Thursday, 28 March 2019

Cleric Rework - Fuck Spell-Slots Get Miracles

Clerics are weird. This is known.

They're basically just religious wizards with a thematic spell list and a heal-bot reputation. Most of the time they're there to heal and maybe occasionally use a more interesting spell like Command.
I've never been quite happy with them, but adding a bunch of spells per religious denomination helped a little.

This is taking it a step further. Fuck the spell list. Fuck spells per day. You're not a wizard, you're a warrior-priest! Let's get faithful!

(This is part one. Part two can be found here!)

Generic Cleric

A standard Cleric.
Should hopefully be easy to add/swap into whatever you're running with minimal fuss.

Core: HD, Saves, Experience per level, etc of a normal Cleric.

Lay on Hands: Heal the wounded by drawing points from your Healing Pool.
Each dawn, roll 1d6 per level + Wis Mod. This is your Healing Pool for the day.
As an action, you can draw points from the Healing Pool to heal as much HP to a touched target.

Faith: You cast Miracles through Faith.
Your Faith total will change as you cast Miracles and trigger Observances.
At dawn each day, roll 1d6 per level + Wis Mod. This is your starting Faith total for the day.

Miracles: All Cleric spells are called Miracles now.
Healing spells like the Cure family no longer heal HP, but can still be used to cure paralysis or mend broken bones or whatever else they can already do instead.
You can cast any Miracle that would have access to at your level (eg. a 5th level Cleric has access to 1st, 2nd and 3rd level Miracles).

Calling a Miracle: Calling forth a Miracle is a normal Action - the Miracle is cast instantaneously.
After you call forth a Miracle, roll 1d6 per spell level and attempt to roll equal to or less than your current Faith total.
  • Success: Your Faith total is set to either the result of the roll or your Cleric level, whichever is higher.
  • Failure: Your Faith total drops to zero, and you can no longer call forth Miracles until your Faith resets at dawn.
Observances: Each Observance is an act that will cause you to gain or lose Faith.
Observances can be triggered once each. When you make a successful Miracle roll, this resets so you can be affected by each Observance again.


So that's the Generic Cleric.
I've got special stuff for different religions (which is the stuff I'm most stoked about) but I cut it down to one standard Cleric to really show what I'm going for here:

- Retain status as the Healer class.
- Encourage use of non-Cure spells.
- Reward Clerics for following their religion.

Healbot Reputation

In my game to date, Clerics would often avoid using a more interesting spell because they didn't want to waste a potential Cure Light Wounds.
This was alleviated slightly by giving them a Denomination Spell, but not by much.

Honestly a Healer class is a solid niche, I can't fault it from a gameplay standpoint. It's just that sometimes it feels like that's all a Cleric is.
Plus there's the social impact - "wasting" your last spell of the day on Command or Detect Evil is sure to get you moaned at by the rest of the party when someone gets shanked in the lung.
So why not just make healing a separate ability to spellcasting?
Everyone gets heals, the Cleric gets to use cooler spells, it works!

Miracle Mechanic

This is the core of Cleric spellcasting now. Note that there's no possibility of failing to cast the Miracle - it always goes off regardless of the Faith roll.
This goes back a ways to the idea that Clerics are reliable.
There might be a possibility that this Miracle is your last one of the day, but there's no question whether you can cast it. This is also why it's a normal action instead of a full round of spellcasting - you can't be interrupted.

You may notice it's a little janky in regards to starting Faith (1d6/Cleric level) and rolling when you cast a Miracle (1d6/spell level). Yes, even if you have a million starting Faith, a single level 1 Miracle will set your new Faith total to 1-6.

This is because the "real" version is slightly different (coming sooooon....?).
But then, as is, this version of the Cleric is encouraged to start off the day using higher level spells (while they still have high Faith) and work their way down to the lesser spells as their Faith total declines.
You could justify this thematically though. You don't hear about Jesus throwing out a few Commands before he whips out a big Cure Disease or Create Food and Water.

Also a level 6 Cleric can cast infinite Level 1 Cleric spells, since minimum Faith on a successful roll is your Cleric level.
It sorta works - in my game the maximum level soft caps at around level 7, so why shouldn't a high level Cleric be allowed to throw around as many Commands and Detect Evils as they like?

Keep the Faith

Observances are the fun one, cribbed from the Dragon Worship rules which I cribbed originally from Perdition.
The intention is that a Cleric can cast a Miracle, get a new Faith total, then farm it back up with Observances in order to ensure they succeed at their next Miracle roll.
This means a Cleric who's careful with their Miracles and devout in their faith is unlikely to run out of spells per day.

