You know how I say I feel like Rip Van Winkle, waking up to life after a 100 year nap and everything old seems new? Everything I thought I knew has passed me by?
Yeah, it happened again. I don't know why, I forgot to read that section of the DMG maybe.
I forgot what it means for a cleric to "turn" the undead. See, just the word "turn" doesn't sound right to me.
To me, to "turn" the undead sounds like making them opposite what they are, like to turn around. So, if one is undead, to turn them is to make them truly dead. Pretty slick power huh?
Nah, not even close.
Turning undead simply means to scare the holy bejeebers out of them and make them try to stay as far away from that bad ass cleric as possible. It may not be actually "fear" they are expressing, but the fact remains that they don't want to be near that Cleric.
To me, that's not "turning" the undead, that's repelling them. That's turning them into sissies from beyond the grave.
Now, I did a little searching among posts of AD&D-ers in the DragonsFoot forums. Out of the discussions I found there many folks, as usual, have house-ruled in different ways around that or even in spite of it.
For the most part, they agreed that the Cleric need not make a continual process of "turning" the undead . Once the incantation is done, it's done and said undead are continuously looking for the exit for the duration of the turning. The Cleric can shift his/her attention to other things.
The next part gets a little tricky. What happens after that? You don't expect a bunch of undead creatures trapped in a room with no exit to just stay there cowering in a corner and you just walk away from them, calling it a day, do you?
Do you attack them? Will they be easier to attack as they are being actively "turned"
Many say that the turned un-dead are now capable of being pelted by missiles from a distance (and protected in the near proximity of the turning Cleric).
Others agree with that, but say that should you try to walk up to one of them to dispatch them by sword, etc... they "snap out" of being turned and fight as though they would normally. You crossed the line and got their attention to focus. Hope you're tough enough.
Others say if you "wake" one up, you wake them all up by attacking one of them and the turning is over and let the battle begin.
Now, let's take a look at this. As written in the book, this isn't even a spell really that a cleric is casting, more of a natural ability they have. So, I think it's effectiveness, not being a "spell" so to speak, is pretty limited. More like a charm than anything. Others have relegated it even lower to a morale check for undead.
What can it really do for the Cleric and party then as an effective and useful tool in battle?
I guess, if nothing else, it buys time for the Cleric to whip out a real spell that will do something more substantial. At least the Cleric won't have undead crawling all around him/her to disrupt the spell that will lay them low.
No, no face melting, skull exploding, righteous bringer of true death to the undead is "turn undead". It'll buy you some time to focus on a real spell or run away, maybe lock them in a room. That's about it.