I am playing a 7th lvl wizard 1st level cleric necromancer.

He has a rod of undead mastery, the domain deathbound and the feat stitched familiar.

The rod of undead mastery reads

Anyone who holds the rod can control twice as many undead than he normally could. For instance, normally a caster can not control more than HD of undead than four times his caster level, but while holding the rod, he can control eight times his caster level of undead.

The deathbound domain grants:

Your limit for creating undead animated with spells increases to three times your caster level instead of the normal two times caster level.

The stitched flesh familiar grants:

a stitched flesh familiar grants its master the ability to control +4 more HD of undead than he is normally capable of controlling (both through the rebuke undead power and through spells such as animate dead).

Normally a cleric can control up to its level in HD of undead with rebuke/command undead

And a spellcaster can control 4hd of undead per caster level

So the question is.... how many undead can he control via animate dead style means and how many via rebuke/command?

Is it \$(4 \times wizard\ level \times 2)+4\$ for animate dead or \$(4 \times wizard\ level+4)\times 2\$?

As far as rebuke/command goes is it then \$(cleric\ level \times 3)+4)\times 2\$ or \$(cleric\ level \times 3)+4\$ or \$((cleric level \times 3)\times 2)+4\$

  • \$\begingroup\$ Using x for multiplication is dubious at the best of times, but please at least offset it with spaces if you are going to do that. I’ve used MathJax to make your expressions look far neater; that isn’t necessary, but “4xwizard levelx2” was near illegible. “4 x wizard level x 2” or “4 * wizard level * 2” would have been acceptable, using MathJax or × for “4 × wizard level × 2” is ideal. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Feb 19, 2018 at 0:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KRyan thanks for the editing advice! I love this site and was posting from my phone so I fear I was a bit sloppy, you really helped clarify what I was getting at and I will remember the advice in the future! \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2018 at 3:31

2 Answers 2


Precise numbers, in some cases, need to be negotiated

A wizard 7/cleric 1 that employs the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell animate dead [necro] (Player's Handbook 198–9) can control 4 Hit Dice worth of undead creatures per caster level that he's animated via the spell. This reader's always taken this to mean—unusually—a creature's total combined caster level because of the animate dead spell's unique mandate that restricts the number of HD of undead controlled "[n]o matter how many times you [the caster] use this spell [animate dead]."

Thus this DM would rule a wizard 7/cleric 1 can control 32 HD of undead creatures he creates via the spell animate dead, but this player wouldn't leave a campaign over another DM's ruling that the number is instead only 28 HD.

The feat Stitched Flesh Familiar (Libris Mortis 30), among its benefits, says that the undead familiar "grants its master the ability to control 4 more Hit Dice of undead than he is normally capable of controlling (both through the rebuke undead ability and through spells such as animate dead)." The rod of undead mastery (Magic Item Compendium 175–6) (10,000 gp; 3 lbs.) doubles the normal number of undead the rod's holder can control through any means. As both feat and rod use the word normal to describe how they alter the creature's ability to control undead, either the DM leaves it up to the player to decide how these two effects interact or the DM picks how these two effects interact.

This DM would allow the former if only because the difference between 72, 64, 68, and 60 HD isn't really enough for him to care about: a 12 HD skeleton is CR 6 and a 12 HD zombie is CR 4… and that wizard 7/cleric 1 has five more of them anyway. Whatever.

By the way, a wizard 7/cleric 1 through rebuking can end up controlling 1 HD of undead creatures. The rod doubles this to HD 2. Yay. Thank you, sir, and enjoy your ghoul.

About the domain Deathbound

The domain Deathbound (Spell Compendium 272–3) provides the cleric with the following granted power: "Your limit for creating undead animated with spells increases to three times your caster level instead of the normal two times caster level." This is really specific. See, the spell animate dead says that "you can’t create more HD of undead than twice your caster level with a single casting of animate dead" (PH 199). That means that the biggest individual skeleton or zombie a normal wizard 7/cleric 1 can create using the spell animate dead is 14 HD, but if that same dude has the granted power of the domain Deathbound, then the biggest is 21 HD. However, the granted power doesn't change at all how many HD of undead the dude can control, affecting as it does only the biggest he can create.

This is, believe it or not, a good thing as it's usually better to have one very big minion than dozens of littler ones… if for no other reason than so the other players don't get too bored while you take your PC's and his thousand minions' turns.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Note: A rod of undead mastery costs more than the 9,400 gp that's normally possessed by a level 8 character, usually making it inaccessible. Creating one's own rod using the feat Craft Rod (PH 92) could, essentially, halve this price, but the feat has a prerequisite of caster level 9. In other words, in a traditional game this shouldn't even be an issue. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 19, 2018 at 3:38

So there is a wide consensus for a rule of thumb suggested by the FAQ that when the order of operations matters, it is up to the owner of the effects. This is by no means a hard-and-fast rule, but since nothing dictates that the rod of undead mastery be applied prior to the stitched familiar, this guideline would have it be up to the necromancer, i.e. afterwards so the +4 bonus is also doubled.

Individual DMs might disagree, either arguing about the meaning of the word “normal,”1 or simply ruling that in this case the rule of thumb suggested by the FAQ isn’t a great fit and they don’t want the stitched familiar’s bonus to be doubled by the rod of undead mastery. So you will ultimately have to ask your DM. Presumably whatever ruling they make will be the same for animate dead and rebuke undead.

  1. WotC really ought to have avoided that word; it usually means “as things would be without this particular effect” but if other effects are in play, the way “things would be without this particular effect” may not be what some consider “normal.”
  • \$\begingroup\$ FYI (concerning another post of yours entirely) should you wish to decline to action certain comments, please feel free to flag them for removal. EG: flag the last comment in the chain deserving cleanup with a custom message of “can be removed”. Comments can be removed because they're already incorporated but if they're not actionable or not going to be actioned, we might as well clean those up too. If you've actioned them, or done as much as you think you will with them, feel free to do the same. If I spot that flag they'll be gone. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 1, 2018 at 16:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener I am familiar with the flag, but I’m afraid I have no idea what other post of mine you’re referring to? \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 1, 2018 at 16:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ This one here, looks like a case of disagreement & feedback that either can't or won't be actioned, and might be more or less an extension of alignment debate-ness so I'm sorta itchy to remove it. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 1, 2018 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @doppelgreener My personal opinion is that the discussion actually has a bit of value-add for the interested reader, but it’s kind of weird to incorporate a back-and-forth in the answer? Anyway, we disagree, and at this point I think we have both said what we want to say, so it’s pretty much done. If it’s going to be deleted, mm... maybe I want to act on it. Give me a few hours? I’m working at the moment. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Mar 1, 2018 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ No worries. I'll leave it intact, and if it happens to disappear by then on account of anyone else's actions, ping me anywhere or in chat and I can reproduce those comments. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 1, 2018 at 17:15

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