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Animate Dead can reassert control over undead you created. It spells:

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.

The spell says "another" 24h, which means, that the timespan is added to the existing time, if I understand that correctly.

Could I cast Animate Dead to animate a Skeleton and then right after cast it another time, to add another 24h, to a total of 48h? How much could I stack that?

I would rather make sure, that my Undead stay under my control, instead of having a small army with them.

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I have not seen that interpretation before, but I like it.

All the games I have played (and my own DMing) that dealt with this just ran it like any other duration spell -- it controls the undead for 24 hours from casting, and if you overlap them, they don't "stack" -- you just get 24 hours from whenever the most recent casting was.

However, reading it in detail as a specific rule that would beat the general rule, it lets you stack it at least once, by adding 24 hours if you cast it again at any time before the current duration ends, for a total of 48 hours, even if you do both castings one right after the other.

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.

Indeed, a generous reading could allow multiple stackings, since "another 24 hours" is not specifically exclusive. It could reasonably be read to allow you to add "another 24 hours" as many times as you want if you cast them all "before the current 24-hour period ends".

I will be implementing this interpretation in my world. I quite like the idea of animating a skeleton, casting Animate Dead on it 7 times, and sending it off on a week's journey. That will totally allow me more shenanigans as a DM than the PCs could ever abuse it for.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that the generous reading that you're considering is wrong: you can add 24 hours only before the current 24 hours period ends. Casting 3 times the spell in a 24 hours time range won't give you more than 24 hours in addition. \$\endgroup\$ – Eddymage May 8 at 15:52
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    \$\begingroup\$ It's a generous reading, sure, but I do not think it is flat out wrong. It says "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". It does NOT say that the "another 24 hours" must be the next 24 hours. \$\endgroup\$ – PhilB May 8 at 16:53
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    \$\begingroup\$ I see what you mean, my reading is that you can add 24 hours once per 24 hour period, because I read another 24 hours as a single 24 hours period. \$\endgroup\$ – Eddymage May 8 at 17:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ IMHO, crux is here: "...before the current 24-hour period ends." They could have written "before the original 24-hour period ends", which would clearly restrict the spell to only one extension. But the current period can be either the original period, or any subsequent period created by additional casting of the spell. Furthermore, "another 24 hours" clearly, as you already point out, means the new 24 hour period starts after the current one ends. I would, however, say that the way the words "another" and "current" are used imply that you can't front-load multiple extensions. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Duniho May 8 at 23:20
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The duration of Animate Dead giving you control is effectively 24 hours beginning from your last casting of the spell.

The regular duration of Animate Dead is instantaneous. This means that (1) you create the undead instantaneously (after the casting time of 1 minute) and (2) the duration of the control effect is 24 hours.

The creature is under your control for 24 hours, after which it stops obeying any command you've given it

Under normal circumstances you use it to animate undead from a corpse:

This spell creates an undead servant. Choose a pile of bones or a corpse of a Medium or Small humanoid within range.

When you already have undead servants created by this spell it you to assert control over those undead that you created with this spell, as long as you do it before the current 24 hour period (the duration) ends:

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 requires you to cast the spell again. The new magical control period has a total duration of 24 hours. Since this overlaps with the old control period, it remains in effect for a total of 24 hours after you cast the spell, without combing the duration time of the prior effect since this is the equally potent but most recent effect.

Combining Magical Effects:

The effects of different spells add together while the durations of those spells overlap. The effects of the same spell cast multiple times don't combine, however. Instead, the most potent effect — such as the highest bonus — from those castings applies while their durations overlap, or the most recent effect applies if the castings are equally potent and their durations overlap.


If you fail to re-cast the spell once within 24 hours, then the undead you created become an invalid target for the spell. Once you lose control, it is gone; it lasts only 24 hours from the last time you cast the spell.

