Animate Dead

This serves as an in-depth explanation of the (often confusing) Animate Dead rules.

What can be animated

The Animate Dead spells states that “This spell turns corpses into undead skeletons or zombies that obey your spoken commands.” Further,

  • A skeleton can be created only from a mostly intact corpse or skeleton.
  • A zombie can be created only from a mostly intact corpse.

Hit Dice

You can’t create more HD of undead than twice your caster level with a single casting of animate dead. The desecrate spell doubles this limit.

You cannot create any undead greater than 20 HD with animate undead.


The rules state that an onyx gem worth at least 25 gp per Hit Die of the undead are required. What this means is that a solitary onyx gen, worth 25 gp per Hit Die or more must be consumed and destroyed in the process of animating the creature.

How to template the creature

  1. When creating a skeleton or zombie, drop any HD it has gained from class levels.
  1. The creature is now Neutral Evil.
  1. The creature’s type is now Undead. They also keep any types that aren’t alignment based Drop any types that are alignment based (such as good).
  1. Change any racial HD to d8s. Creatures without racial HD are treated as if they have 1 racial HD.

For example, when a level 8 barbarian Orc is turned into a skeleton, does not get 8 HD, instead it has one racial HD of a d8.

  1. The undead has no Constitution or Intelligence score, and its Wisdom and Charisma scores change to 10.

If the undead is a skeleton, Dexterity increases by +2.

If the undead is a zombie, Strength increases by +2 and Dexterity decreases by –2.

  1. Keep all of their special abilities. However, if you dropped any alignment based types, you must drop any special abilities those alignments granted.
  1. If the undead is a Skeleton, it gains a natural armor bonus. Add this number to it’s AC :
Skeleton Size Bonus AC
Tiny or smaller + 0
Small +1
Medium or Large +2
Huge +3
Gargantuan +6
Colossal +10

If the undead is a Zombie, it bonus HD based on size. This affects the maximum HD the spell caster can control. Add this number to its HD:

Zombie Size Bonus Hit Dice
Tiny or smaller
Small or Medium +1 HD
Large +2 HD
Huge +4 HD
Gargantuan +6 HD
Colossal +10 HD
  1. Now you can roll their HP. Roll a d8 the number of times equal to their HD and add these numbers together. Use their Charisma modifiers to determine bonus hit points (instead of Constitution), if any. The bonus is added to every roll.
  1. Use base save bonuses of Fort +1/3 HD, Ref +1/3 HD, and Will +1/2 HD + 2.
  1. The undead looses all of the creatures defensive abilities (damage reduction, immunities, and bonuses to armor class).
  1. If the undead is a skeleton, it gains DR 5/bludgeoning and immunity to cold. If the undead is a Zombie, it instead gains DR 5/slashing.
  1. If the undead is a skeleton and had usable wings, it cannot fly using them. If it is a zombie and had usable wings, it can fly clumsily using them. If the undead had the ability to fly by magical means, it retains this.
  1. The undead no longer has any of it’s previous special attacks. The undead retains all the natural weapons, manufactured weapon attacks, and weapon proficiencies of the base creature.

The undead’s base attack is equal to 3/4 its Hit Dice.

If the undead is a Skeleton and the base creature had hands, gains one claw attack per hand. The skeleton can strike with each of its claw attacks at its full attack bonus. A claw attack deals damage depending on the skeleton’s size. If the base creature already had claw attacks with its hands, use the skeleton claw damage only if it’s better. Claw does bludgeoning/piercing damage. Use the table below.

If the undead is a Zombie, it also gains a slam attack that deals damage based on the zombie’s size, but as if it were one size category larger than its actual size. Slam does bludgeoning damage. Use the table below, but remember to go up one category.

Undead Size Damage
Diminutive 1
Tiny 1d2
Small 1d3
Medium 1d4
Large 1d6
Huge 1d8
Gargantuan 2d6
Colossal 2d8
  1. The undead creature loses all skill ranks possessed by the base creature and gains none of its own.
  1. The undead loses all feats possessed by the base creature and gains none of its own.

If the undead is a skeleton it gains Improved Initiative as a bonus feat.

If the undead is a zombie it gains Toughness as a bonus feat.

  1. Finally, the undead loses all special qualities of the base creature, except that it retains any extraordinary special qualities that improve its melee or ranged attacks.

If the undead is also a Zombie, it gains the Staggered special quality.

Staggered (Ex)

Zombies have poor reflexes and can only perform a single move action or standard action each round. A zombie can move up to its speed and attack in the same round as a charge action.


In progress.

Animate Dead

Paths of Vengeance NukaPunk