I am a LE cleric (No god, but in an order of LG/LN cleric, faking to praying to their god) and we are in a mass combat campaign (Darn you drow), and I want to raise an elite troop of undead to protect me in battle. My troop will be around 20 to 30 undead, I am level 2 right now but my army of undead and the invasion into the drow land will be around level 10.

My problem is that raising undead is kind of evil and I want to hide this action from public view (detect undead, magic, evil, etc). My soldiers will be clad in full-plate so any random soldier won't see the skeleton under the armor.

There will be other undead in the battle but I can't count on that because I will move with the rest of the army so when we move they can't be hidden in the mass of enemy undead.

Is there any long-term spell or cheap magic item to hide them from divination spells?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Will you have to worry about them being accidently turned by your fellow clerics? ie, other undead show up, one of the clerics performs a turning... "Hey, what happened to Bob from Accounting?" \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 7, 2014 at 22:24

6 Answers 6


Protection against Spells

Disguise Undead (from the Spell Compendium) does just what it says - hides undead. Unfortunately Clerics can't cast it, so you'll either need an Arcane casting lackey to do it for you, or an item that can do it (Wands with Use Magic Device, or some other use per day item).

Undetectable Alignment can hide the alignment of one creature per casting for 24 hours from all forms of divination (including the detect spells). That doesn't make them look not-Undead, of course, it just means that detect spells and the like will fail to see their alignment.

False Vision can create a fake image if someone uses Scry on you, so they see what you want to see. You'll need the Trickery Domain to cast it, though. Pretty useful if you retreat somewhere private to create more undead minions or heal the ones you have, as you don't want someone spying on you doing that and giving away the secret.

Magic Aura lets you change or hide the aura on creatures, so someone looking at auras wouldn't notice the other stuff you cast on your Undead. This requires the Magic Domain to cast. Of course if they have masterwork full plate, you could just claim the armor is magic and that'd explain the aura. A good Bluff will help that.

Protection against Spot

You'll want a disguise so that someone just casually looking around doesn't notice that you have Undead with you. Ideally, they'd be mistaken for guards. You mentioned full plate, which if it's totally obscuring of the features of the Undead, might work okay.

A Hat of Disguise would help quite a lot, as it gives +10 to a Disguise check and Disguise says that casual observers don't even get a check to notice you while using it (you'd have to draw attention or interact with them somehow). That should let you walk through a town more or less freely so long as you don't draw attention to yourself. It'd get expensive to outfit a lot of Undead with it, though.

You can use Disguise without the hat, but the check results won't be that great as most Undead don't have ranks in it. Or if you have a good disguise score yourself, create the disguises for your undead. That will take a very long time if you have several of them.

Protection against Scent

Scent is a tricky one, for creatures that have it. Theoretically Disguise Undead or Disguise Self might work as mentioned above, as they don't say that they don't (they mention audio and tactile senses as ones that aren't fooled, so you could argue that they can alter scent). I'm honestly not sure if they do or not.

Remove Scent (Spell Compendium) can also remove scent for a short time, but once again it's not a Cleric spell.

Fortunately, in general there's no special rule that says Undead waking by will scare animals off just by smell, so you may not have to worry a lot if your other disguises work.


If you're going somewhere for a while that you don't want your guards around because you can't hide them from the people in the area, use a Portable Hole or a Bag of Holding. So long as you don't have so many Undead that they don't fit, they can stay in there forever, until it's safe for you to bring them out. If someone asks, you sent your guards off for a time for make up some lie.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The undead don't need ranks in disguise. You apply the disguise, you use your ranks. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 8, 2014 at 2:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthewNajmon Can you use disguise on someone else? That's super handy. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 12:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ Undead don't radiate magic, so magic aura just doesn't matter here. (Animate Dead has an instantaneous duration.) \$\endgroup\$
    – starwed
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @starwed hmm, didn't know that. I'll add a note, thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 14:47
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, gentle repose will do a lot to help your disguises work. If you work with fresh corpses and keep them under gentle repose, the lack of decay will eliminate a lot of the tell-tale mundane signs (visibly-decaying flesh, smell, etc.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 15:07

Instead of trying to hide the undead for what they are (undead), you can do a different kind of bluff: say that these undead follow you from their own free will, or that you're trying to lift a curse on these undead. For example, in the LotR trilogy, Aragorn promised an army of undead warriors that he would lift a curse put on them by one of his ancestors if the army aids in a major battle. Another idea might be that on a previous quest, you stopped a cult of necromancers, and the undead they already raised gave your their word that they would come to your aid if you called them, from gratitude.

