Discussion:
Turn Undead - The cinnematic way?
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Justisaur
2018-03-23 23:36:23 UTC
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I've always been bothered by turn undead. I'd like to come up with something that more closely resembles what you see in movies, and is perhaps a bit simpler.

#1 I don't remember undead fleeing at full speed, they retreat slowly into the shadows, averting their eyes as if it were a gaze attack they're trying to avoid. I'm thinking it forces them to withdraw, not flee, and only up to about 30' away (about as far as you can recognize a face.)

#2 fighting - what to do when someone physically fights the undead while they are being turned or are already turned. I seem to remember some female vampires that fight back when cornered but it seems they are at a disadvantage or weakened by the turning.

#3 unlimited number - there's no number of undead that seems to overwhelm the turning, it's just the power of the leader if he's too powerful for the turner.

#4 No destroying undead outright.

#5 Placing the symbol on the undead hurt them.

So I'm thinking:

Turn undead is an action the cleric can take any time, he has to use his round to maintain it, but he can still move, even forcing undead back. It affects all undead within 30' they must withdraw if they can. There's no turning attempt/chart, instead only the most powerful undead can attempt to break the turn making a save vs. spells (perhaps at -1/+1 per 2 levels difference in HD, 20s and 1s don't auto succeed/fail). If failed that undead can't attempt to break the turn again. If trapped/fought within the 30' turning radius the undead takes a -4 to hit due to being weakened/not able to look at the symbol. If fought more than 30' away they are out of the turn radius and aren't affected. Undead can't be destroyed outright through turning, though if trapped within the radius and the symbol placed on them, it does as much damage each round as holy water.

Thoughts? Citations from fantasy/horror books/movies on how this should work?
Michael Cole
2018-03-24 01:14:16 UTC
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Post by Justisaur
I've always been bothered by turn undead. I'd like to come up with something
that more closely resembles what you see in movies, and is perhaps a bit
simpler.
#1 I don't remember undead fleeing at full speed, they retreat slowly into
the shadows, averting their eyes as if it were a gaze attack they're trying
to avoid. I'm thinking it forces them to withdraw, not flee, and only up to
about 30' away (about as far as you can recognize a face.)
#2 fighting - what to do when someone physically fights the undead while they
are being turned or are already turned. I seem to remember some female
vampires that fight back when cornered but it seems they are at a
disadvantage or weakened by the turning.
#3 unlimited number - there's no number of undead that seems to overwhelm the
turning, it's just the power of the leader if he's too powerful for the
turner.
#4 No destroying undead outright.
#5 Placing the symbol on the undead hurt them.
Turn undead is an action the cleric can take any time, he has to use his
round to maintain it, but he can still move, even forcing undead back. It
affects all undead within 30' they must withdraw if they can. There's no
turning attempt/chart, instead only the most powerful undead can attempt to
break the turn making a save vs. spells (perhaps at -1/+1 per 2 levels
difference in HD, 20s and 1s don't auto succeed/fail). If failed that undead
can't attempt to break the turn again. If trapped/fought within the 30'
turning radius the undead takes a -4 to hit due to being weakened/not able to
look at the symbol. If fought more than 30' away they are out of the turn
radius and aren't affected. Undead can't be destroyed outright through
turning, though if trapped within the radius and the symbol placed on them,
it does as much damage each round as holy water.
Thoughts? Citations from fantasy/horror books/movies on how this should work?
I very much like this idea, particularly using it as a gaze attack,
which would theoretically mean that you could set up a situation where
the cleric is surrounded on all sides, so that they would need to keep
turning to look at each undead in turn. As they look at the undead, it
retreats, but those behind them can start to slowly creep back in.

