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Clerics, Demi-humans, and the Humanocentric Campaign

Complaints about the cleric class are par for the course with recent editions of D&D. Nobody wants to play them, presumably since changes in the game implemented as the game shifted away from the TSR editions. (Cleric trouble is not entirely a new thing, though: some people go so far as the remove the class from OD&D entirely.) Meanwhile demi-human level limits, race as class, and the mechanics of multi-classing have been hashed out endlessly over the years. There’s not really a consensus on these points beyond the fact that people can’t stop tinkering with them.

I think the underlying problem here are that the issues with Clerics and Demi-humans are linked– but they are generally considered in isolation of each other. This is another one of those instances where consulting Gary Gygax’s Dungeon Masters Guide is a good idea, so lets look at the section on “The Monster As Player Character” which I think speaks directly to this:

The game features humankind for a reason. It is the most logical basis in an illogical game. From a design aspect it provides the sound groundwork. From a standpoint of creating the campaign milieu it provides the most readily usable assumptions. From a participation approach it is the only method, for all players are, after all is said and done, human, and it allows them the role with which most are most desirous and capable of identifying with. From all views then it is enough fantasy to assume a swords & sorcery cosmos, with impossible professions and make-believe magic. To adventure amongst the weird is fantasy enough without becoming that too!

This stuff about people wanting to play outlandish character types…? Gygax is saying that they think they want that sort of thing. But they really don’t. I mean you can want to get into that sort of thing. But there are consequences. It might sound good… but you don’t actually want it. The essence of adventure is thrilling encounters with the weird. If your starting point is a ragtag group of weirdos… where exactly do you take that? There’s nowhere to go.

Consider also that each and every Dungeon Master worthy of that title is continually at work expanding his or her campaign milieu. The game is not merely a meaningless dungeon and an urban base around which is plopped the dreaded wilderness. Each of you must design a world, piece by piece, as if a jigsaw puzzle were being hand crafted, and each new section must fit perfectly the pattern of the other pieces. Faced with such a task all of us need all of the aid and assistance we can get. Without such help the sheer magnitude of the task would force most of us to throw up our hands in despair.

Gygaxian humanocentrism is, just as with “kitchen sink” fantasy, a premise that makes it that much easier for the novice Dungeon Master to develop their own game setting from scratch. And again, making your own is– just as with Traveller– something Gygax expects you to do if you’re at all serious about the game. Granted, TSR did not have any campaign settings to sell at the time. The slam here against the “meaningless dungeon” is telling, here. He’s shaming the people that have spent countless hours playing this game without doing all that much to develop a “serious” setting!

By having a basis to work from, and a well-developed body of work to draw upon, at least part of this task is handled for us. When history, folklore, myth, fable and fiction can be incorporated or used as reference for the campaign, the magnitude of the effort required is reduced by several degrees. Even actual sciences can be used – geography, chemistry, physics, and so forth. Alien viewpoints can be found, of course, but not in quantity (and often not in much quality either). Those works which do not feature mankind in a central role are uncommon. Those which do not deal with men at all are scarce indeed. To attempt to utilize any such bases as the central, let alone sole, theme for a campaign milieu is destined to be shallow, incomplete, and totally unsatisfying for all parties concerned unless the creator is a Renaissance Man and all-around universal genius with a decade or two to prepare the game and milieu. Even then, how can such an effort rival one which borrows from the talents of genius and imaginative thinking which come to us from literature?

Here’s another passage for the “Appendix N is just a list of Gygax’s personal favorites” crowd. The books really were central to his vision of the game. In fact, because he was so steeped in those books– and “history, folklore, myth, fable and fiction” as well– he had trouble imagining anything other than a humanocentric fantasy setting for the game. I mean after all, why would anyone repudiate all of those resources for building a game…?

Well… what if there were a generation that was (largely) unfamiliar with that stuff– a generation that had so much new fantasy available they had no need to read anything from before 1980 or anything much that was in direct conversation with the myth and folklore that pulp fantasy was built on…? That generation is going to look back at Gygax’s forcefulness with regard to humanocentrism and think the guy is just plain weird. I mean, if you were a fan of a dual-blade wielding drow elf fantasy superstar, that’d just be sense.

