Cleric shenanigans (metaphysical, no right answers)

Well, that's precisely my point. You are looking for logical consistency, and when you start citing supposed 1e AD&D demographics as the basis of logical consistency, things fall apart very quickly.
"Logical consistency" is exactly why spell casting clerics have to be rare in a typical D&D pseudo-medieval world. A world where the average village priest can cast cure wounds is a utopia with Universal Healthcare. The average peasant needn't fear injury or disease when they can just go to the local cleric and get healed in couple of minutes. Even death would be a rare occurrence. The price of healing would be forced down to a few coppers due to the abundant supply.

The "conceit" in adventures like Village of Hommlet is that all the villagers with stat blocks are also exceptional individuals. D&D functions on massive coincidence. Of course, Village of Hommlet is an appallingly badly written adventure anyway.
 
Well, the interesting question is whether, given the certainty of divinity and multiple gods etc. in most campaign settings ...

would that make it more, or less, likely for fanaticism and zealotry?

My guess/assumption would be that it would be less likely, especially given the number of deities (it would be more of a background fact of life than faith), but there would always be a few deities out there that are REALLY into expanding the flock, if you catch my drift.
It has less to do with expansion of flock and more to do with expansion of awareness of the power of a specific deity. People in such situations have a set of household gods they worship and offer sacrifices to. Clerics and Paladins seek to get their gods included in those lists of household gods so their gods get more attention and worship.
 

Celebrim

Legend
"Logical consistency" is exactly why spell casting clerics have to be rare in a typical D&D pseudo-medieval world. A world where the average village priest can cast cure wounds is a utopia with Universal Healthcare.
Well, first of all, how do you know that the typical D&D world doesn't have "universal healthcare" as you put it. Nothing in the text of say 1e AD&D either affirms or denies how much access common farmers have to health care. There is nothing logically inconsistent about the D&D world having better healthcare options than normal, simply because in practice that is what the players will observe. Your objection seems to be that you've assumed something - lack of health care - that D&D neither claims nor implies.

The average peasant needn't fear injury or disease when they can just go to the local cleric and get healed in couple of minutes.
Secondly, that assertion isn't even implied by the universality or near universality of priests as clerics. Injury would still occur which would be fatal before a cleric could be contacted. Diseases and injuries that occurred in batches, whether from battle or plague would quickly overwhelm the ability of local clergy to respond to. Cure Disease is notably a 3rd level spell, so even if we assumed clergy and not laity made up a significant portion of the staff of any temple, and that clergy were exclusively cleric classed, there is still no reason to assume that a typical village temple could cure more than a few diseased individuals per day (or in smaller parishes, any). So a pestilence which sprang up suddenly among several households would tax even the 'universal cleric' demographic model, as most acolytes and adepts would lack the ability to help with more than mundane healing skill. Moreover, there is no reason to suppose that the beneficiaries of any Cure Disease spells would develop the solid disease resistance that might be expected of an individual that had more naturally recovered, so if the disease was virulent attempts to cure it through magical healing alone might easily be overwhelmed if solid quarantine measures could not also be implemented.

In short, even a model where there is one or more clerics per 100 inhabitants does not in any way imply the sort of utopia you claim, even ignoring the fact that the clerics will be opposed by supernatural forces dedicated to the spread of pestilence and death.

Even death would be a rare occurrence.
Again, this is an assertion not at all supportable when imagining even an abundant supply of clerics.

The price of healing would be forced down to a few coppers due to the abundant supply.
Again, this is an assertion not at all supportable when imagining even an abundant supply of clerics. Certainly it would likely be the case that a good aligned cleric would agree to heal a poor petitioner in exchange for only a few coppers or even nothing, on occasion. But consider the opportunity cost of each healing. Each cleric has only a limited number of spells per day which constitutes a large portion of the cleric's potential economic activity for the day. The supply of divine spells is relatively inflexible. But the demand for divine magic is going to be virtually unlimited. Each day the cleric will face a variety of bids for his services. People will want blessings to improve their chances of success in business or other critical matters. They'll want crops and livestock protected. They'll want curses removed and evil spirits driven away. They'll want bodies of deceased loved ones blessed so that those bodies will not rise as undead. They'll want items blessed so as to be more officious and to war against evil. Holy water, symbols, and relics will need to be sanctified. Holy ground will need to be consecrated and protected from intrusion. They'll want food and drink cleansed of potential contaminants. They'll want auguries and divinations performed and divine portents interpreted so as to better manage their affairs. Lost objects will need to be found. Evil magic will require dispelling. Crimes and murders will need to be investigated, and inquests performed. And through all these demands, the priest must wisely reserve some portion of their power in case an unforeseen emergency or threat arrives. If someone comes needing healing in the morning, what happens when someone needs greater healing in the afternoon or the evening? What happens when evil forces assail the temple and all your spell potency has already been expended?

