Cleric shenanigans (metaphysical, no right answers)

merwins

Villager
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! :heh:

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?
 

Blue

Orcus on a bad hair day
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.
 

77IM

Explorer!!!
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! :heh:
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!"
 

aco175

Explorer
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.
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
It depends on how gods work in the campaign setting you are playing in. Gods in the Forgotten Realms are very different to Eberron.
 

ccs

39th lv DM
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.
 

Quartz

Explorer
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.
 

TwoSix

Lover of things you hate
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.
 

Celebrim

Legend
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?
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
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.

Celebrim said:
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.
 

merwins

Villager
I don't have time to fully respond to this right now. But the difference between faith and piety is fascinating.

My gut feeling is that for DnD, the divine relationship ("devotion to your deity") matters (since most game worlds use real gods). So in modern connotation, faith, with its relationship implications, seems to have enough religious association to remain the correct word. But I have to think about it some more.

With regard to how divine magic differs from arcane, and why spells lists are different... one possibility might be that the gods carved out territory in the Weave so that particular patterns belong to them. Classes like Divine Soul instill some aspect of the divine within the character, which gives them the same ability to access those patterns.

As far as power source, for my needs I've postulated that all spellcasting is based on focused force of will. But the ability to access the Weave varies. It's innate to sorcerers (they're magical creatures, more or less), its rigorous study for wizards, it's a deific passkey for clerics and druids. Without such access, you might be able to mentally punch or sneak your way through to some spells or spell-like effects (monk, arcane trickster).
 

not-so-newguy

Explorer
Perhaps the question is what empowers a deity to empower its followers? Especially in the case of a deity that has countless followers, with many of them having divine powers. It’s not new question, but I think answering it requires some creativity.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Perhaps the question is what empowers a deity to empower its followers? Especially in the case of a deity that has countless followers, with many of them having divine powers. It’s not new question, but I think answering it requires some creativity.
I usually choose to not answer that question. Unless you are making the metaphysics a plot point in the campaign, it isn't something that *needs* an answer.

But then, I run games in which the gods generally do not appear in person (or even in avatar), so that there's always a question as to what they are, or even if they exist.
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
So, I think that given the subject matter, I think that there will be a natural variance between tables, and that is perfectly acceptable.

I also think that part of the natural variance should include "just play the rules, which are non-specific".

And, as a general rule, the most basic principle is to be respectful- especially given the subject matter of faith and deities (even within a fantasy setting; different individuals have different tolerances for this.

THAT SAID, I tend to use a version of the rules from Deities and Demigods; specifically, knowledge and faith give you levels 1-2, intermediaries of the deity give you levels 3-5, and only the deity him/her/itself gives you access to spells of level six or higher.

Which means that heretical clerics will lose access to their spells of higher level over time.
 

Celebrim

Legend
So, the following represents how clerical magic works in D&D as I understand it:

1) Clerics have no magical ability in and of themselves. This is precisely why clerics can completely lose their magical ability. If clerical magical ability was simply concentrated force of will that they had honed in some fashion, then they could not have their power turned off nor would they need to prepare spells.

2) Clerics receive their spells from divine powers or their agents. The cleric requests the spell and then has it granted to them either directly from the divinity or else through some agent of the divinity. The spell is transferred from some being that can cast it to the cleric, thus the source of the power is not the cleric. The spell is received by the cleric in a revelatory fashion. The cleric need only finish the spell that has been placed in their mind through the divine revelation, and after words they no longer have the power or even the memory of the spell.

3) Because of this when a cleric uses a spell, they are not directly channeling the will of the divinity. No miracle actually takes place at the time the spell is cast and the divinity does not have the direct ability to decide how and when the spell is used. The actual miracle occurred when the cleric received the spell. As such, a cleric can use a spell for purposes that the divinity may not have approved of though this breach of trust, that is the deity's lost faith in the cleric's judgment, could be punished by future loss of communion and revelation.

4) Because the source of the magic is not the cleric's own ability, clerical magic can accomplish things that no mortal magic could actually accomplish. The reasons for the limitations on mortal magic are generally either not explained or else are explained in a setting specific fashion, but even if the cause is not explained it is clear that they are there because otherwise there would be more overlap between the arcane and divine spell-casting lists. Indeed, as far as I'm concerned, the real distinction between an arcane and a divine spellcaster is whether or not the primary source of power is internal or external to the spell-caster. Divine spell-casters always get the majority of their magical ability from external sources, which is why they can lose access to it by breaking their bargains in some fashion.