But what if– as Cirsova points out here— what if clerics could turn elves? And what about those dragon-born demon looking characters that are so popular nowadays…? What if clerics could turn them, too? Heck, what if all the other demi-human types were a little more of faerie and a little less Tolkienish? What if clerics could turn them, too…? And what if even low level clerics had protection spells that were proof against all demonic and spiritual forces…?

The problem with D&D is not that a generation of “not fantasy enough” gamers took it over during the eighties and later on. The problem is that it does not embrace a cosmology that supports the designer’s goals for the default milieu.

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36 responses to “Clerics, Demi-humans, and the Humanocentric Campaign

  1. Hooc Ott June 30, 2016 at 4:27 am

    Player characters who are Elves Dwarves Gnomes and Halflings can’t be Clerics and Half Elves and Half-Orcs are severely limited level wise.

    Something really is going on here with Gygax on his view on how Clerics work in the game. He gives no explanation about any of this as far as I know in the AD&D books.

    Cleric NPCs among many of the Demi-humans are allowed but not Halflings. Are Halflings Godless? Sure they can be Druids but Druids are neutral. I would think that would have a profound impact on their culture and be very different then the Hobbits of Tolkien.

    All of this oddly specific and really hints at something in Gygax’s head that he never explained.

    Something that may or not be related that I found in the DMG under the description of Wand of Orcus is a reference to “Saints”. Basically it said the death power of the wand of Orcus is limited if wielded by a character and wont kill stuff like Gods, Demon lords, Greater devils and Demi-Gods all of whom are referenced in one AD&D book or other but it also mentions Saints. I thought at first it might be a level name for Clerics or Paladins but it isn’t. What the heck are Saints in AD&D? Are they living people? Monsters (Umber Hulk Saint?)? Dead souls of Holy Men working for their respective Gods? Heroes drinking in the hall of Valhalla?

    No idea.

    • MishaBurnett June 30, 2016 at 5:28 am

      There was a “Saint” character class in Arduin.

    • Cirsova June 30, 2016 at 8:47 am

      Maybe it implies that at one point St. Cuthbert was supposed to literally be the Catholic saint rather than some made up D&D god who happened to share his name, and by implication all the Saints of the faith might exist as real and present forces in your game world.

      In my own weird OSR game, Clerics are all but explicitly Catholic and there are (vague) rules for petitioning ‘Beatified Ancients’ to intercede on their behalf. I kind of imagine that a cleric class would have special appeal, if not to Catholics in particular, those with a fascination with the lives of the Saints.

      Did Gygax put much thought into Halflings other than putting them there to throw Tolkien fans a bone? Tolkienian Hobbits certainly wouldn’t have had Clerics either, as Middle Earth had no religion save for the occasional demon cult, such as Sauron’s in the second age. Even having them be druids seems a little strange; can you imagine the reaction of any Hobbit from any of the books if they found out their neighbor was practicing any form of sorcery? Why, it would beggar belief of polite society!

      • pcbushi June 30, 2016 at 9:29 am

        It’s interesting when you mention that Middle Earth had no religion, as this certainly seems to be true so far as rituals and even allusions to God/gods go, save perhaps for Gandalf’s vague references to his masters and the Undying Lands.

        I wonder if there’s any explanation for this beyond the schism between many of the elves and the valar. There’s a lot of exposition in the Silmarillion about the gods and the supreme God (and I imagine in some of Tolkien’s other supplemental Middle Earth tales), but virtually nothing in the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit.

      • Cirsova June 30, 2016 at 9:37 am

        I could not swear to it, but I recall reading at one point that a big part of it was Tolkien’s discomfort with the idea of creating a ‘fake’ religion for Middle Earth when the intent was to tell a decidedly Christian morality tale. When you consider how ready nerds are to literally take up and follow fictional religions from works they’re fans of, he probably made the right choice.

