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I have been searching for a way to get Animate Dead or similar sooner than level 5 on a wizard.

I am playing in a game where we level quite slowly and I want to play a necromancer but with how things are going it could easily be a few months before I get close to level 5.

Are there any options to permanently raise undead sooner? The necromancer I have in mind wants to use them for building and tasks in the downtime rules, the GM ruled they can count as crafters and Laborer teams.

Is there a comparable spell similar to a lesser version of animate dead that can easily be made permanent for a similar cost? Animate objects would work as well however I do not have access to a permanency spell.

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Temporary undead

A wizard with Spell Focus (Necromancy) can take the Skeleton Summoner feat, which adds a Human Skeleton (1 HD) to Summon Monster I's list and Human Skeleton Champion (3 HD) to Summon Monster III's list. It also allows you to apply the skeleton template to a summoned creature once per day.

The Zombie Skin Shield allows you to create a zombie for 5 minutes per day, as if you had created them. The price of 2,159 gp may be too much depending on your level though.

Permanent undead

A wizard with the Undead Master archetype can gain the control of undead creatures as if he was a cleric with the Command Undead feat, by spending a few uses of his school's ability. This will not create undead though, only control existing undead, but once controller, they are yours to command.

A tiefling with the right heritage (and some GM's discretion) could be allowed to raise 1 HD zombies/skeletons once per day as a spell like ability.

With Craft Wondrous Items, you could create a Death's Head Talisman. It has a requirement of being able to cast animate dead, which can be bypassed by increasing the spellcraft DC by 5, for a total DC of 15. The item's description says that the creation of the undead is part of the process to create the item, so no onyxes are necessary for that. The item should be affordable aswell by 2nd or 3rd level (625 gp).

If your GM allows 3rd party products, the Deep Magic has a spell called Raise Lesser Undead (2nd for cleric and wizards), which raises a single zombie or skeleton with HD equal to half your caster level (maximum 10th caster level, or 5 HD). It still costs an onyx of 25 gp per HD of the undead created, and you can only have one undead created by this spell under your control. "It's third party...", yes, it is, but it has paizo developers among the designers, including Jason Bulmahn (paizo's lead designer), if that gives the book any credit with your GM.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for Deep Magic. It's a fantastic and, in my option underappreciated, book. \$\endgroup\$ – Karelzarath Mar 22 '17 at 18:19

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