D@W: Incorporeal Units & Sieges

I’m converting this module to D@W for giggles, and it’s got all sorts of weird units in it. This is more thinking out loud and garnering opinion on a particularly vexing one:

A unit of Ghost Lions.

Putting aside for the moment the ridiculous cost of such a unit:

  • During a siege, then, this unit doesn’t need a breach to make an assault.

  • Unless it’s handlers (clerics of sufficient level) are able to also become incorporeal, this unit, once sent in for an assault, is effectively off-leash, and out of control.

  • And since it’s undead, it’s gonna take out every mortal it finds as it wanders through the stronghold - perhaps for a number of turns/rounds dependent on the SHP of the stronghold, it makes an attack on a different defending unit each turn.

  • At the end of that time period, it is treated as having routed, and is removed from play. If the previous controllers of the unit fail an initial Turn Undead check (at some penalty?) to bring the remainder that come back under control, portions of the unit attack their previous allies, doing a number of attacks equal to (quarter? third? half?) the number of attacks they performed while inside the stronghold.

So that seems fun? An uncontrollable animal-intelligence ghost bomb?


That sounds awesome to me.

Interesting, but couldn’t most parties capable of obtaining ghost lions have the capability to get ghost handlers if they wanted to? Then you’d have controlled ghost lions eating people…

Right, but I was pondering what happens if the ghost lions pop through the walls and the handlers can’t follow.

This may be a deeper question of how long a handler’s order lasts if the handler is separated from the unit.

Alternatively, that duration is overridden by the fact they are undead, as a cleric’s control undead lasts for 1 turn per level of cleric - so depending on the scale of the battle, you may not have to worry about it.

The question would still remain for creatures of animal intelligence or less who are naturally incorporeal while alive, I guess.

On a certain level, I feel bad that Domains at War did not provide an official rule for what happens when incorporeal animal-intelligence units with corporeal handlers pass through terrain that causes them to lose their handlers.

On the other hand, I am imagining myself in a straitjacket being dragged away screaming, “The ghost lions! They need clearer mechanics!”

So, I think I’m going to let you guys house rule this one.

I can already feel a slight tremble in the Flux, as if a nascent 2d6 table of random happenstance is pecking at it’s quantum shell.

You’ll be back.

As an aside, through the Necromancy rules a unit of 60 Ghost Lions would take about 3 years and 1,065,000 GP to create, taking into account the 15% failure rate, and assuming I didn’t mess up the math.

However, the Necromancy rules specifically state ‘intelligent’ undead, which in context I think maps to ‘Sentient’ from D@W:B pg 94, and therefore excludes animals.

So this could be better done via a ritual or set of rituals - Undead Legion from the PC should be able to modified at face value (9th level) to do this, no? 60 5 HD incorporeal animal undead as opposed to ~1,000 2HD zombies?

Like most mass undead creation, it would probably end up cheaper if you created a single one with the ability to reproduce (in this case, perhaps any lion slain by it reanimates as a ghost lion) as an additional special ability.

Let’s see, 5 HD plus two special abilities has a base cost of 20,000 gp, plus 20,000 gp worth of monster parts, for a total of 40,000 gp.

The lions for it to consume and adapt (59 of them) will cost another 44,250 gp, kicking the total price up to 84,250 gp.

Mapping undead legion: 4,500 gp for the ritual itself, but it requires unholy water if you want the undead to be permanent. Undead Legion requires one vial of unholy water per HD of the undead to be created, so our 60 5 HD lions would require 300 vials of unholy water, at a cost of 25 gp each, for a total added cost of 7500, bringing the total up to 12,000 gp, which is way cheaper than even the infection scenario.

I am beginning to think that it is a bad idea to map Undead Legion onto anything but skeletons or zombies, given how cheap and effective it is :stuck_out_tongue:

Ah, good idea on the self-replication.

The cost and time for the ritual is a little bit higher the first time, since you have to research the alternate Undead Legion spell (9,000 GP plus 18 weeks)

If we assume it turns as a Mummy, we’re getting decent chances around the 7-8th cleric level. That’d be tough to get a unit of.

Everything always goes pear-shaped when you get certain abilities, I guess.

Also, I think maybe clerics should have a en masse turn undead bonus when arrayed as a unit, like a divine Care Bear Stare.

/just realized care bears were all clerics with different domains/spheres

Clerics kind of do get the en masse turn undead bonus, in that they get to just outright do damage to the unit.

That said, I think mummy is too high for it, unless it’s particularly hard to turn. According to http://autarch.co/forums/ask-autarchs/lichdom-and-spellcasting :
Start with HD, minus 1 for noncorporeal, not intelligent, not hard to turn, not easy to turn, gets us a result of 4 HD or Wight.

A unit of 1st level clerics could take the Turn Undead action to do 6 points of damage to the unit. (D@W Battles page 51). Given that this unit would have 20 UHP, ((5 * 60)/15) taking 6 points per action from the cleric unit is pretty significant. (Of course, a unit of 1st level clerics is pretty awesome on their own.)

Heh. I’ve got that thread bookmarked as well.

Ah, I forgot Turn Undead was auto-damage in D@W; you are correct. (though Wraith/4HD takes 2nd level clerics for 6 damage according to the table)

Either way, that helps out a lot in ways to deal with the unit. Even partial units of clerics can do some good work. Considering they’re likely to get incorporeally mauled as a response, multiple partial companies may be a better strategy anyway.

Hmm, that’s a little strange. The tables are inconsistent.

D@W lists Wight as equal to 3 HD, while Lichdom labels it as equal to 4 HD.

If the unit is turned as Wight, a unit of 1st level clerics can do it 6 damage. If it is turned as Wraith, it takes 2nd level clerics.

