Thursday, August 7, 2014

What else can the cleric do with Turn Undead?

During my overhaul of the B/X cleric spell lists, I noticed some gaps, things that I didn't care to address with new spells (or importing old ones) but that clerics ought to be able to do.  Most of them involve the dead or undead.  As it turns out, they're rather elegantly addressed by creative applications of the Turn Undead ability.

Animate Dead:  B/X has an Animate Dead spell on the magic-user lists, but no spell for making animated skeletons and zombies is present in the cleric lists.  While such a spell did make it into the BECMI edition of classic D&D, it seems suited primarily for evil clerics.  Generally, the "evil" versions of cleric spells are the reversed versions, but this one is neither "good" or "neutral" in its standard form, nor does it have a reversed version, making it a bit of an oddball. 

Instead, let's make it a reversed Turning roll.  Turn skeletons to animate skeletons, and turn zombies to animate corpses with the flesh still on the bones.  Number of Hit Dice of undead created is equal to the Hit Dice that would be turned by a standard turning roll.  The Mentzer edition Animate Dead spell includes guidelines for animating corpses larger than human.  When using a Turn roll to animate larger bodies or skeletons, just roll against the type of undead that has a similar number of Hit Dice.  A skeleton has the same HD as the creature did in life, while a zombie has one more HD.

Obviously, moderate to high level clerics are certain to succeed at the attempt.  The real limiting factors are the availability of suitable corpses - those complete enough to function effectively when animated, but not barred from reanimating by Last Rites (see below) - and the cleric's willingness to animate undead in numbers beyond his or her ability to directly control them (see below.)

Last Rites:  One of the cleric's primary duties is to perform last rites over the dead, that they may rest in peace.  In game terms, that means rendering the corpses and spirits of the deceased unable to be animated or otherwise return as undead.  A roll that will turn zombies prevents a body from being animated by the Animate Dead ability.  When a character is slain by an undead that causes its victims to rise as undead of the same type, a successful Turn roll against that type before the dead person rises will prevent it.  If desired, this roll may be made by the DM in secret, and success is only apparent when the corpse or spirit fails to rise again.

Summon Undead:  Sometimes a cleric may want to summon undead creatures.  In that case, make a Turn roll, and consult the notes for the location.  If undead are present, compare the roll to the undead type.  A successul roll means that a number of Hit Dice of undead equal to the number normally turned are drawn to the cleric's call.  The cleric may try to call for a specific type of undead, or even a specific individual.  Intelligent and unwilling undead may make a saving throw vs. spells to ignore the summons.  May also be used for seances and similar rituals.

Control Undead:  Evil or necromantically-inclined clerics may wish to control the undead created or summoned.  A successful Turn roll can be used to control a number of HD of undead equal to the number normally turned.  That's all the undead the cleric can actually control at once.  If more are created or summoned, the excess undead remain uncontrolled.

Raise Dead:  The cleric can attempt to summon the spirit of a deceased person back to reinhabit its body.  The body must be relatively intact.  The roll is made vs. a vampire; if the turning roll fails, the resurrection goes horribly wrong, and the person rises as a vampire.  Note that the roll is made even if the table indicates a T or D result, and a natural roll of 2 always fails.  Because of this dire risk, most good churches frown upon the raising of the dead.

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