Of course, this is assuming that the undead in your setting have some base form of intellect and reasoning which would allow them to join you.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Or take the Egyptian approach of them being the honored dead of your culture (works far better if you are a foreigner). Simply tell the adventurers that you party with that you are taking honorable warriors that died in battle, and letting them continue to serve as warriors after death. I had a culture like this in one of my game worlds. LG culture that promoted undead, but only if they earned the right to serve after death. \$\endgroup\$
    – Aviose
    Commented Jun 16, 2014 at 15:18

This question would be a lot better if you specified what level you were, what resources and such you had access to, what kind of undead, etc.

Disguise Undead from the Spell Compendium is your best bet here. (You could make a more expensive version of the hat of disguise with this spell instead, if you have 100k gp burning a hole in your pocket, and you could reuse them for life.) I'd worry less about other more vigorous divination spells and more about other troops wandering up and wondering why your troops never go off shift, eat, or take a dump. You'll want to encamp them separately, ideally in a concealed area. If they're intelligent at all, you could given them commands to better emulate live troops in terms of activity so that casual visual scrying from someone with two brain cells to rub together doesn't reveal that something is up.

Bluffing is your best approach (not the skill, though that could help too, the technique). You'd reasonably want to conceal the appearance of your guards even if they weren't undead, so mass invisibility, illusion, etc. are all on the table. "I love throwing fog spells so people can't shoot arrows at me and my elite bodyguards" will also conceal undead activity (especially if they're going to do anything freaky like energy drain enemies). In Basic D&D there was that spell that made an army look like trees, I forget what that was called... Anyway, have tactics with illusions, fogs, walls, and other area denial weapons to conceal their capabilities from both allies and enemies. Be careful about enemies taken prisoner; a number of them will have figured out the undead thing via making saves and/or being smarter than the average bear. Also, corpses on the field; when camp followers go goodie-picking you don't want them finding out - if the disguise undead covers real armor with the enemy's markings that could work.

Plead "operational security" in camp and remember to explain obvious deviations between your troops and others. Hey, why aren't you requesting provisions like everyone else? "Oh we do that with magic so no one can poison us or sneak in booze." No hookers? "Why we are lawful good of course, my order of knights has taken vows of silence and chastity and standing around stock still a lot." Keep large tents for them to stay in, have an opaque stockade around the camp. The longer you do this, the harder it will be to keep up, so plan to limit the duration you have to keep it up. "I teleported more in..."

And have a backup plan for if you get found out. This is where the more subtle anti-divination spells will come in. "I was possessed by a lich from the other side, I am so ashamed, I need to atone!" "Peace out! ." Whatever it is, always have a backup plan.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd suggest camouflaging them as contructs. Constructs don't eat, contructs don't rest... \$\endgroup\$
    – Zachiel
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 19:09
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's a good idea too. "I have been granted a squad of inevitables by our god! Woot, go LN!" \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 19:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ In Basic D&D there was that spell that made an army look like trees, I forget what that was called I am thinking Massmorph (that's what it was called in AD&D 1e) so you can edit that in if you like. Also in OD&D Vol I. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 17:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ Massmorph: This spell is used to conceal up to 100 men (or creatures of near man size) as a woods or orchards (Men and Magic p. 27. ) I recall seeing that in my B/X books, though they are not to hand. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 17:53

@Tridus has an excellent answer for trying to conceal the nature of your troops, which if necessary he covers in great detail. Might be a few options he's missed, but I'm going to take a different approach: Don't hide them!

No matter what you do to hide their nature, there is the very real risk that your deceit will be discovered. That's an almost-guaranteed route to having the entire order turn on you in an instant: "You lied about that, what else are you lying about?" Casts Detect Alignment "GASP!"

