Cleric shenanigans (metaphysical, no right answers)
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  1. #1
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    Cleric shenanigans (metaphysical, no right answers)

    Background info ... please feel free to cite any other factors that may be relevant to the discussion.

    Cleric, page 58:
    "You prepare the list of cleric spells..."
    "Preparing a new list of cleric spells requires time spent in prayer and meditation..."
    "The power of your spells comes from your devotion to your deity."

    Weave of Magic, page 205:
    "...divine magic. These spellcasters' access to the Weave is mediated by divine power--gods, the divine forces of nature, or the sacred weight of a paladin's oath."

    Augury, page 215-216:
    "You receive an omen from an otherworldly entity."

    Divination, page 234:
    "Your magic and an offering put you in contact with a god or god's servants."

    Commune, page 223:
    "You contact your deity or a divine proxy..."

    Here are several thoughts, and I'd love to hear some counterpoints/riffs:

    1)
    Faith is the source of the cleric's spellcasting power. Divine forces may "mediate" (allow, negate, tamper with) their access to the weave, but the power lies with the cleric. This is how you get factions within a church, and heretics. Even if God A denies you access to the weave, God B may enable it as furthering God B's cause. The cleric can't show, on a spell-by-spell basis, that their power is enabled by their god, because it isn't. THEY are the source of their own power.

    2)
    Augury, Divination, and Commune are all (nearly) cleric-exclusive, but their wording is very different as to their source of information.
    ONLY COMMUNE is a response from "your god or a divine proxy."

    The other two are not specific to your character's religion.
    Divination only gets a response from "a god." Hopefully, your god is paying attention to you, but RAW, that's not required.
    Augury is an "otherworldly entity," which, for all you know, could be a mind flayer on a different plane or in a pocket dimension. Surprise!

    It could be that these are inadvertent typos or accommodations. Let's assume they're not.

    There are some ways to mitigate the situation for Divination (only).

    Augury, you're just kinda boned. At the mercy of a well-intentioned universe. Or at least an attentive deity.

    Divination could be made into specific spells PER DEITY. So when you find a scroll, it might be Divination (Odin).
    Or it could be that Divination simply comes with a <insert deity name> section. The spell is generic, but you make it unique when you cast it. This would accommodate Druid castings in a clean way.

    Anyway, before this gets much longer... thoughts?
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    My memory may be fuzzy, but the differences may be inherited from older editions. Low level divination spells specifically did not go to a deity, likely as a way to show the high failure rates. That doesn't mean it's not getting responded to by a celestial of your faith or whatever. Also the spells doesn't have any results to indicate that it will go to an actively inimical agent who would intentionally mislead or lie.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mervinci View Post
    Augury is an "otherworldly entity," which, for all you know, could be a mind flayer on a different plane or in a pocket dimension. Surprise!
    The spell would still function as written. Augery doesn't give a lot of room for DM discretion to alter the outcome. Obviously the DM can do whatever they want, but unless you telegraph to the players somehow that augery is unreliable, then having a malevolent entity modify the responses would be a pretty unfun violation of expectations. (I'm not saying that you are suggesting otherwise; just stating how I see things.)

    ...But you could still have some other fun consequences. Like: "Hey, so, my name is Zuqquathga, and you don't know me, but I know you. Because you keep bothering me with your ing augery spells! Do you think I like spending all day telling mortals "weal" and "woe" for their trivial dungeon-crawling ? Give it a rest already!"
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    Under the first part on page 58 where the power of your spells comes from your devotion. This may be ties to your level thinking that more power comes from higher level and devotion maybe equals level. Which does not speak to having high profile people in the world in high positions, but not necessarily high level. I guess NPCs and PCs are held to a different standard in determining how much influence they have if it equals power.

    I also remember reading some of the FR god books like Faiths and Pantheons about how some of the gods try to weaken other gods by killing off their followers to drop the power of the god.

    Some of the speak with a divine power may be based on the power of the god. A minor god may have fewer angels and outsiders about to answer questions, so he or she may answer more themselves, but should also have less followers asking questions. It could also be based on how much the god is interested in growing in power as well with some gods not interested in followers. Although this is less so in FR since the Time of Troubles.

    Bottom line- your game can work anyway you want.

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    It depends on how gods work in the campaign setting you are playing in. Gods in the Forgotten Realms are very different to Eberron.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mervinci View Post

    Here are several thoughts, and I'd love to hear some counterpoints/riffs:

    1)
    Faith is the source of the cleric's spellcasting power. Divine forces may "mediate" (allow, negate, tamper with) their access to the weave, but the power lies with the cleric. This is how you get factions within a church, and heretics. Even if God A denies you access to the weave, God B may enable it as furthering God B's cause. The cleric can't show, on a spell-by-spell basis, that their power is enabled by their god, because it isn't. THEY are the source of their own power.
    Not in games I run. You want access to divine power you've got to be in proper standing with your characters chosen deity/pantheon/etc. Same applies to Warlocks to a degree.
    And those deities & patrons? It should be realized that those are NPCs and I am playing them.
    This is known upfront.

