tl;dr Because of slower recovery mechanics, my Wizard cannot raise or sustain as many undead as a RAW 5E Wizard. What would be a fair alteration to the spell to bring it back inline with the intended effectiveness.

Background: I'm a player in a custom DarkSun campaign converted to 5E where we have a bit more focus on some of the grittier mechanics and realism (resource mgmt and player vs. environment). One of the changes is that the recovery mechanics were changed to 24 hours for a short rest and 1 week for a long rest. We're not doing back-to-back dungeons so it fits our play-style fine.

My character is a Lvl 5 Wizard, wannabe necromancer. It's become apparent that RAW, my character may not be able to fully leverage the Animate Dead spell. At lvl 5 the character has two lvl 3 spell slots but can only recover one lvl 3 spell per day/short rest (gets weird since Arcane Recovery is once per day/once per short rest but they're the same now.. anyhow).

The Problem: My contention is that a RAW 5E lvl 5 Wizard could potentially summon and maintain up to 4 undead. It'd take a few short/long rests to get to the max but once there it'd be easy to sustain and even make the occasional replacement. However, with our modified rest mechanics, it's not possible for me to get above 2, and even then that assumes the DM is generous on the timing (casting time is 10 min each plus 10 for the recast, but do I need precisely 24 hour or is 23.5hr good enough?). I'm not concerned about splitting hairs on that last point, but it helps illustrate the squishy situation.

My DM tends to agree that it seems like my character is slightly powered down by this mechanic but he's unclear on what kind of modification would be appropriate. Do you have any suggestions?

My thoughts:

  • Animate Duration - Since our long rest is 21 times longer than RAW and a RAW animated dead would last 3x the length of a long rest, why not let my animations last longer? Downside is that keeping a zombie around for a month isn't useful in a darksun campaign, or any campaign where you spend healthy amounts of time in civilization (not that DarkSun is all that civilized but pet undead still aren't welcome)
  • Casting time - The 1 minute casting time makes it impractical to use the spell reactively. However, we also don't tend to have back to back fights in a dungeon crawl either. Perhaps leave everything else the same but allow the spell to be used as an instant cast.
  • Ritual - Because of the slower recovery mechanics, I love my rituals. What if this spell was reframed as a ritual cast?

Last thought, in my head I've been trying to balance the impact/power of this spell compared to others that impacted less by our rest mechanics. For instance, for the price of two lvl 3 slots I could instead have 16d6 worth of fireball damage across multiple enemies (if it was 3 each cast, that'd be 48d6!). But in our last fight my zombie got focused pretty hard (saving us from a healthy chunk of damage) but only successfully delivered three or four blows (so ~4d6 of single target damage). Given the obvious crowd control benefit, a couple zombies/skeletons obviously shouldn't match the damage potential of a fireball but surely they deserve to do more than this?

Anyhow, thanks!

  • 1
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    – Someone_Evil
    Jul 3, 2019 at 0:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ Unfortunately, idea-generation questions aren't really a good fit for a site like StackExchange, and might be better suited to a forum; there's no way to choose a single best answer, as all answers would be equally valid. However, if you want to ask about whether a specific house-rule would be a good solution to a specified problem (or what the best way to solve a specified problem is), that would be much more answerable, though you'll need to more clearly identify the issue. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Jul 3, 2019 at 2:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just to be clear, your wizard's school Arcane Tradition is not Necromancy, correct? \$\endgroup\$
    – Miniman
    Jul 3, 2019 at 2:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ Side note: There's a good chance that Arcane Recovery is meant to be once per long rest (not once per day). See here: rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/81017/… \$\endgroup\$ Jul 3, 2019 at 5:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @V2Blast Fair enough, it seemed like a clearer question in my head when I started but ended up more vague. I guess I originally thought it was a simpler concept like, "how should this spell scale in power given this rest mechanic?" as-if that were an objective thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dave
    Jul 3, 2019 at 6:39

3 Answers 3


There are no fair adjustments for this spell in your environment. It is already balanced

The intended effectiveness of Animate Dead is that of a 3rd level spell that scales with the slot used. Its effectiveness is largely around the action economy, and having extra attackers is very good.

