Saturday, October 25, 2014

HMS Apollyon Player Manual - Turning Rules

A PDF OF THESE RULES

I have always thought that the ability to turn undead was one of a cleric's most powerful skills, given the number of skeletons and zombies that seem to crawl about in the average D&D game. Yet I often find players have a good deal of confusion about how turning works, especially against a mixed group of undead or large numbers of the things.  I've written up some turning rules with a long example that cover most of the oddities I tend to find in my games, and while it's nothing new or groundbreaking I believe this codification will benefit the players of clerics in my Apollyon game.



CLERICAL MAGIC


Can your Cleric Turn this - possibly
Divine Magic is different from arcane magic in that it depends on the channeling of external power and grace from powerful otherworldly entities rather than the caster’s own will and knowledge to manipulate or overturn the static nature of the universe.  Mechanically there are two systems of Clerical Magic aboard the HMS Apollyon: Monistic practices, which behave mechanically much like arcane magic, with a wide variety of spells that may be cast a limited number of times, and Ecstatic practice which provides a smaller list of spells, which do not always work and may fail catastrophically, but which may be cast almost at will.

Despite mechanical differences they employ, all divine traditions grant the power to hold at bay or even control certain varieties of unnatural entities. While both the Temple of Lyriss and the Church of the Queen are opposed to the undead, demonic, or diabolic in the case of the Temple, the Ship Spirits oppose corruption and demonic influence and the Cult of Leviathan may command the loyalty of sea creatures or drive off Devils.

Turning
The control, destruction or holding off of unnatural (or natural in the case of the Cult of the Leviathan) entities falls under the category of turning regardless of the type of creature shunned.  Clerics roll 2D6 and compare their result to the following table. Note that some creatures (such as those with class levels), receive a saving throw against the effects of turning, and any turned creature may still find way to oppose the party.

On a successful turning attempt up to 2D8 creatures will be effected – turned creatures will either flee to at least long range if shunned, or stop and obey simple commands from the cleric (in the case of sea life commanded by a cult devotee) as long as the cleric remains concentrating on the turning effect to the exclusion of other actions (including turning additional creatures). The ‘T’ result means the creatures will be automatically effected, while a ‘D’ result means that they are destroyed or respond enthusiastically to the control of the Cleric without a continued effort of will, leaving the cleric to act freely the next round.  Control is not permanent and eventually sea creatures will wander off when their natural needs reassert themselves.


to Turn
1 hd
2 hd
3 hd
4 hd
5 hd
6 hd
7 hd
8 hd
9 hd
10 hd
Cl Lvl 1
6
8
10
12
-
-
-
-
-
-
Cl Lvl 2
5
6
8
10
12
-
-
-
-
-
Cl Lvl 3
3
5
6
8
10
12
-
-
-
-
Cl Lvl 4
T
3
5
6
8
10
12
-
-
-
Cl Lvl 5
T
T
3
5
6
8
10
12
-
-
Cl Lvl 6
D
T
T
3
5
6
8
10
12
-
Cl Lvl 7
D
D
T
T
3
5
6
8
10
12
Cl Lvl 8
D
D
D
T
T
3
5
6
8
10
Cl Lvl 9
D
D
D
D
T
T
3
5
6
8
Cl Lvl 10
D
D
D
D
D
T
T
3
5
6



Clerical Tradition
Monsters Effected by Turning
Church of the Queen
Undead and Demons (as if Cleric is two levels lower)
Temple of Lyriss
Undead and Devils (as if Cleric is two levels lower)
Cult of the Leviathan
Sea Creatures (may be controlled) and Devils (as if Cleric is two levels lower)
Shrine of the Ship Spirits
Demons and Automata (as if Cleric is two levels lower)



Turning multiple types of creatures can be a complex process, but in general only two rolls and adherence to the simple rule that the weakest creature is effected first are needed.

Turning Example
Piston Triumph, Servant of the Prime Engine, is a powerful (6th level) Houngan of the Ship Spirits.  While cleansing an ancient Tennis court of vile creatures of decay (demonic interventions) and a putrescent Frog Demon his fanatic band is faced with a large pack of animated horrors infused with abyssal fungus:

«Twelve 1-Hit Die fungal zombies, their moldering whites stained unholy pink from the bubbling abyssal fungus within.  
«Two 5-Hit Die fungally infected feral engines, former massive industrial washers, now skittering on pink tendrils of slime like giant rusting hermit crabs with claws of jagged piping.
«One 8-Hit Die Frog Demon, its bloated body leaking and spraying gouts of chalky pink abyssal fungus as it surges forward intent on swallowing Piston whole.

Piston calls on the Prime Engine, and the ancient machine spirit rides him, enraged by the twisted machines and decay facing the Cleric.  Piston’s player rolls an ‘12’ on his 2D6, but the 2D8 indicates that the Engine’s power is channeled narrowly, blasting only 6 of the creatures of decay.  Six fungal zombies melt, their ancient mummified flesh scoured clean of abyssal taint with a wave of propriety and reason. Note that this roll would have allowed Piston to turn even the Frog Demon, but the weaker creatures were effected first, a lesson that all necromancers, lichs and summoners should take to heart when facing enemies with divine aid.  The remaining six zombies crash into Piston’s guard of howling ship spirit fanatics, and bronze crowbar meets caustic slime encrusted flesh. Peppered by rifle fire from Piston’s bodyguard the Feral Engines advance directly towards the houngan, throwing aside the broken bodies of several fanatic warriors, while the Frog Demon begins to incant a gurgling blasphemy that fills his forces with demonic vigor. 

