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I was looking over the core rules of Pathfinder, and found specifics in Eschew Materials stating that "you can cast any spell with a material cost of 1G or less without needing that component". As such, I was genuinely curious if this could allow someone to create undead creatures without actually needing a body or ashes. So can someone please tell me, for the purposes of creating a particularly interesting enemy or in case some player tries to get creative, How much does a corpse cost as a spell material?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Another one of those great question titles for the Hot Network Questions sidebar that makes you look to see what site it's on! \$\endgroup\$ – Peter Cordes May 2 '16 at 5:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not related in terms of content but hot questions list: How can I tell if a corpse is safe to eat? \$\endgroup\$ – Tobias Kienzler May 3 '16 at 5:55
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It looks like your real question is can a spellcaster use Eschew Materials to create undead without having a corpse handy?

The answer to that question is no.

Animate Dead

Components V, S, M (an onyx gem worth at least 25 gp per Hit Die of the undead)

Targets one or more corpses touched

-

Create Undead

Components V, S, M (a clay pot filled with grave dirt and an onyx gem worth at least 50 gp per HD of the undead to be created)

Target one corpse

The bodies are the targets of the spell, not material components. Without a body, you can't cast the spell at all.

It would make no sense to have bodies be material components for these spells - those are destroyed when a spell is cast so you wouldn't actually get any (corporeal) undead out of it:

A material component consists of one or more physical substances or objects that are annihilated by the spell energies in the casting process.

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    \$\begingroup\$ "At last, I have perfected a spell that creates incorporeal undead. I'm quite proud of it - only fifth level! It's real charm, though, is that the spell's material component is a recently deceased corpse - so there's no body to clean up, and the discorporation comes free!" \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe May 3 '16 at 1:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ Oh sure, other spells can have all kinds of kooky material components. But ones that produce corporeal undead would prefer to have the corpse around after the spell ends. \$\endgroup\$ – SPavel May 3 '16 at 1:25
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A spell's target is different from a spell's material components, so trying to use the feat Eschew Materials to bypass needing a corpse as the target of the spell animate dead, for example, is beyond the feat's scope (as is using the feat to bypass animate dead's onyx material component, by the way). To be clear, the feat Eschew Materials only obviates inexpensive material components; the feat does nothing to change the spell's target.

Buying a corpse

The price of corpse can be gleaned from the Pathfinder Player's Companion: Black Markets on Corpserunning (also on Undead Laborers), which says

A standard human zombie costs about 90 gp, while a skeleton costs 45 gp, although most necromancers charge an additional fee of 50 to 100 gp to provide a body, and purchasers are expected to provide their own means of controlling their shambling laborers. (14)

Emphasis mine. This corpse is, presumably, of a typical human. Undoubtedly, corpses of exotic creatures will likely be much more expensive if available at all.

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The sarcastic answer would be that, if you create it yourself, it's free.

That said, in general this should be a non-issue. Both the Animate Dead and Create Undead spells, regardless of material components, require a corpse as the target of the spell. You cannot cast them at nothing, so Eschew Materials would not allow them to be cast without a corpse to cast them upon.

Should it matter for other purposes, I would rule that the value of a corpse, as something that was once a wholly unique and irreplaceable living thing, is incalculable. Note that this is different from something having a value that is negligible. It means that, while you might find someone willing to sell you their dead cat for a few copper, the actual worth of "the corpse of Mittens, beloved companion, chaser of mice, lover of cream", is far greater than what you paid, and indeed presumes that no monetary amount could ever equal the worth of the life that once was.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I would further that the cost of the corpse might be something the players could negotiate with local authorities and/or the family and friends of the deceased as befits their own alignments and character traits. \$\endgroup\$ – Peter David Carter May 1 '16 at 18:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ Even without debating the value of the life lost (after all, we don't say that a hamburger is priceless and that's just a small part of one or more corpses): the cost of a human corpse could be house-ruled according to the scarcity of human corpses that nobody is planning to bury/cremate/whatever, and whether or not it's even legal to trade in them. A price greater than 1GP would seem pretty reasonable unless perhaps there's a battle or a plague going on, in which case the supply skyrockets and frankly you can be paid to take them away. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Jessop May 1 '16 at 19:13
  • \$\begingroup\$ Not sure whether this would also work with pathfinder. Would it also be possible to look up all the materials a body consists of and then calculate the costs that way? (like alchemy I guess...) I've once renamed a necromancer into a "milk mage" with the added joke that strong bones require calcium and stuff. It'd require a lot of thinking outside the box though... \$\endgroup\$ – Migz May 2 '16 at 6:49
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Corpses are not a material component of reanimation spells but rather the target. Take for example Animate Dead:

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, M (an onyx gem worth at least 25 gp per Hit Die of the undead)

Targets one or more corpses touched

This spell turns corpses into undead skeletons or zombies that obey your spoken commands.

The only spell component for Animate dead is onyx. You cast the spell on a corpse but the corpse is not a "component" so Eschew Materials would not apply.

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