5) Clerics receive spells from deities according to the deity's whims, with the particular conditions that they must satisfy varying from deity to deity. As an analogy, you can think of the deity logging into some supernatural website and downloading spells. ("Order of the Stick" actually uses this metaphor comically in world.) In order to log into the system, the cleric must know not only how to reach or contact the power source through prayers, but also must authenticate themselves in some way. That is to say, they have to be known to the divine powers and in good standing with them. For lawful deities, this probably means that they need to be ordained in some fashion and recognized by the clerical hierarchy - you can imagine that the cleric has their name in a book somewhere. For chaotic deities, this probably means that they have to be on friendly terms with the divine/supernatural personages that answer their requests. In any case, while receiving spells might involve some ritual, performance of that ritual alone in no way guarantees that you can get the spells. It's not a service available to everyone. Nor does the cleric have the right to demand spells because of some internal power. The basis of their access to spells is that they are in good standing with the powers that dispense them. Presumably, access to spells is limited solely because of lack of trust that the deity has in their servant and the limited ability of the deity (for whatever reason) to fulfill spell requests. The amount of trust that the servant has in the deity is in this setup meaningless, because its not normally a cleric asking for miraculous intervention and the deity has large but finite resources (for whatever reason). Giving spells to cleric involves some cost to the deity or to the deities even more limited agents. Maybe the spell comes from an agent that can only use that spell X times per day, and the transference of the spell means that the agent is now more limited in their ability to accomplish the deity's goals.

6) In this arrangement, there would be plenty of truly pious and faithful persons that would not be clerics, would not gain spells, and possibly could not gain spells. No matter how refined their spirit became, no matter how great their belief, no matter how faithfully they served, no matter how holy (or unholy) they were, no power would necessarily flow out. You might could create options for persons like that, but core D&D typically does not validate that sort of self-improvement as a valid path to spell-casting ability. See however the monk for an example of what in D&D self-improvement might possibly allow, at least by traditional mechanics.

7) Historically, there has been some limited discussion by D&D authors of clerics which are straying out of their defined role receiving spells from a source other than the one that they believe that they are receiving the spells from. That is to say, while the normal process of a cleric straying involve the deity getting locked out of access to their spells, in some rare occasions author's have played with the idea of a cleric being tempted to transfer allegiance to a different deity, occasionally without realizing that they've actually strayed and are now getting spells from a wholly new power source. However, it would I think be far from usual for this to occur, precisely because of the finite resources that D&D deities seem to be operating with. Thus, unless it suits the GM and story to think otherwise, I think you could be pretty sure that your Augury was being answered by some ally or servant of your chosen patron.

Putting this all together, I hope you see why I think it is utterly bizarre to speak of a D&D cleric having their Faith shaken, or using their faith to manifest something miraculous. The system really doesn't depend on the cleric's faith at all, except when anachronistically equating a religion with a "faith".
 
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Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
Clerics "loosing there spells" is I think only an actual rule in 2nd edition, and it's largely associated with the Forgotten Realms. Eberron treats religion rather differently - it is ambiguous about if gods exist at all. Ergo clerics in Eberron are self-powered. Dark Sun is less ambiguous- there are no gods. Clerics must draw thier power from sorcerer-kings and druids from the raw elements.

in third edition, it it made explicit that a cleric can gain thier spells from an idea or philosophy (e.g. A cleric of Good) but with the setting-specific rule that clerics in the Forgotten Realms must choose a diety.
 
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merwins

Villager
So, the following represents how clerical magic works in D&D as I understand it:
.
.
.
Putting this all together, I hope you see why I think it is utterly bizarre to speak of a D&D cleric having their Faith shaken, or using their faith to manifest something miraculous. The system really doesn't depend on the cleric's faith at all, except when anachronistically equating a religion with a "faith".
I have played in several games that follow similar lines of thought, but I'm not certain the 5E rules explicitly dictate this worldview.

Just so I don't nitpick at everything, I'll focus on a couple of items:

For item #1, 5E tends to discourage documented mechanisms for losing abilities. I think that's why they leave the cleric, the paladin and the warlock rules (re: gods and patrons) so vague.

