Clerical Spell Progression

I’ve never been a fan of the spell progression for B/X clerics. They gain 3rd AND 4th-level spells when they reach 6th level, and then they gain 5th-level spells a level later. I’ve generally just gone with the spell progression from Mentzer BECMI, but that isn’t quite right, either, since it’s built for longer growth and includes spells higher than B/X’s limit of 5th-level clerical magic. So, in my endless quest to “fix” the cleric class, I now use the following:

Level1st2nd3rd4th5th
1
21
32
421
522
6221
7322
83321
93332
1044321
1144332
1244433
1355443
1455544
Kilgore’s Clerical Spell Progression

I am aware that some (or many?) claim that what I call “wonky” is, in fact, part of the “charm” of oldschool D&D. Though I am fully prepared to overlook a fair amount of stuff–including the Clerics vs. Undead table that I find to be ridiculous–I am not going to stick to BTB on this subject. Though I welcome any explanations about why the rules as written are superior, as I generally find that nothing makes me happier than being convinced that BTB is better. (Fair warning: I’m not going to be easy to sway on this…but I will listen.)

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3 Responses to Clerical Spell Progression

  1. FrDave says:

    I think the spell progression is a hold-over from 0e, where the level title for sixth level is Bishop. If one world-builds around that title, and one places the kind of import on that title that a Christian world-view does (where historically three other bishops gather to lay-on-hands for the ordination), seeing that kind of jump in holiness (aka suddenly being able to cast 4th level spells) begins to make sense. The progression of a cleric is like a series of tests: first level has no spell casting, second through fifth grants spells that are utilitarian, but not that powerful. Finally, when one earns the right to be a bishop, curing diseases, neutralizing poisons, creating water, speaking with plants all become possible.

    Yes, it is wonky. Yes, it requires building a world around that wonky-ness. I do it because the assumptions that must be made in order to explain that wonky-ness make for a richer campaign world.

    • Kilgore says:

      I have seen this point elsewhere (maybe from you previously?) and I do like it. I’d like it even more if I didn’t already think the cleric was ridiculously over-powered compared to its XP table.

      If the cleric spells advanced at a more regular rate and the magic-user had a huge jump in spell levels all of a sudden at levels 6 and 7, I wouldn’t buy it either, no matter what sort of rationalizations someone came up with. Even though the magic-user pays WAY more XP to advance than the cleric.

      If I made new magic-user spell tables that bumped up spells at levels 6 and 7 like the cleric bumps up spells at levels 6 and 7, I believe people would think it was insane.

      • FrDave says:

        If you think the 6th-level bump is too powerful, make the process of getting to 6th-level an adventure in and of itself. Finding three 6th-level clerics doesn’t need to be a guarantee, and think of the adventures that a PC would have to go on to be deemed worthy. All that time, they are stuck at 5th level. The power jump would seem less insane if the process of getting it was equally so…

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