Saturday, June 20, 2009

House Rules - Priests

I remember reacting negatively to the introduction to 2e. Not because of the rules, because at the time, I didn't know them yet. No, because I could sense that the game I knew would be left behind. And sure enough the mindshare shifted for, what, the next 15 years?

But after playing 2e there were a few things I found I liked about it. I thought the way specialist wizards were handled added a lot of flavor with almost no added complexity-- get more spells of your school, lose an entire other school. Another was the way clerics became the more abstracted priests. Finally, there was room for the Christian saint and the Swords & Sorcery type evil snake priest, they just had different realms of spells. I think that if D&D had been more designed and less organic, this would have been the divine character class from the beginning.

I want to implement priests in my campaign, too. I've never had the problem with Vancian magic that some people do-- it is logically consistent and works great as a game mechanic. But I do recognize the value of diversity in wondrous happenings in a fantasy world. And I, personally find a Vancian system for divine casters harder to suspend my disbelief for-- Really, Thor doles out spells every morning?!

So I've decided to make priests petition their gods whenever they need help. Clerics will still have the same limits on number of spells per day-- how often they can bother their deity, but can choose what to ask for when they need it. They will also have a small chance their deity will grant additional or more powerful petitions depending on the situation.

Clerics in my campaign were (and will be) warriors involved with holy fighting orders dedicated to various saints. Clerics from different orders had slightly different spells. The order of St. Eomund, for example, was focused on justice, righteous vengeance, and the eradication of the undead. Those clerics are bad news for skeletons!


  1. I've completely ditched clerics as a PC class in my Swords & Wizardry setting. While I see the value of having divine spellcasters, I have never cared for the concept of a traveling priest. Instead, I've co-opted the cloistered cleric presented in Leomund's Tiny Hut from Dragon #68.

    That way, the PCs can still receive healing, have their dead raised, and even (thanks to that article) consult the monasteries for sagely advice.

    Since my clerics are primarily quasi-Christian in nature, I don't need the variation for pagan deity priests.

  2. That's cool. I like that freedom to customize that the OSR seems to embrace.

    I guess I never saw the clerics role in the campaign as primarily a party healer.

    Of all the classes they have potentially the best built in motivation to adventure-- they are crusaders.

    We had some great fun with a few cleric-only adventures where we went after witches and necromancers.

    I think paladins stole a lot of the clerics thunder. In my campaign, no one starts out as a paladin, they are either fighters or clerics that recieve a "calling" around 3rd level. And even then the Church likes to send clerics of the same order with them to assist in whatever duties the paladins are called to perform.

    So, how do you imagine enemy spellcasters? Are they all magic-users? Or do you have special NPC classes like Necromancers?