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I cannot find these caps on the SRD, but I know they exist, else a Rod of Undead Mastery and the secondary effect of a Dread Necromancer's Undead Mastery would be useless. Where can I find what the default HD control caps are?

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These are different things.

Animated undead creatures like skeletons and zombies that are created through the use of the 4th-level Sor/Wiz spell animate dead [necro] (PH 198-9) et al. have the control cap (ahem) buried in the animate dead spell itself: "[Y]ou can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level. If you exceed this number, all the newly created creatures fall under your control, and any excess undead from previous castings [of animate dead] become uncontrolled."

However, created undead creatures like the ghouls and ghasts brought forth by the 6th-level Sor/Wiz spell create undead [necro] (PH 215) and the shadows and wraiths brought forth by the 8th-level Sor/Wiz spell create greater undead [necro] (PH 215) are not automatically under the creator's control and must be managed in a different way, such as by using the 7th-level Sor/Wiz spell control undead [necro] (PH 214) or by successfully commanding them using rebuke undead (PH 159-60) or by simply forming an alliance, perhaps by employing the skills Diplomacy or Intimidate.


The rod of undead mastery (Libris Mortis 78) (10,000 gp; 5 lbs.) affects the first kind while the rod's held (and don't let go!). Whether the rod also affects undead creatures when they're controlled in ways like those needed to control the second kind of creatures is up to the DM.

Both kinds of creatures are affected in different ways by the dread necromancer's class feature undead mastery (LM 87), the dread necromancer both able to control more animated undead creatures and able to use the spell control undead to manage the more willful members of her undead horde.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Does that mean that Command Undead and Control undead initially have no HD cap? \$\endgroup\$ – Joninean Dec 14 '15 at 19:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Joninean The spell control undead has a Hit Dice cap (check the Target entry), but the spell command undead is like charm person for undead and has no cap. The ability to command undead through rebuke undead is limited by effective cleric level. Makes you want to buy the developers a thesaurus, doesn't it? \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Dec 14 '15 at 19:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ While you couldn't list every undead in an answer, there are undead created by other undead (ie Vampires) who can create undead that are under their control. I believe the mentioned magic items benefit them aswell. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Sep 14 '18 at 22:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ben-Jamin I dunno. All the vampire language uses the verb enslave rather than control that's mandated by the rod. As a DM who reads things strictly, I'd have to have a really good plot in mind to rule that the rod doubles an NPC vampire's HD of enslaved spawn. (If I needed the vampire to enslave more spawn, and I can always just give it more HD!) Is there another non-Monster Manual example? (All the rest of the MM create spawn abilities lack a HD cap.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Sep 15 '18 at 0:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmmm, fair point. I just remembered the phrase "under the command"..I guess I just didnt catch the "enslaved" part. Let that be a lesson, dont rely on memory kids (especially at my age!) \$\endgroup\$ – Ben-Jamin Sep 15 '18 at 0:54

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