Posted by : David Guyll March 12, 2012
Previous incarnations of turn undead both ruled and sucked. It was awesome because it could get undead to flee or instantly destroy them, and it sucked because it could get undead to flee or destroy them. There was basically no middle ground here; you would either get them to leg it--and there is no way I could describe a zombie or skeleton running with a straight face--vaporize them, or do nothing at all. Also for some reason every cleric got this ability, no matter what god they worshiped or what their attitude toward undead was. 4th Edition was not really different, but at least it dealt some damage and could be modified through feats.
My personal preference for turn undead would be to attach it to gods that would make sense to have it, namely Pelor, or just make it one of many options for clerics to nab if it makes sense, such as by class feature or feat. Also if Mearls wants turn undead to be something for players to consider, why not make it so that you can activate it, but it requires the cleric to continuously concentrate on it for it to work? Like, so long as the cleric keeps burning through Standard actions each turn it generates an area that undead cannot enter, deals, damage, imposes a penalty, etc etc.
Hell, you could have it so that weak undead are burned by it or forced back while in the area of effect, while stronger undead merely take an attack or defense penalty (though I do like Mearls's idea of adding a turn effect into a monster's stats). This makes it a consideration without making it an opener or something that is whipped out with an Action Point to just immediately tip the fight in the party's favor. It also evokes scenes in movies where the priest keeps chanting and brandishing a holy symbol to keep a vampire or demon away, or even that scene in Return of the King where Sam keeps Shelob back.