(5e) How many undead can you have under your command?

4th Edition

Twice now I've seen someone claim that you break the game with necrominions, gaining hundreds - if not infinite - undead under your comman at once, through spells and other abilities.

I've yet to see evidence for this. My own reading of the PHB gives me 21 undead by level 17.

1 from Command Undead (You can control a single creature at a time, page 119)
14 from Animate Undead (one with 3rd level spell slot, 2 more for each spell slot up to 9th, plus 1 from the necromancer's Undead Thrall ability, pages 119, 212-213)
6 from Create Undead (6 max at level 17, page 229)

But that's only for a 24 hour period. Once 24 hours are up, a recasting of Animate Undead only lets you keep control of 4 of those, bringing you back down to 11.

Is my understanding accurate? Am I missing something?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Can you make big scary undead that boss lesser undead around for you?


The minion of your minion is still kind of your minion?

The Exchange

I believe they are saying that you can use multiple castings of the spell to create multiple lots of undead. At 9th level slot you can drag up 16 zombies with animate dead. So if you use all your slots to create undead using that spell, you can get lots of undead.

However, I believe the section that states you cannot benefit from the effects of the same spell more than once precludes this from happening.

While the undead are animated instantly, you gain the effect of being able to control them for 24 hours. That is the effect of the spell.

If you cast it a second time on a new group of undead, I believe the rule kicks in, preventing you from gaining the controlling effect of the spell.

There was another poster who disagreed pretty strongly though.

The Exchange

Smilo, I don't know about that one. It does however bring up something to consider with the simulacrum idea people were floating around as well.

In that one they suggested you create a simulacrum. It then creates its own. Then it's one creates one etc.

However, you only get to control the original one. Controlling all the others becomes very difficult one would think.

Additionally, you only have to break one and entire sections of simulacrum no longer work at all. Just like all those bloody Christmas lights when one bulb goes. Grrrrrrr.

bookrat wrote:
But that's only for a 24 hour period. Once 24 hours are up, a recasting of Animate Undead only lets you keep control of 4 of those, bringing you back down to 11.

This part is wrong. Recasting reasserts control of 4 + 2 per spell level - which is more than you can summon with a single casting of the spell.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I'm lucky my current group doesn't do this style of play. It would drive me kind of nutty!

In 3.5, I played in a group where 1 guy always played a magic-user that used magic to fight better than the fighters, and sometimes it was kind of annoying, like when he polymorphed or shapechanged into a 2-weapon fighting balor with instant-clones and gangs (but not armies at least!) of simulacra.

But he did play a real cool UA battle sorcerer feral kobold that would get 4 or 6 attacks a round. The rest of the party was a chaos gnome dragon shaman (me) and a catfolk ranger archer, so at least he wasn't outshining anyone. My little guy soaked damage and buffed and healed. The ranger shot things, the battle sorcerer pounced like a paper tiger.

The Exchange

Yeah SmiloDan,

Our DMs would shut this stuff down pretty fast too. The guys on these threads in Paizo Forums want rules proof to prevent it though.

I'm under the impression the rule already exists, but wouldn't mind some confirmation.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

I'm actually liking the 5E action economy ecology.

In the games that I've played, each turn takes up pretty much the same amount of time. Occasionally spellcasters have to look up some spell details, but most of the time, we're able to do that during someone else's turn.

In 3.5, I played in a party of 3 as a druid with an animal companion and spontaneous summoning. I think I was pretty good about doing everything relatively fast (my animal companion had his/her own character sheet (I used a dog, so only 1 or 2 attacks) and I always pre-statted out anything I planned on summoning), but in retrospect, I hope I wasn't taking up too much time. The rest of that party was a khopesh & board fighter and an arcane trickster/fighter, so pretty martial which means pretty fast and easy to run, even if 2 weapon fighting.

Nowadays, I wouldn't play a summon-heavy character in a group of 4 or more. I think they work better for smaller parties.

I once DMed a party of 8 with a druid that would summon 1d4+1 dire bears, each of which got 3 attacks and a possible grapple, so that could grind combat to a halt.

As much as I don't really like 5E monster design (I'm one of the freaks that actually likes PF monster design, with all the feats and skill points and BAB/HD/Good Saves based on type, etc. etc.) I DO like how a lot of monsters that used to have 2 or 3 attacks per round (claw/claw/bite) now just have 1 attack that does more damage (one 2d8+3 attack instead of three 1d4+1/1d4+1/1d6+2 attacks plus 2 possible rakes for 1d3+1/1d3+1). It really speeds up combat.

The Exchange

Agreed. I think the whole game feels more fluid, since even when DMing I rarely need to reference rules. Remembering a few key DC ranges, knowing the conditions and then pretty much letting players try whatever they want is so freeing compared to what I'm used to in Pathfinder.

I often think to myself that 5e is about making choices freely, while Pahtfinder gives choices through creation but you can't deviate from that afterwords.

Can I try to disarm - 5e sure, make an attack and then opposed Str check. (Just a set of things that seem to make sense).

Pathfinder - do have the feat? Ok, now we need cmd vs cmb, now we need to check modifiers and buffs, what feats and gear does the enemy have that might prevent this or make it harder? What feats and gear do you have to make it easier? Oh hey, the baddy has this combination of things, I need to read them quickly form multiple sources to find how they work together in this combat.

While having a reference for everything is good at times, for me it eventually grew too tedious to continue with.

So ignoring Wrath's suggestion of overlapping spells, it looks like you can have 111 undead under your command at once. You get 1 from Command Undead, and 110 from Animate Undead by using every single spell slot from 3 to 9 at level 20.

From Here

The fact that this requires the use of every single spell slot from 3rd level up makes it seem a lot less powerful than it looks at first glance. Still less than the "hundreds to infinite" previously claimed.

I also found another source - and I haven't checks the math or the legality of it - that can gain just over 200. Some of it seems fishy as they're using Command Undead to control an undead capable of summoning its own undead minions.

The Exchange

Yeah, it's certainly not what I'd call game breaking.

In terms of Narrative Power, I don't think it gives anything more to a caster than any class can't do with down time.

Any reason to ignore the overlap rule though? I know it speaks of overlapping durations, but I believe they are clarifications to the main point about benefiting from the same spell more than once.


RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Just as there are Ritual spells that you can cast without expending a spell slot, I wish there were ceremonies or power components to make some spells more powerful like that.

I also wish a lot more spells got more powerful with higher spell slots. For example, if mage armor and shield used at a higher level increased the AC bonus granted.

Finger of Death gives you a permanent zombie slave every time you use it to kill a humanoid. It's a 7th level spell, so you can start creating your army as soon as you reach 13th level. At 20th level, you can create 4 zombies a day, with no limit except your lifespan (and the number of humanoids you're willing to murder).

Keep in mind, however, that zombies are not the brightest of minions (or the best smelling ones, either). Caveat emptor.

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