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A Turned creature (via a Cleric's Turn Undead or an Oath of the Ancients Paladin's Turn the Faithless) must

spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can... For its action, it can use only the Dash action or try to escape from an effect that keeps it from moving. (PHB p. 59 and 87)

Can a Turned creature simply avoid taking an action, or does it have to Dash (obstacles, terrain, etc. permitting)?

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It has to take the Dash action if doing so results in the turned creature being further away from that which turned it

The fact that it must "spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can" implies that, if taking the Dash action would enable it to move further away from you, since it has to "move as far away from you as it can", then it must use the Dash action in order to do so. Avoiding taking the Dash action would imply that it isn't doing all it can to move further away from you, which contradicts that quoted statement.

The only reason it wouldn't have to take the Dash action blindly, or rather, why the features don't "force" the turned creature to take the Dash action, is because if doing so wouldn't actually result in the creature being any further away from you, say, because it is cornered, then doing so doesn't really comply with moving as far away from you as it can, so there's no reason for it to do so.

The Turn Undead and Turn the Faithless features both go on to say (PHB, p. 59 and p. 87):

If there's nowhere to move, the creature can use the Dodge action.

If the creature had to use the Dash action blindly, regardless of context, then there'd be no reason to include this option. So, if a creature uses its normal movement to run into a corner, then it could then take the Dodge action instead if the Dash action wouldn't actually help it to move further away.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It's noteworthy that if the turned creature has access to teleportation or planar travel then that would also be used. Not much is further away than "a different plane of existence". \$\endgroup\$ – ValhallaGH Jun 30 at 14:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ That's how I ended up ruling it - meant one paladin ended a deadly encounter with a single action, courtesy of some poor rolls on my part. The party spent the next in-game minute picking fey off one by one. \$\endgroup\$ – LogicianWithAHat Jun 30 at 14:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ValhallaGH Although I agree with your reasoning, the ability does say it can only Dash or try to escape something preventing it from moving (i.e. a grapple or similar), so it seems that by strict RAW that wouldn't work. Otherwise I'd say that planar travel would make sense if it has such an ability/spell. \$\endgroup\$ – NathanS Jun 30 at 14:44

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