Let’s keep this going, shall we?
“Gods, clerics, and holy spells cause logistical problems. If you can heal, cure disease, and resurrect, then do leaders die? Are their [sic] epidemics? Does each god have a portfolio? Is that a lot of extra work? Are gods, gods or just beings on a power-level beyond characters? Does Healing magic just waste everyone’s time, devaluing hit points as a resource and shoehorning in a character “because we need a healer”? Are armored spellcasters really a good idea?”
“These are a lot of annoying work-heavy questions for elf-games.”
At this point it’s not the idea that the cleric should be removed as it is the idea that it’s too labor intensive to answer the question. As I said before, there is no sacred cow to the game. If the DM feels that her game is improved by adding or removing certain elements, then she should do it. But when the only reason she can offer is, “it’s too much work for something that’s supposed to be fun,” then she needs to step down and let someone else run the game.
Look, I like -C and Delta. I have their URLs memorized because they often provide content that, while not exactly right, is at least rational and thought provoking. It’s clear that they put a lot of effort into their blogs and their published products. So let me be perfectly clear: these two have accomplished more as writers than I have, and I respect them for that.
Even though they’re wrong.
I’ll address -C’s questions above and, in due time, address Delta’s house rules concerning clerics (specifically, the advantages of not having them in the game).
If you can heal, cure disease, and resurrect, then do leaders die? Are their epidemics?
Yes. All the damn time.
It’s true that the presence of divine magic – or, more accurately, miracles – suggests an inconsistency where it comes to the life and death of NPCs. After all, the powerful NPCs must have clerics working for them, right? Yet this question inherently fails to recognize that prayers and miracles – as distinct from arcane spells – are a limited commodity. Like any rare commodity, their use (or exploitation) is limited. After all, we have modern medicine which is capable of attaching a severed hand to a leg in order to keep the hand alive until it can be reattached to the arm. And yet, people all over the world lose hands and legs all the damn time.
First, we must consider how many clerics exist in the world. There are several methods we could use and, naturally, the final answer comes down to the DM’s decision. Regardless, it’s fair to say that clerics are rare. They’re members of an elite group – player character classes. They require specialized training, primarily in religion and prayer, but also in things like combat, ritual, politics, theology, philosophy, leadership, management, etc. They have stat requirements – typically just an average Wisdom score, though again, each campaign world can make this more restrictive.
For my own world, I estimate that, on average, 624 persons in 100,000 would be clerics. Compare that to about 1 in 20 for the number of leaders in the world. (Note that the difference is a matter of specialization. The cleric is a highly specialized, clearly defined character. A leader is, generally speaking, any person who leads a group of people. There will always be leaders, even if those who lead are not even remotely qualified for the job.) But clearly that’s not what we mean when we’re talking about leaders – I’m just quibbling over semantics. Not that it matters. If we look at just the number of people (per 100,000) with levels and assume that they represent the number of (effective) leaders in the world, we find that there’s 2,537 leaders for every group of 624 clerics (or a ratio of about 4:1).
(And yes, I’m using numbers according to rules for my game; I will address my methods in a different post. No, this doesn’t have to apply to your game. Either way, fuck off: if you want to disagree with the basic point I’m making, please show your work or provide some form of a rational argument.)
Please note that I’m only talking about the raw number of clerics in the world as compared to the general population (and to a population of “leaders”). This says nothing about the levels of these clerics, which gods they worship or their exact suite of powers.
Oh, and when epidemics do happen, you can damn well be certain that the local church will pay a little less attention to the king and his lackeys, and a lot more attention to the HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE DYING FROM THE SHITS.
Does each god have a portfolio? Is that a lot of extra work?
Really, how many times must we go over this inane detail? Of course it takes extra work. It might take a lot of extra work or it might take just a little. That depends on how prepared you are. But let’s try looking at it from another direction: why are you creating new deities all the damn time?
A DM should only ever create one world. It’s her world, her pride and joy, her life’s work – well, not literally, but in the hobbyist sense – so why is she constantly scrapping it for a new world? Yes, I myself have spent many hours on creating new worlds. And I did it because I always felt like my games were constantly getting away from me. And they were but mostly because I was a bad DM who let bad players run amok and unchecked. Still, even during that time, I always had my personal game world and I tried as much as I could to keep the players in that world, regardless of how many characters they made or how many “new campaigns” we started. So, no, it’s no more work to assign the gods their portfolios than it is to answer the damn question, “Which gods have influence in this part of the world?”
Are gods, gods or just beings on a power-level beyond characters?
I don’t know. Is magic, magic or is it just a form of science that we, with our modern minds, don’t fully comprehend?
The answer is simple: you, as the DM, should KNOW THE DAMN ANSWER before you start running the game. And don’t change the answer once you figure it out. That’s just rude.
Are armored spellcasters really a good idea?
Honestly, I haven’t had any problems with this in my games. But if you find that it genuinely unbalances the game and detracts from the experience the players share at your table, then change the damn rules and be done with it.
Or would that require too much work for a simple elf-game?
Does Healing magic just waste everyone’s time, devaluing hit points as a resource and shoehorning in a character “because we need a healer”?
Story time: in college, one of my regular players usually played a cleric, especially for pickup games. She’s always been an active, engaged player; she always contributes to the action by becoming immersed in the fantasy; indeed, when given the chance to pick players for a new group, I always tried to get her involved because she brought so much to the table. But she’s terrible with numbers; she never cared for memorizing the rules; and she always let herself be talked into playing whichever class was lacking at the table.
More often than not, the class that was lacking was the cleric.
Part of the reason for this was my own fault. I used to play with alignment and my players, during the 3E era, were always wary of being told what they could and could not do. Part of this fear was justified in the case of clerics because they have an inherent social structure linked to the class, and the implication is that alignment is the foundation for that structure. It’s all bullshit, of course, but I didn’t realize that at the time and would occasionally let my asshole side seep through (in an attempt to adhere to the rules of the game, naturally; not justifying my bad behavior, just saying why it happened…).
So no one really wanted to play a cleric. Well, there was also the concern that clerics were just heal-bots and never got to do anything cool. Part of that had to do with 3E and the power creep inherent in every new edition. But part of it had to do with the underlying social structures at play. The former I could – and do – control by changing the rules to limit how often clerics can use their spells. The latter… well, again, I was an asshole and a bad DM, and it took me a few years to realize it.
Look, if your players are avoiding the cleric because it forces an obligation to play in a certain way – like, always memorizing heal spells in order to keep the party alive – then you’re playing with dickheads. Kill their characters in the most final way possible, wait for the ashes to settle (and the tears to stop) and make them roll new characters. When they do, have a good heart-to-heart, come-to-Jesus talk with them. Tell them that, while they are a team and they need to figure out how to work as a team, you won’t tolerate bullies. Give them a one-strike rule: anyone caught being a bully will get a warning. If the behavior persists, you’ll kick them to the curb. And yes, I’m saying that a group that insists the cleric always use healing spells – and nothing else – is a group of bullies.
More to follow…