All the Work Again…

Delta’s house rules concerning clerics: there are no clerics.

And here’s my response to each of his reasons…

(Disclaimer: Yes, of course he can run his game however he wants. And I’m sure that his game is well run, judging by the quality of the content on his blog. My thoughts are outlined below because 1) I think he’s wrong, mostly because 2) I think he’s being intellectually lazy. These are intended as objective observations, not an attack on character.)

Don’t have to detail a list of gods before play begins (i.e., avoids DDG-type requirement); can keep gods a mystery or forego them entirely.

I don’t see how this is a problem. When starting a campaign, the DM should include details about the major religions (or at least, those religions that have the most influence in the players’ immediate vicinity). This would naturally include naming the deities (if the religion is a polytheistic one), explaining their relationships with each other and detailing things like ceremonies, observances, holidays, roles in society, appearances, etc. All of which takes work. So how hard can it be to assign a few spells to each as a way of further distinguishing one cleric from another?

And do we really need to start a new campaign? Because that’s how I see this issue playing out: the DM starts working on a new world with new societies and deities and all that jazz, and when it comes time to give the players options for their characters, “Oh, this is too much work.” Seriously, a good DM should have one world, maybe two, where she sets her games. Never more than that. The need to switch from one game to the next, like you’re changing your underwear, is a symptom of a greater problem: you’re failing to deliver a satisfying game.

Don’t have to deal with integrated Christian mythology and institutions (equipment-list crosses, biblical-based spell list, Catholic class level titles, etc.)

No one has to deal with this issue unless they choose to. In fact, I’m pretty sure the game got away from Christian influences as early as 2e (excluding vampire weaknesses, of course, which is easily fixed by removing the d@=^ cross requirement) (please correct me if I’m wrong). Either way, if you’re dead-set against including those influences – hey, I think I figured out why people hate clerics so much! – just remove them from the game. You don’t have to nix a full quarter of your players’ options for one small detail.

Don’t have to deal with proliferation of miraculous abilities among clergy in every church in the campaign.

As I pointed out yesterday, if you keep the number of clerics in your game down to a reasonable value, you don’t end up with a “proliferation of miraculous abilities.” At least, no more so than you get from having a like number of wizards in your world. And while we’re at it: are you having problems explaining the proliferation of arcane happenings in every culture in the campaign? Because if you’re not, then making half of them divine in nature isn’t going to break the game.

Streamlines the magic system to just one class (wizards).

…why is this a good thing? Simplicity for the sake of simplicity isn’t a bonus, it’s laziness.

Avoids many problematic spells (silence 15′ radius, know alignment, etc.)

Re-write or remove the problematic spells, not the class.

No open-access to entire spell list, thereby avoiding brokenness (becoming overpowered) and plot irregularities when spell lists are expanded.

Change the rules so that clerics don’t get access to every single spell on the d@=^ list. Make them operate more like wizards in that regard: they receive new spells based on their training and religious studies.

And why is it a problem when the spell list is expanded? Is the world a static place where no invention or innovation ever occurs? Was there not a time when wizards only had the most basic of spells at their disposal? Or have spellcasters always been able to whip a wish out of their a$$&$?

No turn-undead ability, which turns otherwise fearsome monster types into the most easily defeated ones.

I admit, this one is attractive. I’ve always felt the turn undead mechanic was either too powerful or trivial, never in between. Still, as a reason on its own for removing a full quarter of the players’ options – I really cannot stress this enough – it strikes me as just plain lazy. Do the work to find a better rule, or remove the power altogether.

Healing “requirement” is spread across the entire party, not just one player.

There shouldn’t ever be a “requirement” of any one player to play a specific way to the exclusion of that player’s desire to play in other ways. If there is, you’ve got a group of a$$#*|-& players and you’re doing a bad job as a DM.

Creates an elegant system of one class each using d4/d6/d8 hit dice, none/light/heavy armor, and attacks progression at 2/3/4 levels.

…actually, I can’t argue too much with this point. I, too, enjoy this sort of anal-retentive attention to details. However, there is something a bit… simple… about this approach. It doesn’t allow for a more subtle, nuanced class design.

And does this mean that you’re not using other classes? What about rangers and druids? Or bards and illusionists?

Avoids disassociation with priest/healer archetype that is more generally seen as peaceful, robe-wearing, etc.

…where is this archetype coming from? Certainly not history because there were plenty of priests throughout the ages who engaged in war and conquest. Also, see the fourth item below…

Avoids robbing fighters of specialty in wearing heavy armor.

So take away the heavy armor proficiency. Issue solved.

Avoids singularity of the only class unavailable to demihumans or multiclassing in OD&D (or listed as NPC-only in the AD&D PHB).

Multiclassing s?(\{$ because it’s freaking awesome (in 1e and 2e) – two classes for the price of one with no downside except lagging behind for a level or two. And limiting classes to non-humans is just a$$!^!^&. Both should be thrown out – the former because it’s too good an option and the latter because it makes no f?(|{!^[ sense.

Avoids oddity of one class type mostly missing from OD&D wandering monster tables.

Wandering monster tables s?(|{. They always have. To keep using them simply because they’re the status quo is the lazy approach. To ignore their faults is likewise lazy. (I need a synonym for lazy… shiftless? indolent? negligent?)

Come on, people – we’re DMs. We’re meant to be better than this. Put some effort into it.

Matches most pulp fantasy sources in which fighters/thieves/wizards are common, but miraculous warrior clerics are rarely (if ever) seen.

If your game is so fragile that you have to rely on the “pulp fantasy sources” to keep players engaged, then you have other issues that need to be dealt with. Granted, my view on this particular topic may have to do with personal preferences. I generally don’t aim to run games with a particular “feel” to them. I did, at one time, but each session was plagued by a hyper-awareness, a sensation that we’re just going through the motions. There was no immersion, no engagement and no reason to give a s#!^ about what happened to anyone, PC or NPC.

I get it – these are the books we grew up on. These are the stories that tickle our fancies, that spark the imagination and hold us rapt with attention. We want to recreate these moments. The problem isn’t the desire to be the hero from our favorite fantasy novel. The problem is that the medium we’ve chosen – roleplaying games – is not conducive to recreating that sensation.

Each of these reasons (or benefits) are superfluous at best. They’re justifications for avoiding any real work – like reworking the wandering monster tables to include clerics or creating a rational explanation for why monsters can’t be clerics.

We can do better than this.

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