Miracles big and small

I’ve always liked Clerics. I think part of it is how I was first introduced to non-Swedish RPG:s – it was 2nd Ed AD&D, and I was a complete rookie. I came from the established swedish “It system” which was based on Basic Roleplaying, and concepts such as AC, THAC0 and Saving Throws were completely new to me. I was also new to a lot of the more powerful D&D tropes; the healing cleric, the “thief”, scrolls, trolls… I could make this list as long as my arm. I paid the price gladly, dying and trying again, and I learned pretty quickly. Soon, my own system of choice was AD&D.

The warrior-priest wielding divine spells and wearing heavy armor just stuck with me. It feels like the kind of person you’d want in a gloomy dungeon where death is all around.

With my recent return to my “roots” (not really, I’m going further back, but hey) I’ve started thinking about the cleric class and their brand of magic. One thing I find is that I actually miss the channeling rules from 3rd Ed and onward, which actually made clerics cast something other than healing spells. The other is how ill-suited I think the Vancian system is to clerical magic. Why would a cleric pray each morning and ask for specific “miracles” from his/her deity? The reasonable thing to expect would be that aid is asked and given on the spot. “The foul undead approach! I call upon Spindleman the Preserver to ward them off.” (Turn Undead is a spell in LotFP)

I’m thus going to introduce the following rules in my campaign, on a trial basis:

  1. Clerics do not need to prepare spells; they are able to cast a number of spells per day and per spell level as specified in the Rulebook, but may choose which spells to cast when casting.
    1. A slot for a higher level spell may be used to instead cast a lower level spell, but the “excess” is lost
    2. The spell to be cast must still be specified at the start of a combat round
  2. Clerics must still pray in the morning, in order to restore their faith and ask penance from their deity for wielding its power. The time spent is determined by the spells cast the previous day.
  3. Clerics must use the powers of their deity with scrutiny and care; they are not employing their own power (or at least, they do not believe they are, depending on your take on clerics). When praying for new spells, roll 3D6 + the highest level spell slot used the previous day – Wis modifier and check the table below.
    1. The player of the Cleric may choose to apply a modifier of -1 to this roll if he/she considers the use of holy magic the previous day especially justified, such as being used to destroy the undead if worshipping a God of Light or to slaughter elven babies if worshipping the Vile Deity.
    2. The DM may choose to do the same, making the total modifier up to -2.

The table below will probably need some tweaks after I’ve seen it in action, but I think it has about the severity I’m looking for; something that might be an annoyance if spells are used carelessly, but rarely something that spells disaster.

Roll

Prayer effect

≤15

Succor; all non-withheld spell slots regained

16

1st level spell slot withheld; roll again

17

2nd level (or highest) spell slot withheld; roll again

18

3rd level (or highest) spell slot withheld; roll again

19

Highest level spell slot withheld; roll again

≥20

Penance; all spell slots withheld
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What’s in your mind?

Meet the Cerebrix. It’s actually not larger than four inches or so, but that probably feels like a lot when it’s fully grown and nesting inside your brain case.

dustmite

Who would let this thing inside their skull? Why, a Magic-User, of course! You just have to spice up the offer with some arcane secrets and watch them debate who’s most worthy.

Touching on my post about Specialists from earlier this week, I present the Secrets of the Cerebrix.

What is a Specialist?

I’ve played a couple of specialized Magic-Users while playing AD&D and 3rd edition D&D. I liked the concept in a way, but at the same time it always felt a bit like min-maxing; the benefits of a specialist in the regular D&D rules were always far greater than the drawbacks.

What I find strange is that this should be some sort of sub-class. Specialized magic-users are defined by one thing; the kind of magic they use. This option, however, is completely open to a “normal” magic-user. Want to be an illusionist? Learn a lot of illusion spells and use them as your preferred weapon of choice. To my mind, that makes you an illusionist.

I do like the general idea that a magic-user would choose to specialize in a type of spells, though. A mixture of circumstances, personality and availability should probably influence the spell repertoire of all magic-users, and some would naturally choose a more narrow path. They research new spells within their chosen field and attract apprentices with the same focus, and gradually an entire school, cult or college might be founded.

I use specialized mages in my game, but I do it in this way; they have access to unique spells (as in distinct from those in the regular rulebook) but that access is not restricted by rules but by circumstance. Sometimes a special pact or action is required to harness their type of magic. Sometimes, casting the spells themselves leaves a mark on the caster which will over time set them apart from others. Most times, it is simply a matter of finding someone to teach you the specific magic, which might require membership in a specific order or living by some kind of code.

  • The dreaded Necromancer is nothing more (or less) than a mage who seeks knowledge of the undead and learns spells which let him create and control them, but among these twisted souls knowledge of some powerful and forbidden rituals are passed.
  • The Viper Mages of Al’Kulia fuel their unique spells with the venom they must constantly saturate their blood with, and the marks this leaves on their body strikes fear into all inhabitants of the Khalifate of Imrah.
  • The Fire Walkers live ascetic lives and strive for bodily perfection in order to master the difficult somatic components of their unique brand of spells which harness fire and heat.
  • The Order of the Seven Secrets is a society of mages who share a few unique spells used for scrying, but which most importantly teaches a special ritual which opens a portal to a sealed fortress in the Astral to which only order members have access.

I’ve prepared one special example where the drawbacks are very much tangible – the heretics who learn the spells from the Liber Heresiac, either to protect themselves from the prosecutions of the Trinity Church or because they resent the church for some other reason. Casting these spells will mark you as a target for the church, but the spells themselves are potent weapons to use against those of the faith.

You can take a look at the Liber Heresiac here or find it in the Library.