    Now about those scrolls of divine spells....
    I have an explanation for how they work. I have had for a many many years. But you know what? No player has ever asked.
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    You could look at Rolemaster where they call it Channelling. A cleric is skilled in channelling power from various entities. In 3E you could represent this as different Religion skills.

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    Yea, I'm pretty sure it's intentional to not specify that divine power has to come from deities. Personally, I think D&D style henotheism kinda sucks. I much prefer settings with more ambiguous religion.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mervinci View Post
    Faith is the source of the cleric's spellcasting power.
    This is one of my pet peeves in that the above statement is an intensely Judeo-Christian perspective on religion, yet nothing about D&D's settings indicate a Judeo-Christian cosmology. "Faith" is not a particularly universal religious concept. The word you probably want here is "Piety". You can be pious without exhibiting or having faith, devoted to something, without having any particular trust in that thing.

    In the vast majority of religions that have ever been practiced, whether you have faith in a deity never matters. Reading the 'Euthyphro' would be a good starting place here. Generally speaking, in most religious rituals the attitude of the worshipper doesn't really matter, only that they perform the correct ritual that establishes a relationship with or bargain with some external source of power.

    Moreover, Faith is relationship. So whether the concept you are looking for is Faith or Piety, but involve a relationship with an external force. Faith used in a religious concept involves belief in the faithfulness of a diety, in the same way you might say you have faith in a friend because they've always been there for you. It doesn't involve anything particular to religion except that this faith is devoted to a divinity or other supernatural person, force, or idea rather than a mortal. It's instructive to read evolving dictionary definitions of the word 'faith' over the last 150 years or so as the writers of the dictionary gradually evolve a less and less religious perspective on the word (ironically at the same time defining the word as being more and more particular to religion, something that the more pious early writers did not think). Modern dictionary definitions very much have an outside looking in perspective on the concept.

    Faith in yourself, which you might call 'self-confidence', is even less of a religious concept and faith in the abstract lacking a target is even less of a religious concept. Faith and Hope require faith and hope in something. They don't really exist as a separate targetless thing despite the common modern concept of speaking about them abstractly without a real target. Someone might say, "I have Faith.", and the next question might be, "In what?" Your complete trust and confidence has to be in something by definition, and if that something doesn't have a religious character, then neither is the faith and hope a particularly religious concept. You can say you hope your local sports team wins the championship, and the basis of that hope can be in many things, but that faith in the team or hope for their success is not necessarily religious nor would anyone particularly think that the fans faith or hope necessarily causes the success to happen.

    And if you do, that forces the next question:

    Divine forces may "mediate" (allow, negate, tamper with) their access to the weave, but the power lies with the cleric.
    If the power lies with the cleric, how does divine magic differ in any substantial way from arcane magic. Or, if the power lies with the cleric, why aren't wizards and clerics able to share spell lists? And if the power lies with the cleric, what is the source of that power?
    Last edited by Celebrim; Monday, 22nd April, 2019 at 03:48 PM.
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    Also note "the weave" is very specifically a Forgotten Realms concept, not a generic D&D one.

    There is also a problem with saying "the power comes form the cleric" and then noting that without access to the weave, there is no spell to be had. That means there isn't one "the power" but several elements that comprise power, and the cleric doesn't have some of them innate to themselves.

    Quote Originally Posted by Celebrim
    This is one of my pet peeves in that the above statement is an intensely Judeo-Christian perspective on religion, yet nothing about D&D's settings indicate a Judeo-Christian cosmology. "Faith" is not a particularly universal religious concept. The word you probably want here is "Piety". You can be pious without exhibiting or having faith, devoted to something, without having any particular trust in that thing.

    In the vast majority of religions that have ever been practiced, whether you have faith in a deity never matters.
    And, your note that "faith" has had varying meanings over time means there are multiple definitions. The game writers are not, in general, professional philosophers, religious historians, or linguistic logicians, and being pedantic about the definition in a way the authors probably didn't intend is not rhetorically sound.

    Yes, in our real history, folks may have practiced more in terms of piety than faith. But then, I don't think the gods of yore were handing out spells in our world, so the real-world historical religious form is perhaps not terribly relevant. If all that was required for clerical power was strict piety, then anyone who follows the forms strongly enough should get cleric spells. And that just doesn't work within the framework of the D&D game mechanics.

    Do note that the cleric is not just J. Q. Public practitioner. They *do* have a personal relationship with a deity above and beyond that of the day-to-day worshiper/practitioner. Saying that relationship requires faith to support power is not terribly weird, either conceptually or linguistically. In a world where there is real power to be had from faithfulness, and there being many possible sources of that power, the question of loyalty and belief in that relationship seems appropriate. IN D&D worlds, your cleric's god is not the guy who you happen to pass a few words with in the office. Your cleric's god is more like the friend who will "help you move bodies" - you have faith that they will be there for you, and you are there for them in return. To someone else (with just some piety, and no real faith), your god is just the guy you pass friendly words with in the kitchen nook.

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