22 August 2018

The Religion of the Cleric: 1st Level Spells

Continuing my examination of the implied religion of the Cleric in Basic D&D, we are are looking at the first level spell list and its implications.

Cure Light Wounds
This spell will either heal wounds or remove paralysis. If used to heal, it will cure 2-7 point of damage. It will not heal any damage if used to cure paralysis. The ceric may cast it on himself (or herself) if desired.
          This spell will never increase a creature’s total hit points above the original amunt.

The fact that this is a touch spell implies in my mind an anointing the head of the recipient, yet this may not be completely necessary as the cleric may cast the spell on himself. Perhaps the cleric simply needs to touch the recipient to indicate where the power of their Deity should be manifested. This ability to bless/heal yourself is interesting and definitely not christian in origin. All rituals,even non christian ones, I can think of require someone else to administer the ritual to you. Though this aspect may have been implemented simply for game purposes, it still affects the belief system of the cleric.

Also the very nature of the spell tells us the Deity wants to spread a message of healing. The power of the deity is manifest in improving the lives of followers and not through destructive force.

Detect Evil
When this spell is cast, the cleric will see evilly enchanted objects within 120’ glow. It will also cause creatures that want to harm the cleric to glow when they are within range. The actual thoughts of the creatures cannot be heard. Remember that “Chaotic” does not automatically mean Evil, although many Chaotic monsters have evil intentions. Traps and poison are neither good nor evil, merely dangerous.

The fact that this spell exists implies there is an 'Evil' entity/group in this world. We can consider this 'Evil' to be the antithesis to the deity worshiped by the cleric. We see from the description that those intending to harm servants of the deity are considered 'Evil'. Therefore 'Evil' creatures are hostile to the Deity, the servants of the Deity, and by extension the church. Not all evil creatures worship a specific entity or are part of a singular group; put simply, enemies of the church are 'Evil'.

Detect Magic
When this spell is cast, the cleric will see magical objects, creatures, and places within range glow. It will not last very long, and should be saved until the cleric wants to see if something found during an adventure is, in fact, magical. For example, a a door may be held shut magically, or a treasure found might be enchanted; in either case, the magic item, creature, or effect will glow when it is within the effect.

This speaks to the omniscience of the Deity; it is at least aware of all magic. Detect Evil also speaks to this aspect of the Deity. The omniscience of the Deity places it above most of the classical European pagan gods. Though these two spells could imply a lesser ability to know the nature of things and not necessarily know all things; after all the detect evil spell does not indicate the thoughts of creatures only their nature/intentions. This ability to know what a thing is could imply a completely different type of god and than one who knows all.

Light
This spell creates a large ball of light, as if a bright torch were lit. If the spell is cast on an object (such as the cleric’s weapon), the light will move with the object. If cast at a creature’s eyes, the creature must make a saving throw. If the saving throw is failed, the victim will be blinded by the light until the duration ends. A blinded creature may not attack.

 – Moldvay Basic – This spell casts light in a circle, 30’ in diameter.

– Holmes Basic – equal to full daylight

The Fact that this spell exists tells us a lot about how the Deity of the Cleric interacts with the world. This religion banishes darkness and brings light. The Moldvay version makes it clear that this is not a light emanating from a single point like a lightbulb (the way it has always been treated in my games), but is a globe of light filling the entire 30' diameter. And if we go by the Holmes version we could also rule that it can kill vampires and harm other creatures sensitive to daylight.

Protection from Evil
This spell creates an invisible magical barrier all around the cleric’s body (less than an inch away). All attacks against the cleric are penalized by -1 to their hit rolls, and the cleric gains a +1 to all saving throws, while the spell lasts.
          In addition, “enchanted” creatures cannot even touch the cleric! If a magic weapon if needed to hit a creature, that creature is called “enchanted.” However, a creature that can be hit by a silver weapon – a lycanthrope (were-creature), for example – is not an “enchanted” creature. Any creature which is magically summoned or controlled (such as a Charmed character) is also considered to be an “enchanted” creature. The barrier thus completely prevents all attacks from those creatures unless they use missile weapons.
          This spell will not affect a Magic Missile spell. If the cleric attacks anything during the spell’s duration, the effect changes slightly. “Enchanted” creatures are then able to touch the magic-user, but the hit roll and saving throw adjustments still apply until the spell duration ends.

– Moldvay Basic – protection from attacks by monsters of some alignment other than the cleric’s alignment .(not all attacks).

Again, evil exists, and along with this it is heavily implied that all Enchanted creatures are evil. With regards to the alignment mentioned in the Modvay version, we can assume that law/chaos are cosmic forces somehow related to the perception of evil. Also in regards to the enchanted creature aspect of this spell, we can infer that this god is a pacifist first. At least peaceful methods are encouraged, and if necessary  the servants of this Deity will be bolstered in combat against enemies of the church. This message of peace seems already to be implied by the types of spells the cleric receives in general and the weapon restrictions of the cleric.

Purify Food and Water
This spell will make spoiled or poisoned food and water safe and usable. It will purify one ration of food (either Iron or Standard rations), or 6 waterskins of water, or enough normal food to feed a dozen people. If cast at mud, the spell will cause the dirt to settle, leaving a pool of pure, clear water. The spell will not affect any living creature.

This Deity has control over the natural world. He can change the nature of things so they are clean/pure. It is reminiscent of the times when Jesus fed crowds of people and could be symbolic. This also shows that the servants of the Deity will never want, there won't be any monks going around begging for food. 

Remove Fear
When the cleric casts this spell and then touches any living creature, the spell will calm the creature and remove any fear. If the creature is running away due to magically created fear, the creature may make another saving throw vs spells, adding a bonus to the roll equal to the cleric’s level of experience, up to a maximum bonus of +6. If the saving throw is successful, the creature may stop running. A roll of 1 will always fail. This saving throw, with bonus, may be made even if the fear was so powerful as to no saving throw at first!

This is fairly straight forward; the church spreads a message of faith and hope, the opposite of fear and doubt.

Resist Cold
When tjhis spell is cast, all creatures with 230’ of the cleric can withstand freezing temperatures without harm. In addition, those affected gain a bonus of +2 to all saving throws against cold attacks. Furthermore, any damage from cold is reduced by -1 per die of damage (but with a minimum of 1 point of damage per die). The effect will move with the cleric.

Again, control of natural world is implied. This could be seen as a control over the elements, or as the ability to alter biology. The body of the person seems to be changed to withstand extremes normally harmful. This also sends a message that this deity not only  protect servants from enemies, but also from the harmful effects of nature/the world

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.