Of course you can buff Animate Dead through any number of methods. More undead, longer duration, stronger undead, shorter casting time, ritual casting, etc. But the super-Gritty Realism in this campaign nerfs everything that requires short and long rests. Animate dead will still work for 24 hours, but you have to multiple slots to keep it running longer. The typical "4 continues to get 4 animated dead" mechanic consumes both of your 3rd level slots in a regular environment - this is a huge investment in any game - but no, you can't get there in this environment. This principle applies to all time-based spells:

Warlock's Hex: Lasts 24 hours at higher levels, which allows it normally to be used across short rests, helping the Warlock's low spell slots. No longer possible under these rules.

Animal Shapes Lasts 24 hours. So now it will only run part of the time, versus being able to keep it running all the time if we long rest every 24 hours.

Forbiddance Lasts 24 hours, permanent if cast 30 days in a row. In this environment you will not be able to keep it running for 30 days.

Druid Grove Lasts 24 hours, you just can't keep casting it.

Telepathy looks like you won't be able to keep up with your buddy all week.

All the other short and long rest mechanics are similarly nerfed. Sorcery points have to last a week. Healing spells and hit dice have to last all week. Paladin Divine Senses and Cleansing Touches have to last all week. Warlock spells have to last all day. Gritty Realism is hard on a party. You are now discovering just how hard. So the question is, why should Animate Dead be the exception and buff the Necromancer specifically? A Level 3 spell that lasts a week would be crazy strong in a high-magic environment, and almost game-breaking in a gritty realism environment like this.

In terms of balancing the spell versus other spells, it is balanced already. Necromancer buffs to the spell are expected in terms of balance. It is strictly stronger once it's running than Danse Macabre, but it has to be cast outside of combat. It is not a concentration spell! Being able to cast it in combat would a huge buff to the spell. There is no need to change the power of this specific (or really any) spell. Down this path lies madness, because now we're continually changing the power of everything in a never-ending re-balancing loop, which is what we pay Wizards of the Coast to do. In my experience, leaving spells as-is is best, unless you want to fix the obviously terrible ones, like Find Traps.


Increasing the duration sounds like the most mechanically balanced option. Reducing the casting time very much changes the nature of the spell. If that's what you want, I'd suggest working with your DM to make a 5e version of Summon Undead, probably just by reskinning Summon Lesser Demons (XGtE, p. 167). Making it a ritual would make it way overpowered in my opinion. Any time you have half an hour free, you could just have a gang of zombie meatshields.

Another option you could try is to use a mechanic based on Galder's Tower (LLoK, p. 57) or Teleportation Circle where repeated castings increase the duration. My suggestion would be each time you cast it on the same creature, the duration is doubled. That seems flavourful and fun to me.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain why you think that's mechanically balanced? \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Aug 30, 2019 at 16:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Just because it allows the spell to function in a similar way to how it works using standard resting rules, in relation to the ratio between resting and recasting. The spell is designed to let the wizard keep the spell up indefinitely with a single cast per short rest. The wizard is hit hardest by the variant realistic resting rules, so were I the DM, I'd do my best to help the character out with more appropriate interpretations of their spells. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 2, 2019 at 10:08
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HughO'Mahony: You should edit your reasoning into the answer itself. \$\endgroup\$
    – V2Blast
    Sep 3, 2019 at 7:30

What about this? Your wizard's animate dead spell, instead of having an increased duration, is, in a way, cheaper to cast. You could make it such that one hour after your thrall dies, you can perform some minor task, e.g. meditating for 1 minute, to gain back a second-level spell slot.

I personally feel that messing with the spell duration could be troublesome later on, but I think this feature is realistically balanced and might help you guys out.


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