Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Would The Cleric Like To Say Grace?

This is a tough one. I’m not a big fan of the term cleric anyway, as most adventuring parties don’t require a “clerk” to come along and record their actions, and the term "cleric" in Western European tradition refers to very specific members of the clergy…generally, those old school devout-types that shave the top of their head.

I don’t know about you folks, but in my old D&D campaigns, players stayed the hell away from any deities that required their followers to be bald (like all the Egyptian gods in DDG).

Anyway, I suppose an “Adventuring Cleric” gets across the right idea…a priest who takes to the wild in search of adventure instead of running the parish back home (this is in alignment with an "adventuring fighter" versus a stationed soldier and an “adventuring thief” as opposed to the local pickpocket). But an adventuring clergyman (i.e. an adventuring priest) is in conflict with the whole crusader-paladin template of the cleric previous discussed. Remember the cleric’s descriptions:

AD&D: The class of character bears a certain resemblance to religious orders of knighthood of medieval times.

B/X: Clerics are humans who have dedicated themselves to the service of a god or goddess. They are trained in fighting and casting spells.

For me, I wish there was a way to heal the dichotomy between the priest and the warrior by giving the class a name besides “cleric.” Ideally the name would be one word (not “holy warrior” for example) that would capture the epitome of the character class, much as a “fighter” or “magic-user” does.

Zealot? Maybe a little too pejorative. Crusader, perhaps.

Anyway, here are the level titles I’m considering for the cleric class. As with the fighter titles, I tried to stay away from titles that sound to sedentary, like anything that implies a parish or “flock” (vicar, curate, high priest, etc.). Likewise I steered clear of actual, conferred titles like “Saint”:

Level – Rank
1 – Zealot
2 – Devotee
3 – Martyr
4 – Paragon
5 – Crusader
6 – Elder
7 – Initiate
8 – Paladin
9 – Temple Lord/Lady

Once a cleric reaches Name level, he or she has the ability to create a stronghold attracting their own zealots (i.e. “the faithful”). I considered using “Defender of the Faith” as a level title, but as this has been historically reserved for monarchs that are also religious leaders (e.g. the English monarch, certain Middle Eastern leaders) I felt it inappropriate. On the other hand a Lord Templar implies the 9th level cleric has the vested authority to create a “bastion of faith” should he or she choose.

Some may consider terms like Martyr and Zealot to be too strong, but I feel the terms help to remind players (including the DM) what sets this character apart from other adventurers: their zeal, their devotion, their faith. A 3rd level cleric should be prepared to die for their faith, in my opinion. If a cleric doesn’t “represent,” how can he expect his god to grant him those holy/unholy powers?

As a side note, I realize I didn't include female-specific titles for the Fighter class (“Woman of Arms,” “Arms Mistress,” etc.); this is less due to oversight than to my perception of women warriors. In my experience, female fighters consider themselves no different from their male counterparts and don’t wish any distinction from men-folk. In other words, it is preferred to be a female Warlord to a “War Lady.” Please don't take it as a lack of sensitivity.
: )


  1. is I was going to do D&D I'd use the word "pilgrim" rather than cleric, to me at least it has more connotations of a religiously devout person seeking to practice his face by facing the conflicts and concerns of the world whiel travelling . . . but that's just my idea

  2. Martyr is sort of a dead end as far as titles go...

    May I humbly suggest Defender, Champion, Protector, Faithfull. Sorry if any of those are taken, I'm not that familiar with titles in various D&D's.

    I think Crusader is this best alternative name for militant cleric.

  3. "Martyr is sort of a dead end..."

    Ha! But I actually really like it for a 3rd level "cleric."

    Defender and protector I considered and discarded...I feel they are too "reactive." An adventurer goes out and find adventure...they are proactive about throwing themselves into the lion's den. Champion is a fighter title.

    Brand: I like "pilgrim" but not for a holy warrior. A pilgrim is generally on a "pilgrimage" to a specific place. I want to convey a more "wide open" feeling with the title. Though I suppose I could turn a TSR phrase like "pilgrimage to adventure!"
    ; )

  4. I'd suggest some of your titles are in the wrong order:

    Wouldn't a "paragon" be name level or thereabouts?

    Wouldn't an "Initiate" be somewhere down low where the character actually got, you know, initiated (like 1st or 2nd level)?

    Just some food for thought.

  5. I appreciate the food. ; )

    My reasoning follows this particular line. "Paragon" does not refer to the master of everything kind of paragon (like the BECMI immortal candidate) but rather a "Paragon of Virtue." At the low levels, the thing driving the cleric is only his (or her) zeal, devotion, and faith. It gives him a strength of arms, an ability to turn the dead, and the ability to pray for spells (beginning at 2nd level).

    At the higher levels, the cleric actually begins to understand "the mysteries" of his or her faith. An "Initiate" is not an initiate into the religion...the cleric character doesn't need a religion to be a spiritual crusader, he's been 'baptized' by his own faith in his goddess. But at higher levels, he takes an interest in the working of the faith's doctrine (he's preparing to found his own church/temple stronghold) and so must begin to learn some of the inner workings behind the superficial. Just as "Elder" refers to the cleric's spiritual maturity (not his actual age), the Initiate is already far more accomplished than the novice or parish priest...he is to be Initiated into the secret rites and underpinnings of the laws upon which the faith is founded.

    This is kind of New Agey, Atlantean mysticism stuff, but real world religions have their "initiates," too. For the cleric, he is summoned to a higher calling at 7th (heck, he's learning how to transform sticks into snakes! only Moses and his brother were ever initiated into those "mysteries" in the Old Testament!).

    At 8th level he's passed his Initiate stage and is back in the field as a crusading Paladin, spreading the word of his god or goddess and taking the battle to the infidel...whatever alignment they may be.

    Hope that all makes sense. : )

  6. These posts have inspired me to revisit the halfling titles, which are a smidge boring. I just want to turn "Bullroarer" into a title.

  7. Glad I've inspired.
    ; )

    Speaking of halflings, has anyone else noticed the hobbit "barbarian" on the frontspiece of Keep on the Borderlands seems to be wielding a polearm against the owlbear? Or am I just crazy?