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Are voidsticks reusable?

When used for their desecrate method they clearly can be. When it fails to create a zombie it seems that its been destroyed. What happens when a zombie is successfully created? Are you able to pull out the voidstick and reuse it? Would that destroy the zombie? If the zombie dies are the voidsticks recoverable and thus reusable?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 22:21

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Yes, they are reusable

Despite the fact that you could (rules as written) animate a house cat (1 HD) into a CR 12 voidstick zombie (which we will disregard for now as an error), there is nothing on the item's description that says that the item is expended on use when creating a voidstick zombie. What we got is:

At the end of the hour, the creator must make a DC 25 Knowledge (religion) check before driving the first voidstick into the victim’s heart. If this check succeeds, the victim is transformed into a voidstick zombie. To fully animate the creature, one voidstick must be used for each Hit Die the base creature has.

And we have an official image showing that the voidsticks are all sticking to the creature (what is the CR of this guy, seriously).

Considering the error and lack of information as presented, let's assume one of two things before we can proceed:

  • A) the author meant to use this as a template, and you should use a voidstick for each HD that the base creature has, it will get a "voidstick zombie" template. This template is probably lacking due to the limited space they had to publish the creature (2 pages);
  • B) or that you need to use the voidstick on a "zombifieable" corpse, like our standard humanoid dead body, and thus, we must find a suitable corpse for the HD 15 required. This means that a zombie created by a voidstick is no different from a regular zombie, and we merely have an alternative way to create them.

Regardless of what was chosen, this means that we need to use about 15 voidsticks to obtain the voidstick zombie used as example by the author (Skull & Shackles #3, p90). That's 15 times 2,500 gp, or 37,500 gp, which is insanely overpriced for creating a permanent undead slave. There are vastly cheaper alternatives.

Let's consider, for a second, the price of a similar magic item that also allows you to create powerful undead creatures (up to 20 HD), the Blackmarrow Altar. It costs 32,500 gp, and even with the differences in function of those two items are not enough to justify a ten-fold price difference between them.

If we check the magic item creation rules, a single-use, created normally by a 5th level shaman, Animate Dead item would cost 875 gp to buy at a shop, and put the creature under your control automatically. 750 gp for the base formula (3 * 5 * 50 gp), plus 125 gp for the onyxes (5 of them). And would allow you to create a 5HD zombie/skeleton out of a corpse without knowing the spell or using up any material components. To obtain the 15 HD zombie, we simply increase the cost to 1,575 gp. 1200 gp for the base spell (3 * 8 * 50). The CL is increased to 8, so we don't have to rely on tricks to increase the limit of 2 per caster level. And the material would cost 375 gp for 15 onyxes.

In other words, if they are one-use, they are merely glorified onyxes. The fact that you don't require to cast the spell doesn't really offset the increase in price, nor the fact that the undead created are not under your direct control. They are intelligent undead and will most likely get a will save against your control. Their extra abilities would be worth maybe a 2 CR increase, similar to a Negative Energy Infused creature (from Advanced Bestiary 3PP, but written in collaboration with Paizo's authors), which shouldn't be enough to increase the item's price that much.

The third use of the voidsticks, as you mentioned, is the only use that actually mentions that the item is wasted, if you fail the ritual:

Voidsticks can also be driven into a living body to slay the creature and transition it to undeath. If a living body is used, the creature must be pinned or otherwise helpless for the duration of the entire ritual. When the ritual is complete and the first voidstick is inserted, the creature must make a DC 18 Fortitude save. If this save succeeds, the creature is reduced to 0 hit points and is dying, but the magic of the voidstick and the ritual are wasted and the ritual must be performed again, using another voidstick.

All of this makes me believe that, despite the errors on the item's description, that the second use of the item actually doesn't expend or consume the item, but will be unavailable until the zombie is either destroyed, or the voidstick's magic dispelled, which would also destroy the zombie.

A community member did some reverse engineering on the sample voidstick zombie to obtain a template, if you are curious about what it would look like, should we ever get an official one.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The voidstick zombie has significantly increased abilities from standard animated dead (like being able to channel negative energy and thus control its own undead, and havign significantly improved defenses, and getting feats). That might or might not be worth the 20 times cost, but it's still significant enough that it should at least be mentioned. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 20:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure... but you're ignoring it in your "that would make it glorified onyxes" argument, and for that argument, it's really quite pertinent. You're literally appealing to the "is it worth it to create voidstick zombies" question in your answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 20:29
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By the available information, they are probably reusable

Unfortunately, we're short enough on crunch here that we must go with fluff. The fluff description of the voidstick zombie talks about how the voidsticks continue to function as voidsticks even while thrust into the corpse (and intensify from the concentration). They are not consumed or absorbed. It is not explained what would happen to the zombie if you were to remove or sunder one or more of the voidsticks while the thing was up and shambling about, but there's no particular indication that they would be destroyed on its destruction.

On the flip side, the voidstick zombies are intelligent and self-willed, and heal pretty quickly. If you're scavenging the voidsticks from a corpse, you were probably someone the zombie was trying to kill, rather than the person who put it together in the first place (or maybe both).

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NO

Voidstick Zombie:

One voidstick is required for every Hit Die possessed by the base creature. These vile devices, each of which is 6 to 10 inches in length, are pierced through the living or dead body of a creature, pumping the dark energy of the void into its form.

When the Zombie is created, the voidstick becomes a part of them. It is no longer an item, but a part of their body that is no different from their teeth or nails.

Undead traits:

Not at risk of death from massive damage, but is immediately destroyed when reduced to 0 hit points.

When undead are reduced to 0 hp, their body is immediately destroyed, and since the voidstick is part of their body it is destroyed.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Honestly, I really like the rationale, but, by extension, wouldn't, like, magical earrings and such also be destroyed along when the undead creature that's wearing them is destroyed? Normally, destroyed creatures leave behind any gear, even if that gear's piercing them. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ As written, there is nothing that suggests that the quoted text on your answer means necessarily that the void stick is fused to the undead's corpse, or that is actually expended on use. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 18:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unlike the third use of voidsticks that clearly state: the magic of the voidstick and the ritual are wasted and the ritual must be performed again, using another voidstick. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 18:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @williamporter HeyICanChan is talking about spears, daggers and other weapons pierced through a zombie during combat. You claim that the voidstick becomes part of the creature, but the text saying such thing is nowhere to be seen. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 18:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Those items are also not a part of the creatures description, whereas voidsticks are. \$\endgroup\$
    – willuwontu
    Commented Aug 16, 2018 at 18:39

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