Clerics Have Always Bugged Me

Yeah, it’s time I make this confession. Every since I’ve started playing the mechanics behind clerics have struck me as wrong. I can fully get behind the concept of the armored warrior-priest that’s no problem. It’s the spell casting that gets me.
Here’s how it works out in my crazy little mind. Cleric prays, “Oh mighty Crom, Today I want to heal my friends three times. I want bless them in combat and I want your divine protection.”
“OK, you got it.”
How I think it should go.
“Oh mighty Crom. Today I want to heal my friends three..”
“What? You dare call my name and ask for my aid to heal those weaklings! Be gone, worm!”
Basically, it comes down to this. The cleric wakes up and asks his god for a shopping list of spells and the god delivers no matter what. When domains were added that gave clerics a few more defined powers on their faith but they still have pretty much the same shopping list of spells. I’ve seen players make spell choices based on their character which is good and fine but still doesn’t quite fit into my little world view. So here you go. Clerical spell casting re-imagined for Swords & Wizardry.

Gods & Spells: The cleric spell list is broken done by god. Spells are designated as Canonical (Spells that reinforce or are aligned with the god’s philosophy/domain/portfolio.), Neutral (Spells that neither oppose or support the god’s goals), Heretical (Spells that go against the god’s goals). If a game master doesn’t want to spend the time breaking down the spells. He should clearly define what each god’s agenda. Also, the Turn Undead ability should be converted to a first level spell.

Spells per day: Unchanged.

Spell Casting & Preparation: Clerics do not prepare spells. As the need for divine aid arises, the cleric calls upon the divine favor of his deity. The cleric rolls a Saving Throw modified by the spell type (Canonical: +3, Neutral: Unmodified, Heretical: -3). If the Saving Throw is successful then the spell is cast. On a failure, the spell is not cast but it still counts against the cleric’s daily allocation of spells. In the event, the cleric attempts to cast a spell that is contrary to his god and rolls a Natural 1 then there may be additional consequences for calling forth such heretical power.

6 thoughts on “Clerics Have Always Bugged Me”

  1. Me too Chuck, the cleric class has always bugged me for the same reason. Last time I DM’d I used the Turn Undead as a 1st level spell and was happy with how it went. I like the complete package you’ve put together here and I reckon I might give it a spin next time I’m in the driver’s seat.


  2. I only self-promote here because I think you might actually enjoy ripping this bit out and using it, but you may want to shoot me an email and I will send you a complimentary copy of Neoclassical Geek Revival, its priest system may appeal to you.


  3. Right there with you.

    One solution I’ve been looking at is stealing the idea of charges from Unknown Armies. Every time the cleric performs his proper rites, he gets a minor charge. Every time he does something awesome for his deity, he gets a major charge. If he violates one of the taboos of his faith, he loses his charges. To cast a spell, he spends charges. It’s a super-flavorful system that strongly encourages characters to behave according to their religion.

    Unfortunately, it really runs contrary to every design principle of d20. It is tricky to make it work in any level-based system. It rewards characters directly for their play, and is largely independent of their experience. You could bash something in which your level determines how many charges you can hold at a time, but it starts getting ugly fast.


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