Tag Archives: Clerics

What Character do you Want to Play in the Future?

Stay on target, stay on target!

Today’s question:

27. What character do you want to play in the future?

There are two candidates.  I’m on something of a dwarf kick right now, no doubt The Hobbit movies have something to do with it, plus I’m running the Lamentations of the Flame Princess module Hammers of the God for my Google+ group.  Although I’ve always liked dwarves with their subterranean cities and hardened attitude.  I always wished that Tolkien had written more about his dwarves.  One of the lasting images I have is Tolkien’s descriptions of grim dwarves in their heavy armor and great helmets advancing through dragon fire during the ancient battles with Morgoth.

I love dungeon delving, so it’s hard not to like a race built around it.

The other I’d like to take a crack at is a cleric.  I would love to explore the cleric in greater detail as a player, it’s a class I largely overlooked back when I was playing a lot.  I spoke more in detail about this in an earlier post.

Of course in an AD&D setting I could combine these ideas and play a dwarf cleric, though a human cleric has more appeal to me.  Sometimes mixing concepts is fantastic, but sometimes I want to explore the archetype.


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Posted by on September 27, 2013 in Gaming


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Favorite NPC

Day 14 of the 30 Day D&D Challenge!

Today’s question:

14. Who is your favorite NPC?

My favorite NPC was the cleric Morgan Blackshield who was a long-running nemesis for my party and featured in their quest for a five part staff.  Part of that tale can be found here.

In that game world the politics were dynamic, filled with wars and shifting alliances.  Morgan served a powerful theocracy called the Instrumentality who worshiped beings from another dimension known as the 12 Gods.  These gods were always spoken of collectively and their individual names and roles were close guarded secrets of the church, but their divine magic was mighty and they provided other advantages to their church.  Through a dimensional rift they granted weapons and equipment from a much higher technology level, on par with what player might recover from adventures like Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.  Comic book fans may recognize the source I used for the Instrumentality from the classic science fiction comic Dreadstar

Morgan was one of their most influential clerics and he traveled the lands hunting the clerics of the native deities and promoting the wars fought by the theocracy.  He was a refined nobleman who was as at home in high court as on the battlefield and he was a consummate planner.  He had the resources of an empire and he knew how to use them.  Despite the efforts of the players he sealed an alliance with the high elven kingdom.  He fought in the war against the powerful human monarchy and the northern wood elves.  He had a bad habit of turning up at the worst times for the party.  He was part Emile Belloq, part Inspector Javier, with a dash of Darth Vader thrown in for good measure.

Morgan was the kind of villain who developed a relationship with the players.  He’d turn up as a fellow guest of a noble lord, leading to verbal sparring over the dinner table.  He’d banter with them as their forces fought and killed each other.  There was grudging respect between Morgan and the players and their blood feud had an almost gentlemanly quality to it.

There was never a final reckoning.  As often happens the campaign drifted apart before finishing, though the players were gaining the upper hand in their struggle by that time.  I don’t think things would have ended well for Morgan Blackshield, but I’m sure he’d have met his end with a spiteful smile on his face.

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Posted by on September 14, 2013 in Gaming


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Clerics of Babylon

This is a follow-up to my post about clerics and using divine magic to add flavor of the campaign world.

For this example I’m going to use the Basic Edition 1st level clerical spells and the Babylonian pantheon from Deities & Demigods.  Spell changes can be as simple as modifying the name or it can include changes to the spell effects based on the deity.  This also allows multiple flavors of the same basic spell depending on which god is prayed to.  Each is learned individually, so for example the cleric will choose between praying for Healing of Ishtar or Rally Cry of Marduk depending on which he thinks will better suit his needs.  This also helps to increase the options available to the spell caster instead of decreasing them.

Cure Light Wounds – Touch of Anu: This spell works exactly as Cure Light Wounds is written.

Cure Light Wounds – Healing of Ishtar: This spell works exactly as the normal Cure Light Wounds spell except that it grants a +1 to healing damage done in combat and a -1 (minimum of 1) to damage done in any other way.

Cure Light Wounds – Surge of Marduk: Instead of healing one target, this spell creates a pool of 3d6 points of healing magic.  These points may be divided among as many targets as the cleric has levels.  This spell only works on those acting in defense of a city.

Detect Evil – Revelation of Girru: This spell works exactly as Detect Evil is written.

Detect Evil (reversed) – Mask of Nergal: This is the reversed version of Detect Evil.

Detect Magic – Spark of Girru: This spell works exactly as Detect Magic.  Instead of glowing, magical items appear covered in fire.  The fire gives off no heat and will not cause any damage.

Light – Radiance of Anu: This spell works exactly as Light is written.

Light (reversed) – Cloak of Anshar: This spell works exactly as the reversed form of Light.

