D&D General The Not-Cleric Class for the Other Powers

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
After participating in some discussion recently on divine and non-divine classes, I've decided to bring us all into this thought experiment,
As anyone who has read my posts here, I have always been a proponent of thinking bout one of our favorite games differently.
So here it is.

D&D has divine gods. And with these divine gods come the idea of divine classes: the cleric, the paladin, and others throughout D&D's lifetime.
And these divine gods, whether good or evil, lawful or chaotic, civilized or barbaric, greater or lesser, alive or half dead, all use the same divine classes.
The cleric and paladin heal the wounded, harm the undead, raise the dying, strengthen their allies etc. They all kinda fall into a theme.

But what if there were another type of god. A "Not-Divine" godly power.

How would the Not-Cleric and Not-Paladin of a Not-Divine-God Look?

The idea that there are other sets of gods or godlike beings in a world is not alien concept in real world religion. There could be other groups like the Aesir and Vanir and Giants or different generations of the same set like the Titans and Olympians. Even D&D does it. The flagbearer setting, FR, has different pantheons appear and disappear all over. But they all are divine deities who make clerics the same ways even if they had different themes.

Later editions played with this a bit. 4e created the Dawn War and had primordials that the gods beat up and took their lunch money material plane from. 4e has the warlock that can have an Great Old One patron which can be a god from another reality or an imprisoned elder god from a previous history who gives you strange psychic and madness magic.


So what if you are a DM and decide to include living, not-asleep, not-imprisoned Primordials, Elder Gods, or Jotunn in your world.
What would be their agents? It wouldn't be clerics, right?

Would the "not-cleric" of an active Great Old One be a psion?
Would a "not-cleric" of a Primordial or Elder Jotunn cast cure wounds or just burn their foes with raw blasts of ancient fire and ice?
Would healing be a main aspect of those classes? Or would control or damage dealing be at the forefront?

What are your thoughts.
 

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Stormonu

Legend
That's what I use warlocks for myself. Those of great power, but not themselves gods, giving power to those who will/might further their cause. For example, in my homebrew, you can't become a Cleric of Asmodeus - he isn't a god. But you can become his warlock. Snurr the Fire Giant, Queen Titannia & King Oberon, Ashadarlon the Red, even Acerak aren't divine powers, but are of sufficient enough power that they could have warlocks acting in their stead.
 

EzekielRaiden

Follower of the Way
After participating in some discussion recently on divine and non-divine classes, I've decided to bring us all into this thought experiment,
As anyone who has read my posts here, I have always been a proponent of thinking bout one of our favorite games differently.
So here it is.

D&D has divine gods. And with these divine gods come the idea of divine classes: the cleric, the paladin, and others throughout D&D's lifetime.
And these divine gods, whether good or evil, lawful or chaotic, civilized or barbaric, greater or lesser, alive or half dead, all use the same divine classes.
The cleric and paladin heal the wounded, harm the undead, raise the dying, strengthen their allies etc. They all kinda fall into a theme.

But what if there were another type of god. A "Not-Divine" godly power.

How would the Not-Cleric and Not-Paladin of a Not-Divine-God Look?

The idea that there are other sets of gods or godlike beings in a world is not alien concept in real world religion. There could be other groups like the Aesir and Vanir and Giants or different generations of the same set like the Titans and Olympians. Even D&D does it. The flagbearer setting, FR, has different pantheons appear and disappear all over. But they all are divine deities who make clerics the same ways even if they had different themes.

Later editions played with this a bit. 4e created the Dawn War and had primordials that the gods beat up and took their lunch money material plane from. 4e has the warlock that can have an Great Old One patron which can be a god from another reality or an imprisoned elder god from a previous history who gives you strange psychic and madness magic.


So what if you are a DM and decide to include living, not-asleep, not-imprisoned Primordials, Elder Gods, or Jotunn in your world.
What would be their agents? It wouldn't be clerics, right?