Based on the explanations in Lichdom, I think the most consistent explanation is that D@W has a typo, and should read 1 HD per line instead of doubling up on the 2’s with Zombie and Ghoul.

The Turn Undead table for clerics, with actual monster HD for comparison, is:

Skeleton - 1 HD
Zombie - 2 HD
Ghoul - 2 HD
Wight - 3 HD
Wraith - 4 HD

The difference on the table in D@W is it’s listing the unit HD, which is correct, then the turning type, which is different. Ghoul/Wight/Wraith are a turn HD above actual HD because of the intelligence (and turn difficulty in the Wraith’s case) of the monster.

It has to call out actual unit HD to account for the unit HP since it’s switched to Turn Undead doing unit HP damage rather than the usual effect.

(though I’d wonder how it’d look if man-to-man turning also did HP damage rather than a turn effect)

ACKS and Dwarf Fortress are two of the only games where “Making of” comments are reasonable competitors to the media itself.

Ahh, you are correct, I had misread the table and thought it was saying a generic “Undead of this HD/Specific Undead”.

So getting back to the ghost lions, they have 5 unit HD but are turned as a 4 HD creature (Wight). In order to actually figure this out, I think I would have to reverse-engineer the entire table.

I note, however, that it doesn’t seem like the table is doing damage based off the unit HD so much as it is based off the chance of being turned, since a unit of wights (3 HD) being turned by 2nd level clerics takes 15 damage. The same is true of a unit of ghouls (2 HD) being turned by a unit of 1st level clerics.

Both the wight-by-2nd-level and the ghoul-by-1st level require a turning throw of 16+, and take the same damage as a result of that turning throw, despite the ghouls having 2 HD and the wights having 3 HD. We can also see the same 15 damage occurring on the other turning throws of 16+; wraith by 3rd level clerics, mummy by 4th level clerics, and so on.

In fact, all units always take a given amount of damage by turning throw, though admittedly I’m having a great deal of trouble building the actual formula for it. The 15-23 gap and 41-44 gap are both proving real problems in figuring out a formula; at least the gap from 4+ to T makes sense that it’s inconsistent, but if it weren’t for 15-23 and 41-44, every 3 points of improvement in turning throw would give you 9 points of damage.

So in conclusion, the ghost lion is turned as a wight, a 1st level cleric has a turning throw of 19+ on a wight, so the ghost lion unit would take 6 points from a unit of 120 first level clerics turning it.

Also I whipped up some quick man-to-man turning dealing damage approximations.

Every successful turn turns 2d6 HD worth of undead (average: 7 HD).

1 HD averages 4.5 HP. Thus, a successful turn averages 31.5 damage. Note, of course, that in normal turning it just causes an average of 31.5 HP of undead to flee, it doesn’t actually kill them. (An average D result does, in fact, kill 31.5 HP worth of undead, on average.)

Side note: Having it do HP damage might help with the high end of the table, where you can have a T or D result and still fail to affect the thing you’re targeting, because it has more HD than your 2d6 roll. 9 HD vampires and infernals are particularly bad about this; you can be a 14th level cleric and D them, but you still need to roll a 9 on 2d6 to affect them.

Anyway, back to average damage result. A successful turning throw averages 31.5 damage. You can go one of two places from here.

Option 1: No turning throw required. Multiply the average damage by your chance of success to get the final average, and then assign dice to them. I have here the mathed average and my first attempt at a dice mapping. (You gain an average of 4.725 for each +3 to your turning throw, I failed at getting true linearity in dice however).
19+: 1d6 (3.15)
16+: 2d6+1 (7.875)
13+: 3d6+2 (12.6)
10+: 5d6 (17.325)
7+: 6d6+1 (22.05)
4+: 7d6+2 (26.775)
T: 9d6 (31.5)
D: 9d6 (31.5)

The obvious drawback here is that T and D are identical, but that’s going to happen in any pure math situation here.

Option 2: Turning throw still required. A successful turn deals 9d6 damage (average 31.5) to the undead. T and D remain identical.

This is definitely a buff to turn undead, but it is also true that in most situations, turning undead is functionally identical to killing them. One possible solution to the T/D problem is that normal turning results (everything that isn’t D) can only deal damage if it kills the target; that is, if you have 14 damage, and three 6 HP skeletons, two of them would die and the third would be uninjured because the leftover 2 damage would not be sufficient to kill it. D would simply do damage, so the third one would be dropped to 4 HP. I came up with this as I typed it and I think I like it a lot; it reduces the amount of power increase by helping it fail to partially turn the same way that turning normally works.

Side note: Having it do HP damage might help with the high end of the table, where you can have a T or D result and still fail to affect the thing you're targeting, because it has more HD than your 2d6 roll. 9 HD vampires and infernals are particularly bad about this; you can be a 14th level cleric and D them, but you still need to roll a 9 on 2d6 to affect them.

Nope: “No matter what the dice roll result, at least one undead monster will always be turned or destroyed, as appropriate, on a successful use of turning.” (ACKS Core, p.21)

This is among the reasons that I consider “infinite turning until you fail a roll (except sometimes you don’t even have to roll, so it really is infinite)” to be grossly overpowered. Find a parade of 20, 30, even 100 HD infernals or über-liches and a level 14 cleric can automatically kill one every round without even needing to roll for as long as you can keep the cleric on his feet. (Which, admittedly, probably won’t be that long, considering the spells, ranged attacks, and other resources that would presumably be available to foes of that magnitude. But, still…)

It might be more reasonable if the turning had to hit lesser undead first. This would give powerful undead more reason to surround themselves with an army of lesser undead, giving them ablative armor to buy them enough time to murder those pesky clerics!

Fair enough, I missed that!

So having it do damage is a nerf on the very high end of the scale.