In short, the cost of spell healing might get pushed down lower than the exorbitant prices that clerics are said to charge the adventuring class, but not to the point that they are below the wages a craftsman would expect. The total value of the clerics spells are likely to be roughly equal on a per day basis to the expected income of any other highly skilled craftsman, and there fees based on a combination of that and the cost of their components. Most clerics will have only a handful of spells to sell and most, especially higher level ones, will normally only sell a portion of their spells in a day owing to the fact that if they are without spells at all it potentially puts the whole community at risk. Nor is it necessarily the case that the exorbitant fees that PC adventures are charged represents the fees that farmers would have to pay. It could be that the clerics typically charge wealthy reckless adventurers high rates precisely because they want the freedom to charge Goodman Ploughman and Goodwife Baker little or nothing.

The "conceit" in adventures like Village of Hommlet is that all the villagers with stat blocks are also exceptional individuals. D&D functions on massive coincidence. Of course, Village of Hommlet is an appallingly badly written adventure anyway.
All the villagers in Village of Hommlet have stat blocks of some sort, even if they are merely 0 level fighters. Regardless of this conceit, based on what is actually published suggests that PC classed individuals are exceptional (in that they are above the norm) but not rare (in that in any group of 100 or so individuals there will be several).

Suggesting that "D&D functions on massive coincidence" concedes my point rather than overturns it.

Suggesting that Village of Hommlet is an "appallingly badly written adventure anyway" is deflection. Regardless of its quality, it's demographics are typical.
 
Well, first of all, how do you know that the typical D&D world doesn't have "universal healthcare" as you put it. Nothing in the text of say 1e AD&D either affirms or denies how much access common farmers have to health care.
"Pseudo-medieval" tells you that they don't have universal health care. In medieval times life for a peasant was nasty, brutish and short. And it wasn't that much better for the nobility. Sure, you could set your adventure in a utopian society, but that would be very different to a typical D&D setting.


Secondly, that assertion isn't even implied by the universality or near universality of priests as clerics.
A typical medieval village would have around 50 people and one priest (and if you want to assume "most villages don't have a priest", that is the same as assuming most priests can't cast spells). If the priest was first level they could still cure about10 hp of damage per day 356 days per year - 3560 hp per year. And since villages where small they could easily get to an injured farmer faster than a modern air ambulance could get to you. As for disease, it takes weeks or months to heal someone of a disease in the real world. Even if only a smattering of clerics are level 5 or above you are still talking healing rates more in line with Star Trek than medieval.

Suggesting that "D&D functions on massive coincidence" concedes my point rather than overturns it.
If you like. Or you might call it movie logic rather than real world logic.

Suggesting that Village of Hommlet is an "appallingly badly written adventure anyway" is deflection. Regardless of its quality, it's demographics are typical.
The Village of Hommlet is a far from typical village even in the world it is set in (Greyhawk is supposed to be grimdark). It certainly isn't typical of any villages in the games I'm involved in - I would be ashamed to put that in front of my players.
 

Celebrim

Legend
"Pseudo-medieval" tells you that they don't have universal health care.
Psuedo-Medieval tells you nothing of the sort. It tells you that it is "fake, spurious, sham" Medieval. It tells you only that it will have some Medieval trappings but depart significantly from actual Medieval in many important ways. Most notably, since "Psuedo-Medieval" generally involves magic, and that magic can cause healing, there is reason to expect that the level of healing available might differ markedly from actual medieval.

In practice, very little ever published for D&D then or now is actually Medieval in setting, and even not much is compelling pseudo-Medieval beyond the weaponry - and even it is biased toward 15th and 16th century arms, usually but not always, sans gunpowder. Much of the urban setting could be equally regarded as "Psuedo-Dickensonian", and could just as easily be the setting of Twain's "Peasant & The Pauper" or Dicken's "Oliver Twist". Much of the technology presented in D&D, and certainly D&D from the early 1980's on, tended to be Early Modern mixed with a wide variety of anachronistic settings from Ancient Greece to Victorian England. Feudalism, serfdom, shortages of coin, and so forth rarely are important to D&D settings or stories. Homes are generally not wattle and daub construction single room affairs in the published texts. Cities are generally much larger than their medieval counterparts, as are the armies that they can send forth. Nations tend to be monocratic consolidated nation states, not feudal kingdoms. Trade tends to be widespread, and communities tend to be cosmopolitan.