Cue clerics having to retreat to get their back to a wall so they
cannot be surrounded...
--
Michael Cole
Spalls Hurgenson
2018-03-24 13:42:44 UTC
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Post by Michael Cole
Post by Justisaur
I've always been bothered by turn undead. I'd like to come up with something
that more closely resembles what you see in movies, and is perhaps a bit
simpler.
#1 I don't remember undead fleeing at full speed, they retreat slowly into
the shadows, averting their eyes as if it were a gaze attack they're trying
to avoid. I'm thinking it forces them to withdraw, not flee, and only up to
about 30' away (about as far as you can recognize a face.)
#2 fighting - what to do when someone physically fights the undead while they
are being turned or are already turned. I seem to remember some female
vampires that fight back when cornered but it seems they are at a
disadvantage or weakened by the turning.
#3 unlimited number - there's no number of undead that seems to overwhelm the
turning, it's just the power of the leader if he's too powerful for the
turner.
#4 No destroying undead outright.
#5 Placing the symbol on the undead hurt them.
Turn undead is an action the cleric can take any time, he has to use his
round to maintain it, but he can still move, even forcing undead back. It
affects all undead within 30' they must withdraw if they can. There's no
turning attempt/chart, instead only the most powerful undead can attempt to
break the turn making a save vs. spells (perhaps at -1/+1 per 2 levels
difference in HD, 20s and 1s don't auto succeed/fail). If failed that undead
can't attempt to break the turn again. If trapped/fought within the 30'
turning radius the undead takes a -4 to hit due to being weakened/not able to
look at the symbol. If fought more than 30' away they are out of the turn
radius and aren't affected. Undead can't be destroyed outright through
turning, though if trapped within the radius and the symbol placed on them,
it does as much damage each round as holy water.
Thoughts? Citations from fantasy/horror books/movies on how this should work?
I very much like this idea, particularly using it as a gaze attack,
which would theoretically mean that you could set up a situation where
the cleric is surrounded on all sides, so that they would need to keep
turning to look at each undead in turn. As they look at the undead, it
retreats, but those behind them can start to slowly creep back in.
Cue clerics having to retreat to get their back to a wall so they
cannot be surrounded...
I generally don't have issue with the mechanics of the Turn, including
the Turn table. My main complaint is that it is based on level rather
than the willpower or faith of the cleric. Cinematically, we've seen
that it is the strength of faith that matters most; a young fervent
believer (low level) often succeeds where the jaded elder (high level)
priest fails. Unfortunately, D&D doesn't have a "faith" mechanic so
the options are either to link faith to character level (as it is
now), assume that faith is somehow inherent in WISdom, or hack in an
entirely new stat.

I don't really agree - both from a storytelling and a gameplay
perspective - with the idea that the number / level of monsters should
be effectively unlimited. From a gameplay perspective, it is horribly
unbalanced, of course; with a good roll, a 1st level cleric could
drive off vampires and liches (or entire skeleton armies), completely
negating their threat level.

But even from a storytelling perspective, it feels untrue to the
setting. The faithful in D&D are rewarded with more godly power, and -
again, due to a lack of a faith mechanic - this means higher level
characters. That 1st level cleric straight out of seminary just
doesn't have the worldy experience or proven faith to wield that full
might of his god; lacking both, his voice cracks and the hand holding
his holy symbol trembles in uncertainty when facing the immitable
darkness of the greater undead. As it said in 2nd Ed, "However, since
the power must be channeled through a mortal vessel, success is not
always assured."

Cinematically, we've also seen the holy symbol destroy undead as well,
so I don't think that ability should be removed either.

I do like the suggestion of making the turning attempt something that
must be maintained and directional, at least against greater undead.
In some respect, this is suggested by the rules already (at least in
older editions), where lesser undead flee outright but more powerful
ones merely move out of sight. They are not truly driven away but
cannot bear to see that blinding symbol of goodness as wielded by a
true believer.
Loren Pechtel
2018-03-25 02:58:52 UTC
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On Fri, 23 Mar 2018 16:36:23 -0700 (PDT), Justisaur
Post by Justisaur
Turn undead is an action the cleric can take any time, he has to use his round to maintain it, but he can still move, even forcing undead back. It affects all undead within 30' they must withdraw if they can. There's no turning attempt/chart, instead only the most powerful undead can attempt to break the turn making a save vs. spells (perhaps at -1/+1 per 2 levels difference in HD, 20s and 1s don't auto succeed/fail). If failed that undead can't attempt to break the turn again. If trapped/fought within the 30' turning radius the undead takes a -4 to hit due to being weakened/not able to look at the symbol. If fought more than 30' away they are out of the turn radius and aren't affected. Undead can't be destroyed outright through turning, though if trapped within the radius and the symbol placed on them, it does as much damage each round as holy water.
I do like the idea of the cleric being able to maintain it forever.
Move, but say only 10'/round. A bubble of safety is projected around
the cleric, but intelligent undead are free to try to circumvent it
once they have fled far enough.

