Context: I am making a Dread Necromancer who has gone the route of the Necropolitan, so this might apply both when I use my turning, or when some stuck-up goody goody tries to get all up in my business just because I wasn't ready to give up on life yet! Well, existence, anyway... -coughs-

So, turning, per PHB, simplified: The cleric makes his charisma check to see what the max HD he can affect is. Then he rolls for the total HD affected. Starting with the weakest/closest, undead get the literal fear of a particular god put into them, and pack their bags.

Do intelligent undead (or otherwise, if applicable) get any form of saving throw against being turned, after the cleric has made their rolls? Will save, etc.

I'm familiar with a selection of pre-turning options, like Turn Resistance +X adding to your effective HD, and Bolstering Undead (although without significant optimization towards it, Bolstering yourself is probably less helpful than simply wishing bad things at the opposing clerics' dice rolls).

Or is it just cross your fingers and hope the cleric rolls low... and keep a wall of skeletons in front of you in case he doesn't ?


2 Answers 2


Most forms of intelligent undead gain turning resistance:

  • Liches get +4 turn resistance

  • Vampires get +4 turn resistance, while vampire spawn gain +2 turn resistance

  • Necropolitans get +2 turn resistance

Turn resistance adds a number to an undead’s hit dice when determining whether turn or rebuke undead works on it, and how many levels that undead takes up. So a 1st-level necropolitan counts as having 3 HD for the purposes of turn or rebuke.

There is no other extra bonus, however, just for being intelligent. You also do not get a chance to make a saving throw against turning or rebuking, which makes the most common generic defenses irrelevant here. Once turning or rebuking affects you, you have no ability to break free. This is a major vulnerability of undead characters, and one you should shore up by getting more turn resistance.

The Improved Turn Resistance feat from Libris Mortis gets you another +4. And a cloak of turn resistance from the Dead Life article on Wizards’ website adds +4 again. Note that this can also be a cloak of resistance at no price premium, per Magic Item Compendium (or you could just use a vest of resistance). You now count as an undead with 10 more HD than you actually have for rebuking.

On top of that, if you or an ally can rebuke undead, it can be used to give you higher effective HD for the purposes of turning via bolstering undead. Your turn resistance bonus would then apply on top of the bolstered effective HD. The turn checks for this bolstering can likewise be aided by a number of items:

  • From the aforementioned Dead Life article, drums of the dead and lyre of the restful soul

  • From Magic Item Compendium, the ephod of authority

  • From Dungeon Master’s Guide, the phylactery of undead turning

  • From Arms & Equipment Guide, a suit of sacred armor

  • From Libris Mortis, a rod of defiance and a lyre of the restless soul

Note, however, that these things can also be used against you. Having someone living who can rebuke undead would be useful to wrest control over you away from an enemy if that happens.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That's too bad. It's a gestalt build, and the second tree is a complete mashup of Arcane classes. I'm going to have a positively insane will save. It would have been nice to be able to bring that to bear in the fight. Good call on the variety of items. Thank you for the answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – tzxAzrael
    Commented Jul 14, 2016 at 16:43

No saves.

Darkness/Silence don't work either; the cleric needs only a line of effect, not even a line of sight, to present its' DF to you.

HOWEVER, this offers you a chance: Shattering/Disintegrating/Destroying his DF (DF is NOT a magic item) would probably render this foul cleric speechless, powerless and running for dear life. (No spells, no turning and a lot of explaining to do to a certain Deity...)


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