D&D (2024) The Cleric should be retired

Vikingkingq

Adventurer
Current lore seems to be that the original conception was closer to Peter Cushing in Hammer horror movies, intended to fight 'Sir Fang' the vampire (for those of you who think early D&D must be treated reverentially). If we trust 'Old Geezer' (this seems to be the earliest citation I can find)...

That's certainly the oldest version, but I don't think it's the whole of the story. Peter Cushing didn't have a prohibition on edged/bladed weapons, after all - that's just straight out of (inaccurate) medieval history/historical fiction about Bishop Odo, Archbishop Turpin, Julius II, etc.
 

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Chaosmancer

Legend
I don't think I agree with this:

I think if we look to AD&D 2nd Edition, we can see Zeb Cook getting more explicit about what was already implicit in earlier editions of D&D (i.e, why did Clerics have level names drawn from real-world religions in 1e, why are 1e Clerics "forbidden to use edged and/or pointed weapons which shed blood," etc.). Hence why Cook mentions the Crusader military orders (who show up a lot in fiction), Archbishop Turpin of the Song of Roland, and the Sohei (and I would argue the Yamabushi as well) as inspirations.

And if you're looking for fictional clerics who trend more towards the divine spellcaster archetype instead of the holy warrior archetype, look no further than the reams and reams of medieval hagiography that depicted saints (of various levels of historical authenticity) being able to call on their God to heal the sick, bring people back from the dead, smite the unbelievers, banish demons and spirits, and so forth.

So I think there were already fictional clerics out there in the cultural zeitgeist when D&D was being developed.

I will say, looking into modern literature, that there is a dearth of "clerics" as holy spellcasters, but that's actually more of a world-building problem usually.

Generally, "god magic" and "magic" aren't distinguished, because it is a distinction that doesn't make a ton of sense. So, there are likely quite a few "pious/holy casters" who read like Wizards and Mages, rather than clerics, because the two schools of magic end up conceptually blended.

Tie that in with the preponderance of even mages in modern fantasy to all be gishes, because physical combat is easy to picture and engage with, while Casting Battles are much harder to pull off effectively, and... there you go.
 

Yaarel

He Mage
2. If you do a sort of class role analysis, the wizard is a pure DPS, the fighter is a pure tank, and the cleric is a hybrid tank/healer.

DPS is Wizard, tank is Fighter, and "healer/tank" "hybrid" is Cleric.

The healer can easily be other kinds of hybrids as well.

A healer/mage hybrid, such as making a healer Bard subclass, or a healer/DPS hybrid, such as Druid or Sorcerer subclass, can be as effective at healing as the healer/tank Cleric is.

A healer/skills hybrid Rogue subclass, or a regenerating Monk subclass, can also be a possible primary healer.

The healer as a gish tank is an early D&D tradition. But other kinds of healer hybrids can exist as well.

The Cleric is a privileged healer. It continues to heal better than other options. There is no need for a Cleric monopoly on healing. Remove this Cleric privilege so other classes can also heal as effectively.

Healers can come via many concepts.
 
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kunadam

Adventurer
I think this topic is important! Not that anyone would like the cleric as a class to go (I certainly don't), but I would prefer a bit more focus.

There is a dearth of clerics as @Chaosmancer wrote in the literature. Even D&D literature is not very keen on clerics. Goldmoon comes to my mind. There are tons of paladins. The holy warrior archetype is clearly there. But organized religious figures able to cast spells on a regular basis is just not in the fiction. I think mostly because people do not think it through what it means that there are clerics in a world. Some D&D books like Spellfire series or the Cormyr books hint at it. Anyone can be healed and brought back from the dead. Basically there should not be wounds, illnesses and the like, nor failing corps, miscarriages, etc. One can say that wizards have their own agenda, and don't want to meddle with the life of peasants. But the very definition of religion is to meddle with the life of the average citizen.

I also prefer the cleric to be part of a visible and organized religion. I played a cleric in a campaign where the DM did not wanted to touch the issue of religions at all. The class just felt bleak. Without the religion it is just an armoured wizard without fireball.