On the other hand, if you spam Miracles you don't have a chance to build up more Faith in between times, so you'll likely run out sooner.
Worse, if you're a taboo-breaking Cleric who triggers the negative Observances, you'll lose Faith and likely run out of Miracles even sooner.

D&D has always had the much-maligned and debated Paladin falling mechanic, so this is a soft version of that. Plus it's codified so you can't get fucked over by a DM who pits Paladins against the trolley problem.

Less Generic Cleric

But James! I hear you cry. This is a bit shit! Those Observances only work for a generic psuedo-judeo-christian paladin-type Cleric! What if my deity is the God of the Woods? Or the Moon? Or the Turbo Dragon Jesus?

It's a simple fix my friend.
If you have any special Cleric spells per religion, add them into the Cleric's spell list.
Then simply change the Observances to fit the Cleric's deity - working with the player if you want to be nice and collaborative.

Here's my guideline for new Observances:

+1: Preaching.
+1: Specific healing
+1: An easy act that can be completed anywhere.
+1: A slightly less easy act that can be completed anywhere.
+1: A situational act you have to seek out.
+1: Visiting a devotional location.

-1: An easily avoided act.
-1: A harder to avoid act.
-1: Harming a follower of your own or a related religion.
-2: Inverse of theme - the opposite of what your deity is about

And some examples, which may make more sense with an ensuing post:

Cleric of POWERLAD

Drug Cult Cleric

Edgy Atheist Cleric
Further reading:Miracles, Holy War and You!


  1. You're killing it these last few posts. I want to playtest this sometime to see how the faith total stuff works in play. I LOVE the Observances. Maybe I'll make a "Lame Youth Pastor" build...

    1. Thanks man!
      I want to see the lame youth pastor build. Clapping your HANDS! Hitting on TEENS! Making Jesus FUN!

  2. DCC made healing a cleric ability akin to turning undead, and I think it does help free up their spell list.

    It feels like Vancian spellcasting could be a another solution. Sure, you can memorize ONE COPY of cure light wounds, but your other spells all have to be something else.

    1. Man I wish I'd gone with "no doubling up on spells" long ago for Clerics, that might have sorted the whole issue out.
      I did it ages ago for Magic-Users, I think the only reason I didn't extend it to Clerics was out of a vague desire to make them feel like different types of caster!

  3. This is really amazing work. Thank you.

  4. Clearly, I haven't seen the "real version" of this yet, but I wonder if this might be a solution to the "first level spell drops your faith to 1-6" problem (which, as you stated above, may or may not be an actual problem).

    When you successful roll under your Faith on the Xd6 casting roll, subtract that total from your current Faith.

    That way you can cast a few Commands while still keeping some faith in reserve for your big spells.

    1. Yea I was considering that for this version, but then it feels too much like Mana to me.
      It's just another limited resource per day then, you know?
      It would totally work though.

      If you want a sneak preview, the "real" version is pretty much just:
      - Several religions to choose from
      - Cleric Spell List ditched completely, replaced with 3 unique Miracles per religion. That's all you get, but they scale with level.
      - Miracles count as Level 2 under these rules (ie. 2d6, roll under Faith total).

    2. Yeah, it does feel a lot like a mana pool, you're right.
      From what you're telling me, the "real" rules almost sound kind of GLOGy, which would a neat hybridization.

      (BTW, I use *a lot* of your house rules in my home game, so I'm eager to see how the cleric rules shake out.)

    3. Cool man! Yea I guess it could get GLOGgy... man actually it would be pretty interesting for the Faith roll to impact how the Miracle is cast!
      Maybe too unreliable though? Man anyway yea, something to think about.

      The "real" version is here if you want to check it out, I'm probably not going to change it much further. Just need to write it up!

  5. I did something a little like this about 4 years back when I ran my homebrew B/X-LotFP mashup game. I used the Cleric rules from DCC and was extremely strict about deity disapproval when the times came (and they did). I balanced it out with something I called Piety points, very similar to your observances. Clerics were praying for their miracles when they needed them (no prepared spells), sometimes in combat with appropriate disadvantages to their Miracle roll, off of a list of "known miracles granted" in their Holy Books, or sometimes just freestyle with appropriate diety disapproval when they cacked their rolls. The possibility of disapproval kept them careful not to "demand too much from their benefactor", there were no level limits, and they could use the Piety points (measured with M&Ms in a cup at the table) to help them receive their miracle.
    We had a character worshipping the deified version of Patrick McGoohan as Number Six from THE PRISONER at one point. It was fun.