Monday, 22 November 2010

Clerics, Priests and Shrines

There is a lot of dissatisfaction with clerics. See:

I am sympathetic to the arguments – the lack of pulp fantasy role models for clerics; can a priest who lives in a church gain levels without adventuring; and if they must adventure then every church will be inhabited by a higher concentration of heroes than the Inn of the Last Home. Will the bishop be scouring dungeons on his day off or will he get XP for managing his church – should the baker then get XP for baking bread?

I agree there must be a clear distinction between the normal man and the adventurer. Only the adventurer has levels. I want the normal man to reign supreme. Even the King may be a normal man but most likely will have a few levels gained from hunting and war. He doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be the highest level in the land, unless Kingship is based on combat and not hereditary.

So when thinking about my KotB campaign a number of thoughts come to mind.

1.     Priests are normal men (1-4 HP) who live at a temple, they wear robes not armor and can cast spells ONLY whilst on temple grounds
2.  Clerics are warrior priests (called Templars to better differentiate them) who adventure and fight (with any weapon) and can cast spells on the field (ie anywhere)

I toyed with calling clerics, crusaders but I would expect a crusader to be as proficient as a fighter, which a cleric is not. A Templar seems to evoke in my mind less such equality of fighting proficiency, being somewhat more mystic a title, or have I been playing too much Dragon Age Origins?

To better differentiate between a priest and templar I think they need different level advancement titles. Now the priest gains titles though internal temple politics not level advancement but an ‘equivalent level’ templar should be treated with a similar respect even if they lack the same authority in a temple. It will be no surprise to anyone reading this blog (is anyone?) that my Templar level titles are inspired by JB’s B/X Blackrazor and for your interest I have repeated his chart next to my own, since mine is so derivative.

Temple Priest 
(Normal Man)
Knight Templar
Temple Lord

The key difference between my Templar and JB’s cleric titles is I move martyr to level 2 in keeping with my Cosmic Battle worldview and the gaining of cleric spells at level 2.

I like that Elder is on both tables reflecting that the Templar is not part of a separate church but a warrior branch. The concept of paladin from AD&D and Mentzer is fully subsumed into the Templar class.

Temple Priest’s are normal men yet I think they should be able to cast spells, since a temple should be a place for characters to gain healing and succor.

I propose a spell casting capability linked to the Temple Shrine. The duly appointed head priest of a temple (whether that be an acolyte (not likely) or a Patriarch) casts spells at an equivalent level to the traditional cleric according to the level of the Temple shrine; whilst on Temple Grounds only.

A temple shrine gains spell level power according to the number and quality of their relics held in the shrine. There is only one shrine / temple. A shrine may be more than one alter and could be a number of alters within one temple but usually the most sacred items are brought together ornamenting one grand alter.
Shrine Level
For each minor relic +1 level
For each major relic +3 levels
For each sacred relic +5 levels

For example a temple has the earwax of St Nobby (a minor relic). The shrine is equivalent of a Level 1 cleric ie as per B/X can’t cast spells.

In the town nearby the shrine has the hair of St Ny (minor relic), the ring of St Ham (minor relic), the mace of Saint Josie a Templar who died from his wounds after killing a captain of Chaos (major relic) and the thighbone of St Cuthbert (sacred relic). 1+1+3+5 = 10. The priest of this shrine (certainly a Patriarch), even as a normal man, can cast spells as a 10th level traditional cleric despite his 1-4 hit points.

Can only the head priest cast spells on temple grounds or can other priests? After all does the Patriarch wish to cast all the cures on the populace in person. I would suggest that all duly appointed priests in the temple if given the authority and the blessing of the head priest can cast spells but they all draw from the same shrine pot. From the example above a shrine of 10th level cleric ability has spells levels 4,4,3,3,2 and that has to go around all the priests at that temple for a whole day (reset at first light of dawn perhaps). Once the shrine spell pot is emptied for the day that's it. For this reason I am sure the head priest of the temple will delegate wisely and only a few of potentially scores of priests in a large temple will have such spell power. The other result is that healing spells are not numerous and freely available to the populace. It would be very hard for the Lawful church to improve the commoners lot, even if they wanted to, with 4,4,3,3,2 the main show in town! It also justifies the cost the PCs will have to pay for temple healing assistance.  

I would additionally suggest that a Templar who took on priest duties at a Temple should have the additional spells of the shrine combined to their usual level spells. That will make them tough indeed on Temple Grounds. This is not just visiting a temple the Templar must forsake adventuring (for a given time) and take on an official role in the temple.

Whilst all above works well for a city or a town when I consider the Keep on the Borderlands and the Curate in the Chapel I can’t picture him any other way but fully armed and ready to battle Chaos (capital C). It is a Keep on the Borderlands and the whole keep reeks military readiness. So my plan is to make him a Templar Crusader with three Devotees instead of the three acolytes. This is a battle chapel not a soft town church. To play with my shrine idea I’m giving the chapel the mace of Saint Josie a Templar who died from his wounds after killing a Giant of Chaos (major relic). This will give the ‘Curate’/Crusader, let’s call him Roderick, an additional 2 1st level spells while on temple grounds. Hardly game changing.

What of this blogs namesake the Jovial Priest (Bacchus is the name I plan on giving him by the way from Leigh Hunt’s poem). Although there may be chaotic non-adventuring priests most chaotic priests will be Chaotic Templars, disguising themselves as Templars. Priests just don’t move around so much living on temple grounds unless travelling between temples. The Jovial Priest is thus the Jovial Zealot, still apt I think and his two assistants, who I envisage as two high charisma young ladies with a penchant for evil, are Devotees.

A final note about alignment language. I read somewhere, can’t remember where, that the Lawful alignment language can be considered akin to Latin and the Chaotic version Latin in reverse. I like this idea. The concept you can just talk to the Jovial Zealot in Lawful and show him up for the imposter he is, just doesn't ring true. He can speak ‘Latin’ easy enough. It’s the Lawful infiltrator to a chaotic gathering who better practice his backward alignment tongue.

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