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 allows Knights and Priests to frighten, and possibly even destroy or pacify, nearby undead creatures by calling upon the power of their deity.

Only those two roles can use this ability. Members of other roles using the command will attempt to cast the turn undead spell if they know it, or else be told, "You don't know how to turn undead!".

#Turn undead is, in fact, a special sort of prayer to your god, not a spell, although it doesn't affect your prayer timeout.

The name comes from Dungeons and Dragons, where it is a specific supernatural ability for causing undead beings to turn and flee. There are some unfortunate linguistic ambiguities associated with it in NetHack; for instance, the #turn command has the description "Turn undead", which might make a beginning player assume that it causes their character to become an undead creature!

Effects

Using the #turn command has the following effects[1]:

  • Exercises wisdom.
  • Turns all hostile undead monsters that you can see with a base range of 5 squares. Range increases by 1 square every 5 levels. If your level is higher than 15, hostile demons are turned as well. Affected monsters have a chance of resisting.
  • These monsters are woken if they are sleeping.
  • If you are lawful or neutral, certain classes of undead monsters may be killed instantly. If you are chaotic, they may become peaceful. These monsters are, in increasing order of difficulty: zombie, mummy, wraith, vampire, ghost, lich.
  • Demons and those undead who are not killed will flee. If you are confused, the command removes fleeing and paralysis effects from those monsters instead.
  • You become helpless for 5 turns while you are praying. (Ouch!) In 3.6.1 the paralysis is reduced by 1 turn for every 6 experience levels after the first, down to 1 turn at level 25.[2]
  • Breaks atheist conduct

Turning will not work correctly in the following circumstances:

Destruction/Pacification

If you are high enough level, turned undead monsters must make a second resistance check or be destroyed instantly (turned peaceful if you are chaotic).

Monster Class Minimum Level
zombies 6
mummies 8
wraiths 10
vampires 12
ghosts 14
liches 16

(It is thus 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.)

Strategy

Generally, any undead that this command can kill can be disposed just as easily by hitting them until they die (again), with none of the helplessness nastiness 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.

References