The Divine Value of Turn Undead

I’m happily preparing an ACK campaign and am in the process of making my “allowed classes” list.

My list includes the Witch and the Shaman, but not the Cleric, Paladin, nor Dwarven Craftpriest. My campaign concept has room for the Priest(ess), but I’d like to remove all instances of Turn Undead and she has this by default. I might bring this ability in later, but it won’t be available at the beginning of the campaign. (maybe a PC will invent it!)

If I took this feature away from the Priest(ess), what might be some cool and equivalent features/things I could replace it with? It seems to be bound up with the "1/2 Cleric ‘Divine 1’ value. I’d prefer not to muss with the Priest(ess) level progression costs.

Divine Value tradeoffs, Player’s Companion page 81 tells us what you get for losing the ability to turn undead. (It’s one custom power per point of Divine Value).

In the case of the priestess, with a Divine Value of 4, this would be 4 custom powers, which is quite significant!

Hmmm… But even “Divine 1” (1/2 Cleric) gives the Turn Undead ability along with spell-casting and magical research. So I took it that forfeiting Turn Undead would be worth something less than even a single custom power.

You could run it that way if you want, but the text is pretty clear :stuck_out_tongue:

adding to that: turn undead is one of the most powerful abilities in the game, full stop. undead are extremely binary in old-school play, so if you are removing turn undead I would seriously recommend removing any undead higher than 2HD as well. As for divine value, turn undead is one of the few ways that points given to divine value contribute directly to combat, especially at low levels. Most of the spells are buffs and heals, and what few damaging spells exist are very weak compared to arcane. Taking away turn undead from the priestess takes away one of the few ways she can directly contribute to combat, so giving her 4 custom powers is not necessarily something that should be discounted.

Think of it this way: even though turning undead is the same regardless of how much divine power you have, it is something you increasingly rely on as your combat ability depending on how much of your class is dedicated to it.

Right on. Jard has precisely expressed the thinking behind the structure of Turn Undead within the Divine Value.

Thanks all! I somehow totally missed that section on p81.

Now I need to see if I can grok the custom power replacement system. I’m not getting it so far. If I continue in this direction, I’ll probably swap in a few Mystic and/or Paladin custom powers since the game won’t have those classes.

My vision right now is to have a LOT of 1 and 2 hit die undead in the campaign. That will be most of the opposition as the big bad in the region is an undying necromancer. I want undead to be scary, and I don’t want the conflicts with them to turn on a binary turn/didn’t turn deciding factor. My vision would make Bladedancers, Clerics, Craftpriests, and an unaltered Priest(ess) uber classes and I want to stay away from that as well. I imagine turning the tide against the undead hordes will be a distributed responsibility among party members via research & holy items.

so 1 and 2 HD undead, aka skeletons and zombies, are just marginally tougher than similar 1 and 2HD foes. They hit and damage the same, but they aren’t vulnerable to some common countermeasures to large groups of enemies like sleep. You’ll probably be fine on that front, maybe see a few more deaths than usual, possibly the same if the party gets creative with Protection From Evil in hallways.

The problem comes with wights, wraiths, and everything beyond that. Level drain is horrible, one of the most awful things that can happen to a character. Be prepared for players who have sacked away large reserves of XP to just retire characters that suffer too many level drains. This is where turn undead becomes relevant, and it along with the aformentioned protection from evil (by virtue of disallowing the touch attacks that cause level drain) are one of the few countermeasures. If you’re sticking to mostly 1 and 2 HD undead, you can probably get away with not having turn undead available, and if you really wanted to you could fall short of the recommended power replacements.

That being said, I’d recommend being careful about how much effort you put into the priestess. Even before your modifications, the class is at risk of being a dedicated NPC class, and unless some way to directly contribute to battle is swapped in, only someone who genuinely enjoys playing the most passive, healing/buffing oriented character will play as one.

If you want undead to be scarier, you could give them a saving throw versus Death to avoid being turned.

You could also copiously sprinkle sinkholes of evil throughout the land. In the original Auran Empire campaign setting, when the Awakening occurred, ALL areas that weren’t pinnacles of good became shadowed sinkholes, shadowed areas became blighted, blighted areas became forsaken, and forsaken areas became malignant.

This made Clerics less powerful but more valuable.

