Animate dead and such things.


Prerelease Discussion


We've been told that these things won't be in the playtest but I want to talk about them anyway. Not sure why they won't put it in though. Seems like a good way to get some of the players involved in trying out mass combat and how to play it.

I want to compare 5e Animate dead/create undead with pathfinders animate dead (not sure about pf create undead, seems fine). I prefer the way 5e handles it in general with the exception of variety. The focus will be on a Wizard character. There's 3 things the matters to me.
Commitment
Payoff
Variety

In 5e commitment works in a few different ways.

1. Spells prepared
2. Spells learned
3. How the spells themselves work
4. Misc. costs like how society will view you, resources spent hiding your minions etc.
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1. You can prepare spells equal to your lvl + casting modifier. So lvl 20 = 25 spells to prepare. You also only have to prepare the spell once then it stays there until you prepare another spell to replace it. All casters in 5e are kinda spontaneous casters and can therefore prepare the spell once then cast it in each lvl3+ slot they have. Preparing the spell is a decent commitment because you will only be able to prepare less that half your spell selection assuming that you find a few spells on your journey.

2. You learn, 2 spells per lvl + any spells you learn from scrolls/books + 6 spells starting lvl 1. This means that learning 1 spell (animate dead) is not that large of a commitment.

3. Animate dead is a lvl 3 spell. When cast you animate dead you gain control of 1 skeleton/zombie. With the lvl 6 feat of the necromancy school you can animate and gain control of 2 skeletons/zombies. These skeletons will remain in you control for 24 hours after which they will act on their own accord. You can cast the spell to reassert control over your minions. A lvl 3 Animate Dead will reassert your control over 4 skeletons/zombies. This is not increased by your lvl 6 feat from the school of necromancy. For each lvl above lvl 3, Animate Dead will raise/reassert 2 more. Animating is recruiting for your army and will determine the speed at which your army grows. Reasserting is paying the upkeep and will determine the maximum size of your army. It takes 1 minute to cast.

4. The misc. cost is basically the same as in pf1 I believe. The main difference is that you have to reassert control of your minions daily which means the discomfort of you animating these vile creatures will come up more frequently. More opportunities to rp the whole shtick.
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The payoff is simpler. In pf1 it's instant. You press the button twice and voila, you have max capacity. 5e makes you work for it a bit more*. What I like is that I basically get two systems to engage with, recruitment and upkeep. The both feel different and they are both fun in their own way. Both way feels like a proper investment, one that I have perfect control over. I can make all different sizes of army. I can make a small personal guard or a full blown army and anywhere in between.

Pf1 variety beats 5e easily. I want that to remain the same.

I'm not really sure how to really describe it. In my group I'm trying to hide, badly, that I'm a necromancer. First time I tried to animate a zombie was after we just killed some bandits and was getting ready to move on. I was faking my phantom steed ritual while I was really trying to pull a bandit closer to our carriage (which I bought and had painted pink). I thought that it would be more subtle. One of my companions heard me and wondered what I was doing I I gave some poor excuse that I can't remember then I gave up on my really great attempt.
First time I successfully animated something I abandoned my watch to go to a place where we killed a few guys, about 30 minutes away. 1 Zombie and a guy I previously suggested we burn as a burial ritual kinda thing so I could get a skeleton :^). I then proceed to put the skeleton in the back compartment and I kinda shoved the zombie between the axle of the wheel. If this was pf1 I could have just turned around and done a quick cast while lagging slightly behind before even leaving the gravesite.

What I would really want is if there was a feat that let undead spells more or less function identically to how it's done in 5e. Maybe even just make the spell itself a weird exception. Similar to how they are doing counterspell maybe? Let us just pick a slot to burn after preparing it.
Do you think there is a advantage to pf1 system?

*a lot more

P.S. I have never played pf1


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I suspect Animate Dead will end up as a Ritual instead of a spell, so that we are less shoehorned as GMs when choosing the general for our uhdead army.

Frankly, spells that create standing armies are not appropriate player options. That said, a Player Necromancer should be able to animate and control a few undead Companions, just not a whole army's worth.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Cantriped wrote:
I suspect Animate Dead will end up as a Ritual instead of a spell, so that we are less shoehorned as GMs when choosing the general for our uhdead army.

I concur that seems very likely, although I expect to still see at least some spells that fit into that niche.

Senkon wrote:
I want to compare 5e Animate dead/create undead with pathfinders animate dead (not sure about pf create undead, seems fine).

