D&D General building a faith around the assumptions of the cleric instead of in spite of it?

building a faith around the assumptions of the cleric instead of in spite of it?

it has occurred to me that cleric is nothing like real life polytheistic priests so I wonder what would a logical faith built out of the assumptions of the cleric even be like?

given my latest bad idea is to build a wisdom themed plant race I thought I would run this past you guy as you are all so much more knowledgeable about this sort of thing.

so this is really a two-part question:

1 what are the assumptions of the cleric class?

2 how could one build a faith consistent with those assumptions?

3 any ideas on how to make interesting god/s for such a system?

4 any one got the present list of portfolios? i.e the sub classes?

so anyone got any answers for either of them?
 
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aco175

Legend
I tend to have the cleric as the typical adventuring arm of the church. There is some sort of hierarchy in the church and the clerics are sent to gain knowledge and wisdom to help the church later on. Maybe it is to gain war knowledge for some gods, or healing knowledge, maybe based on a race like dwarves. They go out into the world and show the common people the good works to get them to come over to their team.

As a PC cleric, I do not put that much oversight on them and let the player play them like they want. Most of my players take on a small bit of charity and heal NPCs and cure blindness if in town and have a day to rest. Few play evil clerics or tricksters where they would not want their god to be known.

Some clerics may not fit in the established church structure and are sent out by political powers in the church. Maybe they are sent out to gain understanding or humility before coming back. Maybe sent out to die over something petty or over something big like a schism of faith.

Building a faith is like building anything else. Each god has a portfolio that they oversee. A war god may have a church set up like a military with generals and captains running things and orders are expected to be followed. A church of an elven god of poetry would look and act very differently. There is also non-casters in the church that can rise to powerful positions and may be jealous of casters and seek to use the internal politics to deal with them. There can be splits in the church with one faction believing one aspect of the god over another and splinter cells form that may not get along with the others.

You can also have churches in different countries develop differently over time. Each would have a feel that is not quite the same as others. Some politics get involved and the baron of one kingdom has his daughter marry into the church which brings it away from the official doctrine a little. The little can become big over time. One could develop into more a social club and another church more orthodox.
 

I tend to have the cleric as the typical adventuring arm of the church. There is some sort of hierarchy in the church and the clerics are sent to gain knowledge and wisdom to help the church later on. Maybe it is to gain war knowledge for some gods, or healing knowledge, maybe based on a race like dwarves. They go out into the world and show the common people the good works to get them to come over to their team.

As a PC cleric, I do not put that much oversight on them and let the player play them like they want. Most of my players take on a small bit of charity and heal NPCs and cure blindness if in town and have a day to rest. Few play evil clerics or tricksters where they would not want their god to be known.

Some clerics may not fit in the established church structure and are sent out by political powers in the church. Maybe they are sent out to gain understanding or humility before coming back. Maybe sent out to die over something petty or over something big like a schism of faith.

Building a faith is like building anything else. Each god has a portfolio that they oversee. A war god may have a church set up like a military with generals and captains running things and orders are expected to be followed. A church of an elven god of poetry would look and act very differently. There is also non-casters in the church that can rise to powerful positions and may be jealous of casters and seek to use the internal politics to deal with them. There can be splits in the church with one faction believing one aspect of the god over another and splinter cells form that may not get along with the others.

You can also have churches in different countries develop differently over time. Each would have a feel that is not quite the same as others. Some politics get involved and the baron of one kingdom has his daughter marry into the church which brings it away from the official doctrine a little. The little can become big over time. One could develop into more a social club and another church more orthodox.
do you have any idea about the assumptions of the cleric?

as I want to see if a faith that makes more sense given the assumption of dnd could be built for a species as that is what I seek to make my next bad idea around.
 


Assumption:
1 faith in an ideal or being.
2 worship and community.

Out of assumption
no faith. you turn into a neutral divine interpreter or channeler. Don’t mix up with neutrality as a faith. No faith mean you play with divine energy much like a wizard play with arcane.

no worship, no community. You turn into a loner guy, much more like a paladin or a monk into a personal quest.
 

right off the bat I have a hard time calling it faith.

faith is believing with lack of evidence (in my mind)

Avoiding real world religion for a moment, you (in most settings) not only get powers, not only can meet angels, but you can (at higher levels) talk to or go meet your god.
true but it becomes close to the faith one has in say a government or a person than trust in an idea, regardless I am trying to get the outline of a religion here so call it whatever you want so we can avoid technicalities.
Assumption:
1 faith in an ideal or being.
2 worship and community.

