When an intelligent undead is turned, does it gets its save at the start or end of the round?

"Intelligent undead receive a new saving throw each round to end the effect" is the exact text.

As far as I can tell, it is the start of the round, but that creates a situation where a turned undead can not flee at all if it makes its first save.


The GM decides when they make a new save

The game has several definitions as to when a creature makes a new save to end an effect:

  • Effects that call for a saving throw at the end of your turn will explicitly say so, such as Glitterdust, Mental Block or Coward's Lament.

  • Those that are at the start of your turn will also say so, such as Greater Command, Web Cloud or Death Knell Aura

  • Or will simply say exactly when those creatures get to make a save, such as Entangle saying they must save at the end of the caster's turn.

  • Other spells, like Hold Person, have a specific mechanic in place (for Hold Person, a full-round action) so the creature can make this save to end the effect.

For Turn Undead, the effect says that the creature gains a new save each round:

Intelligent undead receive a new saving throw each round to end the effect.

The Combat Round

If we look up the definition of a Round in the game system, we have the following:


Combat is measured in rounds. During an individual round, all creatures have a chance to take a turn to act, in order of initiative. A round represents 6 seconds in the game world.

So if we rule that it's at the start of a creature's turn, then it may be anywhere between 0 and 5,99~ seconds, depending on their initiative order. If we rule it's at the end of a creature's turn, then it could be a little closer to 6 seconds, but still not exactly 6 seconds, regardless of their initiative order.

If we rule that it's at the end of the round, after 6 seconds have past, then the ability's text should say "after each round".

Confusion has a very specific wording regarding when the effect happens, but also makes a difference between rounds and turns:

at the start of each subject’s turn each round to see what it does in that round.

And again, we have to remember that turns are simultaneous, creatures aren't exactly waiting for each other to do something in combat. With that in mind, it's safe to assume that if this effect was at the beginning of a creature's turn, then it would be at the start of those 6 seconds, and that wouldnt be a round by the definition of the game term.

For effects that call for a "full round", we have a very specific rule about this on the combat chapter, which could be applied to Turn Undead:

When the rules refer to a “full round”, they usually mean a span of time from a particular initiative count in one round to the same initiative count in the next round.

Effects that last a certain number of rounds end just before the same initiative count that they began on.

So, if a GM decides to allow a new save at the end of the character that caused the effect, they will have some backup on the rules.

Table Variation

James Jacobs, Paizo's Creative Director, when asked about this, said that he would rule it to make a save at the start of the undead's turn to make things easier on the GM. But the decision is up to the GM.

Personally, i would rule that it happens at the end of the creature's turn that caused the effect.

Otherwise, the rules are undefined and you are subject to table variation, as this decision is put on your GM hands.

  • \$\begingroup\$ For the record, i did post on paizo's rules subforum asking this same question for the community, and also on the "Ask James Jacobs (creative director), but we might get mixed results. Once i have a better feedback from the community i will review this answer: paizo.com/threads/… \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Feb 23 '17 at 13:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Man, I wish everything like this were phrased like hold person. So much easier. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 23 '17 at 13:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ You can see, by all the links, that i also wish that was true. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Feb 23 '17 at 13:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've upvoted this even though I think the rules are misleading. When the rules refer to a "full round", they usually mean a span of time from a particular initiative count in one round to the same initiative count in the next round has that really important word usually; for instance, a spell with a casting time of a full-round action is different from a spell with a casting time of 1 round! (Paizo added some of that, by the way. The PH says, "Effects that last a certain number of rounds end just before the same initiative count that they began on" (138) then adds examples.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 23 '17 at 21:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ O, I totally agree that a RAW reading of the PH text may lead inflexibly legalistic GMs to strap on their blinders, limit measuring time in the described fashion only to determine when an effect ends rather than to determine when an effect that's likewise measured in rounds should occur, and throw up their hands in despair and tell the table I just don't know! Campaign over! Let's play video games instead! However, I'd really like to believe such readers are a really tiny minority. ;-) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 23 '17 at 21:45

That's not clear.

You cast the spell, they get a saving throw. Each time a turn pass and they suffer the effect (here: to be panicked) they get another one. When this occurs isn't supposed to matter as long as it is between two turns of the creature (so the previous turn was clearly under the effect of panic and the next one won't if the save is successful).