For what it’s worth, my solution to powerful undead is to rework level drain in the first place. I’ve never liked level drain as a mechanic.

I’ve never ironed it out, but my inclination is to start with either rolls on the mortal wounds table (like Dismember) or something along the lines of 3E’s ‘-1 to everything’ negative level mechanic.

The biggest problem I have with turn undead is that it cripples characters but leaves dangling the hook that they can repair themselves over time. I prefer a more obvious ‘your character is fine’ or ‘your character is effectively dead’ dichotomy instead of having players feel like they need to keep playing the same character but without enjoying it.

Can’t edit!

I wrote ‘turn undead’ when I meant ‘level drain’ above, which is probably obvious from context, but I mention it anyway.

Thanks for the feedback. Some cool ideas to mull over!

As they hit 2nd level and beyond, there will definitely be ways for all characters to debuff and defang the multitudinous undead. Just as if I removed all divine healing spells & classes I would have relatively inexpensive healing potions available. Or if I had a 3.X campaign that was mostly about snakemen I might remove the Ranger’s Favored Enemy ability and provide all the player classes with unique and hopefully interesting opportunities to take the battle to the scaled invaders - fighting techniques, spells, poisons, etc. It’s not my intent to make things more difficult for the players except perhaps for the first few sessions. (they will receive max hit points at 1st level)

And the Priest(ess) class will likely remain the best at dealing with undead in some form. I’m thinking she’ll just be less of a silver bullet.

Everyone will be running two characters most of the time. It’s possible some of the “narrower” classes (Priestess? Venturer? low level Thieves?!?) will be less likely to be any given player’s “main”.

I, too, am not a fan of level drain. In some cases it’s literally worse than death. I haven’t found a good way to balance it yet. My solution was to give the afflicted an extra save vs. death and have the attack do “XP damage” equal to the creature’s XP value instead. This turned out to be a pretty massive defanging, but my play-by-post game went so slowly that the prospect of losing even 100 or so XP from a wight made my players terrified.

A world full of shadowed sinkholes or worse. I love it.

I’ve house-ruled, in my Dwimmermount game, that level drain is replaced by an aging effect (as elves are immortal in Dwimmermount, I further ruled that they wouldn’t suffer mechanical effects of aging… only cosmetic). I forget where I got the inspiration for that. Maybe not the most… balanced. But easier to manage.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Instead of draining a level of experience, an energy drain causes loss of 2,000 experience points per level it would have drained. This can cause a level drain, but otherwise simply results in a loss of accumulated xp.

EXAMPLE: The touch of a vampire drains 4,000xp. Marcus is a 6th level fighter with 38,000xp. He is drained to 34,000xp. He is still 6th level. Then he is struck again and reduced to 30,000XP. Now he is reduced to 5th level.

  1. Energy drains first drain the character’s reserve level; with his reserve character level determined by his reserve experience points, as if he were a character of his current class.

EXAMPLE: Marcus is a 6th level fighter with 38,000xp. He has (through in-game spending of treasure) accumulated 14,000 reserve xp, giving him 4 reserve levels (2,000 for level 2, 4,000 for level 3, 8,000 for level 4). He is struck by a vampire, and reduced to 2 reserve levels. He is struck again and reduced by another 2 reserve levels (down to 0 reserve xp). If struck again, he will begin to lose his actual levels of experience.

I’ve used aging as level drain, at 5 years per level. It was pretty terrifying / horrible, and resulted in several early-retired PCs.

I really like draining reserve XP!

It manages to be even more terrifying than an actual level drain (that’s my LEGACY, man!) without affecting your combat prowess or requiring ridiculous paperwork for being hit. And it further creates an incentive both to use the reserve XP system and to continue doing risky things, because it can’t be solved by retiring the character; you have to solve the problem by continuing to adventure and taking new risks.

By contrast, I really dislike the idea of draining reserve XP, since it’s typically explained as an economic phenomenon that attracts higher-level heroes to the area where the PCs are dumping money into the economy. Undead draining it just doesn’t make any sense if it’s economic rather than supernatural.

I would definitely have a challenge explaining it in-game. I’d first have to come up with a personal explanation for reserve XP.

The end result would probably be something along the lines of a prestige thing, which the undead magically reduces, thus making you less impressive and with fewer powerful heroes willing to take up where you left off.