As I noted in Part 1, I am writing with two particular assumptions in mind: One, that alignment represents allegiance, and two, that the majority of “nature gods” are Neutral. Also, this topic will now be split across three posts instead of just two, as I previously expected.
In little brown book OD&D, all clerics are Lawful in alignment, and the priests of Chaos are “anti-clerics.” This distinct class lacks any power over undead, not even AD&D’s command variation for evil priests. Also, the anti-cleric spell list lacks any healing spells. Now, DCC comes together from an amalgamation of ideas across all editions of D&D, along with a lot of excellent original material. But I think there’s still a lot of value in looking back at the anti-cleric when considering Chaotic clerics and how they are distinct from Lawful and Neutral clerics, both fictionally and mechanically.
First, the Lay on Hands ability. There is something of a disconnect for me when the priests of chaos gods are making whole the injured, even when it’s accompanied with a great bit of role-playing like smearing wounds with feces. The concept of mending the sick, restoring them to their former state of health, seems a little out of step with the agenda of the lords of chaos. And looking back to the anti-cleric, we see that the class lacked healing spells, so there’s certainly precedent for a similar line of thought in the origins of the game.
I’ve considered two different mechanical solution for this issue. The first is to simply make Lay on Hands into a damaging ability instead of healing. Chaotic clerics would need to make a touch attack (however you want to define that) and then roll as normal. When determining damage, invert the normal reading of the columns, so that someone of opposed alignment is the easiest to damage.
The second option, which I am leaning more toward, is to keep Lay on Hands as a healing ability but tie corruption/mutation into the power. Whenever a chaotic cleric heals someone, regardless of alignment, the target must make a will saving throw versus the cleric’s spell check. If the save fails, the target incurs some sort of chaos mutation. Using this option, clerics of chaos only get deity disapproval for healing targets of opposed alignment if the target passes the saving throw.
The nature of the mutation or corruption could easily be determined using the wizard spell corruption tables in the DCC rulebook or any other chaos mutation tables of the judge’s choice. I’ve referenced the Marks of Chaos tables at the Dungeon Dozen blog before, and there’s the classic table from Realms of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness – I’m sure there are plenty more out there as well. It’s also simple to tie the severity of the mutation into the benefit of healing if you are using multiple tables, like so:
Spell check Level of Corruption
14–19 Minor/Major (50% chance)
In part 3, we’ll return to Chaotic clerics, their anti-cleric antecedents, and the Turn Unholy ability.