people whose corpses were used to make those undead assassinated the necrolord and now his minions are just sort of wandering around, swinging their tools around haphazardly and it's only a matter of time before one of them takes out a support beam.

Really it's down to Chekov's Gun more than anything else. If you establish that there's a castle full of undead servants, the PCs are going to expect that it's their new dungeon for the evening and are going to want to go in and slay all the undead. And even if they don't, zombies and undead have been so long considered "monsters" that the threat of them going off the leash is just too juicy of a story hook for most GMs to pass up.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Ashiel, I think you are treating as separate two things that affect each other:

1) in Pathfinder undead are evil (Pathfinder, not Golarion).

2) the mindless undead are mindless and as such can't take moral decision and their alignment isn't affected by the moral decision they make.

So, what we get from that: a neutral evil automaton. something that do evil actions that don't require thought or planning when left to its own devices.
The consequence seem very clear to me: a uncontrolled mindless undead will slaughter any living thing it see simply because that is basic programming, born from being neutral evil.

The "castle build by undead" idea work fine, but you need some middleman, essentially some undead with a mind, the capacity to command other undead and the appropriate skills.

The necromancer control the more powerful undead that then control the mindless ones.


Diego Rossi wrote:

Ashiel, I think you are treating as separate two things that affect each other:

1) in Pathfinder undead are evil (Pathfinder, not Golarion).

Some are, but not all. Anything with a mind is capable of changing alignment. The alignment rules themselves actually say that creatures incapable of moral decision are Neutral, so in the case of mindless creatures without alignment subtypes their statblocks are in error as they contradict the actual rules for alignment without a special ability making it so.

This is a basic principle of exception based design. The alignment rules say:

Quote:
Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior. Dogs may be obedient and cats free-spirited, but they do not have the moral capacity to be truly lawful or chaotic.

There is no special rule about undead to make them not fall under this general rule. They have no racial trait that makes this so. They have no special ability such as "Tainted (Ex): Though incapable of moral action, mindless undead are treated as having the evil alignment". There is no exception, there is not one made, which means that as written the alignments of skeletons AND zombies are both in error.

Now you could chalk it up to sloppy mechanics (and it is) but that's what you have. Legally, the rules for alignment still govern the skeleton and zombie, which means that since they are incapable of moral action they are neutral. Even if they were created evil, they would become Neutral immediately since alignment shifts based on your moral action, and if your moral action is no moral action, you are going to be Neutral very soon.

That aside (as I didn't intend to get into a debate over this with this thread, as it's literally just supposed to exist to explain that mindless ANYTHINGs are not so dirt stupid as to be nonfunctional but that they are actually just as capable of doing things as normal human beings).

Quote:
2) the mindless undead are mindless and as such can't take moral decision and their alignment isn't affected by the moral decision they make.

Yes and no. See above.

Quote:
So, what we get from that: a neutral evil automaton. something that do evil actions that don't require thought or planning when left to its own devices.

That's a big stretch. You're turning alignment around backwards and making ALIGNMNET the front of the car. Alignment is dictated by action, it does not dictate action. One does not say "This creature is evil, and thus it must take action", one says "This creature takes action, and thus it must be evil".

So what you get from that is not what I get from that. What I get from what we're discussing is:

1. Alignment rules say: Skeletons are neutral.
2. Skeletons lack an ability or trait that makes them exempt from alignment rules.
3. Thus skeletons are neutral. Their statblock/template is in error.
4. There is nothing that says skeletons do evil actions when left unattended, and thus they do not. To say this would require me to add something to the content that I am studying that is not there, and thus get a biased and incorrect result.

Quote:
The consequence seem very clear to me: a uncontrolled mindless undead will slaughter any living thing it see simply because that is basic programming, born from being neutral evil.

Which is disproved by a logical and unbiased examination of the rules as a whole. Firstly, one cannot assert that a creature will do something without reasonable grounds to make that assertion. The skeleton does not say that it mills about doing evil things when it is not controlled. Further, since I just proved that the alignment of the skeleton is in error (because there is no exception, which is needed, to disqualify it from the standard alignment rules), you cannot even approach it from the incorrect path of "alignment = actions" anymore, because unless the skeleton has a special exception, it must be Neutral.

To give an example of a special exception, let's look at the Tyrannosaurus. It deals double strength damage with its bite attack. This is an exception to the way that attacks normally work. However the T-Rex has a special ability called Powerful Bite that spells out an exception to the standard rules, and allows the T-Rex to not follow the normal rules for its natural attack. Without that exception, the T-Rex would have an error and the bite attack would not function that way.