Light – Spark of Girru: This spell uses an otherwise ordinary torch, increasing its longevity and radius of illumination to match that of a Light spell.  The torch is otherwise normal, still able to set fires, be extinguished, and gives off smoke as normal.

Protection from Evil – Shield of Anu: This spell works exactly as Protection from Evil is written.

Protection from Evil (reversed) – Fist of Druaga: This spell works exactly as the reversed Protection from Evil spell.

Protection from Evil – Arm of Ishtar: This spell is similar to the Protection from Evil spell, except that it must be cast on a fighter.

Purify Food and Water – Purification of Anu: This spell works exactly as the Purify Food and Water spell is written.

Remove Fear – Rally Cry of Marduk: This spell works exactly as the Remove Fear spell is written.

Remove Fear (reversed) – Gaze of Dahak: This spell works as the reversed form of Remove Fear is written.

Resist Cold – Cloak of Girru: This spell works as the revised form of Resist Cold.  The cleric appears to be sheathed in flames.


Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Game Design and Mechanics, Gaming, World Design


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Clerics, Gods, and Magic

For most of its history Dungeons & Dragons has been a pantheistic world where the gods of many societies exist and vie for influence.  Books like Deities & Demigods encouraged this melting-pot and the progressive codification of the Outer Planes describing where different gods lived drove home the idea that a disjointed collection of cosmic beings was the de facto norm for the game world.

We like having lots of gods in our game worlds.  We like capricious gods, jealous gods, protective gods, warrior gods, nature gods, and evil gods.  This appeal can be seen everywhere from actual human religions to those of fantasy.  Even many monotheistic religions appeal to this with saints, angels, and demons who fill similar cosmological roles as the demigods of pantheistic religions.  There is something in human nature that finds it easier to identify with lots of individuals who have their own personalities and proclivities.  Maybe it’s simply that it offers better opportunities for storytelling.

This is a fine situation for world building and works great for just about every character concept, except the one it should be most important to; the cleric.  Clerics are the instruments of divine will upon the world, holy warriors who wield mystical powers gained through prayer.  This is reflected in their level titles (remember those?) which for Basic D&D are Acolyte, Adept, and Priest/Priestess for levels one through three respectively.  I’ve said before that the cleric is the class least easily identified with in fantasy literature, but in a universe where gods directly intervene in mortal affairs the presence of empowered followers doing their will makes sense.  For many cultures this is the sole basis of magic.

In a pantheistic society there is usually an understanding that all the deities have a role to play and should be respected, or at least placated.  A proper cleric should be the spokesperson for their pantheon, but while we like having multiple gods it’s hard for us to conceive of a holy warrior who represents an entire group instead of a single patron.  Maybe this comes from the same appeal we have for pantheons in the first place, the desire to link a single personality to an ideal.  Maybe it is because most of us come from a real world society dominated by monotheistic religions whose core tenants forbid the patronage of other deities.

Whatever the reason, it’s far more likely that you’ll find someone playing a “cleric of Thor” or “priestess of Ishtar” than a “weapon of the Gods of the Isles”.  Again, where world building is concerned, this isn’t a problem.

Where it does cause issues is in dealing with clerical magic.  Why would a god of darkness grant his cleric the Light spell?  Why would a goddess of pain grant her servants healing spells?  The spell list for clerics is wider than the scope of a single god.

There are a few solutions to this theological problem.*

1) Ignore it and just play the game.  This is the default answer that Dungeons & Dragons used up until 2nd Edition.  The advantage is that it’s quick and easy.  It’s suitable for a player who doesn’t want to get into the specifics of  a religion and for characters who do want to role play a specific religion it’s not going to break the game.

2) Restrict what spells a god will grant their clerics.  The 2nd Edition Complete Priest’s Handbook introduced the idea of clerics whose powers are limited based on their faith.  These restrictions are offset by strengths in areas related to the deity.  Thus the cleric of a death god would not have access to Cure Light Wounds, but would gain powers to Command Undead and Inspire Fear in compensation.  This has the value of logic but at the cost of flexibility and a big part of the appeal of spell casters is versatility.

3) Roll up your sleeves and play with the spell tables.  A cleric in a pantheistic religion, even a cleric devoted to a specific patron deity, is going to call on the powers of all the gods.  Conveying that goes a long way towards bringing the world to life.  If you can do it by increasing a player’s options instead of limiting them it’s even better, and since what defines clerics as warriors of the gods is their magic that’s the best place to start.

In my next post I’m going to demonstrate my idea, so stay tuned.

*These options are not mutually exclusive.  If one player wants to take option two and another likes option three, game balance won’t be upset.


Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Game Design and Mechanics, Gaming, World Design


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