A player in my Rise of the Runelords campaign decided to play a Gravewalker Witch, and in order to make sure he doesn't abuse the class's ability to command undead, I was hoping for some clarifications.
The Bonethrall ability functions like the command undead spell and allows the Gravewalker to gain undead minions. My understanding of it is that because it references the spell, it has a duration of 1 day per level. What happens when the duration ends or the (intelligent) undead makes its save? Do the undead attack the nearest creature? Do they wander off?
When I confronted the player with this possibility, he just said that if the effect wore off, he'd just do it again. Is that allowed? Or are there limits to how many times an undead can be subject to the Bonethrall ability - many witch hexes have the stipulation that "Whether or not the save is successful, a creature cannot be the target of this hex again for 1 day", so would that be appropriate here? There are no limits on how many times the same undead can be subject to command undead, but the spell is limited by virtue of being a spell.
The entry for the Bonethrall ability doesn't list what sort of action it is - it replaces a hex and acts like a spell, which both take standard actions, so is using the Bonethrall ability a standard action? What about activating the Aura of Desecration? Should these abilities be treated as hexes in all respects?
Lastly, the campaign is set mostly in Sandpoint and later Magnimar - how would people in these areas react to seeing seemingly tame undead walking around? How would he be able to keep his undead safe if the townsfolk think they're monsters?
1) How do undead (intelligent or mindless) behave after Bonethrall/command undead ends?
2) How many times can the same undead be subject to Bonethrall from the same caster? (Would it be appropriate to put a once per day limit on it?)
3) What sort of action is Bonethrall/Aura of Desecration? Are they hexes?
4) How would the people of Sandpoint/Magnimar react to undead minions?
In no particular order...
- Yes, it can be spammed an unlimited number of times.
- When an unintelligent undead gets free, it behaves like an unintelligent undead, with the usual lurking and killing. An intelligent undead is free, probably very ticked, but also aware of the Witch's potential for gaining influence over it. Throat-slitting, familiar-killing (if the Witch hasn't been discreet), or running away are possibilities.
- Yep, standard action for Bonethrall. Not a hex, though, it just uses the DC. Aura of Desecration doesn't specify a duration or a way to turn it off, and it has to work while using Bonethrall, so "always on" is the easiest assumption.
- Most civilized areas (especially non-evil) will try to destroy the undead and kill/jail the necromancer leading them. If Pharasma has a local church, you can expect to have some divine casters helping.
Once per target per day is probably a reasonable houserule.
Just a note, though- intelligent undead are affected more like a strong Charm Person. So my throats slitting assessment earlier is probably only true if the limits of the ability are really pushed, and the intelligent undead is really bossed around.
1) Mindless undead would go standard for mindless undead; berserk and attack any living creature in sense range.
Intelligent undead would react depending on a number of factors! how were they treated? what were they made to do? are they confident that they can avoid that witch's control if they get too near to her again?
and the behavior would go from extreme hostility to striking a tentative alliance, through fleeing to avoid being controlled again.
2) There's no mention of it being limited, so I'm afraid that's an at will ability that can be used so long as the undead is within the aura of desacration. The fact it takes the place of a hex reinforces my interpretation in that direction.
3) they are not called hexes, but they seem akin to them. the aura is a constant emanation, bonethrall is a standard action, apparently at will.
4) how do normmal people react to undead? panic, hostility... the usual. Necromancers are not well regarded in normal societies, and a gravewalker is a necromancing type of witch.