Alignment is also like this. It has certain rules that are indeed clearly spelled out. Without an ability that grants it exception, it is still governed by those rules, just as the t-rex would be governed by the rules for attack and damage with its bite attack if it did not have its powerful bite special ability.

Another example of an exception to the alignment rules is the alignment creature subtype. The subtype indicates that it is usually possessed by creatures native to an aligned plane (though makes no indication that it is possessed ONLY by creatures from those planes). As part of the subtype it treats a creature as if they were X-alignment (where X is the alignment corresponding to the subtype) regardless of what their actual alignment would be based on the alignment rules.

Thus if an a succubus decides that evil sucks and it would be happier doing charity work, loving and being loved by people, and generally just rocking the good alignment like a hot dress, she's still for all mechanical purposes treated as though she were the Evil alignment (and, humorously, can be treated as both evil AND her actual alignment, which means that if you cast detect evil, detect chaos, and detect good she'll ping on all tests).

The funny thing is, since alignment does not dictate actions, even if the skeleton DID have an alignment, that gives no indication at all as to what they do while uncontrolled. It requires you to fabricate something that is not supported by the facts, to make it work the way that you want it to work. A nice narrative tool, but it is pretty useless in a conversation like this, and is clearly a house rule on how alignment actually works.

Quote:

The "castle build by undead" idea work fine, but you need some middleman, essentially some undead with a mind, the capacity to command other undead and the appropriate skills.

The necromancer control the more powerful undead that then control the mindless ones.

That doesn't even make any sense. What good would having a pyramid of undead do?

All you need is someone that can supervise them, just as you would an untrained worker. When a skeleton takes 10 on any Int or Wis based check, they are functionally equivalent to an untrained laborer in all respects. Since Craft and Profession say that you can manage untrained laborers as part of your check, all you need is...

1. Lots of undead (or construct) workers.
2. Someone that is skilled in the task to be accomplished.

That's RAW. And it works. You can sail a ship crewed by fearless, merciless, undead pirates under the commands of the dread pirate Malkorvis, or erect Castle Graygaze built not with the sweat and blood of peasants but the dust and marrow of the deathless.

Continued In Next Post...

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Silent Saturn wrote:


Even if you give them a contingency order ("Make bricks until I tell you to do something else") most undead will still turn hostile if living "intruders" show up and start messing with them, and you're not around to command them to "heel". Especially since the "intruders" are likely to be would-be undead slayers.

And this is a problem how? Some idiot comes to mess with my workforce, my workers attacking them will be the least of their problems. It's not my fault they wouldn't pay attention to the "No Solicitors" sign at the door.


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Now the biggest problem that you'll likely run into with any sort of construction of...well anything, is that the Craft Rules are really terrible and don't actually give any useful information on cooperative crafting. As a result, you might have to work out something that actually works with your GM, and if you spend half the effort tweaking the Craft skills as we have bickering over the morals of a robot, then you should be able to cook up something that works fairly well quickly.

The Problem
Crafting sucks. And when I say it sucks, I mean it sucks like a tornado. As is, if you have someone with the technical know-how to actually build...well anything, there is still almost no appreciable benefit to having extra labor. As someone who has actually spent time as an untrained laborer helping to assemble houses, lay blocks and mortar, farm, build fences, and so forth, I can say that in reality every hand you add to the mix will drastically increase the speed and efficiency of your progress and lighten the loads of the individual.

However in Pathfinder, that is not true. There is rarely appreciable benefit for having assistance, because the Crafting rules have no guidelines for how to handle multiple people working on the same project together at a time. The best you could hope to accomplish with the existing rules is the use of Aid Another, a tragically terrible mechanic for this sort of thing.

Let's look at an example of the problem...

Example: Joseph the Carpenter is a skilled carpenter with a +6 to his Craft (Carpentry) checks. He is tasked with building a simple house for someone in his community. Given the complexity of the task and estimated value of the home, the GM sets the DC at 15 and the value of the house at 5,000 gp.

Now Joseph the carpenter takes 10 for 16, multiplies it by 15 (the DC) and produces 24 gp worth of progress on the house per week. It will take him years to make a simple house made out of wood. Even if we were to lower the cost of the house to a mere 1,000 gp, it would still take him about 10 months of continuous work weekly to build the house.

Commentary: Now, naturally, this is why you would get lots of friends (or employees) to help with the progress. Having someone to hold boards, nail nails, lift objects into place, and so forth can make things go soooooo much faster. However, this is not so in Pathfinder, as you will see.