      • Hooc Ott June 30, 2016 at 1:49 pm

        “Did Gygax put much thought into Halflings other than putting them there to throw Tolkien fans a bone? Tolkienian Hobbits certainly wouldn’t have had Clerics either, as Middle Earth had no religion”

        He gave enough thought to forbid halflings, PCs and NPCs, from being clerics. Yeah i get that Tolkien would not have clerics demi-human or Human. But AD&D does have elf and dwarf clerics even though they are only NPCs

        To add more to the oddness of it all Halflings are described as the most Human of all the demi-humans. The player’s handbook is nearly devoid of exposition about Halflings only saying something along the lines of “Halflings are short humans thus the name Halfling”

        Thanks Gary. =P

        Anyway the oddness is that the most Human of the Demi-humans cannot be clerics which can arguably be described as the most Human of the classes by virtue of how limited the class is among the Demi-humans.

        One last oddity. Halflings can be Druids, which are neutral, but in the monster manual Halflings are given the alignment of Lawful Good…..So Halfling religious leaders have a totally different moral pathos then the general population and culture??? This one probably gives more credit to Halflings being a throw away gesture to Tolkien fans and Gygax simply didn’t give it much thought.

      • Hooc Ott June 30, 2016 at 1:57 pm

        “In my own weird OSR game, Clerics are all but explicitly Catholic and there are (vague) rules for petitioning ‘Beatified Ancients’ to intercede on their behalf.”

        I found out recently that Gygax was a practicing Christian. I imagine among his family and close friends he could have ran his campaigns similarly and perhaps the Saint reference was a bleed over from those campaigns and simply did not get edited out.

        This is all conjecture though.

  2. MishaBurnett June 30, 2016 at 5:26 am

    I seem to remember that in original D&D elves–or maybe even all non-humans–couldn’t be raised from the dead. Or am I remembering that wrong?

  3. pcbushi June 30, 2016 at 7:32 am

    “I mean, if you were a fan of a dual-blade wielding drow elf fantasy superstar, that’d just be sense.”

    Drizzt is so obnoxious. I haven’t been able to bring myself to read anymore of R.A. Salvatore’s stuff since going through some of his Forgotten Realms books. I really tried to get into the New Jedi Order, but just couldn’t make it over the hump of that first book by Salvatore.

    • Alex June 30, 2016 at 12:10 pm

      I found the books to be badly written, mediocre at best (which was a huge let down considering it’s supposed to be a masterpiece). There is however a very good comic adaptation if you wanna go for that. The dull writing, choke-full of cliches, juvenile phrases and lukewarm characters still come through but the art makes it a lot more bearable, not to mention comics are a faster read anyways.

      • pcbushi June 30, 2016 at 2:21 pm

        Are you talking about the New Jedi Order books?

        I’ve never really been a big comic reader, but I might consider looking into that. I’ve been watching a little of the animated Clone Wars show from a few years ago and that’s reinvigorated my interest in Star Wars a bit. I used to love all those books – Heir to the Empire, the Jedi Prince, Shadows of the Empire, etc. But at some point either I just became jaded or they started running out of good writers and ideas.

      • Alex June 30, 2016 at 2:44 pm

        No sorry, I was talking about the Drow trilogy.

      • pcbushi June 30, 2016 at 4:10 pm

        Ah, I see. I think I read two or maybe all three of them. They didn’t really make a lasting impression for me. I liked Salvatore’s Cleric Quintet more, back when I was reading Forgotten Realms stuff. Not sure if I’d like it upon rereading, but.

      • Alex June 30, 2016 at 9:53 pm

        As I said, I too haven’t made it through the first chapters of the book but the comics are quite nice! More info if you to investigate further https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Elf_Trilogy#Comics

  4. Alex June 30, 2016 at 12:03 pm

    This was an interesting read but it fails to establish a clear, linear argument and in that, is kind of pointless (not useless or without value).

    I have recently subscribed to your blog and I do like the topics you write about. I’m partially obsessed with looking at the past to try to make sense of the current state of things. Being a huge RPG nerd your posts hit very close to home.

