Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Old Time Religion (part 1)

Can I please get some gaming content in my blog-o-sphere?

[all apologies to Jeff Rients with his recent DCC adaptation]

Ugh…life has been rough lately, but no one wants to hear about it (not that they don’t care, it’s just that that’s not why they tune it). So now that we’ve passed the All-Star break and Seattleites can officially stop paying attention to pro sports (at least till September) it’s time to start leading by example.

Let’s talk clerics.

It’s funny: as a kid growing up I never played clerics as PCs. Not that they didn’t provide SOME interest to me. As a kid with his grubby hands on a Basic set, I have to say Sister Rebecca was no huge role-model (all apologies to Mrs. Moldvay)…the examples show her to be a secondary bludgeon and “Jimminy Cricket” type conscience to party members. Now if there’d been a turning example in the rules my feelings might have been different. Instead clerics just felt kind of “meh” to me…at least compared to the Elf (Silverleaf) and Fighter (Morgan Ironwolf) examples.

[and let me tell you, reading about the Dwarf and Thief getting off’d quickly didn’t endear me to THOSE classes either…though perhaps not as much as not seeing ANY examples of Magic-users and Halflings]

[note to self: need to put more examples in D&D Mine and make the characters interesting]
Now it was a different story when I got to the Expert set a year (or less) later. The ability of Name level clerics to inspire fanatically loyal followers is, frankly, awesome and had me absolutely invested in the idea of clerics as a viable class. The first “pre-gen” Expert character we made was a cleric for my buddy Matt (though less than 9th level) so that he could lead some hired mercenaries into a desert wilderness to fight a blue dragon. This character would go on to be his staple PC when we converted over to AD&D later.

Clerics in AD&D became even MORE awesome with spells up to 7th level and the fantastic Deities and Demigods rulebook. Man, there were a lot of bulls sacrificed on altars back in those days (and not just by the clerics)…a lot more than you find in your average 21st century D&D game anyway. I did write up a priestess of Thor (complete with poorly drawn picture with horned helmet), but it was a character I never had a chance to play.

As I said, I had some interest in clerics, but they just weren’t my normal “type.” Which is funny because the last couple years (ever since rekindling an interest in D&D) has found me playing a LOT of clerics. Well, two clerics and a paladin, but that’s three holy types out of a total of four D&D campaigns I’ve played in since I got back into this “old school thang”…75%? Pretty darn unusual considering my past track record.

[I’m NOT counting DCC play-testing as “D&D” by the way]

Now, I play clerics a little different from the way some folks do…I say this as a long time Dungeon Master who’s seen a lot of clerics pass through his campaigns (with varying degrees of success). I tend to be a “lead from the front” guy, rather than a “support/medic” person. Now part of this is due to my (generally) forward and abrasive personality, but part of it is my personal take on the cleric character class…and this is the only way I can justify the character concept.

Now let’s back up for a moment: why the heck am I talking about this? ‘Cause that’s pertinent to the discussion. Well, a guy over at the dragonsfoot forums asked a question about how XP was awarded for treasure and provided the following hypothetical:
“…let’s say the party willingly leaves treasure behind (the cleric doesn’t want to desecrate the tomb, as is often the case). What do you do then? Do you award any XP at all?”
The responses were many and varied. I provided my own answer – the B/X answer – that XP is only awarded for treasure recovered. Why? Because XP earned represents a character’s skill as an adventurer treasure hunter (which is why XP is awarded for treasure found). Part of my response included the following:
“If characters choose to leave a chest of gold behind because “it’s too heavy” or refuse to take a jade idol because it’s “sacred to someone’s deity” then they aren’t very good adventurers are they? The proficient, experienced adventurer (i.e. the one with the higher level) will demonstrate his or her ability at treasure retrieval. This is a PROFESSION…if they don’t intend to make money at it they might as well work as shop keepers or blacksmiths or fisher folks or whatever.”
What was not immediately apparent from the post (but what was explained later by the poster) was this:
“Indeed, no XP should be awarded for leaving treasure behind because it’s too heavy, but the Cleric example still strikes me as a potential problem. I understand that players should be adventurers (i.e. “treasure retrieval experts”), but there’s just something odd about a cleric robbing tombs. I’m not really arguing anything here; just making an observation. I guess he could just be an adventuring cleric.”
This seemingly innocuous question (at least, it appears the poster feels the question is innocuous) is…to me, at least…one with tremendous implication to one’s D&D campaign. I mean it strikes right at the heart of “what is this game all about?” And depending on how it is answered, it drastically changes the color of one’s game.

Well, it does if you care about such things or are even slightly introspective about your role-playing. I know there are plenty of people who don’t give a shit…but that’s a separate post.

There are two basic parts to this question, one general and one specific…and if you can’t reconcile the two you are going to run into disconnects between players and the game. Disconnects with regard to the underpinnings of the game’s “fantasy logic” anyway; I suppose you can still play D&D like an over-complicated version of Munchkin instead of an RPG.

[to be continued due to sheer bulk]

1 comment:

  1. So now that we’ve passed the All-Star break and Seattleites can officially stop paying attention to pro sports (at least till September) it’s time to start leading by example.

    You tuned in this far into the year watching the Mariners? God help you; that'll lead to suffering.

    I'm a Seattle pro soccer fan, so this is my prime time. But, even my NFL-loving friends are getting filled with anticipation/excitement at this time of year.

    Sorry, nothing productive to add, rpg-wise.