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I'd like a PC in my campaign to slay his foes by using a melee or ranged weapon like a sword or spear then have those foes rise immediately to join him in the fight as zombies or some other kind of undead creatures.

My initial thought was to use the metamagic feat Fell Animate that, in part, says, "You can alter a spell that deals damage to foes. Any living creature that could normally be raised as a zombie and that does not possess more than double your Hit Dice, when slain outright by a fell animated spell, rises as a zombie under your control at the beginning of your next action" (Libris Mortis 26–7).

I'd apply the benefit of the feat Fell Animate to, for example, the 2nd-level Drd spell flame blade (Player's Handbook 231) or the 3rd-level Moon domain spell moon blade [evoc] (Spell Compendium 143) or maybe even—with my permission (I'm the DM)—the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell Darternae’s sword [evoc] (Celebrity Game Table column "The Praemal Campaign") and make the magically-created weapon last all day via the feat Persistent Spell (Complete Arcane 81) and the prestige class spelldancer (Magic of Faerûn 37–8).

Will this plan work? Is there a better one? That is, is there a plan that's available at lower levels, that's more convenient, or that's less resource-intensive that allows killing a foe with a sword (or, if need be, an arrow) that thereupon animates that foe as an undead creature immediately?

Extreme cheese—Pun-pun, complicated persistent time stop shenanigans, etc.—will be frowned upon but not dismissed outright if entertaining. Further, even third-party material is acceptable to accomplish this task, but the more official the material used to do so, the better. Also, although not strictly necessary, try to keep in mind that the PCs are level 15, that the campaign's binds limit PCs to taking every other level in the same tier 1 or 2 full-casting class (e.g. a level 15 PC could be a Clr7/Wiz8 but not a Wiz15), and that the new PC will be entering play with NPC wealth of only 59,000 gp.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Do you need every slain creature to turn zombie, or is limited times per day acceptable? \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot Well, now I'm kind of interested in every way to accomplish this, but if there are, like, 100 or something, at the top of the list would be having every downed foe animated, but if that's not a thing then limited times per day would be acceptable. (However, anything like The first creature you kill each day by smiting that creature with a heavy mace becomes a vampire under your control or whatever, though, would be a last resort!) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 15:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ Best I can do is to argue why your plan probably doesn't work, and give you 3 to 5 / day :( \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 19:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Mołot I look forward to your answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 18, 2019 at 19:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Darn it. "Spells from the schools of Invocation [presumably intended to be evocation] and Necromancy can’t be enhanced via spelldancing" (Mag 37). Every spell I've wanted to do this with is a spell of the evocation school—even yari of air and blade of pain and fear. Back to the drawing board. Sigh. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 23:35

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Your plan probably wouldn't work (in my campaigns - DM dependant)

Similar to what argued here: Does casting Goodberry activate the Circle of the Shepherd druid's Unicorn Spirit totem? for different edition, there is a difference between casting a spell that deals / heals damage, and casting a spell that create something later used to deal / heal damage. By analogy, would you allow Maximize Spell [Metamagic] to maximize attack and damage rolls of his Flame Blade? Would you allow Bend Spell Flame Blade to ignore cover? Allowing spells that create weapons to count as spells dealing damage, and allowing actions made using these weapons to count as effects of the spell opens up a pretty serious Pandora's Box.

I wouldn't do it, at the very best I would make sure that effects with apparent intent to happen once per spell never happens more than that. I had a player that wanted to maximize Shillelagh, and it was so OP it was actually boring for him and frustrating for everyone else. (Granted, I could deny this use on the grounds that the staff is not created by the spell, but I agreed that spells transforms staff. I was young and silly back then).

Also, remember that every effect that triggers for healing would start to trigger for each and every goodberry. And instrument created by Summon Instrument cantrip would get really weird - how would you treat perform rolls? There are more consequences than I can imagine.

To address the concern that:

prohibiting the spells from being affected for that reason would seem to weirdly limit other spells that clearly should be able to be affected, like flaming sphere or the orb spells.

Sadly, rules are not clear when spells should count as dealing damage or not. Thus, it always falls under DM discretion. Orb spells without possibility to maximize damage gets weak. Flame Blade with possibility to maximize damage gets crazily powerful. D&D 3.5 debuted 16 years ago and rules are more complicated and less clear, or at least that's how I see it. DM is free to rule either way, and if any of such unintended consequences actually show on his table only time can tell.


What works for sure

None of the following options of delivering spell via your blade prevents Fell Animate Feat from working. Except maybe last one, but there is a workaround. So you can deliver Fell Animate with your attacks if you have one or more of the following:

Duskblade

Duskblade (Player's Handbook II variant, p. 19)

Arcane Channeling (Su): Beginning at 3rd level, you can use a standard action to cast any touch spell you know and deliver the spell through your weapon with a melee attack.