Example: Joseph goes and gets 20 people from the village to help him put up the house. They're not trained carpenters so they have a net +0 to their craft checks, but they're labor that he really needs to build. However, since there are no rules for splitting work with the Craft skill, we default to making Aid Another checks.

Statistically, the group should add around +22 to his average check result, resulting in 60.8 gp worth of work per week. Unfortunately it would still require about 16.5 weeks for every 1,000 gp worth of house. With 20 helpers. Bleh! That's terrible!

Possible Solutions
There are some nice house-rule options. My favorite without getting too far from the standard rules is to allow you to split the work and allow everyone to make progress individually, using their individual check results. For example, here's a writeup for how this could work.

Cooperative Crafting: If two or more characters are working together to create something they are working as a team. One member of the team (typically the one with the highest modifier) is chosen as the team leader. The leader's check is compared against the DC of the item to be created per the normal crafting rules. However, each team member contributes to the work being done individually. Each makes a Craft check and multiplies the result by the DC of the item to be created to find their progress in silver pieces for a week of work.

Example: Joseph grabs up his 20 laborers and forms a team with himself as the leader. To see if they successfully craft the house, he takes 10 for a 16 vs DC 15. Since his check succeeds, the crafting is going to be successful and he generates 24 gp worth of progress for the week. Each of his team members take 10 for +15 gp worth of progress for the week, or +324 gp worth of progress per week. It will take the whole team about 3 weeks to build a 1,000 gp house, or 15 weeks to build a 5,000 gp house.

Pros & Cons: The usual crafting pros and cons exist. That is the easier the item is to make, the slower you are at crafting it, since the DC is lower, which is nonsensical. It also means that your skill modifier isn't very important as someone with a +5 check and a +10 check aren't going to do much different on a given task unless the DC is simply too high for the +5 guy.

On the plus side, this method at least allows you to use helpers and it actually matter. It makes things like apprentices and hirelings more helpful to a craftsman, and allows you to know having a team makes a difference.

Other Crafting Ideas
Star Wars d20 used a much cleaner method for handling the Craft skill. Instead of basing the progress on the DC, instead the DC merely represented the overall difficulty of the project. The multiplier became your skill itself (in SWd20 I believe it was actually your modifier).

Example: The GM decides building a house is a DC 15 for Carpentry, so the Crafter must make at least a 15 to make progress on the work, and roll at least an 11 to avoid ruining any materials. Joseph takes 10 for 16, no problem. The progress he makes by the week is 16 * 16 = 25.6 gp.

Pros & Cons: The benefit of this method is that the check results actually matter a lot more, and thus being well trained is a bigger deal. If Joseph has a +6 check result, he gets 25.6 gp worth of progress done, but if he takes Skill Focus, he gets 36.1 gp worth of progress done. Throwing in masterwork tools would bring him to 44.1 gp worth of progress. In essence, every +1 that you get to your skill is a noticeable improvement in your efficiency regardless of the difficulty of making the item.

It also gives a much smoother growth, as opposed to the +10 DC method provided in the core rulebook. That could also be adapted for doing things like working on simple items faster. For example, if making a clay pot is DC 5, perhaps you can work on them twice as fast by increasing the DC by +10.

In general it just rewards having a higher Craft skill a bit more, for what is already an underwhelming skill.

On the downside (maybe) is that if using the above cooperative crafting rules, it makes extra laborers less effective on more difficult projects since they are forced to use their own check results as the modifier and not the DC of the project itself. This might actually be desirable as it shows a greater reward for having skilled people working on your project.

Example: If we combine these methods, Joseph hits the DC of 15 by taking 10, and he produces 16*16 = 25.6 gp worth of work himself. Each of his untrained helpers takes 10 for 10x10 = 10 gp worth of work added, or +200 gp worth of work, for a total of 225.6 gp worth of work (less than the 324 in the first example of team crafting, because their multiplier is not the DC 15 of the project but their low check result).

However, if Joseph had trained laborers, each with a +4 to their craft checks (say 1 rank each), then they suddenly jump up to 392 gp worth of work added, which is actually more than in the first example, and the team can build the house much faster, presumably because they needed less supervision and were more efficient at handling things.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ashiel wrote:


1) in Pathfinder undead are evil (Pathfinder, not Golarion).

Some are, but not all. Anything with a mind is capable of changing alignment. The alignment rules themselves actually say that creatures incapable of moral decision are Neutral, so in the case of mindless creatures without alignment subtypes their statblocks are in error as they contradict the actual rules for alignment without a special ability making it so.

This is a basic principle of exception based design. The alignment rules say:

Quote:
Animals and other creatures incapable of moral action are neutral. Even deadly vipers and tigers that eat people are neutral because they lack the capacity for morally right or wrong behavior. Dogs may be obedient and cats free-spirited, but they do not have the moral capacity to be truly lawful or chaotic.

There is no special rule about undead to make them not fall under this general rule. They have no racial trait that makes this so. They have no special ability such as "Tainted (Ex): Though incapable of moral action, mindless undead are treated as having the evil alignment". There is no exception, there is not one made, which means that as written the alignments of skeletons AND zombies are both in error.

Now you could chalk it up to sloppy mechanics (and it is) but that's what you have. Legally, the rules for alignment still govern the skeleton and zombie, which means that since they are incapable of moral action they are neutral. Even if they were created evil, they would become Neutral immediately since alignment shifts based on your moral action, and if your moral action is no moral action, you are going to be Neutral very soon.

Ashiel, monster break the rules constantly and often they don't even explain why or how. But the skeleton and zombie explain how it happen:

PRD wrote:

Templates

A template is a set of rules that you apply to a monster to transform it into a different monster. It gives precise directions on how to change the original monster's statistics to transform it into the new monster.

.....

Creating a Skeleton

“Skeleton” is an acquired template that can be added to any corporeal creature (other than an undead) that has a skeletal system (referred to hereafter as the base creature).

Alignment: Always neutral evil.

.....

Creating a Zombie

“Zombie” is an acquired template that can be added to any corporeal creature (other than an undead), referred to hereafter as the base creature.

Alignment: Always neutral evil.
[/quote+

Applying the template change the creature alignment to Neutral Evil.
You can dislike it as much as you want, but that is how it work.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ashiel wrote:
Diego Rossi wrote:

Quote:

The "castle build by undead" idea work fine, but you need some middleman, essentially some undead with a mind, the capacity to command other undead and the appropriate skills.

The necromancer control the more powerful undead that then control the mindless ones.

That doesn't even make any sense. What good would having a pyramid of undead do?

All you need is someone that can supervise them, just as you would an untrained worker. When a skeleton takes 10 on any Int or Wis based check, they are functionally equivalent to an untrained laborer in all respects. Since Craft and Profession say that you can manage untrained laborers as part of your check, all you need is...

1. Lots of undead (or construct) workers.
2. Someone that is skilled in the task to be accomplished.

You are forgetting a key passage. The guy with the skill need to be able to command the undead. So he must the undead creator or someone with the ability to command undead.

Mindless undead will not take orders by a random stonemason or carpenter. He need to be someone with the ability to command them.


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"Undead servitors, take orders from my assistant Jimmy here."


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Weird I had it stuck in my head peasants made like 5sp a week....that must be mentap blur from age or older games.

Anyhow if I recall labour from the downtime rules adding more increases speed. Really if you consider the cost of castles I would assume 100% of them would be made with a lyre of bulding.

For 13k gold you just need to supply materials. Far better than a zombie built castle.

For the record in 30 years of playing I've never had a skeleton not attack me. Sure it woukd be nice if they just stood there as we walked into its centuries dead castle... but noooo they always make like its jason and the arfonaughts.


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Mojorat wrote:
Weird I had it stuck in my head peasants made like 5sp a week....that must be mentap blur from age or older games.

Well, even in 3.x, the DMG goes "oh, peasants are super poor, because an untrained laborer makes 3 gp per week" or somesuch, but that was debunked as soon as you read the profession or craft skill. The only way they could make 3 gp a week average would be if they had 0 ranks and a -4 modifier (so Int/Wis 3).

Quote:

Anyhow if I recall labour from the downtime rules adding more increases speed. Really if you consider the cost of castles I would assume 100% of them would be made with a lyre of bulding.

For 13k gold you just need to supply materials. Far better than a zombie built castle.

Honestly a lyre of building is pretty much the superior method of building stuff if you have one and can keep playing the thing. A sentient item construct with +10 Perform would probably be the ideal person to have play the lyre in that case (see Intelligent magic items).

Quote:
For the record in 30 years of playing I've never had a skeleton not attack me. Sure it woukd be nice if they just stood there as we walked into its centuries dead castle... but noooo they always make like its jason and the arfonaughts.

That's because mindless undead make the ideal guards for ancient castles and tombs and such. I mean, they're absolutely loyal (without magic shenanigans which often only affects one or two at a time), fearless, have low upkeep, aren't going to go crazy from boredom of abandon their posts, and can be given basic tasks and commands that they'll follow until they've got something better to do.

