5E Necromancy question on keeping a single minion alive
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  1. #1
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    Necromancy question on keeping a single minion alive

    So I have been mulling over a necromancer character that uses the skeleton of a close friend/ally they had in life that swore a pact with one another to protect the other in life and death. They died, and the player turns them into a skeleton minion and has it accompany them and protect them and keep the character somewhat sane (really weird but was going for some really depressing kids that that were abandoned and only had one another to count on). Whereby the character would dress up the skeleton like a hired guard, as to not freak out people, and mechanically to increase the durability of the skeleton and because I would like the character to not be inherently evil that necromancy has slapped on it.
    Anyways the big thing that comes up is the scenarios where the undead/skeleton is defeated, I hear about undead are "destroyed", and possibly can't be brought back, or something along that line. And was wondering if:
    A) this is true and possibly where it may be in the books?
    B) If A is true, then how does things like revivify affect or not affect a destroyed undead/skeleton?
    C)Are there any ways to return a skeleton/undead back into a corpse/pile of bones?
    D)What other things that could complicate it, such as undead with weapon proficiency/armor proficiency? and how you as a DM may rule it to get a bit of thought going about it to discuss with a DM about?

    Just trying to make an interesting necromancer and want to know if it could be conceivably possible for some, whether or not the rules specifically say so, even though i would want them to be possible before going to a DM about it as a possible character.

  2. #2
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    TO me, this sounds like something to work out between you and your DM. Personally, when I am DM'ing, I encourage most things that are simply reskins or don't add/subtract anything mechanical. For example, there's no reason that your summoned familiar couldn't be a skeleton or zombie version of a normal familiar. Undead owl? Sure, why not. It doesn't require any mechanical change for you to describe it as such.

    As for the idea of an undead minion being harmed, we're talking about magic. Some DM's might allow you to use cure wounds type spells or revivify on undead minions. I don't think I would allow that, since I really like the ideas from 3/3.5 about undead being powered by negative energy, which is nullified by the positive energy used in curative magics. But I can see a case being made for it, especially if this minion is not just any old skeleton but has some kind of special history. I would be more inclined to allow an undead minion to their use hit dice to heal themselves and heal to full after a long rest on the lenient end, or on the stricter end would allow the necromancer to use their own HD to heal/fix their undead minion (they also may or may not heal to full as PCs do after a long rest. Though since you generally have to cast Animate Dead daily to reassert control over any skeletons or zombies you have raised, I would argue that magic also heals them as per a long rest).

    With regard to the minion being destroyed after being reduced to 0 HP, I personally would have no problem with a player casting Animate Dead or Create Undead on that same destroyed minion and raising it once again. Mostly due to the fact that "because magic" is a pretty big and hard to argue against rationale.

    Of course, YMMV based on your DM, which is why it is really important to communicate your ideas regarding your undead minion, what you would hope to happen in game, and providing supporting statements. The less your ideas require actual mechanical changes to the game, the harder it is in general for a DM to deny the request (except when the DM has strong ideas/concepts with regard to how the game world functions, which may not align with your particular ideas).

    Finally, regarding question D, I don't believe there are any hard or fast rules. The Monster Manual describes skeletons as capable of using armor and weapons, even of using siege weapons as directed. Additionally, since their typical stat block includes use of both weapons and armor, a safe rule of thumb would be that skeletons are probably proficient with any weapon given to them, and I would also say they are proficient with Light and Medium Armor and Shields. I doubt a skeleton could function well in Heavy Armor, though there is nothing explicit that I can find stating that they can or can't use it.

    Zombies on the other hand are described as less intelligent than skeletons. I would say they can use whatever armor or weapons they may have died in/with, but otherwise I would likely rule that they would not be generally proficient with armor or weapons given to them. Of course, once again, there's nothing I can find that is concrete on the matter. None of the standard zombies have armor outside of natural armor they may have had in life. And the only zombie stat block that uses a weapon is the ogre zombie. So I would say most zombies likely don't wear armor and rely on their slam attack rather than any kind of weapon, and DEFINITELY not any weapon that requires dexterity to be effective.

    Hope this helps.
    Last edited by Hawk Diesel; Tuesday, 4th June, 2019 at 05:55 AM.

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    There are some implications, which may vary by setting and by DM, about the relationship between body and soul. In my non-expert understanding of Forgotten Realms, the friend's spirit is gone to the afterlife. When you cast Animate Dead, you bring a spirit from the Shadowfell to the Material, and that evil spirit takes over the corpse. This spirit's proficiencies, and its motivations, are its own; its proficiencies and motivations do not come from the friend. The spirit's primary motivation, except as otherwise compelled by the master's orders, is the relentless urge to kill any living creature which crosses its path.

    If the friend were Reincarnated, and met the skeleton/zombie made from its remains, then that skeleton/zombie would, unless otherwise ordered, attempt to kill the friend, because the core motivation of the spirit animating that corpse is "kill!".

    "C)Are there any ways to return a skeleton/undead back into a corpse/pile of bones?"

    Yes. Reduce its HP to zero. This sends the animating spirit back to the Shadowfell, assuming your setting includes the Shadowfell.

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    Whoops, I messed up. Both Cure Wpunds and Healing Word specify in their spell descriptions that they do not work on undead or constructs. Still, there's no reason a wizard, especially a necromancer, couldn't create their own homebrew spell that replicates Cure Wounds and Healing Word but ONLY works on undead and constructs.

    Weirdly enough, Revivify makes no specific mention on limitations when it could be used with regard to creature type. So technically, it should work on undead and constructs.

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    I can see having a minion like in 4e where it only has 1hp. I can see some humor in having your 'friend' move to attack each fight, only to be killed each fight. You may have a minor benefit where you have another attacker you takes one hit from you and may get a few hits in before dying. I do not see the power gained any more than a minor item or 1st level spell.
    XP Hawk Diesel, jaelis gave XP for this post

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    As @aboonaco175 mentions, I gave a player in one of my games a similar boon. It seems weird that a necromancer cannot actually raise any undead until level 5. So at level 2 I give necromancers a unique undead familiar, and the ability to use an action to raise one small or medium humanoid or a tiny to large sized beast. They function as a skeleton or zombie of their type, but only have 1 HP. They can raise one such minion per short rest, and can have a total number of such minions equal to 1/2 their proficiency bonus.

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    This brings up my all-time favorite insane Sage Advice ruling, which is that if you cast revivify on a just-destroyed undead creature, you revive it as undead. That's right, a spell which "brings a creature back to life" produces undead.

    I do not endorse this ruling, at all, but if your DM regards Sage Advice as canonical, there you are.

    My suggestion would be to propose a homebrewed spell, probably a 1st-level ritual, which could restore a destroyed undead to a state where it could be re-animated.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dausuul View Post
    This brings up my all-time favorite insane Sage Advice ruling, which is that if you cast revivify on a just-destroyed undead creature, you revive it as undead. That's right, a spell which "brings a creature back to life" produces undead.

    I do not endorse this ruling, at all, but if your DM regards Sage Advice as canonical, there you are.
    Yea, it seems a bit strange, but I guess it depends on how you define "life." With regards to Revivify, I don't think it is meant to actually return a thing/creature to life, but rather restore it to a previous state from within a minute prior to casting. I suppose for a D&D modern game, a more apt name for the spell would be Reboot since that seems to be a more accurate way of describing the function of the spell.

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