Alternative to undead for cheap labor force?


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Undead will probably win out when it comes to easy access to an army of compliant workers but is there any other alternatives through spells or class features?


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Maybe animated objects, but then you get into relative pricing for crafting constructs vs animating undead.


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I'm guessing that animated objects might be ok. Building constructs lists the price of several animated objects and golems. They're more expensive than undead, but I would imagine that there would be less backlash over a small workforce of animated objects vs an army of undead workers.

Contributor

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Yeah, I think constructs (other than golems, which enslave elemental spirits) are the way to go here if you want to avoid ethical issues. Or just pay a fair wage and ensure good working conditions and enjoy the superior fruits of an engaged and involved labor force.

Shadow Lodge

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Be sure to have at least a few clockwork servants because healing constructs are kind of a pain in the ass using normal methods


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Fractional reserve banking


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You could dominate someone and have them work as the front man for your undead work force.


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Animated Objects is probably the way to go.

Constructs are slightly more expensive than undead but are also much more palatable as an unpaid labor force, don't smell awful and fall apart over time, and usually won't go berserk and kill every living thing in their path until someone kills them if your control slips unless you really messed up making your constructs.

Unskilled laborers will get very irate if you disinter the remains of their ancestors without permission to put them out of a job (to say nothing of the various gods you're probably pissing off) but mechanizing unskilled labor tends to go over a lot better, particularly if you can find something useful for the people no longer doing that work to do instead.


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Permancy+animated objects. It's free if you use blood money, but even without it'll eventually pay for itself over time. It's a bit of an up front investment, but there's no moral quandaries about enslaveing spirits or evil acts.


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Does Animate Dead actually beat out workers? I'm not so sure.

In goods and services the cost of an untrained hireling comes out to 1 sp per day. Undead cost 25 gp per hit dice, meaning an undead servant will cost you a minimum of 25 gp to create. That's 250 days worth of labor from an untrained laborer, and that's if we ignore the cost of the spellcasting services and any continued upkeep involved in controlling and housing the undead. All things considered, free laborers are looking pretty competitive with undead here if not superior.

Slaves are ludicrously overpriced in Pathfinder; there is pretty much no reason you'd ever go with slaves over free workers unless the cost of labor was significantly higher than what's listed in the CRB.


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The Unseen Servant spell is nice too. Sure, you need to recast it a lot. But it does provide a clean, replenishable source of labour.


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Dasrak wrote:

Does Animate Dead actually beat out workers? I'm not so sure.

In goods and services the cost of an untrained hireling comes out to 1 sp per day. Undead cost 25 gp per hit dice, meaning an undead servant will cost you a minimum of 25 gp to create. That's 250 days worth of labor from an untrained laborer, and that's if we ignore the cost of the spellcasting services and any continued upkeep involved in controlling and housing the undead. All things considered, free laborers are looking pretty competitive with undead here if not superior.

Slaves are ludicrously overpriced in Pathfinder; there is pretty much no reason you'd ever go with slaves over free workers unless the cost of labor was significantly higher than what's listed in the CRB.

I don't know. Undead do not tire, and many have darkvision. so that could be more like.... hmmmm.... lets say you get 12 'effective' hours of labor out of humans (anymore, and there will be a sharp decrease in performance, and paid ones will likely choose not to work that long). So that is more like 125 days of labor.

On another note- what is the nature of the labor? Does it specifically need 'humanoid' style labor using thumbs, or could you get by with various types of animals placed in appropriate mechanisms?

One of the areas that I feel lacks proper exploration is the idea of undead animal workforce. Imagine- an unlimited supply of horse power from undead horses! People might gladly sell the bones of various farm animals to you, and the moral quandaries are gray enough that many countries might overlook it (You will get strongly worded letters from the druid groups though).

So if the labor could be accomplished by putting undead horses on those 'wheels of pain' used for slaves, or at least have them pull the loads out of the mines... you might be able to do a lot. Maybe investigate into whether you can use monkeys for labor that needs thumbs.


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Dasrak wrote:

Does Animate Dead actually beat out workers? I'm not so sure.

In goods and services the cost of an untrained hireling comes out to 1 sp per day. Undead cost 25 gp per hit dice, meaning an undead servant will cost you a minimum of 25 gp to create. That's 250 days worth of labor from an untrained laborer, and that's if we ignore the cost of the spellcasting services and any continued upkeep involved in controlling and housing the undead. All things considered, free laborers are looking pretty competitive with undead here if not superior.

Slaves are ludicrously overpriced in Pathfinder; there is pretty much no reason you'd ever go with slaves over free workers unless the cost of labor was significantly higher than what's listed in the CRB.

It's a matter of practicality. Undead, constructs or something similar will be on hand when you need them, across a mountain, through a jungle,travelling to other countries.

