18 August 2018

The Religion of the Cleric: OD&D

I've talked before about how the default religion of D&D is is analogous to the Catholic Church in the middle ages. Based on my last post reworking cleric magic I want to examine the what the divine powers granted to a cleric tell us about his religion. First I want to examine the implied setting of original D&D for clues about the religion and then I will go through the BECMI spell list and note what each spell tells us about the deity, religion, and beliefs of the Basic D&D cleric.


Original D&D:

One Sixth of all strongholds are ruled by Patriarchs (name level clerics), or possibly Evil High Priests. This implies that the church has a significant political presence, yet it doesn’t dominate the local rulers. Also, the fact that they specifically rule military strongholds implies a more militant view of the church’s role in society, or at least the Clerics, if not the whole church.

Again emphasizing the militant aspect, “Clerics are served by fighters of 4th level (hero) or 8th level (superhero), ents or hippogriffs.” These strongholds are clearly military outposts of the church. The alliance of the church with Ents is interesting to say the least; the implication being that one of the goals of this religion is to protect the natural world. I think this is reinforced when the Evil High Priest are allied with Trolls, Vampires, White Apes, and Spectres (Nazgul). The Evil High Priests, who are the direct enemy of the Patriarchs, are allied with unnatural creatures, the undead, trolls that regenerate, and white apes as an evil version of the normal ape. This supports “Clerics are much closer to the knight templar type,” they are an organization that fights against enemies of the church and the undead.

It is also telling that when a Patriarch’s stronghold is visited by an adventurer, a tithe is demanded. This can’t be a literal tithe of ten percent, or an annual tax that the clergy impose on the local populace (though we can assume this takes place also), the Patriarch has no way of knowing what income the adventurer has had over the last year or if he recently paid a tithe to another Patriarch. This means that the Patriarch isz demanding some sort of payment, not necessarily a tithe of ten percent, to prove that this adventurer is loyal to the church, and if the adventurer doesn’t have the money, he can prove his loyalty by going on a quest.


“each town must have some fairly active necropolis attached to it, and the population must bar themselves indoors at night.” Because of this, I suspect that Evil High Priests have more influence in the towns. The patriarchs may or may not have a presence in these areas, but it seems that the enemies of the church have more influence here. This may be due to the great number of dead bodies that accumulate in graveyards, or to the lack of faith of city folk. I also suspect that the raise dead spell of the clerics is meant to fight this plague of the towns. The fact that the spell is ineffectual after a few days tells us that the spirit/soul of the person has departed the body and gone to the afterlife.

11 August 2018

Cleric Magic using the Turn Undead table

So, after a lot of thought and number crunching, I think I have reached a solution for making clerical magic unique. Essentially I am replacing the vancian casting mechanic with the turn undead mechanic. With this I will keep the spells already in the books, and not rewrite the whole magic system.

Each spell is a called a prayer and takes a turn to perform instead of a round (maybe multiple turns based on level). Each spell also requires a component part, such as a holy symbol, holy water, consecrated oil, blessed bread/wine, etc. There will not be a large variety of components, I see this as more akin to tracking ammo than individual components. When performing a prayer a cleric has to roll to see if this favor is granted, by rolling 2d6 and getting above 7,9 , or 11 based on the level of the prayer and the cleric's level. if looking at the turn undead chart, a 'T' would indicate the prayer takes effect as normal, and a 'D' indicates that the prayer has its maximum effect. For cure light wounds a prayer at the 'D' level would automatically heal 8 hp instead of the normal 1-8. The success of a prayer lines up with the turn undead table as shown below

Undead
Skeleton
Zombie
Ghoul
Wight
Wraith
Mummy
Spectre
Vampire
Phantom
Haunt
Level of Prayer



1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Level 1
7
9
11







Level 2
T
7
9
11






Level 3
T
T
7
9
11





Level 4
D
T
T
7
9
11




Level 5
D
D
T
T
7
9
11














Level 6
D
D
D
T
T
7
9
11


Level 7
D
D
D
D
T
T
7
9
11

Level 8
D
D
D
D
D
T
T
7
9
11
Level 9-10
D
D
D
D
D
D
T
T
7
9
Level 11-12
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
T
T
7
Level 13-14
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
T
T
Level 15-16
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
T
Level 17-20
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D
D

When a cleric gains access to a new prayer level he is given/has to make a prayer book of the prayers of that level. I haven't decided whether I want to limit the number of prayers a cleric can know based on their normal vancian spells/level chart.