Of course, you are entirely free to adapt D&D to a more rigorously medieval game if you wish, but there is a not a lot of evidence that the publishers of the game ever thought this a particularly important thing to do. Gygax was at least as much of an Egyptophile as he was an aficionado of medieval life, and by his own accounts was just as inspired by Westerns and the Klondike gold rush as say, the Ottoian dynasty.

In medieval times life for a peasant was nasty, brutish and short. And it wasn't that much better for the nobility.
Surely you aren't going to start telling me about Medieval History. I can swing around a Charles Oman text just as well as you likely can.

Sure, you could set your adventure in a utopian society, but that would be very different to a typical D&D setting.
Yes, but you've yet to establish that a "utopian society" is a necessary or even likely outcome of all clergy presented in a setting being clerics.

A typical medieval village would have around 50 people and one priest (and if you want to assume "most villages don't have a priest"
Oh swell. You are going to try to tell me about medieval history.

There is no reason to suppose your hypothetical cleric serving your hypothetical hamlet is more than 1st level. As such, there is no reason to suppose that the level of healing involved, while it would be significantly better than that available to a medieval peasant, would lead to a "utopian" society. Injuries that might otherwise take a laborer from their employment for days or weeks could in fact be healed quickly, and minor wounds could be healed before they became septic or infected. This would surely improve life in the community, which could go a long ways toward explaining the greater prosperity typically seen in D&D pseudo-Medieval worlds than in actual Medieval settings. But conversely, his cleric cannot cure disease, and must contend with equally active forces of evil. Nor can he restore lost fingers or toes, bind broken bones, or heal damaged minds after concussions or other all too common serious injuries that occur in a rural setting with a lot of sharp objects being employed regularly. For these more serious injuries, a pilgrimage to some mightier temple would be required.

It seems the entire basis of your "proof" is your conception regarding what the game is supposed to be like, and not in fact what we can draw from published examples, demographics, or inference. You have a preferred notion and a preferred take on things ("Greyhawk is supposed to be grimdark."(?!?!?)) and by golly, you are going to stick with that, facts and evidence be darned.
 
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merwins

Visitor
Through all the deep conversation on broader topics, I'm still taken by the ambiguity of Augury and Divination.

I'm actually considering the implications of having Augury and Divination target PCs.

From any other plane, an Augury might target PCs as "otherworldly entities."

From anywhere, Divination might target a PCs as one of a "god's servants."

I mean, imagine an aetheric switchboard that connnects every creature to every other (probably impacted by the astral plane). The switchboard automatically tags everyone associatively.

So when a creature from the Elemental Plane of Fire might cast Augury to find out whether an action would have good or bad results, and reaches a cleric to Apollo or Vulcan, or even maybe an arson-prone pyromaniac sorceror PC, that could be interesting.

Divination, cast by a cleric, might go through the switchboard to the god, who's too busy to answer, so she routs it to her most devout follower with knowledge relevant to the divination--could be some farmer in Bungswamp, or as PC options, a high-level Fighter or a non-jaded mid-level cleric.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Through all the deep conversation on broader topics, I'm still taken by the ambiguity of Augury and Divination.

I'm actually considering the implications of having Augury and Divination target PCs.

From any other plane, an Augury might target PCs as "otherworldly entities."

From anywhere, Divination might target a PCs as one of a "god's servants."

I mean, imagine an aetheric switchboard that connnects every creature to every other (probably impacted by the astral plane). The switchboard automatically tags everyone associatively.

So when a creature from the Elemental Plane of Fire might cast Augury to find out whether an action would have good or bad results, and reaches a cleric to Apollo or Vulcan, or even maybe an arson-prone pyromaniac sorceror PC, that could be interesting.

Divination, cast by a cleric, might go through the switchboard to the god, who's too busy to answer, so she routs it to her most devout follower with knowledge relevant to the divination--could be some farmer in Bungswamp, or as PC options, a high-level Fighter or a non-jaded mid-level cleric.
I admit it's fascinating thought, and my immediate question would be, "Surely these cosmic switchboard operators are even more knowledgeable then than the gods? Who created them or oversees them?"