    Anyway I’m excited to see what comes up next! By the way if you haven’t heard of Matt Chat you should definitely search for it on YouTube. There was a recent 3-part interview mostly about Gygax that you’d probably enjoy!

  5. Brooser Bear June 30, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    I run a humans only campaign in a world that features all sorts of competition to the human race. Why no Elves or others? Because Elves can span 1000 years in a generation, and in the real world, they would dominate the civilizations of shorter lived men and others, both in terms of wealth and power, not to mention the alien-ness of their mind. For a human to adequately role-play an Elf would be the same as for a cat or dog to adequately role-play a human.

    Regarding the level limitations on demi-humans in D&D, I came on a surprising realistic explanation for that. Level and class limitations reflect the realities of non-humans adventuring in a human world. In a real world, most so-called character classes would have a human organization and a hierarchy behind them, and would require a far greater commitment from adventurers than game requires from its players. Non-humans would be limited on how far they can advance in human organizations.

    Regarding the Thief and the Cleric character classes, I don’t understand what the brouhaha is all about. One of my best players had a Cleric player character. He was great in that ploughed through all of my obstacles like a main battle tank, he led others as a team, was a called, a mapper, note keeper, AND he stayed in character. Outside his role-playing, he was a ruthless power player, who reasoned on a Cleric from point of view of armor, spellcasting and combat ability. Predictably enough, he is a successful strategy consultant in the real world, working for one of the major management consulting firms in the world.

    On my part, Magic Users can potentially learn to use crossbow, chain mail armor, and sword, at a cost to their spellcasting skills. One of the thieves’ guilds in my game, trains their thieves as fighter-thieves, and with the blind/night fighting ability. I am more interested in tactical/social/historic realism than in any rule convention or notions of game balance.

    • Alex June 30, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Your comment alone is a good as the article, thank you for the insights! It was a lot more down to earth with examples than the article, which painted too broad a stroke without the defined structure you have on each paragraph. Great complement to the text, thanks for this!

    • Cirsova July 1, 2016 at 8:41 am

      Demi-Human level limits make sense when the underlying expectation is that human characters will top out around 10-14th level anyway, as D&D did not have a particularly robust domain-level play end-game anyway. The level caps might have been a smaller gripe for those playing in a 20 level system, but when BECMI bumped things up to 36 levels, suddenly the level caps became such a problem that the system itself tried to offer work-arounds through things like “attack classes”, one might as well throw caps out all-together.

      I am an advocate of Magic Users being allowed to use swords – if mages couldn’t use swords, why the hell would there be so many +1 swords floating around out there? Why would they make them in the first place?

      I don’t really see the point of fighter-thief multi-classing; it’s easy enough to have a fighter who steals things, imho. I mean, I guess if you really want the thief’s backstab ability…If you have a fighter-thief, you’re not really taking advantage of that as designed anyway (a fighter character locks a target in melee, the thief gets free backstabs because the target MUST remain engaged with the fighter unless spending a full round to break off).

      “I am more interested in tactical/social/historic realism than in any rule convention or notions of game balance.”

      I think part of the point is that when it comes to clerics, the old rules conventions and game balance WERE an attempt to incorporate social/historical realism. Having dokkalfar and svartalfar taking up the cause of the Holy Cross and fighting in the name of the Rood to spread Christendom just seems silly.

      • Brooser Bear July 1, 2016 at 9:37 am

        Ales, my pleasure! Any questions, ideas or points, feel free to put them forward!

        Cirsova, A couple of points.

        Brilliant observation, Thief vs Fighters who steals. In one of my games the big topic of discussion was Rangers vs Outdoorsy Fighter. And in the end all players chose to be fighters. They didn’t know the rules and trusted swords vs game mechanics, that and wanting to be warriors. One player considered a Thief characters, but opted for a nasty boy Fighter Hoodlum instead.

        Why fighter thieves? Because in the D&D Hybrid I use, warriors (fighters) get weapon specialization and unique non-weapon proficiencies open only to fighters.