Hirelings are people who need shelter, food, water and will at some point want to go home, a DM may say they don't want to go, too dangerous and then there's limited areas to hire them.


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I feel like a ready supply of horse corpses is reasonable, but a ready supply of dead monkeys seems less likely.


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Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
I feel like a ready supply of horse corpses is reasonable, but a ready supply of dead monkeys seems less likely.

Would anyone complain if we used goblins? I feel like people would complain more if we killed monkeys.

General point- I am sure there are plenty of thumb bearing species that no one will miss if we go around turning them undead.


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I can almost see the is x evil alignment thread now.


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Constructs are way to expensive to be considered a cheap labor force. I reccomend planar binding. Its like slavery but its magically enforced, they are strong slaves with magic powers you can use, they don't have to sleep, and nobody cares about the evil ones. Heck they can even survive in many areas where even undead can't(ocean of acid, flaming pits, etc). For the less moral mixing with normal slavery does improve efficiency and moral. After all when the mortals drop dead from overwork they get to eat and the outsiders get a soul to eat. Everybody wins

Kobolds are an excellent source of slaves. Complete apathy from pretty much every other race(some will even help), naturally hard works, fairly easy to supress, and if you convince them your a dragon they will work for you willingly


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For construction, there's always Lyre of Building. It's 600 or 1800 hours of work (depending of if the effect represents 8 or 24 hours of effective labor) for every hour of a competent bard's (~16.5 SP a day, not even 2 gold.).


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Dastis wrote:
Kobolds are an excellent source of slaves. Complete apathy from pretty much every other race(some will even help), naturally hard works, fairly easy to supress, and if you convince them your a dragon they will work for you willingly

that is why dragons even bother with them.


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...
Peasants.


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Graduate students.

Oh, sorry, was ninja'd by Abraham spalding.


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NoTongue wrote:
Undead will probably win out when it comes to easy access to an army of compliant workers but is there any other alternatives through spells or class features?

Does your compliant workers need to have skills?

Because if so, I think Simulacrum might be useful to you, assuming you have a competent original.


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Chromantic Durgon <3 wrote:
I can almost see the is x evil alignment thread now.

I call lawful evil. I have been trying to prod the limits of what could be socially and legally acceptible use of undead. I also seek to take the dull eyed, undisciplined goblins and given their productive careers in my salt mines. They will be 3rd gade non-living specialists. Aren't I so kind to raise them out of their meaningless lives (as well as their shallow graves).


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NoTongue wrote:
Undead will probably win out when it comes to easy access to an army of compliant workers but is there any other alternatives through spells or class features?

I am not sure it is easy. Just getting a sufficient amount of onyx to animate them could be a pain in itself. 50 undead = 1250 gold pieces worth of onyx alone (how many settlements have that at hand?), and you need lieutenants for large groups because of the control HD limit. Said lieutenants need to either be have channel energy or need to cast animate dead as well; level 2 experts need not apply. So you need a sizable initial investment and, for larger groups, specialized managers. They are also crap at anything resembling specialized work. Even your level 1 commoner would likely have a rank in a useful skill and enough brain to know how to use tools. Skeleton carpenters or builders... no thanks.

Overall, I would say they can be quite useful if you need extremely simple emergency work or need to work with extreme conditions, but they are not as great in most situations. Plus, well, you can't just get them anywhere. Humanoid bodies or even bones in intact condition are not something that is universally available.

Just as an example,a level 8 bard with leadership (which, granted, many DMs do not like, but most don't like dealing with undead hordes either), decent charisma and an investment in a home base can easily get a leadership level of 15+ and attract something like 25-30 followers on top of their cohort - most would be level 1 NPCs, but there would be a smattering of level 2 and 3s. This is on top of any hirelings who are just there for the money and the food; these people are fairly loyal and can form the foundation of your organization.


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Simulacrum of a succubus and some slaves, succubus uses her magic and skills to turn your slaves into a nice happy worker cult you command at will though the simulacrum.


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Dasrak wrote:

Does Animate Dead actually beat out workers? I'm not so sure.

In goods and services the cost of an untrained hireling comes out to 1 sp per day. Undead cost 25 gp per hit dice, meaning an undead servant will cost you a minimum of 25 gp to create. That's 250 days worth of labor from an untrained laborer, and that's if we ignore the cost of the spellcasting services and any continued upkeep involved in controlling and housing the undead. All things considered, free laborers are looking pretty competitive with undead here if not superior.

Slaves are ludicrously overpriced in Pathfinder; there is pretty much no reason you'd ever go with slaves over free workers unless the cost of labor was significantly higher than what's listed in the CRB.

The undead can work 24/7. You only need 1/3 the workforce to get equivalent labor.

The Shaman wrote:


I am not sure it is easy. Just getting a sufficient amount of onyx to animate them could be a pain in itself. 50 undead = 1250 gold pieces worth of onyx alone (how many settlements have that at hand?),

My army of dwarven undead continues to work the mines they were digging before I killed them.

