Master undead was an arcane necromancy spell that took precise control over one or more undead creatures, allowing them to perform complex tasks. This spell was once known by the name control undead but that name has come to belong to another spell, similar to but less powerful than master undead.[note 1]
The earliest version of this spell had a minimum range of 180 ft (55 m) and the caster could control a number of undead creatures equal to his or her caster level. If there were more than that available within range, which creatures became minions was a matter of chance. The undead had multiple chances to resist the magic of this spell, but were at a tremendous disadvantage to do so at first. As time went on, each minion was increasingly likely to break control, until they ultimately did, or the spell expired. This version of the spell lasted at least 18 minutes. The later version of master undead had the same range as the previous one, but worked on all undead in a 50-ft (15-m) cube within that range. This version could control the same number of creatures, but the weakest ones were taken under control first, followed by the increasingly more powerful ones. All had one chance to resist the spell, but especially powerful or intelligent undead were much less likely to succumb. This version lasted twice as long as its predecessor.
This spell worked on all undead, even those created by another necromancer or being controlled by an evil cleric. Once the caster gave up control or the spell expired, they reverted to their previous modes of behavior. Under control of this spell, undead creatures could perform delicate or complex tasks that usually required intelligence and skill. For example, they could bind wounds, climb a rope, unlock a door, sort inventory, or most any other task that the caster knew how to perform. They could also be made to fight and (unlike charmed persons) perform dangerous jobs even to the point of self-destruction. The caster could even attack his or her own minions with impunity. However, intelligent undead creatures remembered what they were ordered to do while controlled.
Orders were issued verbally in any language known to the caster and were automatically understood by the undead minions. The earliest version of master undead could only be used once on a particular undead creature. It was thereafter immune to the spell coming from that caster. Also for the earliest version, the caster had to remain present and concentrate on the minions performing their tasks.
This spell was found in a book written by the lich Kyristan, entitled Studies in Death. The book disappeared on its way to being destroyed and was rumored to have been captured by the Red Wizards of Thay. Master undead was eventually published in Volo's Guide to All Things Magical and became generally known, but it was uncommon to find it.
- The Forgotten Realms Adventures sourcebook refers to this spell as undead mastery in the table on page 153.
- Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood (1990). Forgotten Realms Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 65. ISBN 0-8803-8828-5.
- Ed Greenwood, Tim Beach (1995). Pages from the Mages. (TSR, Inc), p. 107. ISBN 0-7869-0183-7.
- Ed Greenwood et al. (1989). Lords of Darkness. (TSR, Inc), p. 96. ISBN 0-88038-622-3.
- Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood (1990). Forgotten Realms Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 44. ISBN 0-8803-8828-5.
- Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood (1990). Forgotten Realms Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 153. ISBN 0-8803-8828-5.