I would say that Turn Unholy poses the biggest problem for me in regards to Chaos clerics. Last time I mentioned the anti-cleric, who completely lacked any version of Turn Undead. Considering what the power represents in the fiction, it makes sense that it would be exclusive to Lawful clerics. It’s Peter Cushing rebuking Christopher Lee with a cross; it’s a holy man passing unharmed through the valley of the shadow of death. When I first started playing D&D, the fictional truth behind Turn Undead instantly made sense to me, even if the rules for doing it didn’t. But where does the Chaos cleric fit in that fiction?
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.
There are currently two cleric characters in my DCC game. One is a 1st-level Lawful cleric of St. Trebor of the Gavel, whose holy words are “Judge others as ye too shall be judged.” The other (and original) cleric of the group is the Chaotic former gong-farmer Sherman Funk, filth-priest of Nimulrun the Unclean. With both ends of the spectrum at the table, it’s gotten me thinking about how the rules and the fiction jive up for clerics (especially on that chaotic end).
The DCC cleric is obviously rooted in the tradition of the D&D cleric, which is itself arguably an amalgam of implied psuedo-Christianity and Hammer horror films. From this we get a DCC cleric with Lay on Hands, Turn Unholy, and deity disapproval that resets every day in a manner similar to Vancian-casting clerics praying for spells in the morning. Before I get into some thoughts on each of these class abilities, know that I am making two assumptions about the fictional setting: One, that alignment represents allegiance and therefore the overwhelming majority of non-spellcasting humans are Neutral; two, that the majority of “nature gods” are Neutral, with only gods of icky things and brutal savagery falling into the Chaos camp.
I’m still slacking on getting myself set up to take decent pictures of my minis. My Bones rewards are scheduled to arrive Tuesday, so I really need to get on that. The Bones minis are, after all, a big part of my excuse to paint minis and call it blogging.
Speaking of which, the Bones Kickstarter pulled my friend Bry back into the world of gaming, and since she’s been posting notes on Facebook about prep for the game, I asked her if she’d like to become a contributor to this blog. So now I’ve tweaked the posts to show the author profile at the end of each post to make it much clearer who wrote it. She’s going to be running 3.5 with a healthy amount of houseruling, so those posts should be covering a slightly different space than I’ve touched on with my DCC and Savage Worlds content.
Over at the esteemed Dyson’s Dodecahedron blog, Dyson Logos has been posting d12 tables for generating quick sub-classes for old school games. The first one to really catch my eye from the DCC perspective was the dwarf list, though Dyson fairly points out that if you are using these for any class, you should use them for every class. In all fairness, the dwarf is on a pretty similar power level to the other classes (not that balance is a major concern), and some variety in dwarves can already be attained by using Jeffrey Tadlock’s dwarf cleric class or some variant thereof. As far as elves, I honestly can say that I really like that all elf PCs in DCC are the same class and prefer the variety I introduced in this post.
Then there are halflings. I also like that halflings are all one class, but it seems to be the consensus that the class is a little bit weaker than the others. So I’m thinking that I may introduce the halfling subclasses into my game first and then consider the others as play unfolds.
Of course, that’s just my game. All of these subclasses make for simple and fun additions to old school games, and you should check out the full series for yourself.
In keeping with the rest of this week, I’m already posting a revision on my OSR post from the other day. I realized that the version I posted before is probably overpowered by the standards of most old-school games, so I boiled it down to its essence and tried to adopt some Flailsnails-style compatibility.
In whatever retroclone or actual old RPG you are using, remove spellcasting from the cleric class and also remove the weapon restrictions. In addition to Turn Undead, they gain two new abilities. First, they have an X in 6 chance to Detect Chaos (or Evil) within a 100′ radius, where X is equal to their half their level, rounded up. Second, they gain a damage bonus versus undead, demons, and other supernaturally evil creatures, also equal to half their level rounded up.
I think that hits the right point in the power curve.
Ever since we started on the setting, I’ve engaged in more-or-less frequent musings on how I would translate the setting to D&D rules in a way that would preserve some of it’s particular quirks. My vague concept of the “Ruins & Rogues” system would use B/X ability score bonuses (13-15 +1, 16-17 +2, 18 +3) and OD&D class hit dice. This would be mixed with some concepts from later iterations of D&D: a single XP table for all classes, ascending armor class, and the 3E saving throws but with static success numbers, à la Blood & Treasure (which I haven’t actually bought and read yet). It’s more of a pencil sketch of a system than something solid, but then it seems to me that one of the main appeals of OSR/retroclone games is that all you need are a few basic ideas and you’ve already got a ton of material that can be easily tweaked at the table to work with those basics.
Recently I’ve been thinking about faith in the setting again (which will probably lead to another Savage Worlds post on the topic soon), and that got me thinking about how the R&R cleric class would work.
Hit Die: 1d6/level
Armor: Clerics can wear any armor and use shields.
Weapons: Clerics can use any weapons.
The most obvious difference between this and the traditional cleric class is that they do not cast spells. Keep in mind that the magic-user spell list for the setting would include the cure spells, so magical healing is still available to the party. Ultimately this ends up being somewhat more like a paladin in function, but I’m aiming for a lower power level than the traditional AD&D paladin with its high-end attribute requirements.
Right now this is really just an exercise since I’m not running anything I could test this with. Thoughts?
Edit: Did not take long after I posted this to decide “Meh, I’d probably just run LotFP with a modified cleric and cure spells on the magic-user list.” The shower always brings clarity of RPG-related thought.