The duration of Animate Dead giving you control is effectively 24 hours beginning from your last casting of the spell.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I thought the answer was perfectly clear and entirely correct. I’m proud to say I was the first upvote. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas Markov May 8 at 12:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ There were some words that didn't belong, some odd punctuation, but the analysis is rock solid. Please review the edit to make sure you like the flow. (@Medix2 's comments in re confusion in the prose wasn't the only case of it coming off a little clunky ) \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast May 8 at 16:25
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You can "stack" the duration of control once (up to 48 hours), but not more than that

I've put "stack" in quotes here because stacking is not really how it works at all. It's more like renewing a daily subscription.

Let's say you cast Animate Dead and animate a zombie at 9 AM. We'll call this day 0. The zombie is under your control for 24 hours, which means "the current 24-hour period" lasts from 9 AM on day 0 to 9 AM on day 1. Casting Animate Dead at any time during this 24-hour period (even right after the initial casting) gives you control for "another 24 hours". This adds an additional 24-hour period of control starting after "the current 24-hour period", i.e. from 9 AM on day 1 until 9 AM on day 2. However, casting it a third time during this first 24-hour period will not extend the effect to day 3, because reasserting your control only adds another 24-hour period after the current 24-hour period. So the third casting's period of control would exactly overlap with the 2nd casting, making it completely redundant, per the rules for combining game effects. However, any time after 9 AM on day 1, the 2nd 24-hour period begins, and you can now cast the spell again to extend your control to day 3.

Note that regardless of when you cast the spell to reassert control, the 24-hour period of control always starts and ends at 9 AM, the time you originally animated the undead, since each casting maintains control for "another 24 hours", describing the 24-hour period starting at the end of the current 24-hour period. This gives you quite a bit of flexibility for when to cast the spell each day.

So in summary, you can animate an undead and then immediately cast Animate Dead a 2nd time to reassert your control for an additional 24 hours, giving you a total of 48 hours of control over it, but you can't do any more than that until 24 hours have elapsed, and you can never extend your control to more than 48 hours total.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. Feel free to continue it in there, or leave disagreements to opposing answers/votes :) \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil May 8 at 20:06
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Two successive castings of Animate Dead in a 24 hours period will grant you the control for 48 hours.

Let's examine the description of the spell (emphasis mine):

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.

The phrase "To maintain control of the creature for another 24 hours" must be read as "To maintain control of the creature for further 24 hours", i.e. in addition to the period granted by the first casting. The requirement for extending the control for further 24 hours is that you must recast the spell before 24 hours from the first casting: before means in this case anytime between 1 minute and 23h59m after the first casting.

Hence, casting for example Animate Dead in a time range of 2 minutes, the first time on corpses/bones and the second on the undead(s), grants you the control for 48 hours.

If you cast more than 2 times the spell in a 24 hours period the max time you can control the undead(s) is still 48 hours.

Pay attention that 3 successive castings of Animate Dead in a 24-hours period do not grant you the control of the undead(s) for 72 hours: indeed, in order to have further 24 hours of control you must cast again the spell before the current 24-hours period ends, per description.


Consider the following situation, which may support the above explanation:

  • Eddy casts Animate Dead on a pile of bones on Monday at dawn, getting a skeleton: he can control it until the next dawn on Tuesday.
  • Eddy casts the spell before the Tuesday's dawn (let's say on Monday at lunch), he then extends the control until Wednesday's dawn. This is due to the fact that the second cast is done in the current 24 hours period, i.e. the one going from Monday's dawn to Tuesday's dawn. An eventual third cast of Animate Dead here does not extend in any way the control, because the extension is given by only one cast per 24h-period, given the description.
  • On Tuesday evening Eddy casts again the spell, extending the control time to Thursday at dawn: this is due because this cast has been done in the current 24-hours period, i.e. the one going from Tuesday's dawn to Wednesday's dawn.
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't understand the voting on this vs. other answers. Isn't this concluding the same thing for the same reason as @Ryan's answer? Regardless of whether one finds this reading convincing vs. Akixkisu's more "standard" application of the normal spell-duration rules, this doesn't seem worse. (At least in its current state; it was initially missing an example.) \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes May 8 at 20:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PeterCordes I do not know, but take into account that Ryan's one has my upvote too (since we are saying the same thing). I added the example to clarify, but I believe that the reasoning was clear even without it. \$\endgroup\$ – Eddymage May 8 at 20:55

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