Thursday, February 28, 2013

Clerical Issues

Real quick: JB over at B/X Blackrazor has been talking a bit about clerics. Mainly its about how they really don't work given the source material that D&D draws on, and how the game might work better if they were removed. Delta figured this out way back in 2008. And his reasoning was my main inspiration for banning the cleric in my own OD&D house rules.

Its odd that we both were thinking about cleric banning at the same time. I was revisiting my decision to answer the question of "what 5 things would you change in D&D if you could only change 5?" I have said before that we live close enough to each other that we are drinking the same water.

The really interesting thing here is that JB is coming very close to the same line of conclusions as Delta but I am pretty sure he is completely unaware of Delta's work and reasoning. Maybe not. But including this blogger, that makes three guys in the OSR that have outright removed clerics from the game. Which makes me think we are on to something here. Both these guys make the points for me so I won't put them up here. Check out the posts linked above and draw your own conclusion. For me, I think the Thief has more right to be in the game than the Cleric. So I think we should kill the cleric. And take his stuff. Delta chose to just nix the cleric spells all together. I chose to give them to the magic-user since he was now going to be pulling insane priest duty for the foreseeable future.

What I realized reading JB and rereading Delta was that my solution for what to do with turning made sense but was inelegant. I gave everyone the ability to turn. It made sense, if you thought about it. Turning is based on vampire lore and more specifically Van Helsing's use of a cross in Dracula. Note however that Van Helsing is not a priest. He is not ordained. He has a sum total of 0 supernatural power. So in my book that means that everyone can turn. The mistake I made was that I gave everyone access to the chart. What a mess.

First off the turning mechanic is really clunky and a little fiddly to apply. This obviously varies with edition, but you catch my drift. Secondly applying it to everyone made it even more clunky in that you had to figure out how to determine at what power level the characters turned undead. Work. Work. Work.

Here it is: If you must be rid of that meddlesome priest, make vampires superstitious.
Holy symbols of any faith keep Vampires (and only Vampires) at bay. Anyone can hold up (or wear while facing) any symbol of a god and the vampire won't touch them. However the symbols are directional. So while Count Dracula in front of you is held at bay his minion vampire behind you is not.
This way you get the ability exhibited in the source material but you don't have to worry about clunky mechanics. What about the other undead? There is no pre-D&D precedent of priests holding other undead at bay, and undead are meant to be feared. Turning is really powerful and thus it is like healing: it is something a party can't go without if it is available in the game. Take out turning and the fear of undead returns.


Kyle said...

"Clerics [...] really don't work given the source material that D&D draws on."

In other words, D&D is not D&D enough? Gygax didn't really understand D&D? Is this like how Marx wasn't a communist?

Luka Rejec said...

@Kyle - I think Steamtunnel is referring to the fantasy literature D&D drew on for inspiration. There are few hero-clerics in Conan, the Cthulhu Mythos, Elric, etc. He's not referring to Zagyg.

Hedgehobbit said...

Gary didn't add the cleric, Dave Arneson did. He did so at the request of one of his players who needed a little more ooomph in fighting a (former PC turned) vampire BBEG named Baron Fang. So, the inclusion of the cleric had nothing to do with source material it was a game mechanic thing.

As to turning, I've used the "keep at bay" rule in B/X. It applies to most undead, not just vampires, and it requires the PC to participate regularly in religion ceremonies of the chosen god.

The regular cleric-type turning was converted into a MU spell (as I don't use clerics either).

Pat Payne said...

Interesting idea about the holy symbols v. vampires, but here's a counter thought -- instead of the vampires just plain not liking holy symbols, why not make them dependent on the character's faith?
As an example: In some of the old, Chris Claremont-era "X-Men" comics, the X-Men occasionally had to fight Dracula. The usual tropes on crosses showed up, but with a twist. In one issue, Wolverine makes a cross with his claws to ward off Dracula. Dracula notes that Wolverine has no faith (he is depicted as agnostic/atheist) and laughs it off. THEN, Nightcrawler (a Catholic) makes a cross with some broken furniture, and he drives Dracula away. Or: Kitty Pryde (who is Jewish) was tracking down Dracula in another issue. She brings along a crucifix with her. Dracula again laughs it off as she is not Christian, and grabs her throat... whereupon his hand is burned painfully by her Star-of-David pendant.

Lum said...

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Seattle Old School DnD Open Table