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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%

  • Total voters
    258

Spatula

Explorer
Kahuna Burger said:
*snicker* that about says it all, doesn't it? You are so hung up on the idea that the cleric class is possibly inspired by the catholic church (no idea if it was orriginally or not) that you can't look at the options actually presented by the class as currently written, and I have a narrow view.
The cleric class did orignally have a strong medieval Catholic church flavor to it. Although the game moved away from that when 2E was introduced, a good 14 years ago.

I, personally, never liked the one-size-fits-all 1E cleric. The 2E cleric class was a big improvement, conceptually, since it allowed for the possibility that different religions had different types of clerics, with different spells, different abilities, and different restrictions. It also "officially" established the idea of worshipping a philosophy. But really, that idea had been around since 1E, with the introduction of the druid and ranger classes.
 

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fusangite

First Post
Xeriar,

Buddhism is a relgion as well as a philosophy. I should clarify: the fact that a religion is also a philosophy does not disqualify it from having priests. I see that my language on this was unclear.

Taoism and Confucianism are philosophies grafted onto Chinese folk religion. Buddhism is a religion syncretically hybridized with Chinese folk religion.
 

ThirdWizard

First Post
If I understand correctly, people are saying that godless clerics can't exist because the class is modeled after the catholic church?

Surely, surely! someone can come up with a better argument than that. I am all for clerics without a diety and I could come up with a better argument than that. Many things exist in D&D that don't exist in real life and not all D&D constructs must have roots in the real world. To deny godless clerics in core D&D is to remove a flavor that can be used. To remove it in a particular campaign setting may add flavor, but to say it isn't an idea with possible merit is overlooking any advantages that it might hold in another campaign setting.
 

I'm A Banana

Potassium-Rich
People need to frickin' make sure what they're defining is how it's defined! :p

The Cleric class in the SRD, indeed, every class in the SRD, is defined by POWERS ALONE....

You know what that means? It means that everything else...everything not mentioned....it's PURE FLAVOR.

Heck, even go so far as to check the cleric definition in the PHB! They constantly reference 'godless' clerics who meditate for spells and exist outside of the church hierarchy.

Who cares what the class was based on? That doesn't make reinterpretations or redefinitions ANY less valid, just because Gygax didn't consider Ghandi walking on water when designing it.

Yes, you are more than free to rule that the flavor in your campaign is different from the one presented in the PHB. That's fine. But there's no real excuse for not accepting the default definiton as one perfectly valid interpretation, eh?

I have another question of those favouring godless clerics: what are examples in history/myth that you are basing this role on? What philosophies have priests? I would argue that movements/institutions that are not theistic do not produce priests; they may produce scholars; they may produce philosophers; they may produce mages but are there examples of them producing priests?

Do I need a history/myth example, when the PHB tells me I can? Can't all philosophies draw upon mystic powers in their holy ones? I should be asking you: what makes you think they can't? There's no functional difference if I take the cleric, call him a Philosopher-Scholar, and make him an animist than if I use him as you're suggesting. The only thing that changes is the flavor, and while you can prefer one flavor to another, I can't see any reason for claiming that yours is somehow superior.

I think not only are you misled in thinking that clerics have to worship a god, you're also mislead in thinking that any tradition that doesn't can't tap divine magic.

I guess there's not much I can say beyond RTFM. You can disagree all you want, and you can play with the flavor as much as you want, but there's no reason to assume that it HAS to be your way. Especially when, by the rules, it isn't. WHY does there need to be a god? Better than how can clerics draw divine energy from faith, WHY CAN'T THEY?

Oh, and for the record, I have a philosopher class in my Planescape campaign. So now, even FACTIONS can grant spells! And I still have the cleric class. And they both exist in theistic and non-theistic faiths, in philosophies, in sects, in people who just have a certain thought, in medical doctors from the small villages, and in the Athar.

The Philosopher class should be seeing publication, sooner or later, I'm happy to announce. :)
 
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hong

WotC's bitch
Storm Raven said:
No. It came from a papal edict (not much observed) that priests were forbidden from "drawing blood". Some members of the catholic clergy got around this by using maces, and staves which supposedly didn't run afoul of this prohibition.

Why are we talking about a class feature that got dumped 3 years ago?

The point is that is what the cleric class was originally based on, and as such, does a weak to awful job at emulating members of the priesthood of various other traditions.

1. Any class that gives people the ability to make skeletons and zombies blow up, and call down a column of fire from the heavens, is usually going to do a weak to awful job of emulating anything from the real world. 2. There are more divine spellcasters than just clerics. 3. I hope you're not implying that all those clerics of Cyric, Bane, Hextor, Nerull and whatnot are good emulations of the Christian priesthood.
 

hong

WotC's bitch
fusangite said:
Taoism and Confucianism are philosophies grafted onto Chinese folk religion.

There are Taoist priests, and in legend and folktales they could also do all sorts of wacky magic. If that isn't good enough to make them divine spellcasters in D&D, I don't know what is.
 