Simple as that, just cast via attacking. Thanks to Aguinaldo Silvestre for providing probably the best option I overlooked.

Spellsword

Spellsword PrC (Complete Warrior p79) has Channel spell 3/day at 4th level, increased by 1 at 6th and 8th. This ability says that:

the spellsword uses up the prepared spell or spell slot just as if he had cast the spell. The channeled spell affects the next target that the spell sword successfully attacks

Thus, you get all the effect of casting said spell, no questions asked. No reason why Fell Animate shouldn't work.

Smiting Spell

Smiting Spell [Metamagic] feat (Player's Handbook II p92) says:

The next time you strike an opponent with that weapon, the spell discharges.

Again, no limits on spell effect that discharge, works only for touch spells.

Spell Storing

Spell Storing weapon property (SRD):

the weapon can immediately cast the spell on that creature as a free action

It can do it, does not need to do it, so you don't risk premature discharge that won't kill the enemy yet. There is a little gray area - if the weapon casts spell for you, can you use feat that you have, but weapon do not? My favorite solution would be to make it an intelligent weapon. Intelligent weapons are treated like NPCs, so it can have Fell Animate feat all on its own, and it does not even need to meet prerequisites, if any - it is an NPC, after all.


Special thanks to this thread on enworld.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think the opening might overstate and inadvertently exaggerate the impact. While neither Darternae’s sword nor shillelagh deal damage—so they wouldn't work—the other spells according to their descriptions actually deal damage. Allowing the other listed spells to be affected wouldn't lead to a summon instrument spell that maximizes Perform skill checks—that spell's description lacks variables—and prohibiting the spells from being affected for that reason would seem to weirdly limit other spells that clearly should be able to be affected, like flaming sphere or the orb spells. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 14:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan "The blade deals 1d8 points of fire damage" - if it is a damage dealt by spell or object evoked by spell is open to interpretation, but I see no reason for this interpretation to be different than "The berry also cures 1 point of damage". \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 14:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ "If [the flaming sphere] enters a space with a creature, it stops moving for the round and deals 2d6 points of fire damage to that creature" (PH 232). Is that also no different from, "The berry also cures 1 point of damage when eaten" (237)? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 14:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I added disclaimer. Possibly it may just be my bad experience. Your mileage may vary. Second section was meant to be the more important part anyway. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 14:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Fair enough. I'd appreciate the headline saying The plan wouldn't work in my campaigns or something to make that clear. Also, the second section is presumably delivering the animate dead spell? (By the way, one of the attractions of the Fell Animate metamagic feat is that it does not require previous access to the animate dead spell. Further, Fell Animate means that the DM doesn't have to adjudicate how the PC is simultaneously smiting the foe, killing it, and stuffing the onyx "into the mouth or eye socket of [the] corpse" while the attacker wields a greatsword!) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jun 19, 2019 at 14:35
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Soul Eater

The Soul Eater prestige class has two features which very much align with what it seems you are (or were) looking for:

Energy Drain (Su)

A soul eater gains the ability to drain energy, bestowing negative levels upon it victims. Beginning at 1st level, the touch of a soul eater bestows one negative level on its target. At 7th level, the soul eater bestows two negative levels with a touch.

Soul Slave (Su)

If a 9th-level soul eater completely drains a creature of energy, the victim becomes a wight under the command of the soul eater.

This, along with the class requirements (BaB +5 is the limiting one) means the feature comes online at level 14, at the earliest. No DC, no spell resistance, no cost for either effect, and no HD or duration limitation on the latter. You eat their souls and turn their remains into your servants.

It does not allow you to use (most) swords or spears, as you need to "touch" the victim - not touch attack, just "touch" - in order to drain and eventually bestow the Wight template unto them, for the cheap-cheap price of their eternal soul and undying allegiance.

Note that another requirement of the class is a Weapon Focus in a natural weapon, which Unarmed Strike doesn't seem to be, unless you're a monk. Anyway, Touch Attacks are probably a better way of delivering Energy Drain than any "normal" attack, so...

Note, also, that there is no strict connection between the Soul Slave and the Energy Drain feature. Any way you have of "completely drain[ing] a creature of energy" will result in a new wight for you, ready to create more wights for you. However, most effects available (e.g. Fell Drain) are not nearly as uncompromising as the Soul Eater's built-in Energy Drain.

One idea is to go for Cryohydra - a Large character with Wild Shape Ranger 8/Soul Eater 9 and the feats Proportionate Wild Shape and Frozen Wild Shape should be able to go Twelve-Headed Cryohydra and deliver twelve touch attacks each round - twenty-four if you scrounge up Haste.

I wonder what use there could possibly be for 48 negative levels bestowed in one round...? And what the resulting Wight would be?

Maybe not quite up to par with Batman or CODzilla at level 17, but pretty decent for a melee character.

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