All of that provokes a lot of creativity that I think would be perfectly appropriate to a novel where I have perfect authorial control.

Unfortunately, owing to the great difficulty already present in running divinations in the context of the game, all of the complexities introduced by this vision of the underlying mechanics is solving problems I don't have and increasing the difficulty in adjudicating prognostic propositions.
 

merwins

Visitor
Unfortunately, owing to the great difficulty already present in running divinations in the context of the game, all of the complexities introduced by this vision of the underlying mechanics is solving problems I don't have and increasing the difficulty in adjudicating prognostic propositions.
It's likely you'd have to prime the players to be prepared for these eventualities. But I've found that they have EXACTLY the mentality for the sort of responses these spells demand:

For Augury, that infuriating, "Oh, yeah, definitely bad/good!" or "Shrug" with no follow up detail.

Or for Divination, the even more infuriating, "short phrase, a cryptic rhyme, or an omen" that rises to the level of an inside joke or relies on so much contextual knowledge that it's nearly worthless at first glance. "Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra."

The only catch is that the PCs have to be truthful. But you're basically giving them the chance to be a GM for a moment.

Maybe how they present their answers is how you treat them in following encounters in a karmically-balanced world.
 

Greenfield

Adventurer
My own small take on the Piousness v Faith argument:

1) Deities can, presumably, tell the difference between ritual mechanics and actual belief. That's why there can be many who follow a faith, but relatively few Clerics. The Clerics truly believe and devote themselves to their deity/philosophy. Followers tend to follow through local social pressure, or something similar

2) Strictly speaking "Faith" shouldn't really exist in a fantasy game setting. Faith is "belief that is not based on proof" (Dictionary.com) Since the presence of Clerical magic is indisputable, proof exists and therefore "faith", in the strictest sense, can't exist. So I'd substitute the concept of Devotion for "Faith".
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
For augury, the joke at my table is that the “otherworldly entity” is actually a kid from our own universe with a magic 8 ball...
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
That's the point, the ones who don't cast spells aren't in the adventures. The game fiction assumes the world is full of people who aren't plagued by monsters or hatching evil plots for world domination. The farmers farm, the laborers labour, and if they get hurt the local priest can't cast Cure Wounds on them. They are just part of the background scenery, like trees, birds and squirrels.


It's pretty much essential to the standard D&D plot set up that villages have few, if any, people with class levels. If they did, they could deal with the monster infestation themselves, and wouldn't need to pool their life savings to hire the first group of adventurers who happen along.
Well, I didn't really want to spend the time, but I went ahead and did it anyway. Cold hard, published facts to back up what I'm saying.

2e AD&D detailed basically the entire town of Daggerfall in a dedicated booklet of about 35+ pages. Here's one of the intro paragraphs for context:

"This self-styled city is a town of about 500 folk. The town is the largest stop on the
High Road between Waterdeep and Baldur’s Gate. It’s home to human craftsmen, a few
halflings, and a handful of folk of other races. There are about 20 farming hamlets within
a day’s walk of Daggerford (15-20 miles), each of which is home to around five families.
Each hamlet has a fortified building where the residents retreat in case of raids. There are
also isolated farms and a few estates of minor nobility. In all, about 1,200 people depend
on the Daggerford market for goods they can’t make themselves." - The North - a Guide to the Savage Frontier, 1996.

There is a temple of Lathandar staffed by Liam Sunmist, a 10th level cleric.
There is a shrine of Tempus staffed by Baergon Bluesword, a 7th level cleric.
There is a shrine of Tymora staffed by Bando the Lame, a 7th level specialty priest.
There is a mosque to Tyr 2 days to the east staffed by Elorshin, a 6th level specialty priest.

It doesn't really tell us if any of the other clergy that might be at those temples or shrines are spellcasters. But let's read the shrine to Chauntea for context:

"95. Chauntea’s Shrine (Harvest House)
Maerovyna (LG hf D9) presides over this large, stone establishment
which is also known as Harvest House. Not
far from the Farmers’ Gate, she administers 14 priests and
about 30 lay brothers between 2nd and 5th level. This
shrine to the Great Mother is of great importance to all
the farmers and ranchers of the Daggerford area, as the
priests spend their time fulfilling the needs of the community,
including blessing fields and researching new plants.
The oldest apothecary in town is Duneden (LN hm C3).
He has the ingredients for most common spells, but he depends
on caravans for more exotic ingredients."