Quote:
and you need lieutenants for large groups because of the control HD limit. Said lieutenants need to either be have channel energy or need to cast animate dead as well

This is where Simulacrum + Blood Money comes in. I have my own personal coterie of Clerics of Urgotha.


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I don't think there's anything cheaper than summoning Undead. Too easy and too cheap. And they never have to sleep or worry about fatigue/exhaustion.


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You're all forgetting the exorbitant cost of paladin repellant.

Oh, and potpourri.

Those two will really eat into your margins.


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Plus the rat problem.

Your workers are made of food.

Actually, on second thought I love this idea!


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Rune Guardians

They cost 3500 GP to make and have one 1st level spell At Will, cast at 1st level power. In their description it notes that the spell can be whatever the creator wants it to be.

Unseen Servant lasts an hour. A Rune Guardian tasked with basic labor can oversee and crank out hundreds of Unseen Servants, replacing them as the durations expire.

With a strength of 2 they can't do much alone, but they don't take up any space, can work together, and could easily do things like harvest crops, sew seed, clean, haul lightwight goods or equipment, feed livestock, swing a lightwiight hammer or hatchet, slowly dig ditches or graves, or any other work that doesn't require heavy tools or strength.

Let's do a quick cost comparison-

Since rune guardians have to be made by an 11th level caster, we'll use that as our baseline.

We'll seriously boost this Necromancer's caster level too. Assume he's spec'd out for this exact thing. He's a Cururomancer. He has Spell Specialization and a couple caster level boosting traits. He's using Deathwine. Let's give him a +7 caster level for this (seriously highballing, but sure, why not. It's possible). This hyperspecialized necromancer is casting Animate Dead at 18th level and can control his caster level x5 worth of Hit Dice.

That's 90 HD worth of skeletons. Call it 90 skeletons.

Animating those skeletons costs about 3150 gp.

That's pretty close to the cost of the Rune Guardian.

Now let's compare the labor force-

90 skeletons certainly have the edge in strength, but after an hour there are 600 Unseen Servants around. That's 6 unseen servants for every skeleton, with a few leftover. With the exception of heavy lifting, anything a skeleton can do, 6 unseen servants can probably do too. Probably faster.

Then there's oversight. An 11th level spellcaster's time is worth a lot. Anyone hiring them is going to go bankrupt just paying for his work as a Foreman. With an 11 Intelligence, a Rune Guardian can oversee it's Unseen Servants without much trouble. All it needs is an Expert with some appropriate skill ranks to keep it doing things right (much cheaper than hiring an 11th level wizard)

And this is for one Rune Guardian. There's no limit to the number of Constructs someone can control. If they can build it, it obeys them.

An 11th level wizard can probably afford to make a few of them.


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Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Don't sell religious fervor short. A cult can accomplish great deeds with the sacrifice of their true believers.


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I'm pretty sure you could temporarily hire some devils that could get the work done quickly.

For a price


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MageHunter wrote:

I'm pretty sure you could temporarily hire some devils that could get the work done quickly.

For a price

Hey, as long as they're licensed and bonded...


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The Rune Guardian idea seems solid especially when, in addition to their slightly better than average intelligence) their description explicitly notes they are able to work with other minions.

Also sounds like a good low-level quest too. A wizard who hires out one or more Rune Guardians during harvesting season has had one of them kidnapped by criminals who thought it was just a glorified magic item. As tracking down and killing all the bandits takes more resources than hiring low level help, the wizard sends his familiar (Raven or improved familiar as it would need to talk) to hire some murderhobos to make an example of them and recover his stream of income. This could even be used to assemble the party the first time. The Raven/Arbiter/Pesudodragon/Whatever flies around town and tells obvious murderhobos from above that its master will pay them X Gold (the rate each PC will get after an even split) to kill a few criminals and they should meet at *insert public space that isn't a tavern or inn her* in a few hours to apply. Once the PCs are there the familiar weeds out a few non-PC applicants for various reasons before the PCs move someplace more private for the details.


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Random thought- tieflings have an option from that silly fiendish heritage table to get a very watered down version of animate dead. It only allows the tiefling to get 1 hd skeletons. 1 skele per day limit, normal animate dead limits for how many hd you can control (fairly easy to math out, since hd pool=number of skeles).

I mostly bring this up, because a racial SLA skips right past the material component requirement of onyx. And obviously this skeleton isn't useful for fights past... maybe level 5?

But it would be great for spamming workers for making workers for the mines. It is just about the only real use for them. Even if the tiefling can't control the skeles himself, he can make cheap skeles for others to control through the control undead feat.

