Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Turning Undead and Sumo Clerics

I've been thinking about turning undead today.

Turning undead is one of the weirder D&D tropes, I think. The concept of a warrior-cleric striding forward with his crucifix holy symbol held aloft to banish the spirits of the evil dead is an image straight out of Hammer Horror; it has some precedent in the scenes in The Lord of the Rings when Frodo and Sam at various stages frighten off bad guys with items of Galadriel's bric-a-brac, but it seems like an oddly stark piece of Christian iconography in what is after all a resolutely heathen game.

I also find it odd that nobody I've ever played D&D with before has come up with a unique or interesting method of turning undead. Everybody, without exception, generally just says something about...well, striding forward with their holy symbol held aloft. It seems horribly mundane.

By coincidence, I've also been thinking about Sumo quite a lot, mainly because of the current broohaha which is dominating the sports news in this neck of the woods. Sumo is a sport first and foremost, but it also has some very vague quasi-religious relics from its milennia-old history - mainly purification rituals involving throwing salt and stamping. These days those rituals have the effect of building up suspense before a bout (they're really just like WWE wrestlers trash-talking their opponents on the mic before a fight) but in days past they were enacted to frighten away evil spirits from the ring.

And that's where turning undead comes in. So without further ado, I bring you:
Asaouryu (Morning's Yellow Dragon) Proxy of Amaterasu, Goddess of the Sun and Weaver of the Gods' Robes

11th Level Specialist Cleric/8th Level FIghter (Dual Classed)
Alignment: Lawful Good

STR: 17
INT: 12
WIS: 18
CON: 16
DEX: 9
CHR: 17

Magic Items: Belt of Protection from the Elements +5, Gauntlets of Giant Strength, Robe of Animal Control

Spell Spheres (Major): All, Animal, Creation, Plant, Sun.
(Minor): Weather, Elemental, Protection, Healing, Combat

Granted Power: Sunray 3 times per day

Asaouryu is one the mightiest servants of Amaterasu, a great warrior and greater cleric, who has fought evil the length and breadth of Yamato and beyond, spreading the light of Amaterasu's sun wherever it is needed most.

Asaouryu turns undead by stamping his feet. He plants both feet firmly on the floor and slams them up and down while slapping his thighs in an elaborate ritualistic display. The force of his footsteps sends shockwaves of Amaterasu's power blasting through the spirits of the evil dead.

In a fight, he uses no weapons other than his fists and physical strength and size. He relishes a physical duel and will often issue challenges to single opponents so he can wrestle them one-on-one.


  1. I like this. It's worth putting effort into visualising unique ways of turning undead, because it is so poorly sketched out in the core rules.

  2. Hmm . . . I don't know how many undead there are roaming around Yesteryear, but I should put some thought in this. I've never put much thought into the concept behind turning undead; too busy being frustrated with the 3rd edition mechanics. Good idea.

  3. I think players need to think up more weird stuff, basically. In fact that should be a sort of motto.

  4. How about a Cleric that turns undead by a ritual similar to the Maori hakka? I think that could be quite inspiring to the Cleric's companions and reflects some of the more martial aspects of the AD&D class.
    I absolutely love your call for players (and GMs) to come up with more weird stuff. Bravo!

  5. Sacha: Yeah, I love it! Great idea.