Out of assumption
no faith. you turn into a neutral divine interpreter or channeler. Don’t mix up with neutrality as a faith. No faith mean you play with divine energy much like a wizard play with arcane.

no worship, no community. You turn into a loner guy, much more like a paladin or a monk into a personal quest.
interesting, so any governing body is likely to try to keep some of this under wraps as they would lose power quickly unless they don't and it becomes something rather different?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
so this is really a two-part question:

1 what are the assumptions of the cleric class?

2 how could one build a faith out of those assumptions?

so anyone got any answers for either of them?

I would like to suggest an amendment to (2). We don't need to build a faith out of those assumptions. Just one that is consistent with those assumptions. As in, members of the cleric class must fit into the faith, but they don't need to be central to how the common person interacts with faith.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Avoiding real world religion for a moment, you (in most settings) not only get powers, not only can meet angels, but you can (at higher levels) talk to or go meet your god.

You get powers, but lots of other people get powers too. Indeed, people with entirely different belief systems from yours - people that deny your god's very existence, get powers. The existence of powers don't prove the existence of any particular god or gods.

A high level cleric an summon a celestial. But it is CR 4 or 5. Not terribly potent. Indeed, one can form a cogent theory that the celestial didn't really exist as an individual before it was summoned. Not proof that any particular god or gods exist.

Actually meeting your god is not a function granted by the cleric's powers. That the FR has had people meeting gods should not be a central issue for this discussion.

I mean, it is great for you to have your personal take on gaming world religion. But, how about we work towards something that doesn't require your personal assumptions?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
As in, members of the cleric class must fit into the faith, but they don't need to be central to how the common person interacts with faith.

I should offer an example. Consider a faith in which there are everyday NPC priests. They have modest abilities for healing, blessing, or otherwise supporting congregations. Maybe they get some spells, but only cast as ritual, and the list is limited. Or maybe they get no spells at all. These priests may serve a single god, or indeed the pantheon as a whole, depending on your desire.

Then, there are some small number of individuals who are endowed with greater divine power. They are considered the hands of the gods in in the worlds. Their jobs are not to minister to the faithful, or drive the philosophical underpinnings of the religion, or engage in religious politics. They are endowed to get crap done, separate from the bulk of religious activity or belief.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I think some of y’all are missing the point of the question.

Since every cleric gets Turn Undead, I think a religion built around the cleric would have to hold that undead are bad. However, there are multiple resurrection spells on the cleric spell list, so returning from the dead isn’t necessarily against this religion’s precepts. That suggests it may be more about how the body is meant to be treated than anything about the natural cycle of life and death. They are opposed to magically animating corpses, not to living beyond your divinely-appointed time.

Clerics also have Domains, and each cleric dedicates themselves to one Divine Domain to the exclusion of all others. This might suggest that clerics are supposed to specialize in the cult of one particular deity among a pantheon, or, if you want this religion to be monotheistic, to the study and veneration of a particular aspect of the Divine’s creation. Offensive spells and armor proficiencies suggest that clerics serve in a military capacity to some degree, perhaps as crusaders for the faith. This to me indicates some central authority or institutional hierarchy, so I would lean more towards the latter.

The cleric’s spell list is heavy on divination, which suggests a belief in predestination, but no particular precept against predicting the course of destiny. Perhaps part of the clerics’ role is interpreting the will of the Divine. Lots of radiant damage suggests an association of light with the Divine’s power.
 

