Saturday, June 8, 2013

Alternative Turning in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

True Faith (with Turning) is a 24-point win button against undead. Or anything else subject to turning. Concentrate, win the Quick Contest, and you can easily force the undead back and push them into corners where they can be killed by your allies. Will is only 5/level, and getting bonuses isn't hard, either - +1 or +2 for good holy symbols are almost automatic for a cleric. This makes undead difficult to use effectively against a cleric with this power.

Douglas Cole has complained about his own prayer powers for his Warrior-Saint, Cadmus, who presses the win button of his anti-evil aura and the bad guys flee.

Here is another option - treat it the same way I treat fear in my games (originally griped about here.) If you fail to resist a fear-based attack, you suffer a -1 for every point you fail by for any action that isn't running away from what frightened you. That includes resistance rolls, making for a "fear spiral" if you don't leave quickly. Once you're out of the range of the fear attack (around a corner, out of sight, etc.) you can try to recover by making rolls against the original base resistance; every point you win by strips away one point of your fear penalty. Once it's zero, you're all calmed down.

In this case, True Faith (w/Turning) would cause -1 to all rolls other than those to help fleeing the cleric.

True Faith (w/Turning) (Modified)

To use this, a cleric must take a Concentrate maneuver. Presenting a holy symbol will give its usual bonus. Roll versus Will plus any bonus vs. the Will of any undead. For each point they lose the contest by, they suffer a -1 to all actions whenever they are within a number of yards equal to their margin of defeat. There are two important clarifications:

Mindless undead always run, stay outside of the protection radius of the cleric. If unable to flee, they can fight back but suffer the full penalty from their loss in the contest.

Willful undead may choose to run, or to stay within the radius of the cleric and suffer a penalty equal to their margin of failure in the contest.

Penalties last until 1d6 seconds after the cleric stops concentrating on Turning.

For example, Inquisitor Marco has Will 15, Power Investiture 3, and a high holy symbol (+2). He faces four zombies (Will 10) and a vampire (Will 16). He rolls a 12, making his roll by 15+3+2-12 = 8 points. The zombies roll 10, and lose by 8. The vampire rolls a 12, and loses by 4. The zombies are at -8 and flee. The vampire is at -4, and can either continue to act normally at -4, or attempt to flee at least 4 yards from the cleric; once there he is no longer at -4 (but will be again if the cleric closes with him, or he moves closer again).

Basically this gives powerful supernatural critters the chance to shrug off the turning and bull through, but still gives them a reason to back off from a cleric presenting a holy symbol.

You can set a ceiling, though, and say that the maximum penalty is -X (say, -10) and that after that all undead must flee.

I've tried this with fear in actual play, and it works fine (you can see it in effect here.) I haven't tried it yet with Turning, but I'm considering doing so. To balance out the reduced effect, it might be nice to add some other effect, or perhaps just reduce the cost increase from +60% to something like +40% (21 points). I haven't tried either of those. Mechanically I think it's workable, but it's setting the appropriate cost on its nuanced but reduced effects that I'm unsure of, yet.

This works better for combat-heavy games like DF, and less well for games of supernatural fear where a lowly but faithful priest might drive up a monster with a crucifix held high.


  1. I like that undead turning better than the way it is in the DF book which makes undead completely useless as monsters if there is a cleric in the party.

    1. I thought you might like it. It needs a cost adjustment because it's suddenly weaker against exactly the guys you want to really use it on. But it change major undead to a significant obstacle, not a QC for victory.

    2. I used to have a power that some powerful undead had that allowed them to turn the tables on a cleric who tried to turn them. If the undead won the Quick Contest then the undead with the power could then turn the cleric. The argument was that the clerics faith was broken because of the doubt in the clerics faith when the undead could not be turned. That sort of reduced the cleric from trying to turn powerful undead all of the time. But I feel this way is better because the powerful undead can still fight but there is an affect from a cleric with turning power.

  2. Shouldn't Marcos' power investiture add to the turning roll as well?

    1. Yeah, I'll fix the example.

    2. Further thoughts:

      On the section where you mention cheap will, you might also mention that PI and Holy Power add, that most PC clerics will have PI 3+, and the PC cleric template defaults to WL+PI=17.

      Suggestion: margins over 10 do (margin-10) cor damage per second, x10 vs mindless undead (no IT weaseling either). It gives an old school feel and allows the really freaky types to fight on (poorly) while visibly melting, which is a fun image.

      For more old school feels, maybe Unholy Power adds to WL for resisting. Might also be worth specifying a "Only for turning/resisting undead" limitation. -50%?

      Similarly, Sanctity and Unsanctity might affect the roll. Alternately, they affect the range, or both. So in the high temple clerics turn at +5 and make the undead guys run for miles, and in the Fetid Cathedral clerics roll at -5 and range is /10, with anything less than 1 yd just meaning the undead won't attack you personally.

    3. MOS x 1 corrosive, x10 vs. mindless, is extremely generous! I'd up the cost of True Faith for that - stat it out as an Innate Attack and price it accordingly. Especially if it ignores Injury Tolerance.

      A less nasty version, really, would be to have it do 1d cosmic (ignores DR) toxic damage if the victory is by 10+, and keep doing it until they get out of the area of effect. That keeps it in line with holy water and the Turn Zombie spell, but still better.

      Having it affected by Sanctity - actually, I did that anyway. I just assumed it was supposed to work that way, and it was a major factor in the inability of the cleric in our game to turn undead at a critical juncture. He just couldn't muster enough to overcome the massive penalty.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. (above had typos)

      Did you miss the "-10" on that (MOS-10) damage?

      To me, this is mostly a special effect to show how cool the Cleric is when she totally outclasses some poor schmuck undead. The poor thing is at -10 already - capitalizing the "WIN" on the "I win" is not going to change things that often. It is not much better than the RAW behavior in most cases. (If the cleric turns the mindless undead at all, the PCs usually kill them at leisure.)

      Your proposal, on the other hand, is a much bigger deal because it makes small MOSs much less effective. Worthy Vampire can't approach you vs. Vampire at -2 is a BIG change.

      All that said, the RAW turning ability is probably too cheap for the points anywhere there are significant undead at all.

    6. No, I saw it. But as you say, DF Clerics start with Will 14, PI 3, and would roll vs. a 17. Most mindless undead are in the 8-11 Will range, looking at them - so succeeding by more than 10 isn't going to be that uncommon. Winning by 11 and causing 10 damage is a big deal, in my opinion.

      And yes, my proposal is making True Faith w/Turning weaker, and I say exactly that. I didn't make a pricing determination but I think it must be cheaper, probably substantially so. I think the "fair" way to price it would be to stat any additional effects as a linked Innate Attack, and just reduce the cost of True Faith. I'd have to ask Kromm how he arrived at +65% for Turning before I was sure what a fair price for a reduced power turning would be.

      I don't agree the RAW turning ability is too cheap. It's 24 points to chase away a class of creatures, if you out-roll them. For major undead types, they should have a pile of Will anyway. It's just the expectation of people from, say, D&D, is that some lesser undead flee but the others kick your ass. GURPS assumes True Faith is all or nothing success.

      And my own game has proven it's not always reliable. When it works, it's a win button. But when it doesn't, you can be in real trouble.

  3. Have you play-tested any of these alternate Turning rules out yet? I'm curious how they worked.

  4. I might give version this a playtest in my games right alongside my pared-down skill list and my entirely re-written spell list.


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