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I am building a Circle of Spores druid and do not feel like animate dead would fit well in the party that I am joining, so I am looking to re-flavour it to be more plant based.

I will probably add a follow up question on plant-based equivalents to zombies and skeletons, but for now I am just looking at the spell itself.

To replicate the requirement for corpses I created a cantrip which will create the materials for the new spell, and that cantrip requires bodies.

The cantrip:

DECOMPOSE

Necromancy Cantrip

Casting time: 1 action

Range: Touch

Components: V, S

Duration: 1 minute

You reach out and touch the corpse of a creature. Over the next minute, the corpse begins to rapidly decompose, sprouting fungus and moss as it begins to decay into mulch.

At the end of the duration, you can use your action to extract a single seed from the corpse, which can be used as a component for the Animate Plants spell.

Applicable requirements for resurrection are not affected by this spell.

The spell itself:

ANIMATE PLANTS

3rd-level transmutation

Casting Time: 1 minute

Range: 10 feet

Components: V, S, M (a seed created by the decompose cantrip, a drop of water, and a pinch of dirt or soil)

Duration: Instantaneous

This spell creates a plant based servant.

You plant the seed in the ground and as it grows your spell imbues it with life, raising it as a creature. The target quickly grows into the shape of a humanoid with the stats of either a skeleton or zombie (you choose) over the casting time of the spell.

On each of your turns, you can use a bonus action to mentally command any creature you made with this spell if the creature is within 60 feet of you (if you control multiple creatures, you can command any or all of them at the same time, issuing the same command to each one).

You decide what action the creature will take and where it will move during its next turn, or you can issue a general command, such as to guard a particular chamber or corridor. If you issue no commands, the creature only defends itself against hostile creatures.

Once given an order, the creature continues to follow it until its task is complete. The creature is under your control for 24 hours, after which it stops obeying any command you've given it.

To maintain control of the creature for another 24 hours, you must cast this spell on the creature again before the current 24-hour period ends. This use of the spell reasserts your control over up to four creatures you have animated with this spell, rather than animating a new one.

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, you animate or reassert control over two additional undead creatures for each slot level above 3rd.

The majority of the text from animate plants is taken directly from the animate dead spell, so I think the crux of the matter is if there are any likely shenanigans I can pull with my version that the corpse requirement prevents on the normal version, plus anything else I have not thought about.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is this a 'free' cantrip, or will you need to select it as one of your limited options? \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 17 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are these creatures Plants or Undead? I don't know if that matters for balance reasons, but it's unclear right now. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Mar 17 at 17:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarkWells They say it has the stats of either a zombie or skeleton. \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 17 at 17:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ I am taking this as part of my limited options, but to be honest I had taken that cantrip for flavour reasons anyway, and it just sounded useful for this spell too \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Mar 17 at 17:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NautArch Right, but the first sentence says "plant based servant", so I'm not sure if the Undead type is intended. \$\endgroup\$ – Mark Wells Mar 17 at 17:32
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The Leveled Spell is Balanced, the combination is close enough

Obviously you have taken the Animate Dead spell and changed it to create plant-based zombies and skeletons (with shortbows? I digress). So Animate Plants is fine.

The Cantrip ends up being a tax on the spell. The spell is worthless without the Cantrip, so you are forced to forego another cantrip to be able to cast Animate Plants. On the positive side, there is an advantage to being able to carry seeds around to provide "corpses" whenever you want. Very few parties will carry around dead humanooids in their Bag of Holding just to power your Animate Dead spell. This and the extra minute required, make the combination strictly weaker than the corresponding Animate Dead spell. So , I'll go ahead and rule that the pluses and minuses are close enough and declare the combo balanced.

I did see a comment in another answer about the cantrip being used to prevent Resurrection, but this seems like an edge case you could easily get out of via a descriptor in the Cantrip that the transformation does not affect the Raise Dead or Resurrection spells.

Also, I think an easier way to accomplish this would just be to describe the spell Animate Plants as something like "Fungal Creatures" and have the actions be exactly the same as Animate Dead but describe it as creating creatures via a fungal change to the corpses.

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It's mostly balanced

Honestly, all you've done is reflavor the animate dead and left the mechanics completely intact. The only thing you've added is the requirement for the cantrip, which I'm not sure is totally needed. That does reduce more usable cantrips that you could pick whereas a normal animate dead doesn't require that particular step.

If you're fine with taking away a cantrip choice by requiring this, then I don't see any issues.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Balanced except when you take into account that you can decompose any body and therefore negates all other spells except true resurrection that brings people back to life.The cantrip is really OP for creative players. \$\endgroup\$ – Eternallord66 Mar 17 at 18:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Eternallord66 the cantrip has a line for "Applicable requirements for resurrection are not affected by this spell" which I hoped would prevent the abuse (As did Matt Mercer from whom I shamelessly stole most of the wording). \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Mar 17 at 18:21
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It's mostly fine, with a small caveat.

Animate Plants is basically the same as the Animated Dead spell, with the cantrip being a cantrip tax on the spell. And as @Tigerguy Said, this is mostly balanced.

However, Decompose only requires the corpse of a body, while Animate Dead requires the corpse of a humanoid. This means you can use the corpses of non-humanoid creatures for zombies, including reusing corpses that have already been animated and killed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Fantastic point and great addition to the answers here! \$\endgroup\$ – NautArch Mar 24 at 18:34

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