Are all undead evil? Is raising the corpses of the fallen always an evil act? Per RAW Drow are "always evil", and yet we also have good ol' Drizzt, running around as the gorram hero! For a system that explicitly defines a "shades of grey" (well, shade, maybe...) morality system, morality in D&D is starkly black-and-white. Which is easy to write, but just doesn't hold up against reality (or even half-arsed roleplaying, frankly).

It's well within the realm of possibility that prior to their death an order of good-aligned knights would take steps to ensure they could continue their fight against evil -- and suddenly you have good undead! Ghosts are an excellent example of RAW undead that can easily be good; see also vampires which, while "always evil" per RAW, is more than conceivable that a good character bitten and turned by a vampire would retain her alignment anyway. (See also @NateKerkhofs' answer vis-a-vis saying these undead follow you of their own free will.)

Of course, you also mention that the order you're hiding in has LN clerics. Per RAW, Neutral characters may occasionally commit "evil" acts without violating their alignment, thus an order of LG/LN clerics could easily tolerate the occasional "evil" act, so long as it's done in the pursuit of the order's goals. Raising an army of undead to meet the evil Drow invaders? Great! Here, let me help you pick the colors for their armor!

Thus I would say: Don't hide that you're using undead. Don't necessarily advertise it, but if someone notices (and, really, who's going around casting Detect Undead on every ally's retinue anyway? are LG clerics really that distrustful?) be frank about it that, yes, your guards are undead, but they (and you) are on their side! If challenged, argue that you're doing it for the good of the order, that even if it is somehow harmful to those you've raised it's only temporary, and (if the deceased were allies) wouldn't they want to continue to help anyway/(if the deceased were enemies) is it really any worse than killing them in the first place was? (Having ranks in Diplomacy will really help here, and/or some in Bluff if necessary.) Not to mention that you undoubtedly have evil Drow clerics sending undead against your own armies, and fighting fire-with-fire is often the best response. Plus, there's the very real pragmatic response that the undead are the perfect troops: Never question orders, never panic, and best of all require virtually no logistical support beyond pointing them toward the bad guys!

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ I love where you've gone with this. Another option: Yes, they're undead. They were warriors of the order who declared their desire to continue serving even after death, as shown on these signed documents. A decent Forgery score (helped by Divine Insight), and you've got a reasonably convincing argument in a LN group. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tridus
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 17:08
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tridus I can't say I'm unfamiliar with the evil-character-blending-in-with-a-good-party trope. I once spent an entire campaign running a CE half-orc alongside a party of strictly-good characters. Splitting hairs and questioning "prejudiced moralities" like this became second nature to me -- I once convinced the party to simply execute a prisoner on the grounds that (since we lacked any sort of prison) any other option would just be cruel and unusual punishment, and that a quick death involved the least suffering (although the truth was I just wanted to kill him!). \$\endgroup\$
    – Kromey
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 17:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Kromey I Love your idea of official documents. Idont think i will even need to lie i will convince my soldier to join my armie of dead I am lvl 2 and I have already +13 in diplomacy (my character is just silly in diplomacy) so i think i will go for the fact that i fight with undead the evil drow. \$\endgroup\$
    – Pyersamid
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 22:06
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    \$\begingroup\$ Further to the previous, a LN cleric could commit the "evil" act of raising the dead, then use their new army for the "good" act of using them to stop the invading orc army from destroying the village of Innocenton. Thus an order of clerics that includes LN clerics could conceivably tolerate even "always evil" acts, so long as the purpose is in line with their goals -- as noted already in my answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kromey
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 15:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Kromey Moral relativisim isn't a thing in D&D; morality is basically Kantian. Also, according to Complete Divine some undead actually restrain the soul via a malign intelligence (q. v. this answer), which is why a creature can't be the subject of raise dead et. al. until the undead's destroyed. Posing a question on this topic--if no one has already--would I'm certain elicit interesting responses. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9, 2014 at 19:15

I went through some books, and I can get this close to solving the problem, so you should ask the DM about getting a custom item crafted for your character. You can

Use These Items as Guidelines

There are two magic items that may interest you. Both require modification.