        I don’t use Vancian magic, but base it on models of knowledge and ability vs complexity, and the spell itself is a complex performance, where things like heavy armor, sticks and stones of melee, and the genera stress and chaos sap away at the spell-caster’s ability to maintain the proper form (much like a gymnast’s, but with a strong oratory/declamation component). Once the spell-caster loses the technique, he can no longer cast a spell, until s/he takes a break to calm, compose and practice casting the spell once again. The resolution and skill development for this is based on the Runequest skill system. The key mechanic is that spell casting characters have to acquire skills and knowledge, which will yield spells, but indirectly. The balance is natural – a Magic User who learns to defend him or herself in combat, will have less points to spend on acquiring specific ancient languages, spell casting skills, and theoretical fields of knowledge. The less you get up front the less and fewer spells you can cast. This is a bit tedious, but worked out beautifully, and Character Development (players seeking Teachers and Knowledge to grow in power) is a big part of the game and provides player motivation for the Sandbox. It worked out great beyond my expectations, so much so, that so far, Magic Users, Clerics, Druids, Illusionists, and Necromancers evolved such different ways and mechanics for acquiring spells, knowledge and skills, they these may as well be different character classes!

        Regarding Clerics in Midlands (my campaign), I use real world religions. Clerocs actually choose their religion, as well as a denomination, if they choose Christianity. I have versions of Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity, as well as an Evangelical Church. Islam and Buddhism are also options. There are other religions implicit to the setting, but where I have to explain and reveal too much, it becomes off limits to PC’s, an NPC only thing to be encountered in the game. One more thing to consider, in a world of living Gods granting spells and commanding bodies and organizations of worshippers, religion in D&D world will become the politics of the D&D world, in the sense of machine politics of yore, with Clerics being the (political) Precinct Captains and Ward Bosses, dispensing favors, social work and Aid, keeping the Faith alive, and Gods Themselves, being shadowy political bosses in the dark (incense) smoke-filled back rooms behind the altars.

      • Cirsova July 1, 2016 at 9:55 am

        What hybrid are you using/what are you using for your base?

        In the few 3e games i’ve been in, everyone played Something+thief for the skill cheese; in games without skill lists or proficiencies, it’s probably less of an issue.

        Probably the biggest issue with the Cleric class as it’s designed is that it’s so meant to reflect a particular type of Christian Warrior cleric that to have clerics make sense within the context of their cultures, one would need to essentially make up a new class for each religion’s cleric. AD&D kind of does this with the Druid class, which is far closer to what one might expect from a pagan faith in terms of what their clerics might look like.

        Awhile back, I cooked up a homebrew B/X monk class to address the game’s lack of western style monastic clergymen; it ended up being a hybrid of herbalist, thief and scroll-based divine caster, attempting to recreate the character types of William of Baskerville (Name of the Rose) and Brother Cadfael. The player I had playtesting it proved it to make a pretty decent healer/assassin.

      • pcbushi July 1, 2016 at 10:08 am

        Regarding the fighter-thief, I agree with what’s been said, which is why I prefer the “rogue” class over “thief.” Again, I’m speaking without a broad or deep knowledge of various games and editions.

        As has been pointed out here, I think a fighter can very well be a thief in the sense of stealing. So can many other classes. Look at Conan – he was a barbarian fighting man and also a thief. I think it makes sense to differentiate the fighting man from the scoundrel or stealthy rogue, however, and in such a sense the multiclass may make more sense. The swashbuckler, for example (which I think eventually became an official class), seems to be to combine both elements. There are certain fighting types who may wish to take advantage of trickery, when possible, but also feel comfortable with a straight fight or a bit of dueling.

        Some portrayals of Robin Hood, or the Dread Pirate Roberts might serve as examples, though perhaps imperfect ones. Neither one above deceit or trickery, but both also with fighting skills superior to the average rogue (though I suppose that’s debatable depending on how you break down “rogue”).