There is also the Physician's Order:

"This guild hall is home to apothecaries, physicians, embalmers,
and healing clerics"

Moving on to other published settlements...the next one I took a gander at is in Night of the Walking Dead, a Ravenloft adventure, so we're looking at low magic.

In the 300 person village of Marais d'Tarascon, there is only one church, and it is presided over by Brucian, a 2nd level priest.

I don't have a lot of 5e adventures. I'm less than half way through reading Out of the Abyss, but here's what I've seen so far. The Svirfneblin in the small village of Blingdenstone have only one religious organization, and it's overseen by at least one priest (the NPC statblock that is a simplified 5th level cleric). The 500 Kuo-toa have an archpriest in their little neck of monsterdom.

I've got pdfs of a bunch of short freebie 3e adventures that WotC put out--so not anything recognizable. Let's see what the clergy are like in the first 3 villages I can find that have clergy.

Eye of the Sun:
3rd level Adept
Ghosts of Aniel: Two 1st level clerics, and a note that many of the highest level characters in the village had recently died. They seem to have followed the DMG instructions for giving classes to inhabitants of towns. The DMG from 3.5e (p.139) says that a typical hamlet of 200 people (Aniel has 146 currently) would have one 3rd level cleric and two 1st level clerics, and they seem to be actually following the suggestions in the DMG (though it would have been the 3.0e for this adventure).
Last Breaths of Ashenport: 6th level Adept

I've only addressed small villages because they are telling us about all the shrines and temples in them. Some of these have maps with every building on them! They aren't just telling us the ones that have casters and assuming there are others that don't. No, this is what they have--and it's spellcasters.

Are there any counter-examples you can find from official published settings or adventures?
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
Are there any counter-examples you can find from official published settings or adventures?
I think @Paul Farquhar meant that examples given in adventures are not representative of the game world because if they were, the adventure would not happen there.

You and @Celebrim are advocating that despite the guidelines restricting character classes to a minority, nothing in the published material seem to support that claim according to the examples we are given.

From where I stand, it appears to me that both sides are pointing at some inconsistencies, but are comparing apples to oranges. Both claims are true and coexist simultaneously.

To a certain point, I like that the players aren't the only casters around. There needs to be enough of them to make believable adversaries (casters can't be THAT rare if that's the 5th one we battle in the last 5 days...) and to support the described economy of spell material components, spellbook supplies etc that is hinted at in certain settings (mainly Forgotten Realm and Eberron).

Due to the wide breath of power level from lvl1 to lvl20 (or even lvl10), D&D struggles at giving believable quests for 1-3 lvl characters. Either they become king of the hill by lvl5, or you wonder why the other lvl5 npcs aren't taking care of business themselves.
 
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Celebrim

Legend
I think [MENTION=6906155]Paul Farquhar[/MENTION] meant that examples given in adventures are not representative of the game world because if they were, the adventure would not happen there.

You and @Celebrim are advocating that despite the guidelines restricting character classes to a minority, nothing in the published material seem to support that claim according to the examples we are given.

From where I stand, it appears to me that both sides are pointing at some inconsistencies, but are comparing apples to oranges. Both claims are true and coexist simultaneously.
I agree both claims are true and coexist simultaneously. Neither in of themselves though proves a particular ratio between non-PC classed individuals and PC classed individuals.

So I'm also making further claims.

a) While the locations where adventures happen are not representative of the whole world, they are representative of more than 1/10000th of the inhabited world.

b) In all settings where any locations have been detailed, the ratio of PC classed individuals to non-PC classed individuals is such that there are less than between 10-100 non-PC classed individuals for each PC classed individuals. This is consistent not only across settings, but all supplements, including the demographics of "Men" in the Monster Manual, the implications of random encounter tables for Urban areas in the Dungeon Master Guide, the demographics of latter supplements such as the 2e Thieves Handbook (which details how many thieves and of what level exist in a community).

c) There are no counter examples despite the fact that over time the game began to detail more and more mundane locations in the world as the game evolved from it's simple Haven/Delve roots.