  • The idol of false vision (AE 133) (54,500; 400 lbs.)

    automatically detects any attempt to scry... any individuals or locations within 50 feet of it. Any such effect triggers a false vision [illus] (PH 229) spell that masks any creature attuned to the idol from being scried. Attunement may be performed during the idol's creation or at any later time by touching the idol and speaking a command word chosen during creation. The idol can cast false vision three times per day. (133)

    The idol's intent seems to be to stop scrying thrice per day but signalling scrying attempts all the time, but the alternate reading allows the spell false vision to be used thrice independently in addition to the idol's automatic detection and subsequent false vision activation; ask the DM, as it's overpriced if this alternate reading isn't the case.

    While not as useful as the 5th-level Sor/Wiz spell Mordenkainen's private sanctum [abjur] (PH 256) for ensuring privacy, it does give the the character a way to use in relative sequestration the spell animate dead [necro] (PH 198-9) et. al.

    The idol's expensive, though. If the DM agrees that the thrice per day false vision effect is an additional item property, ask that it be removed to cut the idol's cost. Further, 50-ft. radius is excessive. Ask if that can be cut down to 20 ft. I think this should probably cut the price in half for this nonstandard item, but ask the DM. O, yes, also the idol weighs four hundred pounds! You'll need a tireless army to carry it from place to place. O, wait. Never mind.

  • The scarab of scintillating auras (Mag 165) (45,000 gp; 0 lbs.) creates

    a field of clashing visible auras in a 90-foot radius [that] blocks attempts to detect magic or alignment within the area. Not even a true seeing spell can detect an alignment aura within the scarab's area unless cast at 16th level or higher. Once a day, the wearer can become invisible on command as if using the invisibility spell (self only). (Mag 165)

    As your cleric doesn't need the scarab to block the 0th-level Sor/Wiz spell detect magic [div] (PH 219), ask the DM if your custom scarab can instead block the 1st-level Sor/Wiz spell detect undead [div] (PH 220)--likely at the expense of removing the scarab's command-word activated invisibility to compensate for the differences in prices between 0th- and 1st-level spells.

    The cost is prohibitive, but a 90-ft. radius is massive, and the scarab has no use limit on the creation of its "clashing visible auras." I summon a mathematician1 to the Comments to determine how many Medium creature can fit comfortably into a 90-ft. radius, but it's a lot. Ask the DM if the price can be further reduced if the area of effect is reduced--maybe to as low as 15,000 gp for a 30-ft. radius (although that might be pushing it).

Additional Options

Here're two others I've yet to see mentioned.

  • The 2nd-level Sor/Wiz spell misdirection [illus] (PH 254-5), for 1 hour/level, causes the target creature within close range to yield information from spells (e.g. detect evil [div] (PH 218-9), detect magic [div] (PH 219), detect undead [div] (PH 220)) as if the target were a nearby object picked during casting. The creature using the detect spell gets a saving throw to bypass the spell misdirection.

    This solves all the problems, but the saving throw's an issue. A custom item that modifies the spell misdirection with the feats Chain Spell (CAr 76), Extend Spell (PH 94), and Heighten Spell (PH 95) is even more expensive than the items above, but a friendly wizard with just a staff of chained misdirection (34,150 gp; 4 lbs.) applies his own caster level and save DCs to the effect (DMG 243), so that might be a thing if the cleric A) can employ such a friendly wizard and B) doesn't need the effect all the time.

  • Use lead. Unless overburdened by 400-lb. idols, have a blacksmith incorporate thin sheets of lead into the armors of the undead army. That's because while most detect spells

    can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks [most detect spells]. (PH 218 et. al.)

    This is probably the easiest solution, although the DM must adjudicate the expense, time, and weight. Alternatively, the undead could just tote freestanding sheets of lead (once again relying on the DM to adjudicate the expense and weight), and your cleric could claim that's their culture.

  1. It's an 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell.

Dealing with suspicion

Get a wand of Detect Scrying, a 4th level arcane spell. 24 hours per cast and will reveal the exact location and identity of anyone scrying you or anything within 40' of you. So you will know if the jig is up and you have to run or if it is a single suspicious person who can be dealt with.


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