HammerMan

Legend
You get powers, but lots of other people get powers too. Indeed, people with entirely different belief systems from yours - people that deny your god's very existence, get powers. The existence of powers don't prove the existence of any particular god or gods.
and those people who don't think my god exsists can also (at high level) go meet him or her or it (plane shift) or even at lower level depending on how common planar travel is.
A high level cleric an summon a celestial. But it is CR 4 or 5.
yup, I don't care how powerful it is, it is an angel it is at the very least 100x better evidence then any real world person of faith has today.
Indeed, one can form a cogent theory that the celestial didn't really exist as an individual before it was summoned. Not proof that any particular god or gods exist.
keep this in mind in a moment... you want to say someone CAN for a THEORY if they choose to...
Actually meeting your god is not a function granted by the cleric's powers.
contact other plane, plane shift, I am sure there are more I am not looking up all the spells right now... but again it doesn't HAVE to be YOUR power... in any world with common planar travel you could just 'go' to heaven.
That the FR has had people meeting gods should not be a central issue for this discussion.
Forget FR... time of troubles and many other things makes it WAY too out of the water for this discussion.
I mean, it is great for you to have your personal take on gaming world religion.
yeah I assume we all do.
right off the bat I have a hard time calling it faith.

faith is believing with lack of evidence (in my mind)
here are the first two sentinces you didn't quote... I have a hard time... In My MIND... these qualifiers came before what you quoted.
But, how about we work towards something that doesn't require your personal assumptions?
but earlier you said "one can form a cogent theory that the celestial didn't really exist" so that is YOUR personal assumptions, YOUR own head cannon...

I mean I even played that once (kind of). I played a wizard who didn't think gods were gods... "Yeah you get spells so do I." "Yeah the angels are that guys henchmen, they say what he pays them to say" "Yeah he is powerful, but so am I...if I give spells to someone am I a god?" and my favorite. "Yeah he's powerful, but he can die. He doens't know all... he just isnt a god"

none of that really mattered to the cleric or paladin in the game though.
 

Jer

Legend
Let's see - right off the bat my assumptions about the cleric class are:

1. They receive "divine" spells from somewhere, including the ability to summon divine guardians.
2. They have martial training.
3. They have access to healing spells, including resurrection spells.

For earlier versions of the game
A. They were restricted from using edged weapons.

For later versions of the game
A. They have access to "domains" - spells and/or powers related to whatever is giving them spells.

So what you have with the cleric is a martial figure who can heal and raise the dead who gets their spells from "somewhere" that they at least believe is some form of divinity.

I guess I think there's a wide range of religions that are possible from that, so long as the religion can support trained militant priests who use their spells and weapons to fight for the religion. That's pretty much the sticking point - a purely pacifistic religion that requires priests to take a vow of nonviolence would not work for a cleric but otherwise it seems pretty open.

ETA @Charlaquin reminds me that Turn Undead is another one. I kind of bundle that in with the healing spells. Clerics are definitely assumed to be on the side of Life not Death in their base assumptions (though various editions of the game have allowed evil clerics to take the side of Death and harm instead of heal or control undead instead of destroying them)
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
"Yeah he's powerful, but he can die. He doens't know all... he just isnt a god"
Umm… the ability to die isn’t all that unusual for gods. Most mythologies have at least one important story of the death of a god, if not several such stories. And being all-knowing is very unusual trait for a god. That’s very specific to monotheistic religions.
 

HammerMan

Legend
Umm… the ability to die isn’t all that unusual for gods. Most mythologies have at least one important story of the death of a god, if not several such stories. And being all-knowing is very unusual trait for a god. That’s very specific to monotheistic religions.
and again... that was in character my wizard using EVERY justification to believe that there was no gods. I even joked out of game 'they are all just goa'uld aliens and powerful wizards'

that was part of the aside about what is and isn't faith when @Umbran called me on inserting my own thoughts while inserting his own.
 

I would like to suggest an amendment to (2). We don't need to build a faith out of those assumptions. Just one that is consistent with those assumptions. As in, members of the cleric class must fit into the faith, but they don't need to be central to how the common person interacts with faith.
I have fixed it now.
I should offer an example. Consider a faith in which there are everyday NPC priests. They have modest abilities for healing, blessing, or otherwise supporting congregations. Maybe they get some spells, but only cast as ritual, and the list is limited. Or maybe they get no spells at all. These priests may serve a single god, or indeed the pantheon as a whole, depending on your desire.

Then, there are some small number of individuals who are endowed with greater divine power. They are considered the hands of the gods in in the worlds. Their jobs are not to minister to the faithful, or drive the philosophical underpinnings of the religion, or engage in religious politics. They are endowed to get crap done, separate from the bulk of religious activity or belief.
so player clerics like as some kind of divine task force interesting likely in latter life they end up high up in whatever the structure of the faith is.
I think some of y’all are missing the point of the question.