        This comment may have been a bit rambling, but I think my point is that I see rogue as a more differentiated way to arrive at what we’re trying to get at with the thief class. But then it may all come down to taste and how far you want to break down different types of characters/classes.

      • Cirsova July 1, 2016 at 10:18 am

        That’s one of the reasons why I like the “Specialist” class, which is sort of the general purpose customizable rogue/thief/professional adventurer template.

        In systems where plate is substantially more expensive than chain, it’s easier to do a swash-buckler as a combination of roleplay + fighter with decent dex bonus than having to cook up a special class for them. See also: fully implementing movement rules and encumbrance restrictions. Plate is great, but a fighter wearing it isn’t going to be able to do much but tank in it, and he isn’t going to be carrying a lot, either.

        Trying to cook up weird classes to both offer mechanics for a particular roleplay choice while balancing it with others is how you end up with stuff like naked dwarf syndrome.

        Fun little note about Robin Hood, I don’t think he ever won a single standup fair fight (at least in none of the stories I’ve read). He just had a really high Charisma bonus, so after someone kicked his ass, they liked him so much that they’d say “Sure, sign me up for your band of forest ruffians!”

      • pcbushi July 1, 2016 at 10:33 am

        Haha…yeah, I think many film versions of Robin Hood have beefed up his ability as a fighter. Again I suppose it depends on the system, but at least when I played 3.5e I think the problem would come in with skill points. In any case you’d probably have trouble balancing your Str, Dex, Con, Int, and Cha to come out with a serviceable “rogue” as a pure Fighter, but especially in 3.5 I think the lack of skill points would make it challenging to pull off. You’d either be a good fighter with a splash of acrobatics/diplomacy/trap handling/whatever, or you’d be kind of a Jack of all trades, master of none.I guess you could go the traditional literary Robin Hood route and not be a very good fighter and instead focus purely on the tricksy skills and feats, but I think many fighter/rogues perhaps want the best of both worlds. Whether on not that’s a balanced, reasonable expectation may be another issue. ;)

      • Cirsova July 1, 2016 at 10:37 am

        I think my issue with 3e skills is that it essentially stapled the old Thief Skills table to ALL of the classes along with the implication that you needed to dump points in those skills to actually do things that had, up till then, been handled by roleplaying or following the old “when in doubt, have someone roll d20 under their base stat”.

      • Cirsova July 1, 2016 at 10:41 am

        Here’s a nice little definition/delineation of Old School / New School for Jeffro:

        New School: Riding horses predicated on having spent points in the ride skill

        Old School: Riding horses predicated on someone at the table remembering that you can buy horses

  6. Sky July 1, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    New School: Riding horses predicated on having spent points in the ride skill

    Old School: Riding horses predicated on someone at the table remembering that you can buy horses

    This brings back irritating memories. I got back into D&D when a buddy from my miniature gaming circle invited me to a 3.5 game he was starting. I had been reading about the Mongols and I thought I would play a steppe warrior, bow and curved sword, drooping mustachio, good on a horse. I started making the guy and ran up against the skill system. To make him legit I would have to load up on skills that would be more or less useless in the campaign. In an old school setting I explain my concept to the DM. Something goes down on horseback I imagine he would throw some modifiers my way. Something happening in a forest or city, or some environment that is new to him, maybe some negative modifiers. Done and done.

    I ended up making a general fighter with the useful boxes checked so I wouldn’t bring down the party. Boring. Now I am no build master, and I could have come up with a different concept and I had fun playing with my friends anyway. But still.