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trancejeremy

First Post
Quite frankly, I've never understood why anyone (a character) would want to worship a D&D style god. This came to mind as I was reading a Forgotten Realms novel the other day (the first novel in the Rogues series - it featured a fight between Tiamat & some other god).

In most cases, they are more or less just powerful people. If you read a lot of the old Greek stuff, you get the impression that most of them didn't have much use for those sort of gods, either.

I can see worshipping an omnipotent god, or something like the mother godness (ie, the embodiment of nature), but worshipping something like the god of wine or god of hairbrushes just seems silly.

Most of the D&D god worship seems to be simply bribes. If you worship the god of x, you'll get power of some sort. That's always rubbed me the wrong way. A quote by a semi-famous Islamic writer has always struck a chord with me:

"I will not serve God like a laborer, in expectation of my wages."

I cannot see most people worshipping a D&D style god in that manner.

Anyway, my point was, in my campaigns, all clerics are godless. They might think they're worshipping a god, but ultimately the power is coming from within themselves, not an external source.
 

Zappo

Explorer
Psion said:
Did you bother reading my post?
The priests of the Athar were considered exceptional/remarkable in planescape, and even those priests had a plane-located source.
I did read the post, I just don't fully agree with it. In 2E you could have clerics of good or evil, and these are the generic clerics working in the Athar in Planescape. The Great Unknown isn't even defined as something capable of granting spells until Factol's Manifesto. In that supplement, the introduction to the Athar states that Factol Terrance keeps his ability to be granted spells by the Great Unknown a secret, and presents this capacity as something special even among the faction members.

In any case, the main point isn't whether generic clerics are in PS or not. Clerical spellcasting in Planescape usually came from worshipping deities, pantheons or alignments, but there were other powers granted by belief in other things. Extending this concept to admit clerics of ideals is in theme with the setting, that's the point.

I understand that you don't like godless clerics, and I think that's perfectly fine. It is a matter that depends entirely on the setting, and it is a disgrace that there are players who assume that they can just pick Travel and Magic (so that they can have teleport and use more magical items) even after being told that in this campaign clerics must follow a god.
I don't think, though, that godless clerics make no sense. Even without having to bring eastern religions in the discussion, this is fantasy we're talking about. The idea of a goblin shaman worshipping The Elements and having supernatural powers related to his worship (mechanically speaking, clerical spells) is cool, and that's the only justification needed.
 

Psion

Adventurer
In 2E you could have clerics of good or evil, and these are the generic clerics working in the Athar in Planescape.

Do you care to tell me where in 2e/planescape other than the Athar it says you can have "generic clerics of good and evil."

Knowing the plane the deity resided on was a central aspect of the planescape setting.
 

hong

WotC's bitch
Psion said:
Do you care to tell me where in 2e/planescape other than the Athar it says you can have "generic clerics of good and evil."

"In the simplest version of the AD&D game, clerics serve religions that can be generally described as 'good' or 'evil'. Nothing more needs to be said about it; the game will play perfectly well at this level." -- AD&D 2E PHB, p.34 (1st printing)

Knowing the plane the deity resided on was a central aspect of the planescape setting.

I think Zappo is talking about 2E generally here, not just Planescape.
 

Psion

Adventurer
I think Zappo is talking about 2E generally here, not just Planescape.

I was talking about Planescape, and my assertion is only that under the PS setting, the theory on divine power is very specific.
 

Zappo

Explorer
I said that in 2E you could have clerics of good and evil (thanks Hong for the PHB quote); Planescape was a 2E setting, so by default it inherits 2E's properties unless stated otherwise, and nowhere it explicitly says "no generic clerics". In fact, it even explicitly mentions the existance of generic clerics in the Athar description (without making them appear exceptional, either). In any case, generic clerics fit with the Planescape theme of belief.
That's all I wanted to say. Psion asked why generic clerics are appropriate to Planescape, I just tried to answer giving my reasons. :)

Me, I agree with Kamikaze Midget - the 3E PHB, without an explicit setting, makes no assumption on the source of the classes' power. That's a setting thing, so how it makes sense is not a concern of the PHB. A discussion of whether godless clerics make sense or not should only be made in relation to a specific setting.

More food for thought: what if generic clerics received power from the deities matching their belief? For example, a cleric of good could receive power from the collection of your setting's good deities. Or a cleric of fire could receive power from all deities that are involved with fire in some way. The priest doesn't even need to know about this: as long as he furthers the portfolio of these deities, even if partially so, they'll lend him a hand. Would that be a sufficient justification for a "godless" cleric?
 

fusangite

First Post
hong said:
There are Taoist priests, and in legend and folktales they could also do all sorts of wacky magic. If that isn't good enough to make them divine spellcasters in D&D, I don't know what is.

Hong, the Taoist priests (I acknowledge such a position exists) lead worship of traditional Chinese folk deities. While self-styled Taoist and Confucian "priests" have existed intermittently over the past 2000 years, they are not priests of Confucianism or Taoism; they are priests of Chinese folk deities.
 

