Command Undead: "bite yourself to death" -- does it work?


Rules Questions


The spell in question:

https://www.d20pfsrd.com/magic/all-spells/c/command-undead/

Note: that is the 2nd/3rd level spell, not the more powerful 7th level spell. We're dealing with the wimpy command spell here.

So here is the issue: the players have control of the undead, it is mindless, so the rules say it will even obey suicidal commands. HOWEVER, it also says this: "Any act by you or your apparent allies that threatens the commanded undead (regardless of its Intelligence) breaks the spell."

So is saying "Bite yourself" an act that threatens the commanded undead, in which case the spell is broken? Or is the rule about it mindlessly doing suicidal actions in effect? Which wins? It seems a bit like a race condition where each rule supercedes the other, repeatedly, forever. But what do you all think?


Intelligent undead never obey suicidal or obvious harmful orders. So, you cannot order an intelligent undead to kill itself.

A noninteligent undead you can only be given basic commands such as go there fight, standstill. Bite yourself seems to be more than a simple command. All the examples given only include a single action and do not include details. By definition a nonintelegent undead is not really self-aware so the concept of self is probably beyond them.


Walking off a cliff or standing in a fire would probably work better. Maybe allow bucket to be placed over it's head so it doesn't see.the coup de grace coming.

Liberty's Edge

"Suicidal orders" normally refer to things that will greatly endanger the creature if it follows them, not committing an actual suicide.

"Go there" while pointing at a Wall of Fire is a suicidal order.

"Destroy yourself" is ordering an attack from one of your allies on it and it breaks the spell as soon as it tries to obey it.


Diego Rossi wrote:

"Destroy yourself" is ordering an attack from one of your allies on it and it breaks the spell as soon as it tries to obey it.

^---- I'm agreement with this right here. Ordering a skeleton to harm itself (or ordering a skeleton to harm another skeleton) satisfies the "Any act by you or your apparent allies that threatens the commanded undead (regardless of its Intelligence) breaks the spell." variable, and would break the spell.


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outshyn wrote:

The spell in question:

Command Undead:N2 spell.

A player has control of the undead, it is mindless, so the rules say it will even obey suicidal commands. HOWEVER, it also says this: "Any act by you or your apparent allies that threatens the commanded undead (regardless of its Intelligence) breaks the spell."

So is saying "Bite yourself" an act that threatens the commanded undead, in which case the spell is broken? Or is the rule about it mindlessly doing suicidal actions in effect? Which wins? It seems a bit like a race condition where each rule supercedes the other, repeatedly, forever. But what do you all think?

Exactly where that line in the sand of "suicidal" is left to the GM. You could allow unintelligent creatures to gnaw themselves into destruction (which seems unreasonable) or just take 1 round of damage. As they are doing it to themselves the caster and his allies are not the source of the attack per se so they shouldn't trigger the prohibition at the end of the spell.

going into further detail

Does the creature have a bite attack? Does it actually do damage with a bite? Skeletons could gnaw themselves for years and not do any damage. So that gauges the "threat". It is clearly a case of "harming oneself" even if the attack is ineffective but only the intelligent know that. The unintelligent only know it AFTER they do it and then only for that round or the next...

The prohibition appears at the end. I'd say giving the command is not an "act" in and of itself and "threatens" is another key word that leans toward martial action. You also have breaking of Invisibility as a guideline.
I'm also going to reference CM Reposition to help define what is threatening (last line of first paragraph).
There is also Command:E1 but Paizo didn't see the need to give Command Undead a list of official "commands".

So they do the spell and give the command.
I don't see where anybody did a skill check to predict what the spell will do - so they are stuck with whatever happens.

IF the creature can actually harm itself and when it does so the spell ends (as taking damage is clearly threatening BUT it took 1 attack of damage). IF it can't inflict damage upon itself AND it is unintelligent it bites itself for the spell duration. Those skeletons that jumped off a cliff and took massive damage would stop afterwards but they're destroyed (which is where that Reposition text comes in handy as it allows that initial jump as "suicidal" or intrinsically dangerous).

If it's intelligent then the spell fails when the command is given as the creature is smart enough to know it's threatening and self-harmful.


The spell is the equivalent to charm person except it is a necromancy spell so works on undead. Mindless creatures are not normally affected by charm, so they made special provisions for that in the spell. The reason you can give suicidal orders to mindless undead is they don’t have the ability to recognize that some actions are dangerous. They don’t realize that stepping off the cliff or walking into the wall of fire is going to get them killed. Ordering them to kill themselves is obvious that they are going to be killed.


Mysterious Stranger wrote:
The spell is the equivalent to charm person except it is a necromancy spell so works on undead. ...

a nitpick as I disagree with comparing it to Charm Person. There's no attitude change. It is very similar to Command. The rest is pure conjecture. The last 3 lines are reasonable. mind-affecting is the descriptor you are thinking about.


Command Undead
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).

Charm Person
This charm makes a humanoid creature regard you as its trusted friend and ally (treat the target's attitude as friendly).

Both spells actually state that the attitude is treated as friendly. The wording is not identical but is very similar.

Liberty's Edge

Azothath wrote:


Exactly where that line in the sand of "suicidal" is left to the GM. You could allow unintelligent creatures to gnaw themselves into destruction (which seems unreasonable) or just take 1 round of damage. As they are doing it to themselves the caster and his allies are not the source of the attack per se so they shouldn't trigger the prohibition at the end of the spell.

AFAIK, creatures you control are considered allies of the caster.


Mysterious Stranger wrote:

Command Undead

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).

Charm Person
This charm makes a humanoid creature regard you as its trusted friend and ally (treat the target's attitude as friendly).

Both spells actually state that the attitude is treated as friendly. The wording is not identical but is very similar.

*sigh* I was over focused on one part of the spell

correct. It's a combo of the two based on (intelligence)/unintelligent. So I'm going with the unintelligent part as it's the RAW forum! (LoL)


Java Man wrote:
Walking off a cliff or standing in a fire would probably work better. Maybe allow bucket to be placed over it's head so it doesn't see.the coup de grace coming.

Blind is not helpless.


Anguish wrote:
Java Man wrote:
Walking off a cliff or standing in a fire would probably work better. Maybe allow bucket to be placed over it's head so it doesn't see.the coup de grace coming.
Blind is not helpless.

Doh, yeah, clearly some nefarious hacker has removed the words "sneak attack" from my original post and replaced them with "coup de grace." That does bring up an interesting GM Interpretation question: can an concious being deliberately stand/lie still enough to be considersed helpless for a cdg? Not that I think we need to debate this.

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