Monday, August 27, 2012

A Priest of One God

Okay, so right now I'm into the Pathfinder rules from Paizo and running a campaign based on their Shackled City adventure path.  In my spare time I'm slowly building a new campaign world from scratch to replace my old one which, to be quite honest, was pretty poorly conceived.  One of the things which I want to be very important in this new campaign, and which should be in a fantasy medieval/ancient world filled with magic and deities, is religion and the clerics who embody faith.

The problem with D&D/Pathfinder clerics, from my point of view, is that they are too generic.  Yes, they get domain spells keyed to their deities portfolio and available domains; yes, they get a "favored weapon"; yes, their is a difference in whether they channel positive or negative energy; but they are still too generic. And there are a lot of spells in the lists which would not be appropriate for certain deities.  For instance, why would a cleric of the God of Oceans have a spell to Meld into Stone?

I feel that the list of available spells for a cleric should be custom-built for the deity in question.  I want to keep the idea of domain spells, but I want the domain spells to be custom-built for just that deity.  In other words each deity should have a set of nine domain spells which are totally unique to that deity.  If you are not a cleric of that deity you have no access to those domain spells at all.  One exception to that could be a "pantheon domain" which is accessible to all clerics of any deity within a specific pantheon.

But then there is the question of multiple portfolios.  One area I have to think about is what to do with the way D&D/Pathfinder gives deities multiple domains (and thus domain spell lists) because they have multiple portfolios.  I might go to having domain spell lists which have unique spells in them (i.e., spells only available in-game in that one domain list), but where some are usable by multiple deities as in the current rules.  I have to reconcile my desire for each deity to have an individual, totally unique domain list with deities having multiple portfolios and hence needing multiple, corresponding domains.

For Pathfinder this customization would also extend to the clerical channel ability.  I think that there should more than just "channel positive energy" and "channel negative energy".  Those are fine as-is and I would retain them for clerics of deities of Goodness, Evilness, Undead, Healing, etc.  However, a cleric of the God of Fire should channel fire or heat or smoke--something thematically appropriate to that deity.

Now, these new custom-built spells lists for each deity would still have quite a lot of spells in common.  For instance a first cut at lists of the "generic" spells probably available to all would be:
0 Level Orisons
  • Guidance
  • Resistance
  • Virtue
1st Level Spells
  • Bless
  • Bless Water/Curse Water (as appropriate for Good/Neutral/Evil deities)
  • Command
  • Comprehend Languages
  • Detect Chaos/Evil/Good/Law
  • Endure Elements
  • Magic Weapon
  • Protection from Chaos/Evil/Good/Law
  • Remove Fear
  • Sanctuary
  • Shield of Faith

2nd Level Spells
  • Aid
  • Align Weapon
  • Augury
  • Bear's Endurance
  • Bull's Strength
  • Consecrate/Desecrate
  • Eagle's Splendor
  • Enthrall
  • Owl's Wisdom
  • Resist Energy
  • Spiritual Weapon
  • Status
3rd Level Spells
  • Dispel Magic
  • Glyph of Warding
  • Helping Hand
  • Invisibility Purge
  • Magic Circle against Chaos/Evil/Good/Law
  • Obscure Object
  • Prayer
...and so on.  Obviously these universal spell lists (at least ones drawn solely from the Pathfinder Core Rule Book and Advanced Player's Guide) will be pretty skimpy.  Clearly, also, I will have to bring a lot of spells from 3rd party publishers--or perhaps from other character classes--in order to provide a reasonably large spell list to keep clerics from being too limited in what they can do.  My goal is not to nerf clerics by taking away all their spells but to infuse some serious deity-based flavor into them.  However, the spell lists will necessarily be smaller, which might have to be balanced with something else.  This could be done by giving them one or two extra spells per level per day or maybe allowing the domain spell at each level to be cast twice per day (although this "double domain" ability might be handled with a feat as well).

Oh, and a final note: the practice of giving each deity a "favored weapon" will be seriously pared back.  In the early editions of D&D clerics could only use blunt weapons, such as maces, clubs, and slings.  Now, each deity has a favored weapon--which must be different from all the other deities.  This forces designers to give each deity a different weapon, even if that weapon really doesn't have anything to do with the deity or even if that deity has no martial aspect, such as a deity of love or wisdom.  I was thinking that in line with idea of having pantheons of related deities, which are closely associated with particular cultures/regions, the favored weapon could be determined by pantheon and culture rather than each and every individual deity.

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