PF1 Create Undead is utterly terrible. The strength of the undead creatures it creates are completely out of line with the caster level prerequisites, such that by the time you can create them they are so massively below your power level as to be meaningless. The only exceptions are the Juju Zombie and Skeleton Champion options from the Undead Revisited softcover. If they're not allowed, the spell is basically useless. On top of that the spell confers no special control over the undead it creates, and the options for controlling free-willed undead are perilous and risky. It's hardly any wonder that Animate Dead is the one that gets used. Certainly I hope Create Undead gets a second look in PF2 because it really needs help.


Dasrak wrote:
Cantriped wrote:
I suspect Animate Dead will end up as a Ritual instead of a spell, so that we are less shoehorned as GMs when choosing the general for our uhdead army.

I concur that seems very likely, although I expect to still see at least some spells that fit into that niche.

Senkon wrote:
I want to compare 5e Animate dead/create undead with pathfinders animate dead (not sure about pf create undead, seems fine).
PF1 Create Undead is utterly terrible. The strength of the undead creatures it creates are completely out of line with the caster level prerequisites, such that by the time you can create them they are so massively below your power level as to be meaningless. The only exceptions are the Juju Zombie and Skeleton Champion options from the Undead Revisited softcover. If they're not allowed, the spell is basically useless. On top of that the spell confers no special control over the undead it creates, and the options for controlling free-willed undead are perilous and risky. It's hardly any wonder that Animate Dead is the one that gets used. Certainly I hope Create Undead gets a second look in PF2 because it really needs help.

When I say create undead seems fine I mean that it I like it conceptually. I don't know about the power lvls of these spells in pf but I think it doesn't need to otherwise change.

I think skeleton armies are fine you just need to adjust how good they are. In my game it's not very easy to accumulate my army. It's just the pf version where it's given to you to easily that's the real problem.


I'm hoping there is a ritual for army-building undead and a low-action-cost spell that gets a small number of temporary undead. Best thing about animate dead in PF1 is it is a standard action to use which means raising fallen foes mid-fight is a somewhat viable option, at least around the level animate dead appears.


Paradozen wrote:
I'm hoping there is a ritual for army-building undead and a low-action-cost spell that gets a small number of temporary undead. Best thing about animate dead in PF1 is it is a standard action to use which means raising fallen foes mid-fight is a somewhat viable option, at least around the level animate dead appears.

I'm not sure what we think the rituals are going to be but I agree with something along these lines at least. There is a lvl 5 spell called Danse Macabre which summons a decent amount of skellies/zombies with a lot of power boosts. I personally do want both that and animate dead still though.


The viability of animate dead in Pathfinder is entirely dependent upon the number of racial hit dice of the corpse and its size category. Bigger corpses (or the skeletons thereof, up to a baked-in maximum) yield more effective zombies.

Creatures that have a lot of racial hit dice for their CR are generally what you want to animate. Big animals, giants, some magical beasts, vermin and dragons all are excellent candidates for use with animate dead.

Otherwise animate dead is generally ineffective.

That it is not in the playtest at all comes as a surprise. There may be some mechanical reason we've not been made aware of at this point.

Regarding create undead and create greater undead, given the caster and spell levels required, my long-standing assumption has been that these spells apply templates to the target. "Bog standard" mummies or shadows presume "bog standard" targets.

I suspect/hope that Necromancy of this nature is all shuffled in under either animate object (for animating corpses and skeletons) or create undead as a ritual.


Without Animate Undead how will Necromancer Wizards even work?


Even if it gets fixed, I question how wide spread it will be allowed.

See Leadership, Summoning, and Constructs; even if you can make extra characters/minions, most GMs frown on it for a number of different reasons.


Gyor wrote:
Without Animate Undead how will Necromancer Wizards even work?

I built an NPC Necromancer whose list focused on Life-Draining and Possession spells, she didn't keep Undead because she was the local lady-of-the-land innan area suspicious of magic. I suppose she could have kept some Skeletal Warhorses or something using Command Undead.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

One thing I think we will see (and people will hate me for suggesting it) that Resonance will power, and upkeep Rituals. This is a good idea for several reasons.

1) Balance. Infinite undead minions is over powered (for example.) Limited undead minions, the summoning and upkeep of which shares the same resource as your fireball wand less so.

2) Big rituals can require a lot of Resonance. This explains why the BBEG can't just cast the spell they found right now and might need to spend days focusing on it (leaving themselves weaker in the process or take even longer whilst being conservative) or require masses of followers to give/take resonance from.

