Rules Sketch: Turn undead

If you’re walking in on the middle of the Advanced Fantasy Dungeons series, there’s an index here.

Second edition’s Turn Undead isn’t simple:

  • Takes one turn
  • Once per encounter per character
  • Paladins are priests, but two levels lower
  • You can attempt to do it at the same time, but not together
  • Hands free and able to speak – “a touch of drama is required”
  • Not interrupted by an attack
  • Across reference HD or type of undead with character level, and roll higher
  • One roll is for all undead targeted
  • There is no range or limit on how many undead are targeted

I like the potential infinite power here, I like one dice roll, I like once per encounter (but there is no concept of encounter anywhere else I recall). I don’t like the paladin complexity, or the fact that you can’t team up for more turning power, or the fact that’s it is the only roll over d20 check in the game.

There is a 50% chance of turning a 1HD skeleton at 1st level. The skeleton is 100% at 4th and dies at 6th. The pattern holds: Over any given ten levels, xHD goes from 5% to Death.

Surely this can translate to a roll against HD, then? We have HD ranging from 1-11, where 1 is 50% at first level, and 11 is 50% at 10th. At first level, You have a 10/20 vs 1HD, 4/20 vs 2HD, 2/20 vs 3 HD, 1/20 vs 5HD. So, we can replicate the nice, exponential curve by saying that the target number is 10 + (3*Level – 3*HD), but that is so mathsy. Let’s see if we can simplify.

To turn undead, roll 1d20 – your level, or half your level if you are a paladin. You must roll under the undead creatures’ saving throw against turning.

Turning affects all undead in reach rank. If you roll a natural 1, any undead equal that have HD equal to or less than your level are destroyed instantly.

The GM calculates the saving throw against turning for each undead target as ten minus their HD.

If the targets saving throw against turning is less than 1, if you succeed, you are locked in battle with them until a second turn undead is completed. The powerful undead is staggered, and only uses half their HD (round down) in the second round.

For example, Gareth, second level priest, turns a 1HD skeleton, a 3HD ghoul, and a 11HD lich. Gareth rolls 1d20 and subtracts 2, for a result of 8. The skeleton (saving throw against turning of 10–1) flees. The ghoul and lich (saving throw against turning of 10–3 and 10–11) are unaffected.

Sir Chard, a third level paladin, faces the same three undead. Sir Chard rolls a natural 1 on the d20, both the skeleton is destroyed, the ghoul flees, and Gareth is locked in battle with the lich. Gareth rolls 1d20 the second attempt and subtracts 1 (half the modifier of a priest), for a result of of 8. The lich (saving throw against turning of 10–5 now) licks its lips and begins to chant arcane vocalisations.

I like this. It’s simple, it’s dramatic, you don’t need to cross reference. I don’t love the lack of exponential curves, but it’s also a bit swingier and overpowered in a way that I like for divine power. Paladins are a little stronger than the source for simplicity’s sake.

This has been a part of the Advanced Fantasy Dungeon Series! Let me know your thoughts on Turning Undead!

Idle Cartulary

9th June 2022


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