Would the "not-cleric" of an active Great Old One be a psion?
Would a "not-cleric" of a Primordial or Elder Jotunn cast cure wounds or just burn their foes with raw blasts of ancient fire and ice?
Would healing be a main aspect of those classes? Or would control or damage dealing be at the forefront?

What are your thoughts.
I guess my problem with the thread premise is that I don't think there should be a "Not-Cleric and Not-Paladin of a Not-Divine-God," because I don't think there should be "Not-Divine-Gods." Divine = deities, deities = divine. Other kinds of powers would not use a devotion-based method of interacting with us.

In the case of the Primordials, it's quite clear that they're a lot closer to living (and only barely sapient) forces of nature/natural disasters/raging maelstroms than anything god-like. They, like actual Great Old One type beings, just...don't care about mortals. We are simply beneath their notice. Even ants would be too noticeable; we are like the microscopic life that lives on human skin, eating detritus, living around hair follicles. Things so small humans essentially don't notice them unless something has gone wrong.

So I guess what I'd say is, at least for that specific kind of "power" (to use the Planescape term), the only idea that comes to me is....parasites, for lack of a better term. Thieves of power. Mortals that have discovered the way to steal a bit of power from these massive, uncaring forces. It's only a little bit--a pinprick, a fleabite. Stolen in little chunks, here and there. Always at risk from two different directions, just like actual bloodsuckers: on the one hand, drinking too deep and exploding because you overstretched your limits; and on the other, drinking too deep and causing the host to slap you until you're nothing but a bloody smear.

There is no "cleric" vs "paladin" in this; there's just what you steal and how you steal it. I'd call it the Sanguisuge. Builds/subclasses would focus on different types of beings you're siphoning power from. I always associate giants with primordials, so the Primordial Sanguisuge would be tapping into elemental power, unfettered and raw, dangerous to everyone around (including the Sanguisuge herself). The Eldritch subclass would be pulling the life-essence of things antagonistic to the foundations of reality, and thus partially un-making themselves and others (applied to the self, naturally, this allows one to skirt around the rules that should apply to everyone; applied to others, well, when you break the rules someone depends on to live....)

Gods, in this context, would be off-limits to the Sanguisuge because they pay close attention to this sort of thing and don't tolerate such parasites. They're too invested in mortal existence for that. Though I imagine there might be room for a "Dead Divinity" angle, where you siphon off your magic mojo from a mostly-but-not-entirely dead god's mouldering corpse...
 

In Elden Ring, this giant turtle pope says what I found to be a very interesting line in regards to fantasy as a whole, "Heresy is just a contrivance." In the context of Elden Ring, magic derived from Faith (Incantations) and magic derived from Intellect (Sorcery) are thought to be different things by the factions and powers that be. But Turtle Pope reveals that both forms of magic are in fact the same thing, speaking to a much larger theme of how mankind creates religions around things they don't understand, and how faith itself can often push people to do wild and amazing things (and horrible things too).

Applying that lens to D&D gets something I think approximates what you're talking about @Minigiant. I like the idea of the Psion as the Cleric for a pantheon of Great Old Ones; maybe a Sorcerer (D&D definition) is the cleric of Mystra and other deities of magic. Likewise, if we push the idea to its extreme, mortal heroes that can fall 200 feet and survive or wade through lava (martials) could be seen as "clerics" of deities of war, battle, victory, and so on.

In the game, we can already see this is the case for classes like the druid and ranger (cleric/paladin of nature) and even the bard (cleric of muses?). We could probably take racial pantheons or specific factions of greater powers and deconstruct classes from them. Beast-related pantheons/deities could make MCDM's "Wild Heart" class their "paladin;" likewise, the 9 Hells literally treat MCDM's "Illrigger" class as their paladin.

