Turn/Rebuke Undead

Existing System

The problem (as I see it) with the existing procedure, is that it can be very (too?) powerful at low levels, and almost useless at mid to high levels. Many undead have more hit dice than their CR. Clerics cannot turn an undead that has more than 4 more HD than their level. There are several undead that exceed this at mid to high levels.

Coupled with that is the fact that the mechanism resembles nothing else in the game and requires a table look up every time it is used.

New System

To "solve" the problem, I propose new rules for turning undead.

Design Goals

To replace any existing game mechanism, I have ambitious design goals. I am aware that gamers are a (small c) conservative bunch, by and large. It is a hassle to learn any new rule, even a simple one. Therefore, any new rules had better be better than the ones they replace, or I am going to hear about it from my gamers.


The system should be at least as simple as the existing system.


The system should scale, giving the cleric some turning chance against most undead from existing sources, across all levels (1 through 20).

Minimal Collateral Impact

The system should require few or no changes to other rules, such as other mechanisms that use turn checks, CR determinations for creatures etc.

Game Balance

The system should not significantly increase or decrease the power of classes that have the Turn Undead special ability in an overall way (except where the power was effectively non-existent due to poor design).


I have borrowed a table from Sean K. Reynolds' web site, where he has explored this issue. The first 10 columns are his, verbatim. The next three columns are examples using my proposed system. The first (of the new columns) "DC in New System" is the turn DC calculated for the undead in question. The next column, "% Success" is the chance of success for a cleric of a level = CR of the undead, and a charisma of 12 to beat the turn DC of the undead. The third new column "total per day number" is the number of that type of undead that the cleric can turn in one day.

EHD - CRRoll Needed% SuccessAverage
DC in New
% SuccessTotal per-
day turnable
allip342631910%102.50 1645%2
bodak890911340%151.67 1955%3.5
devourer111201211340%181.50 2255%3.75
ghast342631910%102.50 1455%3
ghost*204421625%9-- 1450%
ghost (10 HD base creature)121041421625%191.90 2060%4.8
ghoul122431910%84.00 1445%2
lich*204421625%9-- 1450%
lich (11 HD base creature)131141521625%201.82 2550%4.7
mohrg8140146Unturnable0%15-- 2430%2.3
mummy580831910%121.50 1845%2.5
nightshade, nightcrawler18250257Unturnable0%25-- 3525%2.9
nightshade, nightwalker16210215Unturnable0%23-- 3135%2.3
nightshade, nightwing141701731910%211.24 2745%3.3
shadow332521625%103.33 1550%4
shadow, greater8921131910%151.67 2145%3.6
skeleton, Medium (human)1/21010.51055%88.00 1150%4
skeleton, Medium (wolf)110101055%88.00 1150%4
skeleton, Large250531910%91.80 1545%1.6
spectre772921625%142.00 1950%4
vampire*204421625%9-- 1450%
vampire (5 HD base creature)754921625%142.80 1950%5.6
vampire (10 HD base creature)121041421625%191.90 2450%4.8
vampire spawn442621625%112.75 1650%4
wight340411340%102.50 1455%3
wraith552721625%122.40 1750%4
wraith, dread**11160165Unturnable0%18-- 2635%2.75
zombie, Medium (human)
1/22021.51340%84.00 1255%
zombie, Medium (troglodyte)
120211340%84.00 1255%2
zombie, Large26064Unturnable

* This is a template; the listed values are adjustments to the base creature's CR, HD, and Turn Resistance
** The dread wraith doesn't have turn resistance even though the normal wraith does. Even without it, it's unturnable.

In the table, note that at all levels, the % chance of success is generally increased significantly. In all cases where turning was impossible, it can be accomplished in the new system at least 25% of the time. I believe that this is something of a boost in power to the cleric. Therefore (in the interest of game balance), I decided to limit this power, by capping the total HD per day that the cleric can turn, to CL × (Cha mod. + 3) (or CL × turn attempts per day). This I think is a significant limitation compared to the open ended situation before: a lucky cleric could turn the course of a major battle with a few good turn attempts and lucky damage rolls. With that limitation, the cleric trades the ability to turn so many undead, for a better chance (or a chance at all) of turning tougher undead, and better scaleability.

Note that for some prestige classes (in my experience, Knight of the Chalice), the inherited turn ability has been almost useless: the chance of turning a significant demon was almost nill under the existing system, making the class ability next to useless. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the existing systems scales badly, and prestige classes are not entered into until mid-levels.