Poll : Do you allow godless clerics?

Do you like/allow clerics without a diety?

  • I don't like godless clerics for mechanical reasons.

    Votes: 14 5.4%
  • I don't like godless clerics for flavor/homebrew gameworld reasons.

    Votes: 115 44.6%
  • I don't like godless clerics for other reasons I will outline below.

    Votes: 5 1.9%
  • I'm OK with godless clerics.

    Votes: 76 29.5%
  • I love godless clerics!

    Votes: 40 15.5%
  • I never knew you could have a cleric without a patron god until reading this thread...

    Votes: 8 3.1%


I went with the "no for campaign reasons" thing. Generally speaking, I think a cleric by definition has power that springs from divinity; a godless cleric does paperwork. ;)

That said, I could see if you have a campaign that has some sort of altenate explanation of where the power springs from, that's cool. The idea that the clerics power comes from faith itself never sat well with me, because a character whose powers do not come from divinity is by my definition an arcane spellcaster.

For flavor reasons, I find goddless casters of divine magic horrible, again unless you have a satisfying alternate explanation. Muttering about how your own faith sustains you seems rather bland compared to gathering power from spirits, the almighty, or whatnot.

Steverooo said:
If a Druid or Ranger can draw "divine" power from unintelligent nature, I don't see why a Cleric can't draw the same from an unintelligent ideal...

True, but even then, historically (pre-3e) there have been deities behind those powers, and even if dispassionate ones. Even in 3e, I veiw rangers and druids as deriving power from a powerful force associated with nature, not from "faith itself".

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I require my clerics AND paladins to have gods. That being said I don't require rangers to, and druids worship 'nature'. Ranger magic I see as coming from a closeness to nature rather than worshipping it per se.


First Post
I prefer "Ecumenical" to "Godless", though the Ur Priesthood from the Book of Vile Darkness were intriguing. (I suppose you could say that they were ecumenical as well... But evil...)

An Ur Priest at least worships (in a way) power... And their power comes directly from the divine, even if they resent the entities from which they get their illicit spells.

To be a cleric (and get spells to cast) you have to have some sort of cause. (Like Piffany from Nodwick. The ultimate old school cleric. No god per sae... she's just really really really good... Really.)

A cleric who reveres nothing, believes in nothing, and represents nothing is nothing but a second class fighter with a club. :)

If I were running a setting that didn't use gods of some sort (like Dark Sun), I'd certainly allow a godless cleric. And if someone came to me with a fantastic idea for a godless cleric in a campaign with gods (or a single god), I'd at least consider it. For the most part, however, I will not allow godless clerics (or paladins) in a campaign setting that uses gods. It just makes no sense to me. (Then again, I usually define the specific source of druidic and ranger magic, too. It may not be a god, but it's just as set.)

I guess the answer really is, "It's all in how it's done by the player." I've seen a "godless" cleric done very well in a Planescape I ran once. I mean, he had a patron diety, but the trick was he thought he was a god :). Oh the wonderful, hilarious bouts of roleplaying we had with that. It's too bad the campaign fizzled due to lack of free time. I always wanted to see him lose his powers because he ticked himself off.

Oh well, maybe it's too weird for everyone else, but I thought it was great.


Moe Ronalds

First Post
I allow godless clerics, rationalizing that they recieve their spells from gods that choose to sponsor them, seeing that their actions serve the generic greater good. Much like where I believe paladins recieve their divine power (those that are godless, in any case), or clerics that worship demon lords.


First Post
I chose "don't like godless clerics for flavor reasons". All clerics, paladins, druids, and rangers MUST have a god in the games I run. Godless divine casters just feel completely wrong IMO. Not only is it awkward to explain in a metagame fashion, but in most ancient-medieval level societies, God(s) were personified forces of existence with definite personalities. A divine character that worships a concept doesn't jive well with a western view of existence, which IS what D&D is based on. Plus, IME, most people who want to play godless clerics want to play a character who isn't beholden to a church or heirarchy, but still want the incredible powers of a cleric. No thanks.


