A Feat full of Tricks, Part II – Clerics

Magic Water Fountain Light at Night Garden

This is for the storm gods temple, remember? You're fired.

Cleric Tricks are kind of awkward. After all, most of the other classes have clearly defined roles; Druids, Paladins, and Wizards are may use a variety of tactics, but we know what they do.

Clerics… not so much. Are they the Spanish Inquisition? Laid-back Universal Unitarians? Holy Men? Demon Worshipers? Cultists? Hermit-Philosophers? Military Heroes? Wise Councilors? Wandering Preachers and Missionaries? Sedate Keepers of Temples?

When the answer is “All of the above!” or even simply “Yes!” there’s a bit of a problem.

That, of course, goes all the way back to the early editions – where the actual mechanics were minimal, the game master was supposed to play the cleric’s patron and be heavily involved in the spell choices (often permanently denying any that were out of theme), and the generic cleric base was supposed to be whittled down a bit to suit the deity in question. Your battle-god wanted his Clerics to show their courage by fighting in light armor? Your cleric did just that or he or she did not get his or her spells renewed.

In later editions, of course, the role of the game master faded; as the rules grew more complex, he or she no longer had time to fiddle with individual player-character choices. Speciality Clerics were introduced to help deal with the problem – but there wasn’t any quick-and-simple way to handle game master involvement in spell selection, or to place some spells either off-limits or make them “only available in exceptional circumstances”, without making a long list for each god.

That wasn’t practical, so “staying in theme” fell back on the players.

You can guess how well that worked. Some players DID do a wonderful job. They played their priests to suit their characters god. Sadly, that only tended to happen with the deep-immersion role-players.

Others, of course, simply took everything the Cleric class made available, rather than stripping out the items that didn’t fit in their particular deity. Sometimes that was simply because they leaned towards the “gamist” side of things, and regarded not taking every possible advantage that was offered as poor gameplay – which, by the gamist standard, indeed it was. Sometimes it was because the intent wasn’t clear – and sometimes it was just because that was the way the game was being played when they were introduced to it.

It worked reasonably well for awhile – long enough to cover the transition – simply because of a few lines in the first edition player’s handbook:

A study of the spells usable by clerics (see CHARACTER SPELLS) will convey the main purpose of the cleric. That is, the cleric serves to fortify, protect, and revitalize.

That told everyone who wasn’t into deep immersion that clerics were boring. They didn’t do the exciting bits; they were support characters!

When Druids were folded into Clerics, people got the same impression of them.

It took quite awhile before it became common knowledge that – if you just took everything that the class had to offer – your supposed “pacifistic priestess of the goddess of mercy” could be a mighty warrior, powerful spellcaster, and an all-around badass.

No, that made no sense – but now that CoDzilla had arrived, “sense” bought tickets for Hawaii and went on an extended vacation.

Ergo, our “Cleric Tricks” are going to include packages for several different roles rather than a generic boost. That way we can give clerics some individuality again quickly and easily.

It’s interesting to consider how the Dungeons and Dragons game might have gone if – instead of “speciality priests” – later editions had split up the “Cleric” class a bit. While that would have made party composition more awkward, and annoyed the people who already disliked playing a “support character” even more, turning the early edition generic “Cleric” into a small suite of classes – perhaps “Guardian”, “Demon Hunter”, “Cultist”, and “Councilor / Healer” – might have worked quite well.

If you want to try that in Eclipse, simply note that the costs for the “Cleric” and “Druid” progressions are already considered “Corrupted” / outside of a few basics (the list in Paths of Power is pretty good) the spell selection must fit a relatively narrow theme. CoDzilla-style full access will then cost 50% more – forcing some tough choices and reducing the number of points available to buy hit dice, attack bonuses, saves, and other special abilities.

Cleric Tricks

Limitations: All Cleric Tricks require:

  • Ongoing, “on screen”, devotion to the deity in question – refraining from activities the deity disapproves of, performing minor rituals honoring the deity in question, supporting the church and undertaking occasional missions for it, acting in accordance with the values of his or her faith, and otherwise making his or her religion a major factor in the character’s life.
  • Acceptance of life as a target. Drawing on the power of your faith directly, for “Cleric Tricks”, tends to draw opposing forces. A firebrand preacher is a threat to other faiths, a demon-hunter to undead and manifestations of darkness, and so on – and threatened creatures tend to fight back.
  • Focus – either an appropriate holy symbol or several minutes of concentration and prayer.

Firebrand Preacher Tricks:

Firebrands are the mouths of the gods, voices crying out in an unbelieving wilderness, and speakers for those who dare not speak for themselves.

  • Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will (neither pain nor magic can dent the faith of the Firebrand), Elfshot (Specialized and Corrupted for Triple Effect: this only works against religious enemies or during religious confrontations and only when the user’s patron god approves of the usage. Even then, it only equates to the effects of the “Bestow Curse” spell), and Glamour (Specialized for Double Effect; only while preaching or inspiring other members of the faith).
  • Advanced Abilities: Advanced Glamour (Specialized as per Glamour, above, allowing the Firebrand to sway crowds, spread the word, and offer substantial morale bonuses to masses of the faithful), The Sight (Firebrands are notorious for prophecy and issuing dread warnings from their god), and Dismissal (many weaker spells and spirits are unable to withstand the voice of the Firebrand).
  • Pact: Duties. It is the duty of the Firebrand to carry the word of his or her faith into places that would rather not hear it, to be a light in the darkness (or vice versa), and to inspire the populace to rise up against anything that’s incompatible with their faith. At their best, Firebrands may lead slave revolts, overthrow repressive governments, and scour away terrible infestations. At their worst they may exterminate thousands over religious quibbles labeled “heresy”, cause wars, and watch approvingly while their followers burn down cities. Either way, they’re rarely welcomed by secular (or practical) authorities.

Wise Councilor Tricks

The will of the gods is often obscure – but ventures which challenge it rarely prosper. Few realms dare attempt to make do without a priestly advisor who can invoke the blessings of the gods on their behalf.

Wise Councilors are usually expected to be learned, capable of offering useful council on a wide variety of topics, and to be willing and able to spirit youthful heirs away from evil usurpers on a moments notice – but those are optional extras.

  • Basic Abilities: The Adamant Will (a councilor must be able to keep secrets), The Inner Eye (an eye for motivations and hidden creatures is a vital skill for any councilor), and Infliction (a councilor must be able to defend himself or herself in SOME fashion).
  • Advanced Abilities: Blessing, Divination, and Warding. The Councilor must be able to aid and protect his charges and to obtain information – all of which this set of abilities allows, at least in desperate situations.
  • Pact: Either Rituals or Guardianship. Wise Councilors are almost always responsible types – which means that they can be entrusted with acting as regents, looking after those evil artifacts, or presiding at major religious ceremonies.

Alternative sets of advanced abilities include Spirit Binding, Advanced Spirit Binding, and Web of Shadows (allowing the Grand Vizier variant to instill compulsions, seal oaths, command spirits, and collect a selection of minions) and The Dark Flame, Mouth of the Earth, and Spirit of the Sage – granting the Religious Leader enhanced intelligence and charisma when he or she needs it, as well as the ability to gather some minions or spies.

7 Responses

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