Monday, October 15, 2012

A View To Turning Undead

A quick note on the practice of turning undead.

I think that we can all agree the system in the Dungeon Master's Guide (and elsewhere) sucks. I think it does for two basic reasons:

1) It either works or it doesn't work. There's no drama beyond one die roll and if that roll fails, the turning ability is useless.

2) When it works, it works TOO MUCH. It completely drives the undead away, making them ridiculously easy to manage and kill, especially with regards to the lower undead such as zombies and skeletons. By the time the cleric is 4th level, you might just as well not even throw either at the party ... and the same is true for many undead once the cleric is 7th.

I propose the following:

1) The die is rolled exactly like before, only if it isn't successful, the cleric can STILL roll again the following round. Failure this round does not mean failure next round.

2) Turning undead is an action that takes virtually the whole round; it will let the cleric move one hex while doing so.

3) When the cleric is successful, the cleric's turning will literally pick up and move the undead back 10 feet, or two hexes - during which time the undead may drop to a knee or be temporarily non-corporeal (with respect to shadows, wraiths, etc); and for the following round the undead is treated as 'stunned' and cannot move or take action.

4) The number of undead that can be so affect is up to 2 HD per level of the cleric - the cleric determines which undead are so thrust back.


This is not a forum for persons to interject their own solutions or propose their own, completely unconnected ideas.  I am not looking for different ideas than the one I'm proposing - I am looking for errors in my logic.


Frotz Self said...

Your proposed system seems reasonable to me; certainly good enough to test at the table. I like the full round to perform the turn and the result of the successful turn. I think it keeps the turn ability useful and would be pretty fun. I see that clerics can attempt a turn if they fail; what about if they are successful? Is it useable once only if successful?

Lukas said...

I'd look to the sleep spell for some possible conflicts. Since the cleric cannot definitely know the HD of every opponent, consider it's solution to the problem.

I think it works well enough for playtesting, and the rest of the issues will be worked out after that.

Finally, in step 1) there's an 'and' near "STILL roll again" that's bugging the bajeezus out of me. I would have bugged you about it in the other blog, but I figured that was a one off post to be lost amongst all the others. Mountains and molehills and whatnot.

JDJarvis said...

Do two hexes away for incorpeal undead include "pushing" them thourgh walls and into other areas if close enough?

Alexis said...


That would certainly depend on the creature. A ghost, shadow, wraith or otherwise would be pushed through the wall. Something corporeal, like a zombie, might take 1d6 damage from the contact.

Alexis said...


In a sense, the cleric CAN know the "number of hit dice" ... since there is a limited number of undead. Think of it as a relationship between a cleric's status with his or her god vs. the sort of undead the cleric's church/temple would expect that cleric to come into contact with. The actual hit die number is not known, but that a "lama" - able to use a powerlevel of spell - can affect so many shadows is.

The molehill is fixed.

Lukas said...

This makes sense for sure. Your transparency with the players will help avoid problems.

Scarbrow said...

Coming from 3.0 and 3.5, where the cleric has a limited number of uses of "Turn Undead" per day, and it behaves almost exactly like a spell, I'm a little confused about your premises.

As far as I've been able to glean from several online comments (I've downloaded an AD&D Player's Handbook, but the information within is scarce), it seems like in OD&D, Turn Undead was a "free" action that could be performed as often as the cleric wished. If that was so, I completely agree that it's too much. I also understand from your post that if the roll failed against a particular undead, that undead became "immune" to the cleric's ability. Booo! What's the logic in that?

So, about your proposal:

The first point is really good. I can already see the tension building up as the cleric fails his first roll, then the second one... before succeeding. Will he manage it in time?

The second one is AFAIK entirely consistent with your system, and it also builds drama.

The third point, entirely correct. Maybe you would like to incorporate JDJarvis's suggestion on the base rule. I'd also consider the tactical uses of this rule, such as its use near heights, cliffs, etc. Would non-corporal creatures be affected by gravity? How about forcing them into environmental sources of damage (lava)?

Fourth point. The HD determination feels good. However, I'm not sure about "the cleric determines which undead are so thrust back". From a narrative standpoint, it's completely logical: "In the name of , I command YOU to retreat". However, from a mechanical standpoint, doesn't it allow too much power for the cleric? I mean, the cleric would be able to turn the powerful vampire lord while leaving the army of non-led low-level minions (say, skeletons) to the melee slaughtermachines. If such is desired, then your proposal is completely correct, I say.