For me the best cleric class was 2e specialty priest. The minor and major spheres were a fantastic idea that allowed different priests to be really different.
 



Vikingkingq

Adventurer
Where the Drow Clerics are the fanatics of a demon cult?

Heh, I think that counts as, "D&D literature is not very keen on clerics".
There's all kinds of Clerics in that series, some good and some bad, but the series is really focused on what it means to be a Cleric and how Clerics' relationships with their deities change and grow over time. So no, I don't it counts at all.
 
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Yaarel

He Mage
There's all kinds of Clerics in that series, some good and some bad, but the series is really focused on what it means to be a Cleric and how Clerics' relationships with their dieties change and grow over time. So no, I don't it counts at all.
In 5e, and in the playtest more explicitly, the magic of the Cleric class derives from the Astral Plane itself, namely the place that the Celestials inhabit, rather than a particular Celestial personally. This clarification is important to avoid recapitulating a master-slave relation within the game (made worse where the DM roleplays the master and the player roleplays the slave).

Because the realm of ideas is the source of power, the Cleric character is an independent agent of magic.

A Cleric will likely encounter a prominent Celestial, as well as other Astral beings. Sometimes the Cleric runs into them as part of an Astral spirit journey, and forms alliances and friendships with likeminded Celestials. Sometimes a Celestial being visits in a vision to enlist the Cleric in a specific mission. Sometimes the Cleric never meets the prominent Celestial personally but feels affinity with common goals.

This fluidity of possible relationships with Celestials and Astrals generally, invites an evolution of the Clerics relationships over time.
 

Vikingkingq

Adventurer
In 5e, and in the playtest more explicitly, the magic of the Cleric class derives from the Astral Plane itself, namely the place that the Celestials inhabit, rather than a particular Celestial personally. This clarification is important to avoid recapitulating a master-slave relation within the game (made worse where the DM roleplays the master and the player roleplays the slave).

Because the realm of ideas is the source of power, the Cleric character is an independent agent of magic.

A Cleric will likely encounter a prominent Celestial, as well as other Astral beings. Sometimes the Cleric runs into them as part of an Astral spirit journey, and forms alliances and friendships with likeminded Celestials. Sometimes a Celestial being visits in a vision to enlist the Cleric in a specific mission. Sometimes the Cleric never meets the prominent Celestial personally but feels affinity with common goals.

This fluidity of possible relationships with Celestials and Astrals generally, invites an evolution of the Clerics relationships over time.
Ok, how is this relevant to whether D&D novels are keen on Clerics?
 

Yaarel

He Mage
Ok, how is this relevant to whether D&D novels are keen on Clerics?
Heh, it is more relevant to the playtest Cleric and the 5e Cleric generally.


The title of the thread is, The Cleric Should Be Retired. The responses tend to be a mix of fans and haters.

The Drow Cleric novels are likewise a 1e to 3e source for both fandom and complaint.


In any case, the concept of the D&D Cleric class continues to evolve. In 1e, it began as a Christian "bishop" with a Christian military holy order, the Knights Hospitaller, for inspiration. This concept was additionally used to culturally appropriate the gods from various reallife polytheistic traditions. Figures such as Greek Apollo or Egyptian Isis became the defacto Jesus of a Christian-style church. In this context, the Drow demon Lolth is something like an anti-Jesus. 3e leaned into the polytheistic aspects, diversifying the "domains" of the Cleric class, but also normalized the "philosophical" Cleric that is nontheistic. 4e pushed hard a kind WotC "corporate branding" pantheon. 5e is trying to make sense of all of this, in a coherent, playable, fun way.

Many different opinions about the Cleric class have good reasons, whether celebrations or critiques.

Many DMs love pretending to be a "god", literally. Many players hate pretending to worship a DM.

The Cleric class can be icky.


The comment by @kunadam feels poignant. The concept of a D&D cleric is moreorless nonexistent in literature that is unrelated to D&D. But even D&D novels seem less than thrilled with the Cleric class. The Cleric tends to either be a villain or a background character for an ex-machina healing. Neither characterization convey a enthusiasm about the Cleric class.
 

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