Tuesday 29 November 2011

Prophets, Not Clerics?

FrDave on Blood of Prokopius had an idea a while back that perfectly fits my search for an alternate term for an adventuring "cleric" or "priest." He suggests that a campaign might include miracle-working "prophets" in the Biblical sense of the word. I think this is a great idea not just for a specific campaign, but a general set of rules.

I think my dissatisfaction with "cleric" and "priest" is a widely shared sentiment. "Cleric" is one of those journalistic synonyms that has picked up unwanted associations. Some of those are with accountancy and others are with the standard, mace-packing, D&D class that has taken on a strange life of its own on the basis of game rules and historical misperceptions. Along with "priest," "cleric" doesn't convey enough of a sense of the strange and wondrous and miraculous. It implies that every village vicar comes equipped with healing miracles, and conversely, it implies that your adventuring holy person is akin to one of those cozy old souls, beholden to the church hierarchy, relaxing in the study with some port, available to do weddings and bar mitzvahs.

But none of the alternatives really work. "Saint" implies a very restrictive code of behavior, and anyway, players shouldn't be walking around canonized already. "Holy man" also implies you're sanctified, needs to be gender-switched for women, and comes across as bland and generic, like "magic-user."

Prophets, though, are not saints in the colloquial sense of the word. They're capable of summoning bears to maul some bullies, or marrying a prostitute to name the children as part of an extended metaphor. They are wanderers; without honor in their home town. I think they make a great model for adventurers.

So for me the question is how this model fits into my One Page rules for priests. Well, apart from "prophet" being longer on the page than "priest" (causing some grumbling), they should really have some way to prophesy shouldn't they? In One Page rules, priests get one "miracle" per day, plus an extra one if they make a Mind save. These miracles tend to be of a healing bent, but I'm finding the Priest class really strong in play because of their miraculous ability to bring someone back from a 0 HP or less major wound (that is, real physical damage rather than just hit points, in my system). So I'm considering replacing the Priest's progression of

Level 1: Heal major wound to 1 HP
Level 2: Make a second save against poison

(and maybe those two should be flipped around anyway?)


Level 1: Get indirect answer to yes/no question
Level 2: Heal major wound to 1 HP

and possibly other abilities at higher levels, to match the wide variety of miracles attributed to prophets in many religions.


  1. Genius! I think any time you commune with a god, there should be a % chance of getting some sort of batshit command, or demand for sacrifice or pilgrimage.

  2. Cool! I am glad to see someone take this idea and run with it. Although (especially as a player) I am a big fan of healing at first level, giving the Prophet an augury at first level makes a LOT of sense. Plus, as a Ref, I love in interplay that results from such questions - it adds a lot of opportunity to roleplay and bring the campaign world to life. Excellent!

  3. FrDave: Thanks for the good word. If you check out the original class description you'll see the "prophet" variant does get healing at first level. I make a distinction between hit points (which are things like fatigue, morale, fate-heaviness) and major wounds, which are taken at 0hp or below and represent more serious injuries that incapacitate or kill the character. The priest (prophet) gets a fixed number of hit point heals per day - in effect, this is prayer and encouragement to boost divine protection and personal gumption. The miracles are on top of that, and the healing miracle I refer to is something that can relieve the effects of an incapacitating but not immediately lethal wound.

  4. I quite like the idea of prophecy at level 1, because that makes a good adventure hook... while the Prophet can ask questions and get yes/no answers, he might also just receive visions and instructions (at the God/GM's whim). A given Prophet might in fact be hanging about with the rest of the party because of just such a vision.

  5. I like the augury at level 1, and agree with the proposition that giving an additional poison/disease save ought to be a low level power, an is a good candidate for level 2.

    Since the regular above-hp healing power is more like a confidence boost (I always thought that once you made the con=confidence association, which is brilliant, imho, hit points essentially became hope points), it seems to me that instantly knitting bones and flesh is pretty dramatically different, and a case could be made that it ought to be quite high level - level 4 or 5, with some sort of weather control as the other high level power

    my vote for level 3 would be some sort of beast charm - lions, bears, snakes

    my $0.02, please take with a grain of salt