Turn Undead (3.5e Variant Rule)

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Author: Ghostwheel (talk)
Date Created: July 18, 2010
Status: Complete
Editing: Clarity edits only please
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Turn Undead[edit]

There are a number of problems with the way D&D handles Turn Undead: it's overly complicated, it either neutralizes enemies or does absolutely nothing, it's completely random whether or not you affect enemies and how you affect them, it's convoluted, hard to understand, hard to remember, and is a strange subsystem in and of itself that is dissimilar to everything else in the Player's Handbook. Thus comes this variant: fast, easy, quick, and simple, this is what Turn Undead should have been from the start.

As per the original, a cleric's alignment affects both how he can use his turn undead class feature and which type of spells (the Cure or Inflict series) he can cast spontaneously. Good clerics can spontaneous cast Cure spells and may Exorcise the Unliving, while evil clerics can spontaneous cast Inflict spells and can Bolster Undead and Interrupt Connection. Neutral clerics choose one of these two options upon taking their first level in the class, as in the Player's Handbook. Individual undead may only be affected by this ability once per turning, and all the abilities detailed below are supernatural standard actions that do not provoke attacks of opportunity and last until the start of the cleric's next turn.

In order to activate this version of turn undead, you must spend a spell slot spontaneously, similar to how a cleric spends a spell slot to cast one of the Cure or Inflict Wounds line of spells, which governs the effectiveness of the turning.

Exorcise the Unliving[edit]

Clerics that can channel positive energy may emanate an aura of positive energy within a 60' radius centered on the cleric. Any undead that begins its turn within 60' of the cleric or comes within 60' of the cleric during its turn must make a Will save (DC 10 + 0.5 ½ cleric level + cleric's Charisma modifier) or take 2d6 damage per level of the spell slot spent (1d6 for a 0-level spell, half damage on a successful save). On a failed save, an undead acts as though it was under the staggered condition and may not voluntarily take any movement that brings it closer to the cleric for one round. Undead with cover take only half damage (which they may still save to halve), and gain a +2 bonus to the save.

Minor Use[edit]

Exorcise the Unliving may be used as a swift action. If used as such, on a failed save it deals half damage (no staggered condition or limited movement), and on a successful save has no effect.

Greater Turning[edit]

Clerics who normally have the ability to destroy undead with a successful turning attempt (such as via the Sun domain) instead deal double damage when using this ability.

Bolster Undead[edit]

Clerics that channel negative energy may bolster their minions against the positive energy that another cleric can channel. Upon imbuing the surrounding area with negative energy, any undead that begins their turn within 60' of the cleric or comes within 60' of the cleric is healed 2d6 hit points for every level of the spell slot spent (1d4 for a 0-level spell), and gains a +4 bonus on saves to resist being turned until the start of the cleric's next turn.

Minor Use[edit]

Bolster Undead can be used as a swift action. If used in such a way, nearby undead gain no turn resistance, and gain 1d4 temporary HP level of the spell slot spent.

Interrupt Connection[edit]

Clerics that channel negative energy may choose to momentarily interrupt an undead's connection to the Negative Energy Plane, rather than bolstering undead. When interrupting the connection of undead in the area, the cleric forces all undead in the area to make a Will save (DC 10 + spell level spent + cleric's Charisma modifier) or be dazed for one round.

Minor Use[edit]

Interrupt Connnection has a swift action use. If used as a swift action, instead undead who fail the save take a –2 penalty on attack rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks for one round.

Turn Resistance[edit]

Undead with turn resistance gain a bonus equal to their turn resistance to Will saves against being exorcised or interrupted.


Paladins may also turn undead, but have the option of spending the positive energy inherent in their Lay on Hands ability to fuel their Turning. At level four, paladins may Turn Undead as a cleric by spending a number of the HP that they would heal from Lay on Hands for the day equal to the spell level they are emulating squared, except for zero levels costing 1 HP and first level spells costing 2 HP.

Divine Feats[edit]

While many divine feats (those that use Turn Undead) can remain unchanged, one in particular stands out. Make the following changes to Divine Metamagic.

Divine Metamagic
Benefit: You may apply a metamagic feat you possess to a spell you cast spontaneously (as though you were a sorcerer) without extending the casting time or increasing its spell level, though you still must have been able to spend the appropriate level slot to use that spell after its level adjustment. To use this, spend a spell slot equal to the level adjustment of the metamagic applied (minimum 1).
Example: If you were to use this feat to add maximize metamagic feat to flame strike, you would need to spend a level 4 spell slot in addition to the spell slot that contains flame strike, as well as be able to cast 9th level spells (a maximized flame strike's usual spell slot).

If you wanted to further empower that spell, you would either have to spend an additional 2nd level spell, or spend only a 6th level spell (though this would result in the caster needing to be able to cast an 11th level spell, which most cannot do.