  7. Brooser Bear July 1, 2016 at 7:13 pm

    Cirsova, My base is Gary Gygax’s core writings of the AD&D 1st Edition. I also use his Non-Weapon Proficiency system from, but I run it under the percentile skill system from RuneQuest. Then it took off from a different direction. By chance I read an article on five types of measurable human intelligence, five types of IQ or INT, if you will. That spurred me to research the real world character abilities and base my system on that. There are three physical and five intelligence attributes, and D&D system is not that much off. Basically, INT, CHA, DEX are forms of INT. The other two are AGILITY and ability to draw in three dimensions. Physical attributes are STR, FLEXibility and ENDurance. WISdom and CONstitution are right on the money as well. CON is known in the real world as HARDiness, a genetic trait, and determines one’s Optimism, speed at which one’s body heals and the robustness of one’s immune system, resistance to intoxication also. WIS is a different ballgame altogether. Ancient philosophers wrote about it. It is the self-discipline, the wherewithal, the strength of one’s character to do the right thing at the right time. To eat healthy naturally. I had to do some hard math, modeling those, but it paid off. AGILITY is the hardest and the peak one. It is a form of intelligence defined as “Tumbling Sense”. It won’t manifest itself unless you have the STR and END, and years of training to throw your body into somersaults. The D&D AC DEX modifier and some of the Thieves abilities require AGILITY and not the DEX. I got it to a point where the percentage of characters who can do acrobatics matches the real world stats.
    The difference between physical ability and firms of intelligence is that with proper training, you can get a person to develop STR, FLEX and END to be “All 18’s”. INT, however has a strong genetic component and tends to be a zero sum game. Impossible for an “All 18” human, even “All 16” is highly unlikely. All 15 maybe, if you dedicate all you time and unlimited resources to self-development and self-perfection. 5 INTs is a zero-sum game.

    Regarding Clerics, intuitively, one would think that priests of different religions would have different sets of skills, but I think that certain thinks are associated with all priests and spiritually enlightened people. Kindness and Altruism cunts across the board. Historically, at least the Christian, Muslim, and Anciet Egyptian clergy were all involved in medicine. Ancient Egyptians practiced surgery, including forms of plastic surgery to repair torn faces and shattered noses, still in use today. Healing is not restricted only to Christianity, and in my world, turning undead, I came up with a rationale, any servant of Light will turn the undead. I have a long post, on how undeath and turning works in my setting, if anyone wants, I will post a link to it.

    PCBushi, I think that you are onto something. There are Archetypal classes of adventurers, such as Warriors, Rogues, Wizards and Priests, which offer a unique and exclusive perspective from which to experience the adventure. Each player has a preferenceas to which they really want to be.

    A lot of people generally overlook something about Thieves. They are slaves of the underworld, literally. They get turned in to authorities, if they don’t play ball with others. You can’t just quit and enjoy your ill gotten gains. The real underworld is always a strict hierarchy (Lawful Evil in D&D parlance), and almost always the underworld mirrors its social order and how it represses its people. If money buys you everything, like in Mexico, then money will buy you everything in prison. If it’s not money, but power, then even if you bribe kitchen staff in prison and get yourself a cheeseburger for a snack, but you don’t have sufficient social status to eat a burger, they will make an example of you so that others will never, never, get their hands on a burger if they doin’t command enough respect for it.

    My fantasy world is romantic fantasy, so I don’t make players slaves. Thief PC’s actually have to role-play to find and join a guild, the only way to get the training and improve your skills. PC’s usually have a gamut of different guilds, different scenes, some leave you free and benefit you littke, and others will enslave the thief and other playecr characters. Rember, Thief can always get caught, and either be executed, or Outlawed. To get an idea, read what it meant to be Outlawed in Medieval England.

    • cirsova July 2, 2016 at 12:29 pm

      Oh, yeah, the healing and medicinal aspects make sense across the board; what makes less sense is having mace-wield yogi or priests of Aten in full plate.

