When you use the supernatural ability turn undead, you make a turning check (1d20 + your Charisma modifier), and the maximum Hit Dice of the single Most Powerful Undead Affected (PH 159) is dependent on your effective cleric level. Then you determine your turning damage (2d6 + your effective cleric level + your Charisma modifier), which determines the actual number of Hit Dice of undead that are affected by your turning. If the maximum Hit Dice of the Most Powerful Undead Affected and the turning damage result both equals or exceeds an undead creature's Hit Dice, that undead creature's turned. Then

If you have twice as many levels (or more) as the undead have have Hit Dice, you destroy any that you would normally turn. (PH 159)

The Rules Compendium rephrases but doesn't change this, saying

If you have twice as many levels or more than the target creatures have Hit Dice, you destroy any that you would normally turn. (146)

If, instead of turning undead, you rebuke undead

Undead that would be turned are rebuked instead, and those that would be destroyed are commanded. (PH 159, RC 147)

The Player's Handbook goes on to say

At any one time, the cleric may command any number of undead whose total Hit Dice do not exceed his level. (159)

The Rules Compendium changes this some, saying

At any one time, the controller can command any number of creatures whose combined Hit Dice don’t exceed his level. (147)

In all cases emphasis mine. Other references in the section Turn or Rebuke Undead (PH 159-60) refer to cleric level. Therefore, determining if an undead creature's destroyed via turn undead doesn't depend on your effective cleric level but on your total character level, and that means determining if an undead creature's commanded via rebuke undead doesn't depend on your effective cleric level, either.


  1. Seriously? I mean, I'm not missing anything here--this really means just sum your levels in all your classes and compare that sum to the undead creature's Hit Dice, right?
  2. Do monstrous Hit Dice count as character levels when determining if the creature possessing the monstrous Hit Dice who can turn or rebuke undead destroys or commands an undead creature?

"Who Cares?"
If both answers are yes, then, for example, Yogi--a legendary bear (MM2 137-8) who's been the target of the spell awaken [trans] (PH 202) and who has 2 levels of cleric and picked rebuke undead instead of turn undead--, can command 24 Hit Dice of undead creatures, each with 1 Hit Die, via his ability to rebuke undead.

  • \$\begingroup\$ have a third ;-) \$\endgroup\$
    – DForck42
    May 30, 2016 at 20:04

1 Answer 1


I see an unspecified level, in a section describing a particular class feature (though within the Combat section, I realize), as referring to the class level of the class that gives it to you. It would have to say “character level” to specify all of your HD. (But yes, Racial Hit Dice most certainly do apply towards your character level; LA does not, however.)


If you would turn, but your cleric level is twice the creature’s HD, you destroy

Destroying doesn’t come into play when determining which undead you turn. You roll your turning check to determine your limit on how powerful an undead you can turn, and then roll your turning damage to determine how many HD, total, you actually do turn. Then each undead in the area, starting with those closest to you and ignoring any that exceed the HD total determined by your turning check, are turned. If any of those undead you would turn have less than half your cleric level in HD, they are instead destroyed.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Once you say that how many hit dice you can turn depends on your cleric level, you don't need to say that your racial dice don't affect your turning. However I would mention that it's calculated when you determine which creatures can be turned. I would also emphasize that the need to say character level is a general rule. \$\endgroup\$
    – HESH
    Jun 23, 2014 at 0:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ I figured that since separate, indivudal iterations of the turn undead and rebuke undead class features aren't computed independently and, instead, overlap that the game might make allowances for that, for example, letting the otherwise crappy Clr8 / Pal12's turn undead destroy undead creatures with up to 10 Hit Dice even though he only turns undead 3 + his Cha modifier times per day as a Clr9. O, well. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 23, 2014 at 3:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Oh, I think a case can be made; it is somewhat ambiguous. I just feel this is the more likely interpretation. \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Jun 23, 2014 at 13:35

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