But if you take the idea to its true extreme, you essentially get back to Elden Ring -- cosmic forces work their way through people and thus all fantastical powers are born into the world. War deities disguised as master-of-arms training fighters to become god-like combatants, deities of writing or civilization or music creating stories for bards to inherit and weave magic from, etc etc. IMO, that's the kind of remix on a "classic" Fantasy world I really like.
 

B9anders

Explorer
I also follow a similar line of thinking from real-world mythology. Gods is a class of otherworldly being. Like the aesir and vanir, that have a [lawful] relationship with humanity and priests acting as intermediaries.

The Jotun are a different class of entities, even if they are of similar stature. They are of chaos and don't have a relationship humanity per se, except insofar that they tend to be inimical to human survival and must sometimes be appeased. Those who do form a relationship with these beings are very different than the priests of the aesir. Not only are the entities different ('not divine'), the nature of the relationship is different and thus the class is different.

Many things fall easily into place when you make the traditional cleric the class of christianity-ersatz church (ie, Gygax' Church of the Blinding Light), Druids the intermediaries of an older more nature-oriented pantheon and warlocks the ones who compacted with even less divine (but not necessarily less powerful) entities.

If you have a wider pantheon in the divine side than christianity-ersatz, then specialty priests are called for, most of whom aren't suitable as adventuring classes. Divine Investiture in a mortal champion to go into the world to solve the deity's problems with violence, magic and the ability to turn and destroy the undead, is already a template for a very specific kind of deity and theology. The cleric is already a specialty priests of such a deity. Gods like Njord, Gefion and Frey have no clerics. Their specialty priests would look very different (druids most likely). But Odin, Thor, Heimdal and Vidar might have. Though at the least what they are able to turn should vary.

Similar analogies can be made with the olympians vs titans vs primordials and or a faux-irish-style Fomorians vs Tuatha Dé Danann vs the White God.

The anti-cleric has a relationship with yet another class of otherworldly entities, devils and demons, and is of course a mock inverted image of the cleric. And yes, psion seems like a good fit for relationship with Old Ones.
 
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Yora

Legend
In my setting, there are extraplanar aberrations. And the people who know about them the most are psions.
The aberrations don't channel them power, but they can give them knowledge about new powers. Psions might serve them to learn new powers, but they also might practice themselves or learn from other psions.
 

jgsugden

Legend
To me, this would be anytime you draw power from a supernatural force that has an embodiment, but that does not involve explicit worship as one worships a God.

Within 5E we have:

Archfey, Great Old Ones, etc...: Warlocks as others have described. Also Blood Hunters fit here if you use the class.

Mother Nature: Druids (and Rangers) - they have a slightly ambiguous presentation, but their reverence for nature and life fits well into this if you give that nature and life an embodiment (like a non-deity Mother Nature).

Ancestors: Sorcerers gain their power through their ancestry and I often depict them as being appreciative, if not reverent towards the ancestors that made them special. Ancestral Guardian barbarians effectively treat their ancestors like gods.

Titans: Rune Knights jump out to me. Their Runes could be a manifestation of the Titans/etc...

The Lifeforce: Monks draw their 'magic' from Ki, the element that flows through living bodies. That can be seen as a worship of Lifeforce. If you have something that embodies it, then this fits. I do in my campaign - although I technically classify it, and my Deathforce, as Gods ... but not Gods that manifest as beings.

Dying: Way of the Long Death can be seen as worshippers of the act of dying. Look at Marvel Comics for ideas on how a non-divine Death entity can exist. Phantom Rogues fit here as well.

Psionics could also be a route here, although 5Es failure to honor the existence of Psionics is a thorn that has disappointed me for a decade.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I guess my problem with the thread premise is that I don't think there should be a "Not-Cleric and Not-Paladin of a Not-Divine-God," because I don't think there should be "Not-Divine-Gods." Divine = deities, deities = divine. Other kinds of powers would not use a devotion-based method of interacting with us.

