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Animated Dead in Pathfinder can be made to guard, or follow. Does that rule out the following:

  • Can they be made to do simple tasks, eg. Haul a log?
  • Can they be commanded to enter an area first?
  • Can they be commanded to drop their weapons, and wield new ones?

This seems to indicate no, but I'm looking for more to support this claim:

The undead can be made to follow you, or they can be made to remain in an area and attack any creature (or just a specific kind of creature) entering the place.

They do after all, lack an INT score.

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From the skeleton template (emphasis in original):

Treasure: Generally none, although sometimes a skeleton’s creator arms it with magical armor or weapons.

This is the only thing I can find in the rules which directly addresses the three points raised in this question, and it does not explicitly confirm or deny; so, by a strict rules-as-written reading for all we know arming a skeleton could be interpreted to be a one-time affair. But it's doubtful anyone would rule that to be the case. If someone is going to be that strict in their ruling, then they would also rule that skeletons cannot be made to enter an area first since one must first be somewhere in order to remain there and the only way explicitly mentioned of getting someplace is to follow the controller. Even so, simple tasks such as hauling a log could be accomplished by tying a hauling apparatus to the skeleton(s) and/or zombie(s) — or, if someone wishes to be extremely pedantic "arming" them with the ropes or leads to said apparatus — and commanding them to follow while the controller walks the route.

Outside of a strict rules-as-written interpretation, this GM allows basic environment manipulation and basic movement commands — including basic conditional logic such as that required to attack certain kinds of creatures, and relative position — if for no other reason than to avoid the outcome of every animated corpse of a group of several attempting to follow the caster at the same distance and constantly bumping into each other. Such basic commands would include the tasks you listed, and others that expand on things we know they can do: they can exhibit simple conditional logic, they can grasp and wear items, they can move relative to a designated creature or position, etc.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A skeleton is proficient with any weapons it was proficient with before dying; "A skeleton retains (...) weapon proficiencies of the base creature". Whether or not this means that a lumberjack skeleton would be more capable of hauling a log than the skeleton of a pig farmer, is up to the GM I suppose. \$\endgroup\$ – MGlacier Oct 16 '17 at 9:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am not aware of any necessary proficiency to use a rope; that part about "arming" them with such is in case OP's GM actually is so pedantic as to rule that skeletons cannot be made to drop things and so must be one-time "armed" with a rope or lead to be able to haul with it. Do you have a suggestion for more clearly conveying that meaning? \$\endgroup\$ – Addamere Oct 16 '17 at 9:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I was mostly referring to the part of your answer about "this is the only thing which addresses (...)" Also as an answer to the third question: they can wield weapons so long as they're proficient with them. Overall all of these interpretations are implicit parts of the rules, not explicit. \$\endgroup\$ – MGlacier Oct 16 '17 at 9:19

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