d) Since there are no counter examples, it's reasonable to suppose that even if adventuring areas have uniquely high percentages of PC classed individuals that the ratios in the undescribed areas are not more than an order of magnitude or so different and are probably less. Again, the 2e Thieves Handbook details the numbers of thieves in all possible urban environments, and the thieves alone have ratios around 1/100 inhabitants (or higher, depending on the community). Since it's reasonable to assume that fighters and clerics are at least as numerous as thieves and probably much more so (since they are not parasitical and are actually useful to the community) then its reasonable to assume that, lacking actual counterexamples, ranges like 1/10000 occur nowhere and such ratios were never really supported in play by the publishers of the game. If they ever at one time asserted such a ratio, they must have thought better of it.

e) Even if we approach the question from a simulation perspective, it's highly unlikely that extreme disparities exist between environments were adventuring occurs and the ones where it doesn't for two significant reasons. First, there would be economic pressure for leveled PC individuals to migrate from the area where adventuring occurs to the ones were it doesn't, because their skills in those environments would be rarer, more highly valued, and their disparity in power compared to the ordinary inhabitants would make more influential and able to assert their will on the population. In other words, there would be pressure for the leveled individuals to conquer the non-leveled individuals. This would also tend to immediately turn the locations where adventuring doesn't happen into areas where adventuring happens. Likewise, there would be economic pressure for monsters to desist in attacking areas where adventuring happens (and leveled PCs occur) and turn their attention to the areas where their plundering and depredations could not be easily resisted. Again, this would immediately turn the areas where adventuring doesn't happen into areas where adventuring does happen. Further, if we suppose that these populations of non-leveled individuals exist, we have to explain how in fact they are surviving in a world with creatures like ghouls and werewolves if in fact they have no real ability to resist such creatures. The obvious answer is that leveled individuals exist in sufficient quantitates and with sufficient organization to protect them from such common threats. The result is that even if we are purist to simulation of a so called gritty, "grimdark", pseudo-medieval setting that we are forced to concede that the only stable arrangement of society is one where "adventuring" occurs everywhere and leveled PC's exist in approximately the ratios established by the areas that have already been described and detailed by the game publishers.

As a subset to those claims, the ratio between clergy who can cast spells and "laity" who are serving a cult seems to be as described quite high, and that in general all temples seem to contain at least some clergy and all individuals identified as clergy tend to be or always are clerics.

I will introduce a caveat. Forgotten Realms is far and away the most detailed setting TSR/WotC has ever published, and we have very good reason to believe that FR entirely abandoned the demographics that prevailed in other settings. In general, it appears to me that on average FR characters of all sorts are about twice the level that prevailed in Greyhawk, Krynn or Eberron. In those settings, 15th level is a fairly high level character and typical characters are 1st-2nd level with leaders who are 3rd-5th level. In the FR, 30th level is a fairly high level character, typical characters are 2nd-4th level, and have leaders that are 6th-10th level. But that's only a general approximation, and I don't think any effort was made to consciously double the levels normally used. I just think that high level NPCs were introduced for a variety of gamist and personal reasons and it happened to work about that way. Thus, comparing FR demographics to what prevails anywhere else tends to be apples and oranges.

Dues to the wide breath of power level from lvl1 to lvl20 (or even lvl10), D&D struggles at giving believable quests for 1-3 lvl characters. Either the become king of the hill by lvl5, or you wonder why the other lvl5 npcs aren't taking care of the business themselves.
The way I typically handle this is to begin the campaign with some sort of widespread crisis, so that the leaders in the community are obviously busy doing their thing, and you are forced to do something of lesser scope, but still valorous and heroic, for the sake of survival (or loyalty to the community, or opportunity for violence and plunder, or whatever motivates the character). Thus for example I might start campaigns with natural disasters or invasions or magical tribulations or whatever, so that the whole of the community is swept up in the problem. Gradually, the PC's thereafter take more and more central positions in the story, and the PC's are recognized as destined heroes and people more and more turn to them for aid.

But you are correct that D&D's traditional Haven/Delve set up invariably runs into the problem of, "If 1st level characters can go retrieve this treasure, how is it that some NPC's of higher level ages before hasn't plundered these halls?" Typically, no good answers are given to that question. In fact, with T1: Village of Hommlet, the question has so few answers, that it calls into question emersion in the setting - the NPCs not only have the ability to plunder the moat house, but in the text are given the motives for doing so.
 

Laurefindel

Explorer
I'll give one thing to 5e however,

For the first time (AFAIK), D&D has NPC entries that represent human(oid) NPCs that are neither lvl0 commoners nor characters with PC class levels, yet can cast spells, use one or two abilities, and a variance of hp. It is now a lot easier to implement that few NPCs have class levels, yet fit in a game world that can be challenging for the players.