3.0 (0E-3E had mindless undead as "Neutral", rightfully so) was pretty good at explaining this concept. If you want to protect a place for a long time, undead are a good way to do it. Doubly so if you want to make sure they cannot be bribed, won't run away, and might just scare the pants off some would-be grave robber.

I'd surmise that if in 30 years you never had a skeleton not attack you, then that skeleton probably had a reason to attack you (even if that reason was a simple as someone saying "kill all intruders except me" or "protect this place until I return"). However, if the skeletons had been ordered to "clean the castle when it is dirty, and tend to the animals" you might find a rather creepy old castle filled with servants who ignore your existence, only attacking when you disturb them or their duties.

That would be a pretty cool thing to see as a backdrop or setting for an adventure. Especially if the main antagonist was the ghost of the castle's original owner who still haunted the castle.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ashiel wrote:
Quote:
For the record in 30 years of playing I've never had a skeleton not attack me. Sure it woukd be nice if they just stood there as we walked into its centuries dead castle... but noooo they always make like its jason and the arfonaughts.

That's because mindless undead make the ideal guards for ancient castles and tombs and such. I mean, they're absolutely loyal (without magic shenanigans which often only affects one or two at a time), fearless, have low upkeep, aren't going to go crazy from boredom of abandon their posts, and can be given basic tasks and commands that they'll follow until they've got something better to do.

3.0 (0E-3E had mindless undead as "Neutral", rightfully so) was pretty good at explaining this concept. If you want to protect a place for a long time, undead are a good way to do it. Doubly so if you want to make sure they cannot be bribed, won't run away, and might just scare the pants off some would-be grave robber.

I'd surmise that if in 30 years you never had a skeleton not attack you, then that skeleton probably had a reason to attack you (even if that reason was a simple as someone saying "kill all intruders except me" or "protect this place until I return"). However, if the skeletons had been ordered to "clean the castle when it is dirty, and tend to the animals" you might find a rather creepy old castle filled with servants who ignore your existence, only attacking when you disturb them or their duties.

That would be a pretty cool thing to see as a backdrop or setting for an adventure. Especially if the main antagonist was the ghost of the castle's original owner who still haunted the castle.

In earlier editions (up until 3.5, if I recall correctly), skeleton and zombies were neutral and very similar to an automaton. That made them very different from the pathfinder version (were the zombies are essentially the horror films zombies, hungry for flesh and the skeleton are NE and so basically hostile).

In our games in the earlier editions, depending on their orders, we had skeletons and zombies:
1) not caring about adventurers,
2) attacking them on sight;
3) rowing a ship for them;
4) march ahead of the party to work as trap detectors;

After accidentally creating one while trying to discover what a magical item did we had a player order it: "stay here unmoving until the sun fall on your head." and we even had a LG cleric ask for an Animate dead spell to add troops to the defense of a beleaguered dwarf outpost and getting them. He had to atone afterward and put the undead to rest, but the spell was granted.

AFAIK, until the 3.0 version of the game it was possible to create an unlimited number of mindless undead without control problem. You gave them their orders (or to better say it, you programmed them for 1 task) and then you could leave them to their devices until you needed to change the orders.

JJ comment on that is that if you want to create a skeleton that way is that you should use the rules about constructs, not those about undead.
Effectively that kind of skeleton is way more similar to a construct than a the Pathfinder version of an undead.

Lantern Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber

Diego, thou hast inspired me!

Using the rules for animating constructs with skeletons as the base material! Now to just cobble together the disparate rules on animated objects . . .

That's something I'd truly like to see in the form of a player's companion or something like that - an errata'd, compiled guide to creating constructs with the rules for animated objects. They put out some of them in part of Carrion Crown, and some more in another book (don't recall which).

In any case, extensive use of constructs as durable, reliable workers is something I can get behind. I wonder if I can get my next GM to allow "Animated Object" to as an option for the "Golem Constructor" Arcane Discovery. That'd make me a happy wizard.


I just had a thought, where would you get all these skeletons? You're going to need a lot and you dont want to start raiding graveyards and villages before you have some thick walls to hide behind. Even if you build them up beforehand inevitability some will be crushed by falling stones and buried by improperly shored up walls and you'll need replacements.


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Maslovo wrote:
I just had a thought, where would you get all these skeletons? You're going to need a lot and you dont want to start raiding graveyards and villages before you have some thick walls to hide behind. Even if you build them up beforehand inevitability some will be crushed by falling stones and buried by improperly shored up walls and you'll need replacements.

As an adventurer I assure you there is an abundance of fresh corpses, old unclaimed corpses, and slightly used undead hidden in just about every nook and cranny of the world.

Adventurers! Solving problems since 78'.

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