My way of ruling that is if the undead is a PC (or PC controlled) I would make it be rolled at the end of the turn (just after the undead flee) since it means the character has more time to think about his next turn if it's a success. If the character is GM controlled I wait for the undead's turn since it can be destroyed since that happens.

However I can understand that for some reason you would like to know precisely when the roll is made (maybe for example someone else can as an immediate action make the undead reroll his save, or someone can do more damage to panicked creatures). In that case I make the roll as soon as it becomes required (just after the undead spent its turn panicked or just before counting the damages for the examples used before)

An alternative reading can be that the saves can be made whenever the undead wants it to happen (usually at the beginning of its turn) but by ruling that you are making intelligent undeads able to get two saving throws before the turning has any consequence. It doesn't seem to be how this is supposed to work.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, logically, if the creature fails it's first save but we ask another check at the start of their turn and they succeeded, then we allowed them to make two checks to cancel the effect before anything happened to them. Which, from a game system perspective, makes very little sense. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Feb 23 '17 at 13:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ None. Im not a native english-speaker, so my words may not come off correctly, but the point is that i agree with your logic and gave an example of what would happen if ruled otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ – ShadowKras Feb 23 '17 at 17:35

The benefit of the feat Turn Undead says

You can, as a standard action, use one of your uses of channel positive energy to cause all undead within 30 feet of you to flee, as if panicked. Undead receive a Will save to negate the effect. The DC for this Will save is equal to 10 + 1/2 your cleric level + your Charisma modifier. Undead that fail their save flee for 1 minute. Intelligent undead receive a new saving throw each round to end the effect. If you use channel energy in this way, it has no other effect (it does not heal or harm nearby creatures).

Thus when the creature that possesses the special ability channel positive energy opts to employ the benefit of the feat Turn Undead, the undead receive a saving throw to overcome the initial effect. Thereafter, an affected undead receives another saving throw next round at the very beginning of the initiative count the Turn Undead feat's benefit was employed, this being exactly 1 round after the effect was employed initially.1 (Compare this to the when a creature makes an addition saving throw against a hold person effect.)

That is, the affected undead is affected by the Turn Undead effect for 1 round—similar to how long a spell takes to cast if the spell has a casting time of 1 round—then it gets a new saving throw to resist the effect again. To be clear, in both the initial case and the secondary case, the as-if panicked undead can't actually behave as if panicked (even though it is) until the undead's own turn even though it may be as-if panicked while it's not its turn.

Tracking precisely when such an additional saving throw should be made gets (ahem) dicey when the dude that created the effect opts to ready or delay. This GM suggests adding to the stack of initiative index cards (or adding an odd-colored peg to a numbered pegboard or whatever system you use) a reminder card about the Turn Undead effect (and similar check-each-round effects) just ahead of the effect's creator and leaving that reminder card untouched should the creature that generated the effect change its initiative position.

Alternatively, if everyone agrees or the GM demands because it's just so much easier, all check-each-round effects can instead be checked at the beginning or at the end of each round, after or before each combatant's taken its turn during that round. This should balance in the long run, but the house rule may be occasionally exploited by a GM or player who is also a particularly alert metagamer.

1 Technically, the new saving throw is made at the very end of the initiative count right before the initiative count on which the creature created the effect. In practice, however, this usually doesn't matter and really does just only make things even more complicated.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Could you indicate a place in the rules that defines 'each round' effects occur based on the start/end of initiative, not on the casting character or affected creature's initiative slot? \$\endgroup\$ – Ifusaso Feb 23 '17 at 15:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ifusaso I'm not sure I understand. The saving throw is made each round, a unit of time not contingent upon the user or the affected. Even if, for example, the user's initiative count has changed since using the effect (like if the user took the action ready and its count changed), when the affected creature makes the additional saving throw against the effect remains unchanged. The effect exists independent of the user. It's just counting that time that's complicated. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 23 '17 at 15:23

I have always interpreted that to mean at the start of it's next turn. So if there are multiple rounds within the minute time-frame then at the start of each it gets the chance to save. However, I have always played it that if the save is made, that is the turn for that creature and no other action/movement or anything can be done in that turn.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you have textual evidence for this? \$\endgroup\$ – Canageek Feb 23 '17 at 2:48

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