For item #6, any game character can be pious. They can even be fanatically devoted to a deity. I agree they get nothing from that piety. But you could certainly say that the in-game effort COULD pay off. The player chooses (meta) to be a cleric, or multiclass into cleric and that would open up spellcasting.
I'd suggest that a monk is not the only choice for gaining in-game power as a character that never has access to divine spellcasting. Even a fighter or rogue can pledge themselves to a god, donate regularly, do their god's work, and count their perfectly "mundane" evolving abilities as the gifts given to further their god's plan.
 

Aebir-Toril

Scion of Ceres
Remember the word of the great god, the omniscient Dei Ym:

"I am that I exist, the maker and breaker of worlds. Fear for ye souls, for nothing is beyond my grasp."

All humour aside, it must be stated that the cosmology and divine aspects of each setting vary immensely. In order to comprehend the question, one must first give the context.

In terms of the Player's Handbook, all deity-related divination spells are worded carefully, so as to allow for (IMNSHO) contact of a being other than an explicit deity.
 

Celebrim

Legend
I have played in several games that follow similar lines of thought, but I'm not certain the 5E rules explicitly dictate this worldview.
It's likely that they don't. First edition through 3e offered a fairly consistent take on the cleric class, with the only modification to the class in 3e being a little used call out that you could be a cleric but not have a deity. Part of the reason that I say that it is little used, is not even WotC seemed to take that very seriously, as the vast majority of resources for clerics published by WotC assumed a tight relationship between a deity and their cleric, and you certainly didn't see a lot of published clerics of an idea or a philosophy.

There have been a few settings that tried to move the goal posts a bit, but with the exception of 2e 'Dark Sun' which had unique mechanics for magic use, they mostly seemed interested in moving the color while moving the mechanics as little as possible.

I'm not hugely familiar with 4e. It moved the mechanics of the game a ton, and thereby allows for all sorts of different interpretations as to how things work because things work very differently.

I likewise have only limited knowledge of 5e, and while it seems to have borrowed a small amount from 4e, mostly it was moving back toward the direction of mainstream D&D mechanics. Mechanically speaking a 5e cleric works almost exactly like a cleric of 1e through 3e, with the change in Orisons/Cantrips being the most significant mechanical change. In 5e, you could make a solid argument that the cleric's "Cantrips" at least represented personal innate spellcasting power, as these do not need to be prepared daily. Likewise, the domain specific abilities might represent the Cleric's increasing attunement with and control over the forces of that domain as a result of their increasing sacred or profane power derived from their own spiritual growth.

However, once again, if a cleric is the source of their own power, and the source of that power is their own will, why do they need to prepare spells? And why are their spells different than say Wizard spells? If a person can be the source of their own healing power, why can't a Wizard learn the art and lore of cleric magic and add those spells to their own knowledge? What makes it distinctive? And if simple force of will is the power source, why aren't delusional madmen mightier casters than anyone else, seeing that if the source of power is oneself and the object of faith is oneself, no one has has more faith in oneself than megalomaniacs, narcissists, and the deluded? A setting where megalomaniacs did spontaneously morph into world shaking monstrosities, and were the delusional could make the world resemble their delusions (thus ceasing to be delusional) would be pretty cool, but it would be nothing like traditional D&D settings.

I'm not saying you couldn't set up a world were clerics were the source of their own power, but my suspicion is that if you did do that and logically tried to model it, you'd end up with a very different set of mechanics than what D&D has - even 5e D&D. Instead what I typically see is, "We want to introduce a color of distinction for people troubled by the default set up, without introducing any actual alteration in how things work because on these supposedly fundamental changes."

I guess what I'm saying is, if you want to fundamentally alter the cosmology created to explain D&D spellcasting, you probably ought to do what 2e Dark Sun did and actually create new spell casting rules and classes. Even Eberron, which I don't think moved the rules as far as they needed to accommodate it's altered cosmology, at least made some changes in how the class worked and what existed within the setting (no Outer Planes, for example). Still, for all the changes, the populace of Eberron's "common sense" judgment that the Gods do exist and are the origin of Divine magic seems most likely to explain the mechanics of the game and the described fiction. All Eberron has really demonstrated is that it's Gods are a bit weird philosophically compared to the normal D&D pantheons, but they seem to function pretty much the same way.
 

merwins

Villager
And if simple force of will is the power source, why aren't delusional madmen mightier casters than anyone else, seeing that if the source of power is oneself and the object of faith is oneself, no one has has more faith in oneself than megalomaniacs, narcissists, and the deluded?
LOLz. Mega-LOLz. :lol:
 

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