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In the module Out of the Abyss, there is a stat block for Orcus (p. 245). The part, describing the abilities of his wand, says:

While holding the wand, Orcus can use an action to conjure undead creatures whose combined average hit points don't exceed 500. These undead magically rise up from the ground or otherwise form in unoccupied spaces within 300 feet of Orcus and obey his commands until they are destroyed or until he dismisses them as an action. Once this property of the wand is used, the property can't be used again until the next dawn.

So, my questions are:

  • Is he allowed to choose the undead he summons? Similar effects of some spells for players doesn't allow to choose specific creatures, only CR, but can Lord of the Undead do it?
  • Is he capable of summoning specific named undead, like, for example, Acererak? Orcus conjures them, but it's not clear if they are teleported from the Abyss or created on spot.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't have much to add over the answers below, but what is the point of the question? Unless you're playing AL, you as DM can change anything that he wants about an encounter on the fly. If you want your version of Orcus to call forth the Adult Red Dragon dracolich brothers Flamey and The Poker to deal with those pesky adventurers, why not just do it? You''re DM, you don't need permission. Similarly, by RAW you can summon 6 CR18 Demiliches (or 3 liches and a demilich) at the party with the Wand. Just expect PHBs to come flying your way. \$\endgroup\$ – James Oct 9 at 19:44
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Orcus can choose what kind of undead he summons.

The Wand of Orcus is an artifact that is fully detailed on DMG p. 227. The description of its Call Undead ability says:

While you are holding the wand, you can use an action to conjure skeletons and zombies, calling forth as many of them as you can divide 500 hit points among, each undead having average hit points. The undead magically rise up from the ground or otherwise form in unoccupied spaces within 300 feet of you and obey your commands until they are destroyed or until dawn of the next day, when they collapse into inanimate piles of bones and rotting corpses. Once you use this property of the wand, you can’t use it again until the next dawn.

While attuned to the wand, Orcus can summon any kind of undead, not just skeletons and zombies. The undead don’t perish or disappear at dawn the following day, remaining until Orcus dismisses them.

This makes it explicit that while other creatures can only summon skeletons and zombies, Orcus himself can summon any kind of undead.

However, the usage of the phrase "any kind of undead" suggests that he can't summon specific named undead creatures, such as Acererak or Strahd von Zarovich - he can only choose a "kind" of undead, not a specific undead creature. (A DM may choose to house-rule this at their own discretion and allow the summoning of named undead individuals where it makes sense.)

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  • \$\begingroup\$ There used to be a difference between straight conjuration and the sub-school of summoning. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Oct 9 at 11:33
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  1. Based on the wording of his ability, Orcus conjures undead creatures of his choice.

  2. Acererak (Tomb of Annihilation) is a creature, he is undead, and he has under 500 average HP. He is a valid target for the spell. I'd use discretion conjuring a named lich since they are very powerful compared to your run of the mill undead.

  3. Because this ability states that it conjures, that means the undead magically appear from nowhere.

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    \$\begingroup\$ concerning 2: while it should be considered carefully balancewise, it would make sense lore-wise - many liches receive the knowledge of how to become a lich in the first place from Orcus. I'm not sure what's the case for Acererak or if it's even known, but conjuring a random, "normal" lich definitely makes sense lore-wise. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Oct 8 at 20:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your answer! But I'm wondering what exactly in the wording makes you think he can choose the undead and they are not random ones? How is it different from spells, like, Conjure Elemental or such? \$\endgroup\$ – August Bebel Oct 8 at 21:57
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AugustBebel Spells like conjure elemental do not conjure random monsters; the DM chooses which monsters appear. \$\endgroup\$ – mdrichey Oct 9 at 1:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may also be worth cross-referencing this answer with the description of the Wand of Orcus artifact detailed on DMG p. 227. Specifically: "While attuned to the wand, Orcus can summon any kind of undead, not just skeleton and zombie. The undead don’t perish or disappear at dawn the following day, remaining until Orcus dismisses them." \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Oct 9 at 6:08
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1- Yes, he can choose which undead he conjures.
2- Yes, he can specify the exact undead, including named individuals.

According to the text you quoted, it is unclear if he chooses specific undead; however, we can make logical assumptions based on the other spell options:

His wand can be used to cast Animate Dead and Speak with Dead, which both allow the user to specify their target. So it seems logical that he could do so with the once-a-day action as well.

Further, as Conjuration of creatures works by summoning them, not creating them, if he can choose specific creatures, then he could summon any creature (up to the listed average hp maximum) of the type Undead, including Acererak.

Finally, because he rules a layer of the Outer Plane the Abyss, it would make perfect sense that he would have enough power to choose specific creatures. (not to mention it would be kind of hard for a DM to randomly select 500 average hp of undead without a digital assist)

There is also an something to consider from the item Wand of Orcus, in the Dungeon Master's Guide:

While you are holding the wand, you can use an action to conjure skeleton and zombie, calling forth as many of them as you can divide 500 hit points among, each undead having average hit points.

This indicates that a creature other than Orcus is limited in what undead they can summon to them.

While attuned to the wand, Orcus can summon any kind of undead, not just skeletons and zombies. The undead don't perish or disappear at dawn the following day, remaining until Orcus dismisses them.

While this makes it clear, via 'can summon any kind', that Orcus himself is completely free to choose.

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