Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Turning Undead

So I read Mearls' recent post a couple days ago. My initial reaction was that I hated the ideas presented. But I wanted to give it some time to settle in. Now that I've done that I can say unequivocally - yes, I really do hate his ideas for modifying the turning undead mechanic.

What he presented (and no I'm not going to link to it) wasn't so much "rules" for a D&D rulebook, it was much more about "house rules" the things we add in or around our games. I don't like his suggestions as far as making it into the rulebooks. Why? Because they add bloat. he suggests having undead respond differently depending on the type. That adds to monster descriptions and adds to stat blocks - no fricken thank you. That also adds to the burden of the DM - which is apparently limitless if you listen to Mearls et al.

Why is it always ADD, ADD, ADD rules when it comes to game designers? How about subtracting the bloat? Knock the corners off and return to a streamlined mechanic based firmly in the Gygaxian history of the game.

It's exactly the same thing in the discipline of Economics. How many economics classes do you think you'll take where they actually talk about shrinking the economy?

Anyway, his post led me to think of the house rules we use in my game. I thought I'd explicate those and I'd love to hear what you do in your games.

I use the turning mechanics outlined in Barrowmaze. The turning number is increased by one and increases by one with each turn attempt per day (both are dungeon specific).

In addition to those, the turn attempt lasts for 1d12 rounds (I should change this to 3d4). If the cleric attacks the turned undead, the turn is broken. There are no rules that I am aware for for LL or B/X for the above. Although my memory is crappy at the best of times.


  1. Yep, just like Mearl's tweaking of Save or Die from last week - just added complications.

    I'm rereading the OD&D booklets and i'm still amazed at how much game was squeezed into so little space

  2. Honestly, if they're going to futz with Turn Undead (because it's seen as 'too powerful'?) I'd rather they went full LotFP and made it a cleric spell. Then they can save the alternate rules (Classic D&D chart-based Turning, 3E "channeling", Mearls' new natural-or-not Turns) as freebies for the new version of D&D Insider.

  3. I was looking up information on Mike Mearls and came across an interview entitled, "1d12 questions with….Mike Mearls."
    Granted it was from 2009 and he's referring to 4E, but I found his response to question four humorous given recent events.

    Not sure if I can format in this comment box, so I'll present the question as given and inside the brackets are my own words.

    4. What’s your least favorite class in the game, and why?

    [Mike makes a comment that seems to imply he can't distinguish the difference between player behavior and the warlord class or maybe I just failed at understanding the joke. But then he says . . .] "On a more serious note, I guess I just like clerics too much. I think mechanically the class is fine, but I’m just happier with a mace, a holy symbol, and the indomitable power of St. Cuthbert when I’m playing a leader."

  4. As a graphic designer I was once given advice that I've stood by and firmly believe: good design isn't what you add, it's what you take away.

    I think it's the same for game design, just add as many rules as you can that bog the game down, then start stripping them away until you only have was is needed.

    Let's hope that's what they're doing.