      • Sky July 2, 2016 at 1:45 pm

        It doesn’t do anyone any good to get too wrapped up in realism when we are talking about a game where you can fight a bear with an owl’s head. But for my money the cleric is right from Catholic tradition. I grew up in an industrial area where everyone was Italian, Slovak, Polish, etc… I wasn’t Catholic but I may as well been, went to Catholic schools and all my grandparents grew up Catholic before ditching it to assimilate better. Or maybe they genuinely didn’t like it. Don’t know, don’t really care. People would ask priests to come bless their houses. That didn’t happen at my house or any of my prod friends. That is significant. My Catholic mother in law hid saint’s medallions all over my house (knock yourself out lady, just keep the pirogi coming). That is a kind of magic.
        Priests have command of a that magic coming from the immense weight of that institution with its rituals and symbols and all that. And I am not judging or anything like that. Free country. All good. But that is the vein D&D is tapping into for the cleric in my book. An Indian holy man has a different sort of magic. Islam has mystic sufis, more like monks, but they marry and have families. No compulsion to imitate Christ’s sacrifice. And the imam leading the prayer is there because of his knowledge, not a special connection inaccessible to the lay person. Again, no magic there. I enjoy reading and meeting people of different faiths and I am not arguing for one over the other. But the Catholic vibe, that is the one turning the undead and all that. A friend of mine was talking about a show she watched where a guy turned aside a vampire with a star of David necklace. Meh. I could see a Torah scroll (bludgeoning weapon, save vs stop fighting and go call the mother that is worrying about you) working like that, but the star of David was essentially picked to represent that faith. The cross is a direct representation of Christ’s death. That is some weighty mojo. Pagan gods are fickle jerks. They don’t care what happens to you as soon as that goat you killed on their behalf starts to go off. Now we can imagine different sorts of pagan deities and imagine different pantheons that will behave in ways to make a pagan cleric work. But right out of the box without any tinkering the Catholic vibe is the best fit.

        Its D&D. We can do whatever we want and have a good time, so don’t think I am knocking anyone’s game. There are also great arguments for opening things up as far as the cleric goes so have at it.

  8. Brooser Bear July 2, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Cirsova, agreed, D&D Cleric is based on medieval Christian priesthood, but we can break away from the mold and create different types of Clerics based on religions. Yogis, with feats of extreme endurance, who can survive anywhere, and I mean, everywhere, clad only in a loin cloth and with an absolute prohibition on striking anything under any circumstance. Priests of Odin, who can not heal or turn the undead, but who have a full access to warrior skills, bard skills, and who can TALK to Undead. You can also force Nordic Priests to role play as jesters and tricksters at the table or lose their ability to cast magic. The possibilities are endless.

    Sky, points taken, but be careful on what you consider real vs fantasy. 300 years ago it was considered an extreme sport to go against a Grizzly bear with a Bowie knife. If you provoke a bear and get close enough to it while it rears up to strike you, you can strike and fatally injure it. You will get awesome respect up and down the river. There were enough people mauled by grizzly, permanently disfigured, their backs and necks permanently twisted at unnatural angles saying – oh yeah, I faced the grizzly! And everyone knew what they were talking about. Incidentally, an obscure D&D weapon called Demi-Lune was a very effective weapon designed to be used against great bears. The blades of the real thing were much wider and sharper, designed to catch the bear just under the forelegs, than the show pieces used as illustration for the pole arm.

    BTW, it’s not the symbols, but faith, that turns the undead. In the real world, we turn the living into the dead. It is that, which you hold to be truly sacred that makes you throw all of your weight behind that blow that will punch through and kill your enemy in the fight. Warriors remain true to themselves as a matter of deliberate course bring that weight of moral superiority on their side into battle. In the old days, the undead the people faced was the burden of killing that they carried at the time when people believed in the afterlife and in shadows. A warrior who knew himself to be good and right, had the power of his conviction that he would the person again and again, if faced in the same situation. Undead turned. Those, who couldn’t fared worse. This mojo still works in conflicts today.

  9. Hooc Ott July 7, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    OT:

    Jeffro you asked this on your google+ page:

    “I try to give credit to people that hook me up with really good gaming advice. One bit that I don’t know who is responsible for is the idea that you only need a wandering monster table to allow you to wing a “just in time” dungeon level creation. Who in the old school scene is responsible for bringing this out? I think it might have appeared on Fight On!”

    These may be the links you are looking for:

    http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/7897/roleplaying-games/breathing-life-into-the-wandering-monster

    http://thealexandrian.net/wordpress/5/roleplaying-games/re-running-the-megadungeon

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