So, I have started playing a necromancer for the first time and have come across the following two spells.

Command undead and Control Undead.

Now, command undead is a second level spell, has day/level duration, and no HD limit. But targets 1 creature, and requires a charisma check to influence them.

Control undead, has a 2HD/level limit, but can affect multiple creatures, however only for minutes instead of days. The major upside I can see here is the multiple targets and easier time controlling intelligent undead.

Overall, command undead seems like a much more useful spell. While Control undead is a 7th level spell, and I cant see the justification for such a high level spell.

Is there something that I am missing or is control undead just a really lackluster spell compared to command undead?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Since most pathfinder spells are heavily copied from 3.5 this likely isnt a great pathfinder question. Dont forget that being a higher level spell also means it has a higher save DC. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Nov 12, 2020 at 5:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fering Why not just use a Heightened version of Command Undead then? I am not implying that either spell is better or worse, I am just implying that some more justification would be needed for all the downsides of Control Undead. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12, 2020 at 6:00
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Baskakov_Dmitriy For wizards its cheaper to learn a spell than invest in the feat, and for sorcerers the feat is easier because spells are so limited. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Nov 12, 2020 at 15:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Fering Or just learn Paragon Surge: at CL 13, one third-level spell is not that big of a deal. :) \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12, 2020 at 15:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Baskakov_Dmitriy Is for half elf only (I think), and I believe it was errated so that you must choose the same feat each day for multiple castings (which is still useful). \$\endgroup\$
    – Fering
    Nov 12, 2020 at 15:25

1 Answer 1


The control is absolute

The huge benefit of Control Undead is when attempting to destroy intelligent undead. Consider vampire hunting as an example - a necromancer can cast Command Undead until the cows come home and a vampire will still refuse to go sunbathing for a couple of rounds or jump into a fast-flowing river because Command Undead includes:

An intelligent commanded undead never obeys suicidal or obviously harmful orders, but it might be convinced that something very dangerous is worth doing.

However, if you cast Control Undead on a vampire that fails its Will save, then, provided there is a source of sunlight or running water within 13+ minutes' travel, you have just won the battle with no further rolls required — the control is absolute. Similarly, if you really need the vampire / powerful mummy / other intelligent undead to fight to the (un)death in order to soften up a tough opponent for you (rather than bugging out when things go badly), Control Undead is the spell you need.

If the necromancer is just looking to appropriate low-level undead to be cannon fodder for the next few days, Command Undead is obviously the more efficient spell.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I would replace your title with "The control is absolute" then open with "Take, for example, vampire hunting..." \$\endgroup\$
    – Ifusaso
    Nov 12, 2020 at 13:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ Ahhh. So basically you are saying it can be used to order undead to destroy themselves if you need to kill them. That is actually a major upside. \$\endgroup\$
    – Erudaki
    Nov 12, 2020 at 13:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso excellent suggestions, have incorporated, thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 12, 2020 at 21:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have added some formatting improvements that should make your post more readable with screen readers -- mainly, I have replaced your text in bold with a "real" header that HTML parsers recognize as such. It is a minor edit, and if you disagree with my improvements, you may roll it back. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 17, 2020 at 0:39

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