WotC's bitch
Gothmog said:
I chose "don't like godless clerics for flavor reasons". All clerics, paladins, druids, and rangers MUST have a god in the games I run. Godless divine casters just feel completely wrong IMO. Not only is it awkward to explain in a metagame fashion,

It's perfectly simple to explain in a metagame fashion. "I cast this spell, which has V, S, DF components, and you regain ... 5 hit points!"

If you mean it's awkward to explain _in-game_, you just need to brush up on your metaphysics.

but in most ancient-medieval level societies, God(s) were personified forces of existence with definite personalities.

What, exactly, is the personality of the Holy Ghost?
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First Post
I don't like the idea of godless clerics for flavor reasons, as many other people have already described. to me, by definition a divine spellcaster has to have some kind of specific divine source of his or her powers. i'm also one of those crazy DMs that makes rangers and druids select a patron deity as well. :)

if you want to play someone who gets magical powers based on faith in himself, play a sorcerer. ;)
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First Post
In both Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk, godless clerics do not have spellcasting ability.

However, in the core rules Godless clerics do have spellcasting ability.

That contradiction makes sense.


Because in a core rules game, the GM might not want to worry about Gods or think about churches. So allowing generic gods can be a time-saver.

Likewise, many real-world religions were not focused on a single god. For instance, the Norse had a pantheon, Odin, Thor, etc., a cleric might worship Odin's entire family and not a single member.

Finally, there are people who like to play clerics based on Christianity or other modern day religions, but don't want to be too explicit as to that is what they are doing. By worshipping an abstract, they can actually be following a modern day relgion.


First Post
Great quotes. I try to remember them next time I want to play a cleric, as it seems to fit better than trying to bring religious interpretations from RL into the game.

the Jester

Reading this thread, I get the impression that most of you allow godless clerics (when you allow them at all) to choose their own domains. Am I getting this right or am I inferring too much?

In my campaign, I have a list of philosophies with enough spiritual energy invested in them to sponsor clerics, and they give very specific domains (just like deities). For example, for clerics of the philosophy of Chaos, the domains are Chaos and Trickery. Philosophies give two domains; most deities give their clerics from two to five domains (based on their status- demigods grant two, lesser three, etc).


Community Supporter
I allow godless clerics for flavor reasons, though no one has chosen one yet.

Clerics (all divine casters, actually) must choose a source for their divine energy: alignments, gods, the Pantheon, or the Powers. (Adepts, druids, and rangers can also choose nature.)

The main mechanical reason that no one has played a godless cleric is that the other sources for power are much stricter -- the Powers, for example, don't restore lost powers with an atonement except in cases of domination or the like. Any intentional violation of their precepts results in immediate, permanant loss of spellcasting.

If anyone's interested, I could copy/paste in the descriptions from my rules document.


First Post
I am a "no godless clerics for flavour reasons" kinda person

My basic feeling is similar to others -- divine magic has a divine source; as such, clerics (and paladins [actually a variant on the Green Ronin Holy Warriors] and druids) are expected uphold, support, and expand the worship of one or more particular deities. (Rangers in my games have a different spell list and are considered not really to have spells but rather "special abilities" -- flavour change, primarily) Now I do allow clerics (etc.) who worship a pantheon as opposed to a single divine being, but even then it must be as part of a recognized body.

Indistinct worship of generalized concepts of Good, Evil, etc., don't work in my world, mainly because we have abolished alignment.


First Post
I've cleft divine magic in twain!

Theurgy, aka divine magic, is channeling power granted by a greater being, who is usually a deity, but may be something else. Like an archfiend, or a dragon that has gone beyond beyond the Great Wyrm age, etc. Theurgists have a power over the souls.

Tellury, aka nature magic, is accumulating power from the creation itself. Like the Force, magic is present in all things, and when you learn to be in harmony with all things, then you can practice telluric magic. Lei lines are especially important for tellurists.

For completion, here's my definitions of the two other magics:

Esoteria, or arcane magic, revolves around using inner power. Whether you wield innate energy or gradually develop arcane capacities is not relevant. What is is that, through learned secrets or inborn instinct, you are more and more mastering the language of creation itself, and turning yourself into a lei node.

