I ran into a monster that I'm thinking of using next session. It's the scarab swarm from the Sandstorm Book. The creature's entry reads the following type:

SCARAB SWARM, DEATH Diminutive Undead (Swarm)

It is a swarm of undead bugs. So my question is, would the cleric be able to turn this swarm as a normal undead monster?

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ It’s perhaps worth noting that the cleric can always turn multiple undead creatures. So if you had, say, a horde of zombies (separate creatures) rather than a swarm of death scarabs (one creature), you could still turn all of them if your turning check was high enough. \$\endgroup\$ – KRyan Oct 21 '13 at 14:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm a bit unclear as to what the question is getting at. Is there a particular part of the swarm rules that you thought might make them immune to turning, or a particular part of the turning rules you thought might keep it from working on the swarm? Please elaborate. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Najmon Nov 8 '13 at 2:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ The first one. I believed that because of the undeads being a swarm, there maybe would be a chance that they would be unaffected by the turn. I never really got into the "use as one creature" rule of the swarms, but the answers got it cleared out :) \$\endgroup\$ – Drunken_Guy Nov 8 '13 at 7:01

Yes. Turn/Rebuke Undead states:

Turning undead is a supernatural ability that a character can perform as a standard action. It does not provoke attacks of opportunity.

You must present your holy symbol to turn undead. Turning is considered an attack. You turn the closest turnable undead first, and you can’t turn undead that are more than 60 feet away or that have total cover relative to you. You don’t need line of sight to a target, but you do need line of effect.

The link to "undead" from that directly links to the undead "type".

So the only requisites for the target is that they are within 60 feet, you have LOE, and are "undead" (i.e. of type 'undead')

So the turn should work perfectly well.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just a minor fix: You referenced the pathfinder entry for turn undead, while I am using the dnd 3.5 tag. No biggie, just I tried to understand if I had it wrong with how it actually works all these years :P \$\endgroup\$ – Drunken_Guy Oct 21 '13 at 8:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Links fixed, and 3.5 has twice the range! \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Oct 21 '13 at 9:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks, no save on 3.5 too! But LOE references to the ability area of effect? \$\endgroup\$ – Drunken_Guy Oct 21 '13 at 14:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ In the quoted text "You don’t need line of sight to a target, but you do need line of effect." \$\endgroup\$ – Rob Oct 21 '13 at 15:00

Assuming that nothing else prevents the cleric from turning a given swarm -for example, not having enough dice- the fact that it's a swarm won't prevent the cleric from turning it either.

A swarm is a single creature in D&D. The collective essentially takes on its own quasi-existence, independent of but coterminous with the creatures that comprise it: a hive-mind, collective unconscious, or whatever you want to call it. This single creature is what the cleric turns. The creatures that comprise the swarm (scarabs, in this case) merely follow the swarm, because that's what swarming creatures do: technically you haven't turned any one scarab, but because you turned the swarm, the scarabs act as if turned.

In theory you could use the mob rules to turn large groups of bigger creatures -say, an entire zombie horde- as a single creature, but the CR for something like that should probably be really, really high: best left to epic levels.

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ A swarm is a single creature, except when it's not. Any spell that has a finite number of targets (like Disintegrate) doesn't work on a swarm. \$\endgroup\$ – Tridus Oct 22 '13 at 14:10
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Tridus Good point in the general case. In this case the finite number is HD and not targets, so for this case this answer is on-point and nicely clears up what appears to be the crux of confusion in the question. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 22 '13 at 16:25

Your monster have a HD that is not from each individual but from the swarm. That amount of scarabs together create the HD that your Cleric must turn. You only have to make sure that the Cleric have the necessary level to turn that monster, changing the amount of scarabs that the swarm have.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I think you've got CR and HD mixed up. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 22 '13 at 16:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ yes, indeed.... \$\endgroup\$ – MarcoM Oct 29 '13 at 8:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can use the edit button to fix that. :) \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Oct 29 '13 at 14:43

The DM may halve the swarm's Hit Dice to determine if the swarm's turned

Libris Mortis (Oct. 2004) on Undead Swarms and Turning says

Because undead swarms are made up of many weak undead creatures, they are more vulnerable to turning than normal undead. For all purposes related to a turning check or turning damage, treat the undead swarm as having only one-half (50%) of its normal Hit Dice. Add any turn resistance only after halving the swarm’s HD. (82)

Thereafter follows an example incorporating a corpse rat swarm (92-3).

However, Sandstorm (March 2005) includes the Challenge Rating 7 death scarab swarm (184-5) without reprinting these rules from Libris Mortis. A DM that ignores Libris Mortis's rules and, instead, for example, treats the swarm as a single undead entity of the creature's listed Hit Dice (an impressive twelve) will see the swarm much more easily resist the turn attempts of the typical clerics challenging it.


I can't see why not. They're of the Undead creature type. A cleric's Turn Undead ability should definitely work.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.