A change: Turning always "works". What you roll is how effective it
is--how far they must retreat is a function of the turner's power vs
the undead's power. "Failure" is when they aren't forced back far
enough to bring safety.

While movies don't have them going poof a movie isn't going to pit a
high level turner against low level undead--even if poof could happen
it wouldn't in the movie.

In addition to the change above, how about every undead must roll
against the turn, not just the leader. However, lower level undead
get a bonus from the leader. Any undead forced back more than it's
movement range is destroyed outright instead.

The touch of a holy symbol itself should be as holy water, one being
actively wielded should be more damaging. Perhaps 1 point of holy
damage per divine level or per 2 divine levels. This touch is
excruciating and the undead will never willingly suffer it--if they
can move so as to get out of it they will, although this does not
cause them to enter deadly terrain (say, walk off a cliff), nor enter
the threat range of another holy symbol. If movement is impossible
then they will attack the wielder of the holy symbol.

Note that this means that even a level 1 cleric can hold off the most
powerful undead so long as they can't flank or attack by surprise, but
it doesn't keep them from disposing of the cleric by ranged or
spellcasting means. I think this is in line with fantasy portrayal of
undead--they will not melee a strongly presented holy symbol.

Changes of this sort will make the cleric more powerful against undead
and would need careful thought with regard to game balance.
Anonymous Jack
2018-03-28 16:28:16 UTC
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Post by Justisaur
I've always been bothered by turn undead.
Same here, but was too lazy to put any thought into it. So kudos to you for taking the next step :)
Post by Justisaur
#1 I don't remember undead fleeing at full speed, they retreat slowly into the shadows, averting their eyes as if it were a gaze attack they're trying to avoid.
pretty much, since I don't watch a lot of horror, I can only think of vampires (plus that one time in 1999's The Mummy with Brendan Frazer and Rachel Weisz).
Post by Justisaur
#3 unlimited number - there's no number of undead that seems to overwhelm the turning, it's just the power of the leader if he's too powerful for the turner.
I agree no limit to numbers but think a 30' rad is too much then. Would limit it to a cone terminating at 30' - forcing cleric to turn to keep undead at bay if completely surrounded.

But like separate saves/turn rolls for mixed undead for reasons below.
Post by Justisaur
#4 No destroying undead outright.
Seemed like destroying undead was a mechanic for, "the strong undead/cleric has a bunch of minions, and here is a quick way to dispense with them without having to make a bunch of rolls"
Post by Justisaur
#5 Placing the symbol on the undead hurt them.
There is great cinematic precedence for a really powerful undead (who survived the turning attempt) to reach out, grab the holy symbol, and slowly crush it as the symbol sizzles, smokes, and burns the undead's hand
LL
2018-03-28 19:20:04 UTC
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Post by Justisaur
I've always been bothered by turn undead. I'd like to come up with something that more closely resembles what you see in movies, and is perhaps a bit simpler.
#1 I don't remember undead fleeing at full speed, they retreat slowly into the shadows, averting their eyes as if it were a gaze attack they're trying to avoid. I'm thinking it forces them to withdraw, not flee, and only up to about 30' away (about as far as you can recognize a face.)
#2 fighting - what to do when someone physically fights the undead while they are being turned or are already turned. I seem to remember some female vampires that fight back when cornered but it seems they are at a disadvantage or weakened by the turning.
#3 unlimited number - there's no number of undead that seems to overwhelm the turning, it's just the power of the leader if he's too powerful for the turner.
#4 No destroying undead outright.
#5 Placing the symbol on the undead hurt them.
Turn undead is an action the cleric can take any time, he has to use his round to maintain it, but he can still move, even forcing undead back. It affects all undead within 30' they must withdraw if they can. There's no turning attempt/chart, instead only the most powerful undead can attempt to break the turn making a save vs. spells (perhaps at -1/+1 per 2 levels difference in HD, 20s and 1s don't auto succeed/fail). If failed that undead can't attempt to break the turn again. If trapped/fought within the 30' turning radius the undead takes a -4 to hit due to being weakened/not able to look at the symbol. If fought more than 30' away they are out of the turn radius and aren't affected. Undead can't be destroyed outright through turning, though if trapped within the radius and the symbol placed on them, it does as much damage each round as holy water.
Thoughts? Citations from fantasy/horror books/movies on how this should work?
Was Dracula ever turned by a cross in the Bram Stoker original novel?
IIRC he wasn't. If so, where does the idea even come from?
Michael Cole
2018-03-28 23:01:55 UTC
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Post by LL
Was Dracula ever turned by a cross in the Bram Stoker original novel?
IIRC he wasn't. If so, where does the idea even come from?
It did come from Dracula.