Storm Raven

First Post
hong said:
1. Any class that gives people the ability to make skeletons and zombies blow up, and call down a column of fire from the heavens, is usually going to do a weak to awful job of emulating anything from the real world.


The question is: does it emulate the attributed mystical powers derived from real world religions?

2. There are more divine spellcasters than just clerics.

I already pointed that out, but apparently, attributing a spiritual tradition with any other form of priesthood than "cleric" in D&D is "demeaning and insulting".

3. I hope you're not implying that all those clerics of Cyric, Bane, Hextor, Nerull and whatnot are good emulations of the Christian priesthood.

So, you are asking whether intolerant faiths that sanction things like torture, burning at the stake, and conversion at sword point are reflective of the Catholic church of the middle ages? Do you really want me to answer that?
 
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Xeriar

First Post
trancejeremy said:
In most cases, they are more or less just powerful people. If you read a lot of the old Greek stuff, you get the impression that most of them didn't have much use for those sort of gods, either.

They worshipped the gods to placate the forces of nature and humanity that they represented. The Greeks fell away from this over time, slowly turning to a kind of atheism in a manner which some have paralleled to modern times, but I digress.

The Romans and Hindus performed these rituals to the gods to make them happy. Yeah, they were powerful people... Powerful, greedy, selfish and wrathful people.

They weren't exactly evil (even Hades) - they were complex individuals with goals that tended to trod on mortals quite a bit.

I can see worshipping an omnipotent god, or something like the mother godness (ie, the embodiment of nature), but worshipping something like the god of wine or god of hairbrushes just seems silly.

Dionysius was one of the precursors of the Christian god, actually :p

Before the mystery religions, there was no real concept of heaven as we think of it today.

Most of the D&D god worship seems to be simply bribes. If you worship the god of x, you'll get power of some sort. That's always rubbed me the wrong way. A quote by a semi-famous Islamic writer has always struck a chord with me:

This was the way of most Indo-European faiths, really. You bribe them with flattery and offerings, and you avoid their wrath and if you're lucky, you get a blessing.

"I will not serve God like a laborer, in expectation of my wages."

I cannot see most people worshipping a D&D style god in that manner.

You're thinking everyone shares your mindset, or that most people do, which I doubt is the case. Not an insult, just a comment.
 

fusangite

First Post
Hey -- on a non-debate-oriented note, isn't it neat the way the poll has been sitting at between a 50/50 and 55/45 split almost since the outset. I'm finding the evenness of the split quite unexpected.
 

Voadam

Hero
I have no problems with godless clerics.

It seems wierd that some people are saying no godless clerics under any circumstances, but godless druids are all right.

Both are major divine spellcasters tapping divine power.

I can see a campaign cosmology where divine power is just a different source of supernatural power with its own quirks and characteristics, just like arcane and psionic magic. Anybody could claim to be worshipping the gods and working for them, but it wouldn't necessarily matter for their powers if they were not. This allows spies in church clerical hierarchies, which is not normally reasonable in D&D games where you are tied directly to gods.

This is sort of the way it works in ravenloft.
 

widderslainte

First Post
Non-theistic clerics may not fit the religions of a particular campaign world, but not realizing the value of the concept is a bit culutrally short-cited. Gods are one option of many.
 

hong

WotC's bitch
Storm Raven said:
The question is: does it emulate the attributed mystical powers derived from real world religions?

Yes. NEXT!

I already pointed that out, but apparently, attributing a spiritual tradition with any other form of priesthood than "cleric" in D&D is "demeaning and insulting".

KeWL P0W3rZ for everyone, I say.

So, you are asking whether intolerant faiths that sanction things like torture, burning at the stake, and conversion at sword point are reflective of the Catholic church of the middle ages? Do you really want me to answer that?

That's the first time I've heard anyone suggest that the evil deities in generic D&D worlds like Greyhawk and FR are somehow meant to be explicitly emulating these aspects of the medieval Christian church. Next, you'll be arguing that Sauron was based on the pope or something.


Hong "has NOT mentioned Hitler" Ooi
 
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hong

WotC's bitch
fusangite said:
Hong, the Taoist priests (I acknowledge such a position exists) lead worship of traditional Chinese folk deities. While self-styled Taoist and Confucian "priests" have existed intermittently over the past 2000 years, they are not priests of Confucianism or Taoism; they are priests of Chinese folk deities.

Putting "words" in "quotes" is, indeed, a time-honoured way to have them mean exactly what you want them to mean.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/taoism.htm

In particular:

The priesthood views the many gods as manifestations of the one Dao, "which could not be represented as an image or a particular thing." The concept of a personified deity is foreign to them, as is the concept of the creation of the universe. Thus, they do not pray as Christians do; there is no God to hear the prayers or to act upon them. They seek answers to life's problems through inner meditation and outer observation.
 

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