Since every cleric gets Turn Undead, I think a religion built around the cleric would have to hold that undead are bad. However, there are multiple resurrection spells on the cleric spell list, so returning from the dead isn’t necessarily against this religion’s precepts. That suggests it may be more about how the body is meant to be treated than anything about the natural cycle of life and death. They are opposed to magically animating corpses, not to living beyond your divinely-appointed time.

Clerics also have Domains, and each cleric dedicates themselves to one Divine Domain to the exclusion of all others. This might suggest that clerics are supposed to specialize in the cult of one particular deity among a pantheon, or, if you want this religion to be monotheistic, to the study and veneration of a particular aspect of the Divine’s creation. Offensive spells and armor proficiencies suggest that clerics serve in a military capacity to some degree, perhaps as crusaders for the faith. This to me indicates some central authority or institutional hierarchy, so I would lean more towards the latter.

The cleric’s spell list is heavy on divination, which suggests a belief in predestination, but no particular precept against predicting the course of destiny. Perhaps part of the clerics’ role is interpreting the will of the Divine. Lots of radiant damage suggests an association of light with the Divine’s power.
hate undead got to jot that down.

specialisation in either a god or aspect of the god.
cults of some polytheistic deities have ended up massive and often hierarchical so polytheism is not off the table but it would be unlike ours to a great degree.
Let's see - right off the bat my assumptions about the cleric class are:

1. They receive "divine" spells from somewhere, including the ability to summon divine guardians.
2. They have martial training.
3. They have access to healing spells, including resurrection spells.

For earlier versions of the game
A. They were restricted from using edged weapons.

For later versions of the game
A. They have access to "domains" - spells and/or powers related to whatever is giving them spells.

So what you have with the cleric is a martial figure who can heal and raise the dead who gets their spells from "somewhere" that they at least believe is some form of divinity.

I guess I think there's a wide range of religions that are possible from that, so long as the religion can support trained militant priests who use their spells and weapons to fight for the religion. That's pretty much the sticking point - a purely pacifistic religion that requires priests to take a vow of nonviolence would not work for a cleric but otherwise it seems pretty open.

ETA @Charlaquin reminds me that Turn Undead is another one. I kind of bundle that in with the healing spells. Clerics are definitely assumed to be on the side of Life not Death in their base assumptions (though various editions of the game have allowed evil clerics to take the side of Death and harm instead of heal or control undead instead of destroying them)
my theory of cleric as divine troubleshooters seems more likely
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
and again... that was in character my wizard using EVERY justification to believe that there was no gods. I even joked out of game 'they are all just goa'uld aliens and powerful wizards'

that was part of the aside about what is and isn't faith when @Umbran called me on inserting my own thoughts while inserting his own.
Which is a pretty tangential argument to be having, given that the OP was very obviously using the “system of religious belief” definition of faith here rather than the “strong belief in a god or religious doctrine based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof” definition.
 


Or not. Being "high up in the structure" implies, to me, administrative duties. In this view, the cleric is a field agent.
many field agents end up in desk work as their bodies fail them which is likely to still be the case with the cleric class, let alone the paladin.

I have a theory that the nearest thing the real world has to a dnd pantheon might be a political party as you can believe in both, work for both and it would explain the portfolio system rather nicely as they are appointed to mange it somehow, not a 1:1 but likely the closest we have given the rather different nature of the system.
 

Jer

Legend
so player clerics like as some kind of divine task force interesting likely in latter life they end up high up in whatever the structure of the faith is.
Or there's not a higher structure and they're like wandering priests who go where the "divine" takes them and use their powers as needed there. The "higher structure" is just what they think the divine wants them to do and they go off and do it.
 

Or there's not a higher structure and they're like wandering priests who go where the "divine" takes them and use their powers as needed there. The "higher structure" is just what they think the divine wants them to do and they go off and do it.
true I think it like depends on the organisation as if the gods what a large organisation to deal with the task they will get one likewise wandering preist like are the original system is fairly common for small gods or for gods who hate organised structure.

any idea how to build interesting gods?
 

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