The whole notion of clerics and their relationship with their deity raises the point of whether they are a good character class for youngsters to play. I mean, if you were a seven-year-old and knew that a cleric was a priest and worked for a god, what would be the first thing you'd do when your character got into real trouble?
Exactly. And this presents us with a conundrum. Either the DM allows the prayer/importuning to work or he doesn't. If he does, then there is the inevitable 'me too' from everyone else or 'why not me too?'. Suddenly everyone wants to play a cleric so that they can get out of trouble free.
If the DM turns round and says "[insert your deity's name here] doesn't answer", then the cleric's player might start asking things like 'why not?' or 'but he's my god, he can do anything' and the carefully-constructed milieu and its theology starts to fall apart, and before you know it, you're living with a seven-year-old Richard Dawkins.
I’m aware of the argument advanced in D&DG about the limited ability of deities to respond to calls for help. However, this rather goes against the grain of what kids recognise – if they recognise it at all – as the nature of a god. They’re either familiar with the Greek myths in which the gods seem to be involved in the affairs of mortals all the time or they’re aware of the supposedly omnipotent nature of the Judaeo-Christian deity. Either way, it seems to me that they’re not really old enough to grasp the notion that a god might not answer every time, that no matter how devout their cleric, the reply might be ‘no reply’. Especially if the cleric in question is a 1st leveller and it’s his first adventure. With no precedent to which to relate the experience, any incident that seems threatening is going to be viewed as in extremis.
Now, as adults, we’re capable of contextualising our beliefs or lack thereof and relating them to the way in which deities interact in D&D. We’re much more comfortable with the notion that we might not get an answer when our cleric raises his or her holy symbol and hollers to the skies
“I’m your cleric, get me out of here!”
So, clerics – a good class for kids or not?
Clerics and healing
Which leads me on to one of the most fundamental abilities of the cleric – healing.
I was discussing clerics with Dungeonmum the other day and had the following thoughts that may form the basis of a houserule regarding our holy friends.
In my campaign, clerics may have to be divided into three:
The first type would be the Knight Templar church militant bash-unbelievers-in-with-a-mace type. Keen to smite evil and wage holy war, not so happy about handing healing out to the infidel.
The second type would be the healer type, more like druids with a knowledge of herbal medicine and the current medical practices. They would be happy to lend a hand to whoever is passing by since their deities would be gods or goddesses of healing anyway and their whole ethos would be help-based, with the hope that recipients of their services would reciprocate.
The third type would be the big guns back at the main temples, the hierarchs with a direct line to their gods. They'd have the real powers but would tend to hang around the temples and not go off on adventures (too valuable to the cult). They would have the raise deads and resurrections.
In my proposed houserule, the first type could use the various cure spells, but only on fellow believers. This would reflect the rivalries of religion and give people an incentive to get cured. There may be a 'cure at a reduced rate' service, by which the cure spells would work on non-believers but at half-effect.
The second type would have full access to all the cure spells at normal effect or at a heightened effect, which I would imagine means that every time a cure spell was cast, a d8 and a d12 were rolled and the higher-scoring die would be the one to be counted. This would work on any worshipper but only if the cleric of the healing deity was doing the casting.
The third type, as we have already said, would get the normal spells but as they would be temple-based, recipients would have to go to the temple to get the help.
This argues the case quite well for the use of healing potions, which may well be made by the second type, having access to the various plants and ingredients.
There would be no change to the turning abilities of a cleric – his faith and the divine power that guides him would provide all the power he needs to banish the undead. The cleric himself is the one under threat and an inability to turn would result in his death or at the very least, extreme danger. Whether he is with a party who worship different deities is immaterial – the cleric’s survival is on the line, something very immediate and very different from whether Kravgar the fighter gets some hit points back.
I don’t want to go down the full path of spell domains and areas of speciality and that’s why this houserule is very much concerned with healing spells only, and does not deprive clerics of the ability full-stop. If I had not devised deities of healing for my campaign, this would not have come up but it has and so I felt the need to address it.
Benbo, 3rd level Fighter/4th level Thief - he who dares.
Galzor, 4th level cleric - mysteriously disappeared along with the Third and his coffin.
Zanurax, 3rd level thief (recovering from being partly eaten by a lion and has now gone to join Merlin)
Olaf, 4th level dwarven fighter, now returning to his clan halls
Merlin, 3rd level thief (called away on the business of the Thieves' Guild)
Adthar, 4th level fighter - currently both an Ettin and a statue
Elador, nth level magic-user - called away on special assignments but will act as mentor and adviser to the team
Galadeus, 2nd level ranger - drowned and then eaten by a shark.....aaaaaand he's BACK! aaaaaaaaand he's dead again.
What I'm DMing for 6 new junior players
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