Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Cleric's Faith I: Conservative Solution

One way to make the users of sacred magic feel like they are working with freely given miracles of faith is to keep the standard spell list and rules, but have casting in a short time frame (combat round) determined by a petitioning die roll. Here we are assuming that cleric spells are not memorized (cast at will) but that they use a system of levels and slots similar to magic spells. Roll d20 plus the caster's level minus twice the spell's level. On a modified roll of:

1 or less: The spell fails and the caster has spent both the spell's slot, and another of the same or higher level. If another is not available, the caster must atone by making a journey of 1 day/1000 of his or her xp, or a sacrifice of 1/10th xp in coins (or a being equal HD to level) before being able to call on sacred magic again.
2-4: The spell fails, spending the spell's slot.
5-7: The spell fails without spending the slot; may try again next round.
8-18: The spell succeeds, spending the spell's slot.
19-20: The spell succeeds without spending its slot.
21+: The spell succeeds, spending its slot, but with double effect.

If Wisdom is not being used to give the caster extra spells (as it does in my system) then its modifier goes toward this table. You may also apply modifiers due to the nature of the deity; if merciful, +2 if the last attempt that day was a failure and -1 if it was a success; if cruel, -2 for failure and +1 for success.

Being that most sacred spells are supportive, I would also allow a casting in the space of ten minutes without having to roll on this table. This does the least damage to the balance of the cleric/priest class, while still making them feel that they are making a "desperate petition" in the heat of battle.

Next up: A completely different approach based on reaction and morale rolls.


  1. I can tell you from experience that this will not be well received by players. I tried a similar approach at the beginning of my Lost Colonies campaign. It did not last because it wasn't very fun.

    I, too, try to mechanically represent freely given miracles and I have found far more success by making bonus spells randomly generated than with the fail/success roll. Since you do not allow bonus spells, I might suggest adapting your table to see whether or not each daily spell slot is replaced by a spell the player wants, by a randomly determined spell or at all.

  2. I do have bonus spells but not as such; the Wisdom bonus in fact gives additional spells per day. Was the problem that the players felt something was being taken away from them, or more specifically the expectation that powers ought to always work in a tough situation?

  3. It was a little of both — particularly with healing spells. In a situation where one would normally retreat, but might be healed, they would normally maneuver to try and get a guy healed. The result wasn't pretty when the spell failed. The end result is that Clerics effectively stop being battle-field medics (the party would retreat as if they had no Cleric to begin with just in case). Thus, even if technically you are not taking away a power or a role, parties will behave as if that role and that power had been taken away. All it accomplished was frustration for everybody.