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I am playing a character with cleric and wizard levels. If I was to cast a scroll of animate dead, where do the controled undead go?

As animate dead is a cleric 3 or wizard 4 spell, it can be either arcane or divine scroll in nature. Both sides are able to cast the spell with no issue. The question becomes exactly what happens when the scroll is cast.

I see one of the following happening if I was to cast a divine version of the scroll:

  1. use cleric and it being divine, it automatically goes into the cleric bucket
  2. using spellcraft to cast for arcane, it still goes to the cleric bucket
  3. using spellcraft to cast for arcane, it goes into the wizard bucket
  4. regardless of how its cast or nature of the scroll, it goes into a special bucket because the CL that cast it was not my own thereby bypassing the limits of how many undead I can control
  5. regardless of how its cast or nature of the scroll, I get to choose which of the cleric or wizard buckets it goes into

Naturally, for an arcane version everything would be switched.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Possible duplicate of How does the Mystic Theurge's Combined Spells feature work? \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Sep 28 at 16:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I would be hesitant to close something as the duplicate of a Q that is closed as unclear. Either call this unclear too or leave it open, no? \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Sep 28 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have clarified the question, I hope that helps \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Sep 28 at 17:49
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To start, the key thing here is Caster level. This is a specific function of a character's levels in a specific spell casting class. Page 208 of the Core Rules states, under "Caster Level":

A spell's power often depends on its caster level, which for most spellcasting characters is equal to her class level in the class she's using to cast the spell.

(This sentence actually removed the need to describe the idea of Caster Levels in specific spell descriptions, hence why Animate Dead doesn't mention it.)

Without special rules, these don't combine to anything. Your Cleric levels are cleric, bard are bard, Druid are druid. For this very reason, tables that allow Bard/Wizards to cast Animate Dead using both levels is absolutely not Rules as Written or Intended, regardless of the fact a bard can't normally cast Animate Dead. When casting Fireball, a Wizard 6/Bard 3 does not do 9d6 damage, they do 6d6 damage.

What that means to this original question is this: The class the animated dead are 'assigned' to depends specifically on which class is being used to cast the spell or the one used to create the scroll.

Animate Dead (Core Rules pg 241) says;

you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level.

It also says:

you can't create more HD of undead than twice your caster level with a single casting of animate dead.

This is important.

Next, we have the factor of the spell scroll. Page 490-491 of the Core Rules has this to say about spell scrolls:

Assume the scroll spell's caster level is always the minimum level required to cast the spell for the character who scribed the scroll, unless the scriber specifically desired otherwise.

This essentially means that this spell has already been cast, it's just waiting for you to unlock it at a later date. Your personal caster level isn't terribly relevant as far as the scroll is concerned.

So, your Animate Dead scroll, if prepared by a Cleric has to be at least caster level 5, and if Wizard, at least caster level 7. Most DMs, unless given special reasons to do so, generally figure loot scrolls to be minimum level. Those created during game are whatever caster level the scriber chose at the time, paying the appropriate costs to do so.

Putting these together we get the following results:

If the scroll is a Divine spell, it's on the Cleric spell list, so it can be cast without any difficulty. It creates undead based on the size of the onyx used in scribing the scroll, up to twice it's CL in Hit Dice. Because it's a costly item, the GM would have to know this, as you have to still use costly material components regardless of the scriber's feats. These are under the control of the caster, at 4HD per caster level of the SCROLL, not the character.
You shouldn't be using your Wizard caster levels here to fake the casting because, as a Divine scroll, you can already do that, and your Wizard levels have nothing to do with the CL (Caster Level) of the scroll anyhow.

If the scroll is Arcane, the same rules apply. Again, the caster level of the Wizard using the scroll is mostly irrelevant.

If a Bard or Rogue cast the spell using Use magic Device, the effects would be exactly the same.


Using a spell in memory, the rules are still workable by the same methods, only now you actually are using your own caster levels to determine effects, including how many undead you can have following you around at once.

