Turn undead

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This article is about the #turn command. For other uses, see Turn undead (disambiguation).

The #turn (turn undead) extended command is a command in NetHack. It is a form of special prayer to your god (independent of normal prayer) that allows you to attempt turning away undead monsters (rather than turning you into one, given the ambiguous syntax), and thus breaks atheist conduct.

The command has a special effect for the Knight and Priest roles, and will attempt to cast the spell of turn undead for all other roles if they know it, printing a message with no effect otherwise.


To use #turn, you must be able to speak.

The following effects occur for Knights and Priests using #turn:[1]

  • All hostile undead monsters within line of sight and a range of 8 + xlvl / 5 (rounded down, where xlvl is your experience level) must pass a check against their monster MR, or else they are turned: turning an undead monster awakens and scares them for an indefinite duration. Depending on your experience level and the class of undead monster (indicated in the table below), successfully turned monsters must make a second check against monster MR - monsters that fail this check become peaceful if you are chaotic, and are otherwise instantly killed.
  • You become helpless for up to five turns while you are praying, with a reduction of 1 turn for every 6 experience levels after the first: you are helpless for 5 turns at levels 1–6, 4 turns at levels 7–12, 3 turns at levels 13–18, 2 turns at levels 19–24, and 1 turn at levels 25–30.[2]

Knights and Priests using this command exercise wisdom.

Failure effects

Turning will not work correctly and has other effects in the following circumstances:

  • If you are polymorphed into an undead monster or a demon, and your god is not chaotic, you abuse wisdom and aggravate monsters.
  • If your god is extremely angry with you, you abuse wisdom and aggravate monsters.
  • If you are in Gehennom, your god is inaccessible and you will aggravate monsters.
  • If you are confused, you will awaken and unparalyze all monsters that would otherwise have been affected, and helplessness occurs as normal.

List of affected monsters

The table below displays the minimum level required for an undead monster of each class to be potentially killed instantly by the #turn command (or made peaceful if chaotic):

Monster class Minimum Level
Z zombies 6
M mummies 8
W wraiths 10
V vampires 12
  ghosts 14
L liches 16

It is theoretically possible to instantaneously destroy an arch-lich by #turning if you are at least level 16 and beat its MR of 90 in two sequential rolls, and are outside its native Gehennom. Vampires can only be destroyed or pacified if they are in base form (V), not if they are in a shapeshifted form (Bvd), though they will still be scared when shapeshifted.


Generally, any singular or even small groups of undead that this command can kill can be disposed of just as easily by hitting them until they die (again), with none of the helplessness that this command entails. However, lawful and neutral characters with enough levels will find that this is a very efficient way in clearing out graveyards. For lawful and neutral Priests, whose quest involves fighting through dozens of graveyards and hundreds of undead enemies, this command can probably save them hundreds to thousands of turns compared to defeating every undead they come across one at a time. Keep in mind, however, that the Valley of the Dead is considered part of Gehennom, and turn undead will not work on the graveyards there.


In NetHack 3.6.3 and previous versions, including some variants based on those versions, the #turn command could be used regardless of your ability to speak, and only works on monsters that you can actually see.


The name comes from Dungeons and Dragons, where it is a specific supernatural ability for causing undead beings to turn and flee.


You don't know how to turn undead!
You are not a Knight or Priest, and attempted to use #turn without knowing the spell of turn undead.



In FIQHack, the duration of helplessness scales lower with your experience level: At level 1, you will be helpless for 5 turns, while at level 24 you will be helpless for 1 turn; at level 30, you will be helpless for one action.

The Mitre of Holiness allows praying in Gehennom, including the use of #turn.


In EvilHack, mindless monsters cannot be scared, meaning that the command is ineffective against the much tougher zombies until you reach experience level six. The Mitre of Holiness also allows prayer and use of #turn in Gehennom as in FIQHack.