Turn Undead says the creatures turned must run away from you. But it also says they can't willingly move to a space within 30 feet of you.

If I am in a small zombie-infested room, and there's a door across the room through which a creature could escape me, and that door is 25 feet from me, and I turn everything in the room, what happens?

On the one hand, I imagine the Undead could escape out the door. On the other hand, the space on the other side of the door (and all intervening spaces) are within 30 feet of me, so maybe the creatures can't enter those spaces.

Rephrasing the essence of the question: if a creature is already close by and is turned, is it allowed to run away, or is it locked in place?


They would be able to move though the space; they simply cannot enter into a space within that 30 feet from outside that range. Otherwise, by that logic any undead within 5 feet would simply be unable to move, as moving away from you requires entering a space 10 feet away from you, which is a space within 30 feet of you. Turn undead is not designed to be used as a means to root undead in place, it's designed to make undead flee away from the person turning them.

A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can, and it can't willingly move to a space within 30 feet of you.

It could also be ruled that, because it cannot flee, being forced to move away from you requires it to unwillingly move closer.

Previous editions stated that undead would move away from you as fast as they could, and if you trapped them where they could not flee without moving towards you they would stay still, but moving closer to such trapped undead would break the the turning effect on them.

One option is that the undead between you and the door that are turned flee through the door by moving normally or using Dash action, while those that are trapped between you and the wall (who cannot reach the door without moving towards you) would move as far away as they can within the room, or stay where they are and may use the Dodge action (per the description of Turn Undead).

Another ruling a DM might make is that if a turned undead is able to end its move further away from the turner than it currently is, then it may move towards the turner in order to get away.

Ultimately the decision at this stage is up to the DM until further rules regarding turn undead are released, or one of the designers chips in.


PHB p.59 states,

A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can, and it can't willingly move to a space within 30 feet of you. [...] If there's nowhere to move, the creature can use the Dodge action.

The "must" tells us that a turned creature does not flee of its own free will; the use of Turn Undead forces it to--must--regardless of its free will. The creature's free will allows it to decide how to move still, with this one stipulation: "and it can't willingly move to a space within 30 feet of you." There are no other stipulations on its free will.

If it can run in a straight line away from you, it must. If it has to squeeze against a wall to get to the door because you're 32 feet away from the wall, then squeeze it must.

While it's trying to move as far away it can shout taunts, pray to evil gods, or, whatever. If it has any options to move further, it must take them. Does the hipster-vampire have a bonus action that allows it to knit a scarf OR jump 80 feet? Then it must take the jump 80 feet option.

This portion is slightly more opinion, but I think it is patently obvious: It is quite well implied that any method the turned creature knows about which could allow it to get further away, it must use; stated differently, it is strongly implied that the turned creature cannot "play dumb," eg after running to 50 feet away, it can't say "well this hallway will lead me 10 feet back toward the Cleric, and even though I know I can then run 1 million billion miles away, I guess I can't do that, oh darn, I guess I have to wait here for 54 more seconds. Maybe I'll turn invisible and think about an awesome ambush." That's metagaming. Monsters don't know they're in a game. They know this primal feeling when turned:



It seems pretty clear. If moving for the door would require them to move closer to the cleric, even for one square, they cannot do it. They must move away, if possible, and cannot willingly move closer. They can't get to the door if moving toward it would bring them any closer to the turner. Even tangential movement would be disallowed, since they are specifically constrained to move away if at all possible.

Fiction (and real life) is full of situations, where someone fails perform an action which would increase their safety, but require them to do some they are terrified of doing. "Go ahead, bub, pick up the gun. Can you shoot me before I cut you into a shish kabob?" Or "I could get out of this shark cage and onto the boat where I'd be safe, but I have to swim across shark-infested water."

Creatures under the effect of a turning effect are unable to make an move that would allow them to get farther away, if such movement would take them any closer to the source of the turning.


The undead will either

  • bunch up in the spaces further from the source of the turn (corners).

  • make it for the door.

Below, "it" refers to the turned undead. "cleric" refers to the turning source.

Use this algorithm for each turned undead:

  1. It will move towards the door if:

    1. The first "5ft step" towards the door also makes its distance from the cleric equal or greater than before.
    2. Repeat the previous step, or go to the option below:
  2. It will move towards one of the corners of the room otherwise.

The option (2.) will make piles of animated corpses on the corners of the room as undead will bunch up in the same space on the corners. Good luck balancing all the miniatures in one space. Makes for a nice exercise. Just take care not to break anything when separating them later.

Rationale (all bold text added by me):

A turned creature must spend its turns trying to move as far away from you as it can.

So the movement is involuntary, forced.

From the movement rules:

you can’t willingly end your move in its space

The undead will just bunch up and cower on the corners of the room. Then they will take the dodge action until the turn effect is lifted. They are not there because they want.


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