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Ghostwheel's Homebrew (263 Articles)
Classes Berserker, Cosplayer, Daywalker Paragon, Iaijutsu Master, Magus Portalus, Marshal, Rage Mage, Reaper, Sharpshooter, Thaumaturge, Toxinblade, Trapsmith, Xenophile
Feats Access Divine Power, Access Divine Spells, Accomplished, Acolyte of the Skin, Adaptable Technique, Adjusted Accuracy, Aegis of Health, Tome, Arcane Champion, Barreling Charge, Bladeblast, Blood of Stone, Bolster Technique, Careful Movement, Charismatic Prodigy, Cleave, Grimoire, Close Miss, Combat Reflexes, Greater, Combat Reflexes, Grimoire, Combat Reflexes, Improved, Compensate for Size, Copy Technique, Cross-Style Training, Dabbler, Danger Intuition, Dash, Death From Afar, Defensive Roll, Defensive Strike, Deft Opportunist, Diehard, Grimoire, Distracting Barrage, Divine Stalker, Dragoon Charge, Endurance, Grimoire, Extended Psychic Strike, Focused Energy, Fortune's Friend, Furious Blow, Gatecrasher, Goad, Greater Spring Attack, Gripping Vise, Heavy Build, Heedful Charge, Hidden Manifestation, Hostile Mind, Improved Charge, Improved On Your Knees, Improved Wild Talent, Intervene, Intimidating Brute, Iron Tide, Last to Fall, Living Weapon, Mage Knight, Magekiller, Tome, Master Blaster, Master of Concoctions, Mystic Theurge, On Your Knees, Overwhelming Blow, Penetrating Strike, Phantom Health, Pounce, Power Attack, Grimoire, Power Charge, Precise Marksman, Primal Enchanter, Purple Dragon Knight, Quick Reconnoiter, Ranged Feint, Ranged Flanking, Ranged Threat, Renewed Zealousness, Shadow Pounce, Sharpshooter, Shielded in Life, Short Haft, Spell Parry, Spell Reflection, Spellcutting Strike, Spiritual Weapon, Spring Attack, Grimoire, Spymaster, Stand Still, Grimoire, Stand Still, Tome, Startling Opportunist, Steadfast Prodigy, Steadfast Zealousness, Still Teleport, Stilled Charge, Stone Power, Grimoire, Stone Power, Pathfinder, Strike of the Believer, Strong Grip, Suppress Chi, Surging Inspiration, Tattooed Monk, Toughness, Grimoire, Unconventional … further results
Traits Ambidextrous, Avenger, Exceptional Luck, Hulking Brute, Mixed Blood, Opportunist, Psychic Potential, Radical Upbringing, Raised by Wolves, Sight Without Sight, Skilled, Trapspringer, Unnatural Aura, Versatile, Void Born
ACFs Barrage Sharpshooter, Grimoire Fighter, Grimoire Paladin, Grimoire Ranger, Grimoire Rogue, Grimoire Soulknife, Grimoire Tenken, Grimoire Totemist, Trapspringer Bard, Trapspringer Sharpshooter, Wildmagic Thaumaturge
Variant Rules Alternative Iterative Attacks, Background-Based Skills, Balanced Skills, Balanced Wealth, Condensed Skills, Custom Weapon Creation, Dual Preparation Casting, E20, Expanded Movement Options, Failure is not the End, Grace Points, Healing Surges, Lengthened Spellcasting, Limited Spell Levels, Masterwork Variant, New Level-Dependent Benefits, Original Race Rebuilding, Prepared Spontaneous Casting, Recharging Magic, Recharging Power Points, Rituals, Simplified Experience, Simplified Races, Simplified Skills, Simplified Social Interaction, Simplified Special Attacks, Taking Stock, The Edge, Turn Undead, Vow of Poverty, Wounds
Optimized Builds Arcane Warrior, Basic Blaster Wilder, Basic Combat Rogue Guide, Bladesinger, Clever Critfighter, Dragoon, Eternal Blade of the Revenant, Feral Shifter, Glaive of the Dungeon Crasher, Glaive of the Hellfire Warlock, Grapplemancer, Healing Personified, Hero of Time, Knightly Charger, Low Level Nova, Machine Gun Assassin, Mindspider Infiltrator, Mobile Blender, Mobile Glaive, Nightcrawling Shadowpouncer, Psionic Monk, Righteous Rager, Sacred Fist of the Silver Flame, Shower of Arrows, Sublime Singer, Ubermount, Whirling Eater of Souls
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Article BalanceHigh +
AuthorGhostwheel +
Identifier3.5e Variant Rule +
Rated BySurgo +
RatingRating Pending +
SummaryAn easier to understand, more simple, and less complicated version of Turn Undead that isn't an all-or-nothing mechanic. +
TitleTurn Undead +