I’ve long been less than thrilled with the cleric class as far as the mythological/religious aspects are concerned. With a few exceptions, we’ve generally played clerics as non-denominational, so to speak, and pretty much ignored the larger religious implications of the class.

7th Level Cleric?

7th Level Cleric?

For my Swords & Wizardry White Box game, I’m going to take it a step farther and declare that clerics do not serve the gods at all but are, in fact, mystic warriors somewhat akin to the Jedi Knights in Star Wars. As I’ve already decided that any class can use any weapon in my White Box campaign, this isn’t much of a leap at all.

Clerics must be either Lawful or Chaotic (no Neutral clerics allowed), and Chaotic clerics can only memorize the reversed versions of reversible spells (dark instead of light, cause light wounds instead of cure, etc.). Lawful clerics should not cast the reversed versions lest they risk the path to the dark side. Clerical magic originates from a mystic power with lawful and chaotic sides that constantly battle each other for supremacy.

Clerics attempting to cast spells while wearing plate armor must make a saving throw or their spell will fizzle.

Finally, turning undead is no longer an innate ability. Instead, a Lawful cleric may memorize the spell Turn Undead:

Turn Undead (Command Undead)
Spell Level: C1
Range: 120 ft
Duration: 3d6 minutes

This spell causes undead to turn and flee for the duration of the spell based on the results from Table 20: Turning Undead. Undead unable to flee will cower helplessly, though if the caster attacks any turned undead the spell is broken for all those affected.

Chaotic clerics can command undead successfully affected for the duration of the spell in a manner similar to charm person. Mindless undead will obey without question, but those of greater than 5HD may be able to resist commands contrary to their motivations.

A result of ‘D’ on Table 20 indicates that the target undead are destroyed (if the cleric is Lawful) or that the command period lasts for 24 hours rather than 3d6 minutes (if the cleric is Chaotic).

Qui-Gon Jinn from Episode I is the Jedi who immediately springs to mind here. Clerics in the service to various godlings, demons, and other supernatural powers do exist, but the spells of clerics come from the mystical power that binds the universe together.

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6 Comments to “Clerics as Mystic Warriors”

  1. Ripper X says:

    See, now I’ve always considered the Jedi to be more like Sci-Fi Paladins, but I suppose that that really is irrelevant here. I too have a love/hate relationship with the Cleric Class. I feel that most are way to specialized. What is wrong with a standard cleric? How do they fit in the game, Do they fit in the game? I honestly don’t know.

    I would be hesitant to take away their natural ability to Turn Undead. This isn’t a spell, it is simply a ward. At early levels, the cleric really needs to focus his spells towards healing, I think that taking away his turning ability is kind of harmful in the long run.

    • Kilgore says:

      I’m basically removing the need for a paladin class by making this change to the cleric. I’ve never been sold on the “priest” concept of a cleric, but the weapons restrictions pretty much kept a cleric from being the holy warrior that I thought they should be.

      I don’t think clerics as written (or paladins, for that matter) really fit into the sword and sorcery vibe I’m going for in my White Box game. I’m going to keep clerics as written in my Labyrinth Lord game, which is going to be be more traditional in most ways.

      Part of my reasoning for turning, um, turning into a spell is that it doesn’t really fit with my mystic warrior concept, and part of it is because I think cleric’s XP requirements are ridiculously low. To be honest, though, I’m sort of having second thoughts about this and turning may be back soon.

  2. Ryan says:

    Dammit Kilgore, why must you always have such good ideas?!
    I had been pondering a “mystic” type character class for my upcoming AD&D game as an alternative to the solider-priest that is the standard cleric. This might actually preclude me from having to do that, and from having to create a pantheon. (My absolute least favorite part of world-building)

    Tell me, how is your all-classes-all-weapons approach working out?

    • Kilgore says:

      If you do go a similar route, I’d love to hear some of your thoughts as you work it out. This struck as a flash of inspiration after someone mentioned Jedi on a forum somewhere, so I’m still sort of feeling it out. (As I mentioned above, I’m waffling on changing turn undead into a spell instead of an innate ability at this point…)

      And yeah, I always start out building worlds with ideas that *this time* I’m finally going to get the gods and goddesses *right*. Then I start on it and realize that I frikkin hate it.

      I don’t have a lot of play time in with all-classes-all-weapons yet, but so far so good. Keep in mind that I’m doing it in S&W White Box, which does not use variable weapon damage (other than +1 for 2-handed and -1 for small). Since all weapons are d6, the mechanical impact should be minor at most. I would personally hesitate to do it with B/X-type variable weapon damage.

  3. sean wills says:

    In my WB game I allow clerics and MUs to have any weapon but they have to save vs. AC to cast spells if armoured (I use ascending AC). This seems to work. In my core rules game we’re trying class-based weapon damage which keeps the fighters on top in combat.

    • Kilgore says:

      I’ve thought about that too (we also use AAC in White Box). What do you do about Dex bonus and magical items? If a spellcaster wearing leather armor with a Dex of 15 and a +1 ring of protection, does he save against AC 14 or against AC 12?

      I’m thinking that clerics can wear any armor but must make a saving throw to cast in plate. M-Us can wear leather but must save to cast spells while doing so. Elves can wear chain but must save to cast while wearing it unless it’s rare elven chain.

      The thing I like about saving throw rather than save vs. armor is that the saving throw improves as the character advances in level.