You could play a whole campaign using only NPC stat blocks for adversaries.
 

Celebrim

Legend
2) Strictly speaking "Faith" shouldn't really exist in a fantasy game setting. Faith is "belief that is not based on proof" (Dictionary.com) Since the presence of Clerical magic is indisputable, proof exists and therefore "faith", in the strictest sense, can't exist. So I'd substitute the concept of Devotion for "Faith".
As a pet peeve, the definition of Faith has evolved greatly over the last 150 years - at least as it has been presented in dictionaries. Early dictionaries, say those of the 19th century, presented a very different definition of faith than the one that has been trending to dominance among lexicographists over the last 50 years. My contention is that this evolution has occurred as the proportion of lexicographists who are pious has diminished, producing a situation where the people judging the meaning of the word "Faith" are increasingly the ones that don't have it.

This produces a huge disconnect in modern conversation between the pious and the irreligious, since the irreligious when they say "faith" are using something like your dictionary.com definition, but the religious and pious when they say "Faith" are using an entirely different older definition. The result is a massive disconnect where neither side understands what the other is saying, and which were neither side agrees to the others axiomatic claims. The two groups are literally speaking different dialects where words with particular sounds are related to one other, but convey very different meanings.

For example, the reason that I would tend to say that "Faith" shouldn't really exist in a fantasy game setting, is that the vast majority of fantasy game settings have some sort cosmology that is pastiche polytheism, and in general polytheistic religions consider correct ritual vastly more important than faith (if they consider faith at all) and what separates the clergy from the common worshiper is not a degree of faith, but the fact that the clergy possess the esoteric and often secret knowledge (to say nothing of the paraphernalia) necessary to correctly perform the rituals. The logic of that is based on the assumptions of polytheism, which do not require that the worshipper form an attachment to any particular deity. Monotheism holds faith higher than ritual, because it emphasizes in a way that polytheism doesn't, attachment to the person of a particular deity. (As Gene Wolfe recently died, the conversation between Severian and his deceased Master concerning government, and the faith of his three legged dog comes to mind here.)
 

Celebrim

Legend
I'll give one thing to 5e however,

For the first time (AFAIK), D&D has NPC entries that represent human(oid) NPCs that are neither lvl0 commoners nor characters with PC class levels, yet can cast spells, use one or two abilities, and a variance of hp. It is now a lot easier to implement that few NPCs have class levels, yet fit in a game world that can be challenging for the players.

You could play a whole campaign using only NPC stat blocks for adversaries.
There is something to be said for that.

The reason I resist it is mostly a grudge I hold against 1e AD&D, which treated NPC's and PC's differently, and invariably gave to NPC's benefits that PC's could not receive. The unfairness of this when I was a player frustrated me greatly, and so as a DM, I generally prefer to have a situation where the game system at least doesn't distinguish between PCs and NPCs, and any NPC could be a PC and any PC could be an NPC.
 

Staffan

Adventurer
For example, the reason that I would tend to say that "Faith" shouldn't really exist in a fantasy game setting, is that the vast majority of fantasy game settings have some sort cosmology that is pastiche polytheism, and in general polytheistic religions consider correct ritual vastly more important than faith (if they consider faith at all) and what separates the clergy from the common worshiper is not a degree of faith, but the fact that the clergy possess the esoteric and often secret knowledge (to say nothing of the paraphernalia) necessary to correctly perform the rituals. The logic of that is based on the assumptions of polytheism, which do not require that the worshipper form an attachment to any particular deity. Monotheism holds faith higher than ritual, because it emphasizes in a way that polytheism doesn't, attachment to the person of a particular deity. (As Gene Wolfe recently died, the conversation between Severian and his deceased Master concerning government, and the faith of his three legged dog comes to mind here.)
My impression is that the people in most D&D settings are not exactly polytheistic... rather, are monolatrous. Or even individually monolatrous, which is not generally something we've seen much in our world.

That is, a polytheistic culture would worship many deities more or less equally, as the situation calls for (but maintaining some default level of propitiation for all of them just in case - you don't want to not give Eris her due). A monolatrous culture would say "There are many gods, but this one's ours." That seems to be what's going on on an individual level in most D&D worlds - in Greyhawk you have followers of Hieroneous opposing the followers of Hextor, but a polytheistic culture would recognize that each of those have their place in the universe. The one D&D setting I've seen that features proper polytheism is Eberron, where the Sovereign Host is commonly worshiped as a group.