Of course, the only real economic downside here, besides finding the right personnel, is that a lot of the useful animals are 2 hd (horses, for example). So you might HAVE to use humanoids. Or very small animals . I guess goats, donkeys, and dogs fall into the right categories.


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An Immortal Lychee wrote:

You're all forgetting the exorbitant cost of paladin repellant.

Oh, and potpourri.

Those two will really eat into your margins.

Regular workers beat undead servants every time when you account for likely problems like adventurers, investigating officials, hordes of rats and maggots turning your zombies into skeletons, the smell, the fact that you have to watch your workers every second to make sure that they don't automate themselves into a catastrophe, protests from citizens who say you're stealing their jobs, etc.

And let's not forget the whole: animating undead is an evil act and you're damning your soul for all eternity to save a few silver pieces. And if you're already evil, you really need to stop digging yourself deeper into that soul hole you've got going. Eternity of badness vs. saving some silver pieces maybe.


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Thrallherd, like leadership, but without the pesky free will.


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I've been a bit distracted lately. Has anyone considered that you really do need to consider "lost wages" of the animator. Even if you take away the whole evil part of the problem, how much could the caster make doing something else? If you do leave in the whole evil issue, how much more money could they make?


You also need to consider that skeletons and zombies are dumb. Like rock stupid dumb. Even with manual labor there's going to need controllers that make sure everything keeps sailing smoothly. Even if the workers are tireless, their handlers aren't which puts their workday at roughly the same as mortal workers. And that's without the problem of evil necromancers possibly mucking things up by demanding pay or threatening to unleash the ravening dead on the world.


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Tarik Blackhands wrote:
You also need to consider that skeletons and zombies are dumb. Like rock stupid dumb.

This is a popular misconception.

Mindless does not mean stupid. It means incapable of pro-active thinking.

Insects are mindless and are capable of forming complex societies and structures, and communicating with each other.

Oozes are mindless and they can differentiate between threats, food, others of their own kind, and everything that can't be eaten.

Skeletons are mindless, but they retrain the weapons and armor feats they had in life so they know which end of the sword is the handle and which isn't. They can also follow fairly complex instructions from their masters.

If a necromancer were to give a skeleton a set of detailed instructions about how to build a brick wall, it would build a functional brick wall until it ran out of bricks.


Actually that wall will be a load of garbage presuming it's a know engineering check or profession (wall builder) check. The first is a failure on arrival due to int - and the latter is more or less doomed due to them having no skills to speak of. You can instruct them however well you want, the execution is going to awful regardless.


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Bees and wasps make walls that are more complex than any brick wall ever built.

You think they're making Engineering checks?


Skeletons unfortunately don't have the learned behavior/instinct to build walls or indeed do anything but kill stuff according to their description. If I instructed some workers to build a wall, they'd be throwing a check. Skeletons aren't off the hook because of int -.


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That would be a house rule.

If you ordered unskilled workers to build a wall, they would be rolling to see how good their wall was, not whether they could do it at all.

The DC for crafting very simple objects (like carving a wooden spoon) is 5. The only way to fail badly enough that you ruin your materials is to fail the check by more than 5. A human being with average intelligence literally cannot fail at making a spoon. If they put enough time in, eventually they will succeed.

Mechanically speaking, stacking bricks is around the same complexity as carving a wooden spoon. They both fall into the category of "Unskilled Labor." Skeletons would take a -5 to their check (the penalty from no Int score), meaning that they would fail badly enough to ruin materials 25% of the time. They would succeed 50% of the time.

With four other skeletons giving Aid Another checks (DC10, -5 from no int score, is DC 15. Rolled four times, it's likely to get at least a +2 bonus on the actual craft check), our first skeleton would be almost as efficient at unskilled labor as an average intelligence human. If you give those 5 skeletons a Masterwoork tool, they are actually statistically better at the job than an average intelligence human.

Sure, 5 skeletons to one human isn't a great ratio, but the skeletons don't need to stop for anything and don't have to be paid. They cost a total of 175 GP, and 50 gold for the tool, and that's the entire labor cost of building as many simple walls as you could possibly want.

Under the rules as they exist, mindless undead are like programmable machines with an urge to murder everything.


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Now I'm picturing five skeletons working together to carve wooden spoons. Like the world's creepiest assembly line.

All the local spoonmakers are pissed about automation stealing their jobs.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The 'Company Store' technique worked for many, many years before folks saw it for the sham that it was. There are even iterations of it to this day.

Wouldn't be hard to get all the 'under-employed' entrapped in that sort of set-up, and hey, the Store pays back into the bottom line...


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Can we just accept that skeletons could at least operate a crank of a pulley system?

I am not going to argue that the average mindless undead is good at skilled labor. But I am sure you can devise various methods to allow them to just mindlessly turn various parts of a machine, allowing them to do the heavy lifting of a project.

That is taking a lot of the labor that one would expect from a 'cheap labor force'.

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