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The monster "crawling claw" (an animated amputated hand, a la Thing) seems to have a muddled history of revisions across D&D 3e and 3.5.

  1. In the 3.0 book Monsters of Faerun (29), a crawling claw is a 1 HD Diminutive construct. A sidebar in that book provides the means to create them: the 3rd-level sorcerer/wizard spell create crawling claw, which explicitly places them under the caster's control. (The spell has no costly material components and does not stipulate an upper limit on the number of claws that a caster could create with repeated castings, which suggests the strategy of accumulating lots of them to use as e.g. a creepy source of unskilled labor.)
  2. The 3.5 web enhancement to Player's Guide to Faerun updated a number of monsters from 3.0, including the crawling claw, which gained the swarm subtype with without further commentary.
  3. The 3.5 book Lost Empires of Faerun (163) presents another creature called the crawling claw, which is a 5 HD Tiny construct swarm (consisting of many animated amputated hands.) It presents rules for creating the swarm, which requires three hundred (!) hands and a cost of 9,250 gp + 710 xp. (It also shows a price of 18,000 gp, though I'm not sure if this means that claw-swarms are available for sale, or even if they're commanded like golems, etc.)

So it appears that the crawling claw was updated from a single hand (MoF), to a fragile swarm presumably consisting of many hands (PGtF-WE), to a somewhat tougher swarm explicitly consisting of many hands (LEoF). However the means of creating crawling claws changed from the cheap spell create crawling claw to an expensive construct-as-magic-item process.

Given all this, does the spell create crawling claw still exist in 3.5? If so what does it do? Can a crawling claw still exist as a single creature, or has it been updated and completely replaced with the many-handed swarm version? If the single-hand version exists, is it some kind of single-critter "swarm" because of the update in the PGtF web enhancement?

My suspicions: (1) by RAW, the spell still exists, (2) the spell's RAW effects, which are probably broken, are presumably moot for practical purposes because most DMs would not allow PCs to cast the spell. However I am interested to see if I'm missing something here and the spell is still workable by RAW, partly because I was intrigued by the possibility of getting a bunch of cheap/weak constructs via the spell.

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So, officially 3.5 is supposed to be more-or-less backwards compatible with 3.0, and Wizards was supposed to update anything that needed explicit updating and everything else just needed generic massaging to fit into place.

In reality, though, that’s not the case, and no one ever really suggested it was. Updating material for 3.5 was always laid in the DM’s lap (barring those explicit updates, when they did happen). Wizards just wanted to down-play that aspect of things to encourage people to migrate to the new system; DMs who thought it was going to be a lot of work were liable to just not do so.

So when the rules say that the crawling claw has been updated for 3.5 in Player’s Guide to Faerûn or Lost Empires of Faerûn (since they share names with 3.0 version), but that create crawling claw, which saw no update, is still valid from as-is since nothing else with that name has been published, that is little more than wishful thinking on Wizards’ part. The DM has to do something about it; the interactions don’t make sense. Either crawling claws are now swarms, created with the ritual that replaces the spell, or crawling claws can either be singletons, created with the spell and using the original stats, or swarms, created with the ritual and using the later stats (pick one between Player’s Guide and Lost Empires).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, I am accepting this answer with one comment about the last line: for a swarm, I think the Lost Empires version definitely is better than the Player's Guide version. It is presented alongside the revised creation technique and it's shown to be a true swarm (unlike PGtF's weird fragile single-claw "swarm".) Also as tzxAzrael indicated, it is more recent. \$\endgroup\$ – LouisB3 Jul 26 '16 at 20:56
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The official policy is "Newest update is most correct" so by that marker, Lost Empires is the "right" version.

Practical policy, as always, remains "Ask your DM".

As KRyan's answer mentions, many things were not updated from 3.0, and many of those things need, at the very least, some revision to be in-line with 3.5e. Create Crawling Claw definitely falls into that category.

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