Anyway, the point I was going to make is that monolatry probably leads to a closer attachment to a deity than polytheism - possibly more than monotheism even, on account of a greater likelyhood of there being a god around that's a good match.
 

Staffan

Adventurer
There is something to be said for that.

The reason I resist it is mostly a grudge I hold against 1e AD&D, which treated NPC's and PC's differently, and invariably gave to NPC's benefits that PC's could not receive. The unfairness of this when I was a player frustrated me greatly, and so as a DM, I generally prefer to have a situation where the game system at least doesn't distinguish between PCs and NPCs, and any NPC could be a PC and any PC could be an NPC.
I see your point from a principled perspective. However, years of playing/running 3e and Pathfinder taught me that this principle is, well, not a particularly useful one.

See, there are a couple of big differences between PCs and NPCs.

1. PCs are usually being played week after week for months on end, for hours at a time. An NPC involved in combat is lucky to survive five rounds.

2. PCs have one player wholly dedicated to playing that one character. An NPC shares the space in the DM's head with a bunch of other NPCs, plus plots, plus dungeons, plus long-term plans, plus setting information, and so on.

3. PCs are the stars of the game. NPCs are supporting cast, there to challenge and/or support the PCs.

All of these have lead me to strongly believe that NPCs don't need anywhere near the detail PCs get. In particular, resource management needs to be simplified. An ability like the 5e bardic inspiration is awesome as a player, but a complete no-go as an NPC. If I'm making a bard-ish NPC, I'd instead give them an ability to use a reaction to add +d6 to an ally's roll, and then have it recharge on 4+ or something.

The problem in AD&D was related to the way the novels were driving various meta-plots, and how a large portion of various books (particularly in FR) were dedicated to statting out the pro- and antagonists in these books. As the novels were generally not written to hew directly to the game rules, adapting their characters to the game often required some shenanigans, and then players who got their hands on those books wondered why they couldn't do the same things. But with 5e, there aren't all that many big-name NPCs around in the books occupying a lot of space.
 

Celebrim

Legend
My impression is that the people in most D&D settings are not exactly polytheistic... rather, are monolatrous. Or even individually monolatrous, which is not generally something we've seen much in our world.
Don't get me started on how ridiculous most religion is in most published settings. Most of it tends to be polytheism, but polytheism as imagined by someone with absolutely no knowledge of actual polytheism in practice, and so polytheism as imagined through the lens of someone who has a vague Judeo-Christian derived view of what religion is like and so assumes all religion is basically like that.

It's hard to say whether the default religious observance of characters in D&D fantasy worlds is more like monolatry or more like henotheism, simply because most authors don't even seem to realize that there is any distinction to be made. Generally, it seems characters are expected to choose a patron associated with their profession which not coincidentally is much more like Catholocism with its patron saints than it is anything like polytheism. I tend to describe this as universal henotheism.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make, aside from the comment that most people who actually say that they have "Faith" aren't asserting what the dictionary.com definition would lead you to believe, is that most D&D religions are poorly thought out and as shallow as a puddle - so much so that I find it hard to believe anyone in most published settings has any real attachment to the described deities at all.
 

Celebrim

Legend
All of these have lead me to strongly believe that NPCs don't need anywhere near the detail PCs get.
I agree with just about everything you say, so I'm not really treating my preference as anything but a subjective preference. There are objective reasons for me to have the preference and advantages that go along with doing it my way, but those advantages have to be weighed against the real advantages of treating PC's and NPC's differently - and that's a value or practical judgment based on what comes up in your campaign most often.

Generally the way I deal with the fact that NPC's don't need anywhere near the detail PC's get is that I just don't detail them, and if I ever need to detail them, I do so on the fly, knowing that being off a point or two here or there on a skill check or even attack bonus doesn't matter worth a hill of beans. NPCs that are meant to be combat foes are either copied from short stat blocks I've developed over the year ("sailor", "marine", "town guard", "ruffian", etc.) or else given enough of a detail that a combat can be run. Since high level NPCs are rare, I don't template a lot of characters (other than the occasional vampire or werewolf), and I don't have PrCs, this isn't usually the problem it would be in say full canon RAW 3.5 or Pathfinder.
 

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