Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Cleric's Faith II: Radical Idea

FrDave notes, in comments on the last post, that the "randomly working miracle spells" approach was tried and rejected in his campaign.

I'm really intrigued by John L's idea and I want it to be attractive to players, even against this experience and my own nagging intuitions. The meat and bones of the cleric, as I've noted before, is healing. 3rd edition D&D recognized this in a big way by making spell slots usable at any time for cure spells. The message is clear. Healing hit points is the number one job of the cleric. Having it succeed only randomly is disconcerting.

So here's a proposal:

Healing: A sacred magic worker can lay on hands a number of times per day equal to his or her level, for healing of 1d6+level hit points each time, with no success roll needed.

All other miraculous powers may be attempted any number of times per day until they fail - at which point faith runs out and that particular power may not be used at all again that day. The basic mechanic is: roll 2d6, success on 9+, 2 always fails, add 1/2 caster's level rounded down and subtract 1/2 the level/HD of the opposition rounded up. Apply the cleric's Wisdom bonuses as per your system. In classic John L style you can see these as reaction rolls where 9+ is a favorable reaction, or morale rolls where 9+ is broken morale of the opposition. This is really more for memory than mechanical purposes though; the cleric's Charisma does not come into it.

Curing conditions: disease, insanity, injury, sorcerous influences. Use level of the spell's caster, HD of creature originating the condition, or 1/3/6/9 HD for mild/moderate/serious/death. You may rule that repeated attempts by the same cleric on the same condition are not allowed.

Banishing evil: turns unholy creatures and gives an immediate morale check to other evil creatures. Use level of one creature to check, numbers over that turn additional numbers of creatures. Yes, this is a less impressive turning power than normal, but I feel it's balanced when you add on the healing and the upgrading of other at-will powers, and the morale effect.

Providence: provides for basic needs of people who are without those needs through no fault of their own. In other words, it will create or find shelter for a shipwrecked party, and food for a starving multitude in famine, but will not provide for a party who has money to buy things, or has not brought food on a journey through negligence. The "opposition" here is 0 HD for water, 1 HD for food, 3 HD for clothing or small amounts of money, and 5HD for shelter. Add 1 HD per digit of a multitude (10s, 100s, 1000s) provided for above 9.

Safety: I think it's more characteristic of the Judeo-Christian miracle to allow safe passage across traps, hazards and walking in front of monsters than to detect these. At the very least, the rogue/thief/scout/wizard should enjoy a monopoly on intelligence gathering. For "HD" here use dice of damage of hazard, or total hit dice of creatures to be distracted; 7 for immediately lethal effects (walking on water would probably rate a 5). Add 1 HD if more than one person is to pass by, and 1 HD more for each digit of a multitude above 9. Success won't be known until it's attempted!

Of course, other powers may be added on, but I think this short list has the benefit of being fairly well balanced against the magic-user's powers (4 rather situational abilities with a starting 1/3 or so chance of success), and has an impeccable cultural pedigree.


  1. I actually agree with FrDave to a limited extent. Your last post as written probably wouldn't go over well with players because of the use of both random chance of miracle success and limits per day. This post stands a better chance, although I'd recommend that the limits on healing be dropped, or changed to "once per person per day". You might want to tune the level bonus as well: I went with the tradition "double cleric level - double opposing HD" as indicated in the Turn Undead table. If cleric powers are unreliable but open-ended, there's a better chance of players accepting them.

  2. /stolen

    By making basic healing automatic, this system short-circuits much of the possible complaints.

    That failing your "Providence" roll only closes of further uses of that domain, but not "Banishment" or "Safety" also helps.

    By making the "unreliability" of other effects relatively predictable (as predictable as Turn Undead rolls) and the odds-determining algorithm transparent (your level vs. its "level"), prepared and attentive players can minimize their chances of "wasting" the clerics juice. But always run a risk of fumbling and rolling a 2.

    But, the open-endedness where almost anything has a 1/36 chance to suceed allows hail-mary passes and all the fun that entails.

    I like this proposal because;
    The basic utility of healing is conserved.
    It's exciting to always have a chance to win against long odds, or to fumble against a sure thing.
    The odds aren't always fair, but are transparent.