"When the Count saw my face, his eyes blazed with a sort of demoniac
fury, and he suddenly made a grab at my throat. I drew away, and his
hand touched the string of beads which held the crucifix. It made an
instant change in him, for the fury passed so quickly that I could
hardly believe that it was ever there."

"She was leaping for them, when Van Helsing sprang forward and held
between them his little golden crucifix. She recoiled from it, and,
with a suddenly distorted face, full of rage, dashed past him as if to
enter the tomb."

"The Count suddenly stopped, just as poor Lucy had done outside the
tomb, and cowered back. Further and further back he cowered, as we,
lifting our crucifixes, advanced."

"Instinctively I moved forward with a protective impulse, holding the
Crucifix and Wafer in my left hand. I felt a mighty power fly along my
arm; and it was without surprise that I saw the monster cower back
before a similar movement made spontaneously by each one of us"
--
Michael Cole
Anonymous Jack
2018-03-30 20:13:24 UTC
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Post by Michael Cole
"Instinctively I moved forward with a protective impulse, holding the
Crucifix and Wafer in my left hand. I felt a mighty power fly along my
arm; and it was without surprise that I saw the monster cower back
before a similar movement made spontaneously by each one of us"
I meant to mention that in my prev response - lay folks should be able to use holy symbols _if they are faithful_ to hold undead at bay. Maybe a much more limited range, say 5' or 10'. The check would only be modified by WIS (whereas regular clerics add level + WIS?). Failure means no turning.

A bad roll means the undead stay within reach but can't touch you, but are not cowered, either, and if you move forward, that breaks the turning and it can attack. A good roll means they cower 10' away, and if you move forward, the undead will keep its distance.

Turned undead attempting to move towards a lay person (e.g., one that moves out of the area of effect intending to flank the lay person) move at half speed the round they are turned and the round after as they are still under the effects.
Loren Pechtel
2018-03-31 02:03:48 UTC
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On Fri, 30 Mar 2018 13:13:24 -0700 (PDT), Anonymous Jack
Post by Anonymous Jack
Post by Michael Cole
"Instinctively I moved forward with a protective impulse, holding the
Crucifix and Wafer in my left hand. I felt a mighty power fly along my
arm; and it was without surprise that I saw the monster cower back
before a similar movement made spontaneously by each one of us"
I meant to mention that in my prev response - lay folks should be able to use holy symbols _if they are faithful_ to hold undead at bay. Maybe a much more limited range, say 5' or 10'. The check would only be modified by WIS (whereas regular clerics add level + WIS?). Failure means no turning.
A bad roll means the undead stay within reach but can't touch you, but are not cowered, either, and if you move forward, that breaks the turning and it can attack. A good roll means they cower 10' away, and if you move forward, the undead will keep its distance.
Turned undead attempting to move towards a lay person (e.g., one that moves out of the area of effect intending to flank the lay person) move at half speed the round they are turned and the round after as they are still under the effects.
That's about what I was thinking of. A lay person can hold them at
bay but nothing more.

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