When the second round of combat begins Piston finds his party surrounded by four zombies (two having been smashed apart by fanatics), the feral engines and the frog demon, which sits back and uses its black barbed tongue to reel Piston’s bodyguard towards a cavernous mouth.  Piston again calls on the Prime Engine, but rolls a ‘4’ exhausted from the efforts of the prior round.  The string of numbers the houngan broadcasts are unavoidable however, and lash the scavengers’ demonic opponents.  With a roll of ‘14’ all of the monsters will be effected. Luckily a ‘4’ is just enough to send the feral engines stumbling  back towards the darkened niches they came from, as well as destroying the remaining zombies.  The Frog Demon is annoyed as the rationality and stolid order of the Prime Engine’s words buffet it, but it resists.

As the third round of combat begins, Piston’s bodyguard vanishes into the demon’s crushing jaws along with one of the two magical weapons (a voltaic cutlass) that the scavengers possess, the other being Piston’s namesake pneumatic hammer.  The fanatics surge forward, but besides impeding the demon’s advance are unable to harm it with their mundane war crowbars and boarding axes.  Piston must decide, should he renew his turning efforts, leap forward to smite the bloated demon in melee, or perhaps cast a spell, the last two of which will free the feral engines from the houngan’s power allowing them to charge back into combat. Not wanting his overtaxed guard force to face two charging scythe-limbed horrors as well as the invulnerable demon, Piston decides to renew his turning effort (he could also simply maintain it driving the feral engines back but allowing the frog demon to run amok). The power of the Prime Engine is not enough to drive off the Demon however, as Piston rolls only a ‘6’, but at least the feral engines are forced back a few more feet (note no roll was needed here for number of creatures effected as there were only two targets subject to the turning.)

The combat continues as the fanatics spend their lives beneath the demon’s crushing claws or melt from its vile acidic spew.  Piston almost despairs, but he again tries to drive of the Demon with divine power, and this time he succeeds, rolling an ‘11’ and a ‘9’.  All the corrupt creatures are forced back, and Piston is able to maintain his turning, striding forward to chase the demon and its feral engines from their lair while his remaining guards grab valuables, consecrate the ancient tennis court to the Ship Spirits and anoint the dead with holy oil. 

Clerical Spell Research
Clerics do not research spells in the manner of Arcane Casters or scribe the spells of others, they ask their gods to allow them to wield power in new ways, or seek to make pacts on ensnare new spirits with different powers.  The process of Clerical Spell Research is more a process of discovery or questing then one of research.
Clerics of monistic traditions will go through a process of intense prayer and meditation, burning valuable incense, donning fine vestments and using other luxurious components, sometimes commissioning art work or making sacrifices to glorify their deities before they beseech their gods’ intervention on an issue or challenge (for example: a prayer for the ability to smite the ungodly might result in a combat spell, a strength blessing, or a protection spell).  Depending on the scope of the offerings and the cleric’s past loyalty to the divine cause the god will either ignore the plea of the Cleric or provide a spell appropriate to the Cleric’s request.

Ecstatic Traditions do not gain new spells individually as each spirit or aspect called has only a small selection of powers.  As they level, cultists of the Leviathan pay vast sums of money to be inducted into further mysteries, and so gain the ability to summon new avatars of the god, while mambos and houngans of the Spirits use scavenged artifacts and valuables to build shrines to new spirits.  In both these cases an investment of money, or money and magical artifacts/trophies (in the case of the Ship Spirits) will grant the cleric an entire new set of spells at specific levels that can either be selected from the lists in this volume or adapted by the GM.   

4 comments:

  1. Love i. That's a great picture too, did you make it or find it?

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    Replies
    1. Woodblock :"Andras, Grand Marquis in Hell" (He who raises discords and quarrels.) By: J.A.S. Collin de Plancy. Book: Dictionnaire Infernal. Paris : E. Plon, 1863

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  2. Turning can be a bit of a bugaboo in any D&D system. So much precedence in literature, but the game effects can be wonky. At high levels, undead are effectively no longer a viable challenge. I recall reviewing one of the first retroclone modules, a high-level entry that featured a lich as the End Boss and I pointed out that the cleric PC had something like a 65% chance to defeat him instantly. In fact, it might even have been greater than that.

    As a result, DMs often resort to gimping the system: adding a medallion that decrease the chances of turning, taking EGG's advice in the DMG that especially evil areas may make it more difficult, etc. My group developed a house rule that undead cannot be turned from their final place of rest; if turned there, they are effectively neutralized, but if attacked the turn is disabled.

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    Replies
    1. I always disliked the "evil temple makes it hard to turn" or "the zombies have amulets and are hard to turn" argument. My solution is either to A) expect some undead (or sharks it one has a Leviathan cultist) will be turned - that's why you have a cleric in the party, don't take it away. B) Through more undead at the party - you can turn what, 2D8 creatures total? Instead of 4 ghouls, how about 12? The dead travel in packs. Also that army of 100 skeletons the lich keeps around, try cutting through them 2D8 a round before you can turn him? He's getting off the 10D6 fireball & feeblemind spells C) Liches, Vampires, wraiths and even ghouls aren't complete idiots - they run away from being turned, they don't just stand there waiting to be smashed. They'll be back two, and this time the surprise attack goes after the Cleric first.

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