Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Clerics of Cinder

In part 2 of my draft Labyrinth Lord house rules I added some details to the way magic-users operate in my Cinder campaign setting. Today I’m tackling clerics.

Turn, turn, turn that gang of vampires. That gang of vampires.
When a cleric succeeds at turning undead roll 2d6 for number of creatures affected, regardless of hit dice. (This really gives turning some oomph at higher levels. And it gives me an excuse to use oodles of badass undead.)

The gods loathe fence-sitters
Low level clerics can be of any of the three alignments, just like any other class. However, upon achieving seventh level a neutral cleric must choose to align themselves with Law or Chaos. Staying with neutrality means you’re stuck at sixth level forever. If you’re a neutral cleric of the Lawful-oriented Church of the Great Gold Dragon the presumption is that you’ll go with Law. Similarly, neutral clerics of the Frog Gods of Chaos generally join the chaotics. You may opt to go the other way, but you are considered to have secretly converted. Only clerics of chaos can cast the reversed versions of standard cleric spells and they cannot cast the normal non-reversed spells.

It’s not just an adventure, it’s a job.
Every cleric is a member of a hierarchy of their faith, and must answer to that hierarchy. When a cleric reaches third level they can expect an appointment to a post as a village priest, whereby they will be responsible for maintenance of the local shrine, oversight of the lay members of the faith and officiating at the proper festivals. Reaching sixth level generally leads to further promotion to a bishopric, resulting in either appointment to the leadership of a large urban temple or as a supervisor over a group of village priests.

No double dipping
Miracles are not dime-a-dozen repeatable events and therefore the same spell cannot be memorized twice. That is to say a second level cleric can memorize one cure light wounds and one resist cold, but not two cure lights or two resist colds.

The above rules are ultimately derived from my reading of the cleric material in OD&D. I kicked around the idea of using the cleric spell chart from Men & Magic, because I like that 6th level OD&D clerics inexplicably gain access to both third and fourth level spells. (You go from 2 first and 2 second level spells at fifth level to 2/2/1/1.) But I didn't want to take away the first level spell that newly minted clerics get under Labyrinth Lord. That goes against my general house-ruling philosophy that PCs should be at least as awesome under my house rules as they are in the book. ("No double dipping" is in direct opposition to this rule-of-thumb and I should probably devote a future post to why I'm imposing this rule.)

Also, for players who want to play clerics but don't want to delve too deeply into the campaign background, I intend to have some dice charts for random divine allegiance. For the average dungeon delve it doesn't matter that much whether a Lawful cleric is a member of the mainstream Universal Church of the Great Gold Dragon or the rival Ancient Church or one of the Brass Heretics. But it will matter in adventures in towns and NPC encounters.


  1. Anonymous9:47 PM

    No memorizing two cure light wounds seems really rough. Is it that you want to take away magical healing, or do you have a beef with more than one resist cold in the arsenal as well?

  2. Up until the "no double dipping" I was right there with you in original D&D goodness.

    But then I remembered a guy from the old crowd who had his own take on such things -- he'd have a cleric roll and see what spells his god gave him that day! That was pretty bizarre, but it did force you to be creative in using the spells.

    Your rationale seems sound, by the way. I never thought of it quite that way.

  3. Chaotic Clerics only getting the reverse of spells really goes against Clerics as a supporting class (the spirit of the class in early versions of D&D). Its a house rule I would challenge if I was a player. I often have enemy clerics heal their champions to keep them in the fight longer, which makes sense for selfish reasons because if their champion falls, so does the enemy priest.

  4. Chaotic clerics -- "anti-clerics" -- have never been able to cast cure spells, etc. OD&D states "Those Clerical spells underlined on the table for Cleric Spells have a reverse effect, all others functioning as noted." The list of underlined spells includes all curative magic, as well as things like light and bless.

  5. Well in that case, its my view of chaotic clerics as a supporting role thats wrong, they're clearly meant for an offensive role and your house rule reflects this.

  6. Regarding "Turn, turn, turn ..."

    What was the alternative? Your "novelty" has always been the standard rule as far as I've known, going back 30 years.

  7. David, most editions after OD&D use 2d6 hit dice of undead, minimum 1 creature. So if four wights attack you can be certain that you'll fail to turn at least one of them.

  8. i use a simpler method of determining how many (#) undead are turned

    # = die roll + modifiers - Difficulty

    example; cleric needs 11 to turn skeletons and he adds four (+4) to the die roll; therefore
    if he rolled a -15-

    8= 15 +4 - 11

  9. I'm not sure of your explanation for the "no double dipping" rule, but I think it fits perfectly with the idea that changes should make the characters more awesome instead of less.

    Speaking as someone who always ends up playing the cleric, a lot of parties expect you to load up on cure spells and be done. The rest of the spells on this are a "waste". Being "forced" by the rules to only take one cure spell per spell level seems like a great way to make the cleric a little more awesome, both because those few cure spells become precious commodities for the rest of the party AND you get to try out some of the rest of the spell list and find some other ways to be awesome.

  10. Anonymous1:09 AM

    I'm with Jer here. I think under the No Double Dipping rule, the clerics will get a chance to show off what else they can do. It will also, i think, push them toward thinking outside the box. I believe I'm going to be using it in my own campaign from now on. I'll probably subject magic-users to the same rule for the same reason.

  11. what the HELL are you doing?

    you cannot just make me stop cold-turkey . . .

    i NEED my shattner!!!!!

  12. I agree with Jer, too.

    Not only does it awesome up the Cleric, but think what it'll do to the rest of the party! They'll be tripping over themselves to be the one most worthy of that single Cure Light Wounds!

  13. Anonymous11:57 AM

    If I was a cleric with one cure light wounds, I'd already know who was the most worthy of it: me! ;)