Sunday, February 7, 2010

Clerics and their Powers

I want to spend a few minutes thinking about clerics for a bit. This began when I watched an episode of Band of Brothers and thought of the spiritual anguish taken on by some healers. Hrm... Perhaps a way to heal physical wounds by taking on spiritual damage, or vice versa?

In any event, I started thinking a little harder. If you look at the OD&D and then AD&D spell lists, clearly the spells are inspired, at least in part, by Christian miracles. Cure Blindness, Cure Disease, Exorcism -- its all there. So, I started digging a little more into Xtian miracles and whatnot and compiled a few lists.

  1. Feed the hungry
  2. Give drink to the thirsty
  3. Clothe the naked
  4. Shelter the homeless
  5. Visit the sick
  6. Visit the imprisoned
  7. Bury the dead

  1. Instruct the ignorant;
  2. Counsel the doubtful;
  3. Admonish sinners;
  4. Bear wrongs patiently;
  5. Forgive offences willingly;
  6. Comfort the afflicted;
  7. Pray for the living and the dead.

  1. Baptism (one time only)
  2. Confirmation (one time only)
  3. Eucharist
  4. Penance
  5. Annointing of the Sick
  6. Holy Orders (one time only)
  7. Matrimony

  1. Cures
  2. Exorcisms
  3. Raising the dead
  4. Control over nature

OD&D and AD&D jumps right to the "miracles" and skips past the sacraments. I think for a "lower key" game, you could have something that uses the sacraments -- in a manner that's relevant to the game. You could also use the works of mercy as a way to allow characters to recharge karma, faith points, whatever you want to call it. Miracles could be a bit rarer.

Obviously for a game focused on duality it'd be easy to flip everything around in reverse. Harms instead of cures, possession/summoning instead of exorcisms, slaying the living instead of raising the dead, and calling forth baneful uncontrollable aspects of nature rather than controlling nature's wrath. Likewise, flipping the sacraments around to create an evil/chaotic code of conduct is simplistic.

A polytheistic game is a bit harder. But, I could see a way where you come up with a list of key sacraments and miracles and works for different deities.

Also, I wouldn't want to be too tied to the exact miracles performed by J.C. After all, part of a miracle is that its, well, miraculous. For example, the "miracle of the sun" could have been inspiration for the humble light spell.

I think a more coherent, possibly monotheistic cleric class could be a good thing. Especially if obviously miracolous acts were toned down. OD&D has a nice flavor where level 1 clerics can't do magic. But even a level 2 cleric can perform miracles. By the time you get to the mid-levels, you can do the same stuff Jesus did, every day, with no particular cost. This seems to cheapen the divine, in my opinion. It just makes it another parlor trick or consumable resources, using the same mechanic as magic-users.

Not really many firmed up thoughts here, but just figured I'd jot this down for now.

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