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No More Clerics?

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I've seen a lot of discussion about the Cleric on some of the boards and blogs I visit over the past few weeks. Like at least a few others, I am now wondering if the Cleric class is really needed for old school style or swords & sorcery style games.

After thinking about this a bit, I have tentatively decided to get rid of clerics in my upcoming For Gold & Glory Microlite20 variant. The various cure spells will disappear. Alchemists and herbalists will make potions that can be bought that duplicate their effects to some extent. Other clerical spells will be merged into the arcane lists.

Turn undead as an ability will be gone, but any holy symbol presented by a strongly devout follower of the symbol's deity will cause most undead to hesitate at bit. Magical item holy symbols will have the old clerical turn undead ability as a magic power.

Some other changes I had previously decided to make in the FG&G will probably make the healing without clerics work better. Hit Points (normally) fully recover after a night's rest. A character is not actually injured beyond the "cuts and scrapes and sprains" level until he takes "Body Point" (BP) damage. BP damage is taken after you run out of HP (or when you suffer a critical hit). Body Points recover 1 (or perhaps STR bonus) per day of full rest. While one has BP damage, one only recovers 50% of lost hit points per night of rest, suffers a -1 for every two points of BP damage taken to all "action-type" rolls, and has to a make a roll each day of more than light activity or you lose another BP.

I'm interested in hearing what people think of this idea.

Blotz said...
February 26, 2009 at 7:27 PM  

As a variant HP system I like it. Anything that further clarifies D&D's hp system is cool with me. I'm thinking of replacing clerics in the C&C game bubbling in my head with a non religious "mystic" class that covers most of the bases spell wise (power over undeaed, recovery of hp) and using a similar injury and recovery system.

jamused said...
February 26, 2009 at 10:33 PM  

Interesting. I'm planning on using a very similar mechanic to what you're talking about with HP/BP for the home-brew I'm working on (except I've been calling them Stamina/Hit Points).

As for eliminating clerics, I'm neither for nor against. 3e (and maybe even 2, I'm not sure) definitely took it too far in the direction of wizards and clerics are essentially the same thing, just with different spell lists. On the other hand, I've never been particularly sold on the "sword & sorcery didn't have them" line of thought. Sword & sorcery had darn few MUs as protagonists, either. And you can't get more Old School for RPGs than Fighting Man, Cleric, MU.

I'm sure you can make a perfectly workable game without them. (Probably without MUs for that matter.) But I'm not sure that I see their lack as enhancing the game.

Joseph said...
February 26, 2009 at 10:41 PM  

I actually thought about the same thing a while ago. Clerics, as a class, do seem somewhat superfluous. In the literature, priests are invariably either magicians (i.e., REH's Conan stories) or scholars of some non-arcane sort.

The repeated references that EGG made to basing the cleric class on a combination of Bishop Odo and Van Helsing is interesting, but doesn't really justify putting them into a spellcasting position. If the special clerical spells are either eliminated or folded into the magic-user spell-lists (and there really isn't much justification for *not* doing so, other than the desire to have a different sort of spellcaster), "priest" becomes more of an occupation and less of an archetypical "class", much the same way as an innkeeper can be a 3rd level thief, or a blacksmith a 2nd level fighter.

Chgowiz said...
February 27, 2009 at 9:18 AM  

I can see pluses and minuses to getting rid of the cleric. If it matches the setting, it's nice to have the option to get rid of it. Personally, I am so ingrained with the 3 (4) classes that I almost instinctively justify them.

Jonathan said...
February 27, 2009 at 1:01 PM  

hey randall.. this is somewhat off topic, but I ran a 5-part series about the cleric and its historical development across editions of D&D over on The Core Mechanic last fall. Here's the round up (part 5 of the series). anyway.. thought you might be interested.

On topic though : i now think of clerics as soldiers more so than priests. ANY class can be a priest of their diety imho. in this way, it stripes clerics of their duties as a pastor and opens up some "twists" for players expecting the usual. "What? That 'cleric' is _backstabbing me_ ?"

Randall said...
February 27, 2009 at 5:59 PM  

Blotz and Jamused,

The variant HP system is an M20 adaptation of a system I used in the early 1980s. The major change is monsters don't have Body Points -- in the original they had twice their hit dice in Body Points. I decided that an M20 variant did not need that complexity, especially when it really did not add much to the game.


While Clerics as a special class will be gone, anyone who wants to play a cleric-type character with access to special "holy powers" could take a Specialist with his area of expertise being his religion and its rituals. As anyone can use elaborate rituals to cast "magic" in FG&G, a Specialist (Cleric) would be able to do some rituals like Raise Dead using the rituals of his religion. They wouldn't be cast a quick spell type, but more like (for raise dead) an hours long ritual in a temple or shrine with multiple people and some special materials involved. Actually, one wouldn't even need to play a Specialist, a fighter could do this, but he'd have to find the rituals.

This would also be how evil sorcerers are handled. The would be Specialist (Sorcerer) with access to all sorts of strange powers and rituals through their pact with some demon or godling. Generally lots of nasty stuff like human sacrifice would be required making them pure Swords & Sorcery style villains.


That was a great series of articles on the Cleric. Thanks much for posting the link. I've added your blog to my RSS reader.

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