Tuesday, June 30, 2009

There is candy at the bottom of this post

My marketing instinct says this cannot fail! The flaw I will be dealing with in this post is priests, and their similarity to being simply wizards. This was brought up again, very recently on RPG bloggers over at Greyhawk Grognard, so I thought it would be a fitting time to trot this out.

I'm sure we are all familiar with the argument, wizards and priest(clerics) are just both magic-users and the only distinctions mechanically are different spell lists (and even still they blur at higher levels).

Piecemeal solves this by making Wizardly Magic and Priestly Miracles very different functionally. Wizards cast spells by finding and learning tidbits of magic, and then carefully honing their minds and body to be able to control the mystic energies and to be able to house more inner strength. Priests get their gods to do it by earning the favour of their deity through deeds.

All of the priest miracles are available to any priest at any time. If St.Example asks his god to help him, his god isn't going to say "you should have prepared the correct spell ahead of time". The priest is not a conduit for the gods power, he is just asking for help.

Mechanically this uses the Piety Point mechanic. These used to be called Grace points until someone noticed you received piety for burying a character(Go watch the Gamers). Since then I could never get them to call them anything but Piety Points so I rolled with it. Think of them as "Brownie points for your Deity".

Piety Points are something priests or pious characters earn through their deeds. I'll just dump the chart from the game:

Preaching to a congregation for a week: 1
Personally converting someone to your faith: 5 + cumulative level
Converting a Region to your faith: 50-1000+
Building a Roadside Shrine: 2
Building a Small Shrine: 10
Building a Small Temple: 30
Building a Medium Temple or Church: 120
Building a Great Cathedral: 300
Building an Epic wonder: 1000
Small task of your faith: 5
Moderate task of your faith: 20
Large task of your faith: 100
Epic task of your faith: 500+
Killing faith enemies: Cumulative Power/Level
Defiling/Destroying Temple of faith enemy: ¾ As building, + task
Converting Faith enemy: as regular converting x 3.
Burial of faithful: 1 + cumulative level* (Must be appropriate to level)
Sacrifices (God specific): Variable.

So looking at this you can see that a local village priest can rack up his piety points with preaching to the town, baptising the new births (or rites of initiation to youths etc) to count as converting, and burying the dead (or cremating them etc as faith decrees). Of course he'll also have to spend some of that doing this like increasing farm yields, blessings, the occasional healing, etc.

But to really gain piety,the best option is to adventure. Priests who head out on crusades, or to work as missionaries, or travel to the frontier to build churches will gain far more piety.

Now what about the type of god? Can a war god and a god of love really perform all the same miracles? Short answer yes, Long answer no. This is one of the fun bits (for creative players), to call forth a miracle a priest has to justify it in regards to their Deity's domain. Thus a follower of a harvest deity wouldn't have to justify calling forth "Increase Yield" for crops, but a follower of a war god could not, unless perhaps those crops were to be used in brewing poisons to tip weapons with (even if most of the crop would be used for eating).

Earlier I mentioned non-priests could also summon miracles, this is true. Any pious individual can earn piety points, but the costs to summon miracles are the difference, costs are based on class build. Thus a non-priest would pay a hundred times the cost to summon a miracle, a one part priest - two part warrior (say a Paladin) would pay twice the normal cost, while full time priests would pay the normal piety cost.

None of a priests abilities seem to be based on levels you are probably noticing. This is where we get into "Rank", rank has nothing to do with church standing, its just an attempt not to use the word level a billion times. Rank is a combination of character level, some ability score modifiers, and some modifiers based on class build. A lot of miracles are affected by a priest's rank (which represents among other things how much his deity favours/values/is amused by him). Thus a low rank priest might ask his god for food and get crusty bread and some water, a high rank priest may be lavished with a feast and fine wines.

All of the miracles are left somewhat vague in terms of what actually occurs (to allow for justification) but are generally based on religious and mythological acts of the gods. Golems for example are not robots..but truly terrifying (and intelligent) agents of a gods will.

Why is this good?

1.) There is ZERO confusion as to the difference between a priest and a wizard
2.) It allows Priests to be as zealous or laissez -faire about their faith as the players feel like being. Someone with a single part in priest may baptise the odd baby, or smite the odd heretic but is generally more concerned with his warrior, or thief or bard training. While a pure priest will choose to be far more aggressive in pursuing his faith.
3.) It makes religion oriented campaigns not only possible, but immensely fun. A priest based game set in Mesoamerica for instance was incredibly epic, with a huge amount of possible avenues.
4.) It makes every priest miracle used a decision and not a problem. Spells aren't wasted if you don't use them by the end of the day, the piety stockpiles. This also naturally helps keep the world low-magic..with the potential for doses of high magic to be inter-spliced in every now and then. This combines very well with level based healing.

Any Thoughts?

Also: Candy


  1. As an aside I'll note: This works best in settings where either the gods are petty (archaic greece) or where they are prevented from too directly interfering in the affairs of mortals.

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