I've written before (in various locations) my reasons for enjoying the "race as class" rules of early edition Dungeons & Dragons. Here's the main one, from back in 2010, but I've left plenty of additional thoughts scattered throughout the blog since then (I especially liked this one on xenophobia). For the most part, I stand by what I've posted...I prefer not having non-human species function as human occupations. A dwarf is a dwarf, an elf is an elf, etc.
But what if you postulate a world of multiple deities, like the usual D&D default (or the Moorcock books D&D emulates). Let's say you agree with me that the various demihumans ARE alien, inhuman, sentient beings...but ones that were created by, and have their own worshipful devotion for, extra-dimensional divine beings? Shouldn't they have a clerical class? And shouldn't such characters be playable as player characters (as they have been since 1985 with the release of Unearthed Arcana?)?
[to be clear, there were demihuman clerics prior to the UA being published, but they were specifically closed to players, only being available as non-player characters. Half-elves and half-orcas, being "semi-humans," were an exception to this stricture]
In such a campaign setting I can certainly see the sense in having a "priestly caste" for such creatures, but even allowing for their existence does NOT mean A) they need emulate in any way, shape, or form the cleric adventuring class, nor B) that they must be made available as player characters.
However, assuming you do want to make such a character available as PCs (adding a little spice to the boring 'same old same old'), I certainly wouldn't go the route of making them the same type of divine agents as human clerics. For one thing, doing so goes back to the problem of using species ("race") as a stand-in for ethnic/racial stereotype (because they're just humans with rubber masks...er...pointy ears). For another, it misses an opportunity to play up the alienness of the demihumans that comes with creating one's own strange, species-specific cult and practice of worship. Rather than considering such characters as a race + class, I'd take the tack of calling them by the same classification (dwarf, elf, or halfling), but one with an overlay of "priest" (similar to my previous beastmaster and barbarian overlays).
Here are some examples of how it might work:
Priest of the Forge God (dwarf overlay): character is expected to be first in battle, especially against goblins, their hated enemy. Add +1 to attack rolls versus goblins; may not use missile weapons (in addition to normal weapon restrictions for dwarves). Priests who reach 9th level (Master Smith) may not build strongholds; however, they gain the ability to create magical items as a wizard. At 11th level, the priest may establish a Forge Shrine and will attract D6 dwarf acolytes of levels 1-3 to aid in her work. All other abilities and restrictions (including maximum level and experience needed) are as per the dwarf class.
|Making a mighty weapon.|
Priest of the Song Eternal (elf overlay): wisdom replaces intelligence as the character's second prime requisite, and the character is restricted to Lawful or Neutral alignment. Spells learned are chosen from the clerical spell list instead of those of the magic-user, and the character uses (and creates) magic-items as a cleric, rather than as a magic-user. All other abilities and restrictions (including maximum level, attack and save tables, number of spells learned, etc.) are as per the standard elf class.
[please note, spells for priests of the demon queen will generally be of the reversed variety as per the rules for chaotic clerics (page X11). Whimsical folks might consider altering some of the spells to a more "demonic" variety, like stones to spiders in place of the standard sticks to snakes]
FINAL NOTES: for all these overlays, level titles should be as per the cleric table given on page X5, save that the species type is added (for example: dwarf acolyte, halfling vicar, elf bishop). While priests of the Song Eternal have the same "name level" (Patriarch/Matriarch) as a 9th level cleric, this is not the case for the other sects (Dwarf Master Smith and Elf High Priest/Priestess). The level title for an 8th level halfling priest is Kahuna, not Sheriff.
Hmm...looking these over, I kind of like these. Might have to try them out the next time I run B/X...at least as NPCs.