|Now imagine the cross is a pole, and she's a chasm. Image found HERE.|
At its heart, an RPG (or really any game) is just a collection of mechanics hiding underneath a layer of fluff. In an old school world, simplicity and, to some degree, minimalism is important - that means getting as much mileage as possible from the rules you have, so that you can avoid creating new rules. One rule mechanic that doesn’t get used enough, I think, is the Turn Undead table.Well ... let me rephrase that. It gets used all the time when people are turning undead, but the rule concept itself could probably be used to do more than just turn undead.
What follows are a few ideas for how you can tweak the Turn Undead table.
1. Alternate Targets
I've used the basic concept of "turning" in my games and unhinged it from the undead. The beastmaster class I wrote, for example, can turn animals. I meant it as a means of representing Tarzan's ability to cow animals and send them packing without having to necessarily fight them. In Grit & Vigor, I played with the idea of letting the dreadnought (a sort of big, scary guy archetype ... think Mr. T) use a table like that to frighten low-level NPCs, or at least stun them into inaction. I'm picturing Mr. T walking into a room and glaring at the thugs while he and the A-Team walk through unscathed, nobody daring to mess with them.
What else can you turn?
Different alignments - perhaps a wretched villainous NPC can force good creatures away through a sort of self-righteous repulsion. Maybe a chaotic troublemaker has the ability to turn authorities, though in this case it would represent the troublemaker avoiding their notice rather than frightening them away.
Different creatures - if the beastmaster can turn animals, maybe a dragon slayer can attempt to turn dragons (probably only succeeding on the little ones). What about turning reptiles, or turning elementals, or turning specific creature types as a lesser special ability?
2. Alternate Effects
I already hit on this above, in the chaotic troublemaker using "turn undead" to avoid the notice of lawful creatures. You could also replace turn/destroy (and rebuke/command) with ...
Annoy/enrage (a jester class might use this)
Charm/control (or dominate, great for a succubus class)
Stun/confuse (a riddlemaster? Kirk dealing with computers?)
Maybe a swashbuckler can "turn blades" as a way to represent a lone swordsman confronted with a multitude of minor combatants. One swipe of his blade, and a random number of lesser swordsmen are "parried/disarmed".
I'm sure there are many other possible variations. Just think in terms of partial success/complete success, pick a class of targets, and you're done.
3. Alternate Function
The Elementalist class I wrote used a variation on the turn undead chart to cast spells. For the elementalist, the idea was that the magician was controlling elemental spirits and forcing them to create the magic effects on his behalf, so a turn undead table made sense.
You could further twist the Turn Undead table concept to entertain crowds, convert heathens or solve conundrums. How about turning spells, using the Turn Undead mechanic as a counterspell mechanic.
In fact, the Turn Undead table could probably serve as a general task resolution mechanic - rate the difficulty of a task from 1 to 10 (or skeleton to vampire - "Gee Bob, that chasm's a real vampire - are you sure you want to try to jump it?) and roll the dice.
Just a few ideas for getting the most out of your chosen ruleset.