In the case of the Primordials, it's quite clear that they're a lot closer to living (and only barely sapient) forces of nature/natural disasters/raging maelstroms than anything god-like. They, like actual Great Old One type beings, just...don't care about mortals. We are simply beneath their notice. Even ants would be too noticeable; we are like the microscopic life that lives on human skin, eating detritus, living around hair follicles. Things so small humans essentially don't notice them unless something has gone wrong.

So I guess what I'd say is, at least for that specific kind of "power" (to use the Planescape term), the only idea that comes to me is....parasites, for lack of a better term. Thieves of power. Mortals that have discovered the way to steal a bit of power from these massive, uncaring forces. It's only a little bit--a pinprick, a fleabite. Stolen in little chunks, here and there. Always at risk from two different directions, just like actual bloodsuckers: on the one hand, drinking too deep and exploding because you overstretched your limits; and on the other, drinking too deep and causing the host to slap you until you're nothing but a bloody smear.

There is no "cleric" vs "paladin" in this; there's just what you steal and how you steal it. I'd call it the Sanguisuge. Builds/subclasses would focus on different types of beings you're siphoning power from. I always associate giants with primordials, so the Primordial Sanguisuge would be tapping into elemental power, unfettered and raw, dangerous to everyone around (including the Sanguisuge herself). The Eldritch subclass would be pulling the life-essence of things antagonistic to the foundations of reality, and thus partially un-making themselves and others (applied to the self, naturally, this allows one to skirt around the rules that should apply to everyone; applied to others, well, when you break the rules someone depends on to live....)

Gods, in this context, would be off-limits to the Sanguisuge because they pay close attention to this sort of thing and don't tolerate such parasites. They're too invested in mortal existence for that. Though I imagine there might be room for a "Dead Divinity" angle, where you siphon off your magic mojo from a mostly-but-not-entirely dead god's mouldering corpse...
I could see this as a class for Primordial or Raw Elemental Forces bigger than mere djinn sultans and giant pools of energy. Religions often have great monsters of godslaying power like Typhon or Fenrir. So you might have beings who tap into a free elder force or consume a bit of smoulders of their power left behind. Performing a ritual on a scale or hair of one of these beasts.
A Primordial Sanguisuge (I'll use your term because you thought it up) would be able to fire off fire, water, air, and earth spells with ease. Eldritch Saguisuges could deal the force and psychic damage. Death Saguisuges would bring radiant and necrotic out of the bastardization of the dormant dying gods they stole from. Monstrous Sanguisuge
With that idea I could see this class being the master of changing damage types like the Transmuted Spell Metamagic.
A Primordial Sanguisuge due their connection to a raw primordial force could possibly change the damage of a spell that deals fire, cold, lightning, or bludgeoning damage to one of the other at will.

An Eldritch one could drop a dice down a step to make any spell deal force or psychic and swap the saving throw to Dex or Cha.

And since these are mortals tapped into forces and not living gods, healing and resurrection would not be their forte. Cauterize a wound maybe. Like having a healing spell that heals more than Cure Wounds but it requires full concentration, takes 2 turns, and can't be done on the dying and the flames or font of positive energy would kill a victim in shock.

None of those complex spell. Just raw damage, raw control, raw summons, and raw buffs. The caster is dumping the power of some intelligent uncaring chaotic monster roaming the inner planes after all.
 


I ran a game with "non-divine beings of god like power." These spirits were like the Incarnations. They were beings that fully grokked a concept that had no current spirit so that became their domain. There were still clerics because of the domain but the clerics were people who grokkked some of the concept.

There werent priests as such and clerics didn't pray to the spirit. Although hero-worship is a thing. I mean, let's take Taylor Swift and Linus Torvalds as the spirits of pop-rock & linux. Praying to either does nothing but there's still some idolation combined with the "jeez, I can learn so much from them" aspect.

If you get to be a high level cleric of pop or Linux, you get to be in their chat group (squeee!) Sometimes you can ask a favor or get asked for a favor.
 

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