Can an Undead Servitor act after it's controller is dead?

EDIT: (Note that this is not 'act as a sentient creature capable of making it's own choices of action' but 'act' as in 'perform actions'.)

F. Randall Farmer pointed out a potential flaw in my cunning self-resurrection plan from the Can an Undead Servitor use a Ritual Scroll? question.

You imbue a humanoid corpse of natural origin and Medium or smaller size with the ability to move under its own power and an understanding of one language of your choice. It has speed 6 and Strength 16, never tires, and obeys you at all times. The undead servitor is a noncombatant. When forced onto an active battlefield, treat the servitor as an allied minion (1 hit point, never damaged on a missed attack) with all defenses of 11. It acts just after you do and never makes attacks. You cannot have more than one undead servitor at a time from different performances of this ritual. If you attempt to create a second servitor, that ritual fails without component expenditure.

The argument was that, as it acts after you do, if you can't act (due to being dead or unconscious) neither can it, even if you have given it orders to be triggered on your demise.

Is this correct?

EDIT - There is perhaps some confusion as to what I am getting at with this question, so here is a scenario to make it clear.

  1. A wizard, just about to die, tells his servitor to carry his corpse to his pre-prepared tomb once he has expired.

  2. He also tells it that once it has finished this, it must dust his tower to make it presentable.

  3. Finally he tells it that when it has finished dusting (each surface once, no endless tasks here), it must obey any and all orders given to it by the wizard's heir.

  4. The wizard then dies.

What happens?


To break down the instructions:

  1. Wait until my death, then do this.
  2. When 1. completes, do this.
  3. When 2. completes, accept further instructions.

If 1. is not performed, it means active commands are cancelled upon the death of the person who ordered them. If 1. is performed, but 2. is not, then the servitor is capable of fulfilling a single command that applies after it's creator's death, but cannot have further instructions become active after this point. This would be arbitrary. If 1. and 2. are performed, but 3. is not, a servitor cannot obey an order to obey orders, which is nonsense.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hmm, if you are unconscious then you do still have an initiative right? For example when making death saving throws you are unconscious, but do still have to roll a dice on your turn. So I think this is really only a valid question for if you are dead, as conscious/unconscious does not change when you have a 'turn'. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2012 at 2:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point - the question was as F. Randall Farmer phrased it, and I didn't consider that angle. I'll update it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ananisapta
    Jun 12, 2012 at 2:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd guess that the answer to this question will hinge entirely on how one interprets the words acts: does that mean taking a full set of Standard+Move+Minor actions, or does it purely mean 'this is his initiative'? \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2012 at 2:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes - I had interpreted it as the latter. The other point was whether that line only applied when considering it as an entity on the battlefield - the Unseen Servant has no such line, as it can't become a minion due to having no physical form. It also says it 'obeys you at all times' - it seems odd to consider it'd stop sweeping the floor if you drop dead, even if it itself is permanent. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ananisapta
    Jun 12, 2012 at 2:30
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Closing at asker's request. \$\endgroup\$
    – AceCalhoon
    Jun 14, 2012 at 1:19

2 Answers 2



I would read the line 'It acts just after you do' as purely a matter of setting the Servitor's initiative score for encounters. With this interpretation there is then no reason to expect your character's death to affect the Servitor, beyond not being able to provide it with new commands.

  • \$\begingroup\$ What about setting up a Magic Mouth, to be triggered on your death? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ananisapta
    Jun 12, 2012 at 3:07
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It gets more tenous, as I'd argue that a Magic Mouth speaking your words with your voice is not 'you', and thus the Servitor will not obey it. This also prevents someone else from ordering your Servitor about by using recorded fragments of some words you said at some point. So you cannot give the Servitor new orders after your death, but you can possibly still tell it how to act (while you are still alive) once it finds out that you are dead. It would effectively be carrying out your last will and testament :D \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2012 at 13:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ What if what you had ordered in that eventuality was to follow the directions of the Magic Mouth? :P \$\endgroup\$
    – Ananisapta
    Jun 12, 2012 at 13:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Then it's fine! \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2012 at 13:53
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ It occurs to me a wizard with a computer-programming background could go a long way with if-then type orders. \$\endgroup\$
    – Ananisapta
    Jun 12, 2012 at 14:09


The corpse shudders, then clambers to its feet. At your direction, it shoulders your gear and lumbers after you.DDI

An Undead Servitor is more of a pack mule than a henchman.

You imbue a humanoid corpse of natural origin and Medium or smaller size with the ability to move under its own power and an understanding of one language of your choice.

This does not mean that the Undead Servitor has been resurrected (i.e. Druid Restore Life) in the usual game sense - it's called undead, after all. The implication is that it has no will of it's own and is controlled entirely by its summoner. The restriction against attacking is telling - the Undead Servitor is incapable of action types that other summoned undead perform easily.

No summoner, no will. No will, no actions.

Just hire a henchman, it's less complicated and probably cheaper.

  • \$\begingroup\$ So it stops whatever it has been ordered to do if the summoner dies? That seems at odds with 'obeys you at all times'. Also, why then does it need to understand a language, if you have to devote your own will continously in order to get it to do things? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ananisapta
    Jun 12, 2012 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I didn't say either of those. It stops when it completes your last command. I also did not say anything about "continuous". \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2012 at 14:50
  • \$\begingroup\$ Wait, is it possible we actually agree? You say it stops once it completes the last command, I say it continues until there are no more commands (i.e. you're dead). \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2012 at 15:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @F.RandallFarmer Wait, now I'm confused...you aren't saying that the servitor can't act after you are dead (the point of the question), but only that it can't decide on new actions for itself? \$\endgroup\$
    – Ananisapta
    Jun 12, 2012 at 15:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ioanwigmore If we agree, why did you say "Yes" to the question? No commands = no actions. Right? Dead = No commands. So the answer to the question as phrase is "No". Clearly there is some difference that is escaping us all. :-) \$\endgroup\$ Jun 12, 2012 at 17:03

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .