So, yeah...after very little deliberation, I've decided to re-write DL2: Dragons of Flame for use in my home campaign. As has been detailed ad nauseum (here and elsewhere) the thing has problems, most due to DragonLance in general (duh) some for stuff I just find a little nonsensical; for example, there are not one but TWO chambers containing a huge, ancient red dragon, but no easy means of egress/ingress for either (no treasure hoard in their lairs either).
However, I rather like the Big Bad Leader, "Verminaard" (well, except for his name). I'll admit I'm a fan of "dragon highlords" as a concept anyway, but an evil 8th level patriarch battle commander is right in my wheelhouse.
[remember I'm also a fan of Jagreen Lern]
But the "battle commander" is the important bit. Waaaaaay back when I was a kid, before I even knew there was such a thing as "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" I don't remember ever having a cleric in our games...not until I got my hands on the Mentzer/Cook Expert set. Remember that my understanding of "D&D" as a concept was mostly informed by playground gossip/play (which featured fighters, magic-users, and assassins), the Dungeon! board game (elves, heroes, superheroes, and wizards), and the occasional comic strip advertisement (which, to that point, had yet to feature "Serena the Cleric" or whatever her name was).
[films like The Hobbit, Clash of the Titans, and various Sinbad films also played a role in my understanding of "fantasy," of course]
But the cleric class? Um...huh? Doesn't really seem like Friar Tuck does it? Certainly didn't seem like my parish priest...my encounters with "the undead" at a young age were mainly limited to the occasional Dracula re-make on television...my parents did NOT expose me to a lot of horror stuff.
And so, since I didn't have a good grasp on the concept...well, it didn't see action in my games either.
However, this changed when I got the Expert set. All Moldvay wrote as a description was:
Clerics are humans who have dedicated themselves to the service of a god or goddess. They are trained in fighting and casting spells. As a cleric advances in level, he or she is granted the use of more and more spells. However, clerics do not receive any spells until they reach 2nd level (and have proven their devotion to their god or goddess).
Yeah, why would I want to play THAT instead of an elf?
The Expert text, on the other hand, gets things fired up:
At the first 3 levels of experience, the power of a cleric is extremely limited. As characters advance to higher levels...[they obtain more spells of greater power, having proven their faith to their god or goddess. Because of this, it is very important for clerics to be faithful to the beliefs of their religion and alignment. Should a cleric behave in a manner that is not pleasing to his or her deity, the deity may become angered and punish the offender. This punishment could take many forms...[examples]. The DM may decide what punishment might be in such a case. To regain the favor of the deity, a cleric might find it wise to donate money and magic items to the religion, build a church or temple, gain large numbers of converts, or defeat some great foe of the religion...
All that is heady, world-building stuff. This isn't just some dude with a list of healing spells and a weapon restriction...dude's got responsibilities to a god (or goddess). Failure indicates consequences! Compliances yields great rewards (like fanatically loyal FREE troops, and half-price strongholds!)! DMs are given major leeway to punish and persecute such characters, sending them on quests, whatever-whatever.
The first new character rolled up using the Expert rules (for my buddy Matt) was a cleric. I made sure of that. And because I was 10 years old and had no patience for waiting for someone to reach "name level," he was created as a 9th level character with a troop of devoted fanatics and a small stronghold. His first adventure: he and his men were ordered by his god to enter the desert and confront a blue dragon in its lair. Now, forty years later, I can't remember how the mission turned out (I suspect there was a lot of death by electricity), but I'm sure it was glorious. I know this: for the rest of the time my original group hung together (about five years, mostly AD&D), Matt nearly always played a cleric of some sort.
Fast forward to today.
I have some pretty solid opinions on the cleric class, basic assumptions on what it is, how it works/functions, and the justifications for various systems. These "solid opinions" have definitely changed/evolved over time, and I would happily enumerate their current standings if I thought anyone would really care terribly (I don't). However, I previously mentioned that one of my Lenten activities involved curating the PHB spell lists, and since the clerical list was the FIRST one I culled (and because it somewhat applies to Verminaard), I thought I'd detail a little of that particular bit.
In brief: I'm not using alignment these days. Lots of reasons for that. Nor am I using Deities & Demigods in my game, except for its rules on ability scores outside the normal range (and I'm thinking of cutting those as well). What then are clerics, and how do they function? Are they just a different type of spell-caster (i.e. another magic-user with a different list of spells and a different set of weapon/armor restrictions)?
They are still clerics...priestly types, in other words. But there is no pantheon of deities/alignments to choose from. There are acknowledged "lords of light:" life-giving, creator gods (or God, depending on the particulars of one's religion). Clerics have access to a standard list of spells based on healing and protection and generally all the (non-reversed) usual spells available in the PHB. They don't get to animate dead or cause wounds or slay living creatures...none of those powers are granted by the lords of light. They are tasked with spreading light, fighting darkness, making a better world for all.
Pretty simple, pretty straight-forward, pretty easy. It's more-or-less "acting in aid of The Good" which doesn't necessarily mean killing orcs and building civilization...in fact, sometimes it means saving orcs and destroying civilizations. But well-fed, harmonious communities growing in wisdom and acting with simple kindness to each other is...generally...the desired end result.
Then there are the anti-clerics.
Some folks just don't want to get along with others. They'd rather subjugate and destroy, dominate and command others and aggrandize themselves. Rather than follow the lords of light, they pray to diabolic or demonic powers, who can grant them many of the same powers. Many, but not all.
Anti-clerics in my campaign world are clerics with a different spell list. They still have some of the lower level healing spells, but for the most part they use ONLY the reversed spells found in the PHB. The dark gods aren't big on creating light and life; anti-clerics cannot raise the dead for example (although they can animate corpses in a gross parody of life). In simple terms, anti-clerics are bad apples who, for whatever reason, have decided they'd rather have the power to inflict fear and death on others, though losing their soul in the process.
|The whip is not an|
An adventure for 1st level characters.