In the case of that Cleric 5/Wizard 7, they can have up to 48 HD of undead. 20 as Cleric, 28 as Wizard.
Note: As spells have to complete, it's generally considered bad form to try and use non casting levels to grab that last few HD. If your Cleric 5 can only animate 12HD of undead, but they already have 10HD with them, they can't just use some of the Wizard pool to soak up the excess. That would require an additional Arcane casting of the spell, and not likely to grab hold of the already animated and wandering loose zombie.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ For the control limit, it might be easier to sum your wizard and cleric levels, since a wiz4/cleric5 can control 16 HD on one side, and 20 on the other, for a total of 36. being level 9 in either class (wiz or cleric) will also give you 36 HD. \$\endgroup\$ – ThisIsMe Oct 2 at 9:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThisIsMe the sum may be the same, but when you are counting spell slots, doing so would allow the cheat of using your lower level slots always when animating when you should be obligated to mix slots levels \$\endgroup\$ – Eldhelion Oct 25 at 20:22
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Don't silo the animated dead

The animate dead spell's description, in part, says

No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level. If you exceed this number, all the newly created creatures fall under your control, and any excess undead from previous castings become uncontrolled. You choose which creatures are released. Undead you control through the Command Undead feat do not count toward this limit.

(Emphases mine.) That boldfaced portion doesn't change because the creature is capable of casting the spell animate dead from more than one class. With regard to Hit Dice controlled, there's no arcane/divine siloing or cleric/sorcerer/wizard sioling, with each kind of magic or each class having its own separate pool of animated dead HD. There's just one pool: The animated dead pool that the caster has because of this animate dead spell that the caster's casting right here, right now.

That is, each time the animate dead spell is cast it checks that specific animate dead spell's caster level, sums the HD of animated dead the caster controls from previous castings of the animate dead spell, and either allows the caster to control the new animated dead without issue or allows the caster to control the new animated dead then forces the caster to lose control of some of his current animated dead. The ramifications of this on multiclass casters are vast and painful.

  • Ekaj the cleric 12 controls 48 HD of animated dead. He casts the animate dead spell at caster level 12 and animates 24 HD of animated dead. He controls the new animated dead, but he will lose control of 24 HD of the animated dead he currently controls.
  • Sivart the fighter 4/sorcerer 8 controls 25 HD of animated dead. He casts the animate dead spell at caster level 8 and animates 12 HD of animated dead. He controls the new animated dead, but he will lose control of 5 HD of the animated dead he currently controls.
  • Arual the cleric 5/wizard 7 controls 25 HD of animated dead. She casts the animate dead spell at caster level 7 and animates 14 HD of animated dead. She controls the new animated dead, but she will lose control of 11 HD of the animated dead she currently controls.
  • Arual the cleric 5/wizard 7 controls 28 HD of animated dead. She casts the animate dead spell at caster level 5 and animates 10 HD of animated dead. She controls the new animated dead, but she will lose control of 18 HD of the animated dead she currently controls.

As can be seen by this last example, because there's just and only the animated dead pool for the current casting of the animate dead spell, it's possible for a caster's current animate dead spell to lower vastly the HD of animated dead the caster controls.

And, as can be seen by the last two examples, Ekaj and Sivart can actually control more animated dead than Arual despite Arual being able to cast the spell animate dead as both a cleric and a wizard. Yes, this is another way that the game favors a cleric 12 or a wizard 12 over, for example, a cleric 5/wizard 7. Yes, this sucks.

"…But what about scrolls?"

Casting the spell animate dead from a scroll of animate dead works just like any other casting of the animate dead spell except it's the scroll's caster level that's used not the reader's. The same applies to any similar magic item that allows the bearer to employ an effect like the spell animate dead. The swings may be bigger, though.

What I mean is that Kram, a rogue 15, can totally just buy a divine scroll of animate dead (up to 80 HD) (3rd-level spell at caster level 20) (3,500 gp; 0 lbs.), go to some desecrated area with his portable hole full of corpses, employ the Use Magic Device skill to activate that scroll, and control his 80 HD army of animated dead. (Take that, stupid village!) But if Kram follows that casting of the animate dead spell by casting the animate dead spell from a divine scroll of animate dead (up to 10 HD) (3rd-level spell at caster level 5) (625 gp; 0 lbs.) to animate 10 HD of animated dead, he'll control the new animated dead but must lose control of 70 HD of his army of currently controlled animated dead.

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