2.5) For BBEG with lots of summoned/created servants it gives a Resonance drain that deals a little bit with the "NPCs are always full resources when you encounter them" issue.

3) It gives players a use for Resonance during downtime they may otherwise not have.


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Malk_Content wrote:

One thing I think we will see (and people will hate me for suggesting it) that Resonance will power, and upkeep Rituals. This is a good idea for several reasons.

1) Balance. Infinite undead minions is over powered (for example.) Limited undead minions, the summoning and upkeep of which shares the same resource as your fireball wand less so.

2) Big rituals can require a lot of Resonance. This explains why the BBEG can't just cast the spell they found right now and might need to spend days focusing on it (leaving themselves weaker in the process or take even longer whilst being conservative) or require masses of followers to give/take resonance from.

2.5) For BBEG with lots of summoned/created servants it gives a Resonance drain that deals a little bit with the "NPCs are always full resources when you encounter them" issue.

3) It gives players a use for Resonance during downtime they may otherwise not have.

That sounds pretty awesome for powering rituals!


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I like the idea of a Ritual that requires an obscene amount of collected resonance to complete (talking hundreds of points), or 'Hazards' that must be Invested in by multiple creatures:

For example, the Lich keeps four Mummies to 'power' the magical seal they created to protect their inner sanctum.


Cantriped wrote:

I like the idea of a Ritual that requires an obscene amount of collected resonance to complete (talking hundreds of points), or 'Hazards' that must be Invested in by multiple creatures:

For example, the Lich keeps four Mummies to 'power' the magical seal they created to protect their inner sanctum.

I worry that if this is the case, I'm going to go overboard and give a baddie something approximating a "resonance juicer". Mass ritual sacrifice. And if I do run with events and locations granting obscene access to resonance, then I might find myself pushing myself into the corner of worryingly stereotypical rituals.


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Such rituals and hazards would be Rare, often lost again when the heroes do what ever it is they came to do.

A high-resonance zone would be the perfect place to build any number of magical structures. Ley-lines could be used to justify Locations having Resonance Pools of their own (which could then be tapped by industrious mages to perform rituals or experiments.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Cantriped wrote:

Such rituals and hazards would be Rare, often lost again when the heroes do what ever it is they came to do.

A high-resonance zone would be the perfect place to build any number of magical structures. Ley-lines could be used to justify Locations having Resonance Pools of their own (which could then be tapped by industrious mages to perform rituals or experiments.

Yes! Anything to make players and NPCs alike go "we must travel to Mount Volur before the next blue moon if we want to perform this Ritual" for actual mechanical reasons.


Cantriped wrote:

Such rituals and hazards would be Rare, often lost again when the heroes do what ever it is they came to do.

A high-resonance zone would be the perfect place to build any number of magical structures. Ley-lines could be used to justify Locations having Resonance Pools of their own (which could then be tapped by industrious mages to perform rituals or experiments.

Location pools are a cool idea, though I'd probably limit it to relatively bounded areas. E.g. a stone circle, or a mad alchemist's laboratory.


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Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Elleth wrote:
Cantriped wrote:

Such rituals and hazards would be Rare, often lost again when the heroes do what ever it is they came to do.

A high-resonance zone would be the perfect place to build any number of magical structures. Ley-lines could be used to justify Locations having Resonance Pools of their own (which could then be tapped by industrious mages to perform rituals or experiments.

Location pools are a cool idea, though I'd probably limit it to relatively bounded areas. E.g. a stone circle, or a mad alchemist's laboratory.

This could actually encourage players to set up shop somewhere. One of the things I loved about Old Mage was how encouraged you were to find a Node and keep it, with Nodes being a relatively rare and thus hotly contested resource. It would also give a way for low Charisma characters to advance their Resonance pools.

I can see the idea of Dwarven smiths doing create works because the accumulated legends of their prowess imbues their workshops with background Resonance, that they use to attune their enchanted Smiths Tools to produce even greater works in a positive feedback loop.

Its these sorts of things that get me excited about using Resonance, even if I have to homebrew these systems, because it shows how a limitation can actually create fantastic worldbuilding and narrative elements.


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Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Hats off to you Malk, these are great interpretations.

Mana Scarred Wastes would be the opposite of what you propose, an area-wide affect leeching you of Resonance just for being nearby.

I may have an idea for a short-location based campaign now. Hmm...

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