Psionics, or spirit magic, is the least understood of all, but it involves attuning one's mind to the collective unconscious, also considered the spirit of the land, and influencing it so that it produces effects for you. They are thus the only "magic-users" that do not cast spells, since they are merely making something else cast the spell for them.

So, I have no godless clerics. Clerics, paladins, sacred guardians (sohei) and blackguards are all required to follow a deity. When casting a spell, they receive guidance from their deity, so that they may "botch the job" and do clumsy movements. That's why they don't suffer from spell failure.

Druids, rangers, adepts and shamans are not required to follow a deity, but they may if so they wishes; the practice is common. Atheistic tellurists suffer from spell failure, albeit at a reduced risk than arcanists (Nature spirits help a bit).


First Post
That said, I could allow (in another world) philosopher-clerics, as outlined in Deities & Demigods: They don't worship a cleric, but they have to pick a philosophy instead. They don't risk losing their power from comitting sin, but on the other hand, if they change their opinion or grow disenchanted with their former ideals...

And the thing is, each philosophy has a limited set of domain. Who would rather be like alignments, elements, knowledge, secret, justice, freedom and power than like elf, time, or divination. (Not that divination is overpowered, but I don't see that as a philosophy.)

Lastly, clerics can worship a whole pantheon. If they do, they can chose their domain from the four most frequently found in the gods of the pantheon. Like, Law, Good, War, Dwarf for the Mordinsamman (the dwarf pantheon).


First Post
I didn't vote, as I would rather explain, but I probably wouldn't allow it in my current campaign, as it's rather based around the priesthood, however, something like an elemental cleric isn't too far from what would be allowed, but a cleric of good wouldn't work, otherwise they wouldn't have any spells in my campaign world, but others, like any from a plane would work. For example, I have a corrupt priest that draws power from demonic/devilish sources, and it hasn't had to come up yet whether it's a god or a plane
btw, thanks for the heads up, I didn't quite know that godless clerics were possible


First Post
I wish I could check both one and two. Seriously they're bland and lacking the constraints that a diety places on the already overpowered cleric class.

I'm set in my opinion of the cleric so no point in arguing with me, I just disagree with you if you disagree with me. :p


First Post
hong said:
It's perfectly simple to explain in a metagame fashion. "I cast this spell, which has V, S, DF components, and you regain ... 5 hit points!"

If you mean it's awkward to explain _in-game_, you just need to brush up on your metaphysics.

What, exactly, is the personality of the Holy Ghost?

Ok, maybe metagame wasn't quite the right term (I meant explanation of why the world is the way it is), but I think you know what I mean. Nebulous forces of existence such as good, nature, storms, etc are more of a hallmark of eastern religions or spirit worship such as the Native Americans had. It just doesn't fit well in a quasi-medieval cosmology without substantial remodeling, and that would also entail completely redoing the societal and moral implications behind the cultural structure. Virtually all European religions had personified deities, with their own worshippers and holy men, and even in those cases where an entire pantheon was worshipped, the gods were still the object of veneration, not nebulous concepts. Nebulous concepts don't have divine right behind them like leaders backed by a church- and therefore much of the quasi-medieval cultural structure goes out the window. Even with multiple gods in a setting, divine right and religious orders can possess extensive political and moral power in a culture, which would be completely lacking or feel extremely artificial without deities. I have done extensive research and put a lot of thought into the metaphysical concerns of my world since it doesn't follow the D&D cosmology by the books (which require gods for their published settings), and godless clerics are just a lame powergamer's copout IMO.

As far as the Holy Ghost goes, I really have no idea of the personality. It strikes me as more the essence of God, whereas God is a protector, father figure, and divine retribution; while Jesus embodies goodness, compassion, forgiveness, and redepmption. PLEASE DON'T START A RELIGIOUS DEBATE OVER THIS PEOPLE, ITS JUST MY HYPOTHETICAL TAKE ON THE DIVINE ASPECTS OF CHRISTIAN MYTHOLOGY.

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