Friday, September 24, 2010

Hiero's Journey, Dune and Further Musings Regarding Clerics

So I've been getting ready to read Hiero's Journey again, a buddy and I were talking about it and how great of an example of a D&D Cleric he makes. And it makes D&D sense, with high level clerics being better fighters than fighters, Hiero is a stone killer on account of than.

Another great example of a genre literary example of a possible cleric is the Bene Gessit of Dune. I guess the weirding way is another example of the fighting capabilities of a high level cleric. Plus, they totally use the Command spell!

I haven't been keen on the idea of the Cleric class and their ability to cast spells due to divine intervention; I very much prefer the idea of the true attributes and even the existence of deities in D&D to be ambiguous, with exceptions for immortal God-Emperors, blasphemous thing from before time and the like. Although I though it was total horseshit when I first got Menzter Basic D&D and it said that clerics may derive their powers from philosophies or something along those line, nowadays I like the idea of magic powered Clerics belonging to esoteric-ish sects that imbue their members with preternatural abilities via intense training and conditions, preternatural abilities. A lot of cleric spells could be seen as psychic abilities, unlocked via the secrets of one's order.

Of course with my two examples above there's conflicts withe the traditional clerical prohibition against edged weapons, and the ability to turn undead (although one could argue the Hiero may have turned/destroyed an undead in the Palood), but my current simulacra of choice, LOTFPWFRPG, solves that conundrum.

When thinking about the prohibitions against edged weapons it's interesting to according to LBB OD&D that magic swords are explicitly restricted to fighters, I see it as a bit of genre protection for Fighting Men. The only mechanical effect of weapon restrictions for clerics (and magic users) is that they don't benefit from those sweet magic swords!

Perhaps the eldritch emanations from magic swords suffer interference from the magical auras of spell-casting characters, and are disabled in their grasp...


  1. My thoughts on turn undead lately have been to de-emphasize the divine connection. Clerics represent Zeal, in what isn't directly relevant. Undeath represents total annihilation and the death of all ambition. That's why zombies are the opposite of lamas.

  2. I'm a huge fan of Hiero's Journey, and I've never actually though tof him as a D&D style cleric, if only because the existence of God seems to be an open question in the novel, and it doesn't seem like that's where Hiero's power comes from. However, your take on it is really cool, and I'm going to have to rethink it now.

  3. For D&D clerics, I decided that I didn't like them, so I chose a slightly different tack:
    1. Strictly enforce the Spells Known numbers on INT table II of the AD&D Player's Handbook.
    2. Replace that silly 'ALL' in the entry for 19 INT.
    3. Consolidate all the spells available in Kellri's awesome OS Spell Reference. I took out duplicates and spell level is the first level it was available for any class)
    4. Create several magical 'Traditions' including 'Magic-User,' 'Elven,' 'Druidic' and 'Illusionist.'
    5. Each Tradition rates each spell as Common (consists of 75% of spells available on a random scroll from that tradition), Uncommon (24%) and Rare (1%).
    5. Require each magic using character to select a Tradition, this let's that character choose from that Tradition's list of Common spells whenever they get new spells for going up a level.
    6. Spells that are Common for your tradition give you a 15% bonus on your Learn Spell roll. Uncommon give you a 10% bonus. Rare spells for your tradition give you no bonus.

    This has several interesting effects:
    In Kellri's OSSR, there are, for instance 105 non-duplicated 1st level spells! When you can ONLY know 18 of them with an 18 INT you have some very interesting choices: Specialize or Generalize, but you can't ever know them all. Every time your player encounters a scroll he's now given interesting choices: Do I learn this spell and reduce my available spell knowledge slots or keep it on the scroll. If it's Common to my Tradition, it's easier to learn, but if it's rare to my Tradition, it might be worth taking the risk of destroying it to copy it into my spellbook.

    Secondly, it really enhances the flavor of the various 'types' of magic one expects. The Druidic tradition has lots of plant and animal spells in their Common list, and a bunch of healing and divination in the Uncommon list. When I want to make a Druidic NPC, I just pick a bunch of spells from the Common list, fewer spells from the Uncommon list and none or one from the Rare list. Elves get some of the nature spells and some of the Illusionist spells in their Common and Uncommon lists. If I wanted to create a Priest of some sort, I just create a new Common, Uncommon and Rare list for them.

    Lastly, because I already know what's Common, Uncommon and Rare, whenever I roll up a random scroll of that type, I can just roll on the appropriate Tradition list!

    Random table friendly, Resource management enabling and it gets rid of the Cleric class once and for all, what's not to love?

  4. I like your point regarding clerics abilities being granted them through intense training and study within the confines of a cult's own rituals rather than being a gift from his/her god. I have, in my DnD campaign, put my PCs on a path similar to this. Each devotional cult has its own rules and culture and the PCs have to play by the rules of their cult in order to have the oppurtunities required to train and study their way up to the next level. Using divine magic is less a matter of studying and memorizing arcane formulas (like a mage), it is more a metter of using your own mental strength and and training to unlock the natural powers that lie dormant within the universe.