Making Cleric Magic Weirder: Glory from God

Pope Julius II in Armor

This may be a controversial thing to say in the OSR right now, but I don’t hate clerics. I’ll happily grant that healing magic is bullshit, but I’d rather rehabilitate the class than remove it altogether.  Glory from God is an attempt to create a clerical counterpart to the Magic Words system, drawing on the Petitions of Brendan S., and the spell casting dice pools of Courtney Campbell.

The first step in accessing clerical magic is to choose a god to worship.  The god may be selected from the existing pantheon of the referee’s world, or may be created by the player.

To learn a new spell, a cleric must spend time in meditation, prayer, and study. They pour all of their energy into gaining a deeper understanding of god’s will. Only after time and sacrifice will a spell be revealed unto them. One month and 1000 money should be a sufficient amount of devotion to earn a new spell.

The player of the cleric has no role whatsoever in determining the nature of their spells. Divine spells are not created by the clerics who cast them. These spells are gifts from god, presented fully formed to the clergy which earned them. Even if the player was allowed to create their own god before play began, they cannot now exert any influence over the way that god functions. The player is like a meta-divine-watchmaker in this respect.

Clerics may attempt to cast any of the spells they know at any time. There is no need to memorize specific spells in the morning, nor is there any strict limit on how often a cleric may cast each day. Theoretically they could continue to cast indefinitely if the dice (by which I mean god) continue to favor them.

The cleric’s favor with their god is represented by a pool of six sided dice. The size of their pool is equal to 2d6, plus an additional d6 for each cleric level. So, 3d6 at first level, 4d6 at second level, and so on. Possessing powerful relics, or a richly appointed holy symbol may allow the cleric to expand their die pool slightly.

To cast a spell, the cleric rolls as many dice from their pool as they wish. The results are added together, and the total is compared to the chart below. Then, any individual dice which show a number that is less than or equal to the level of the spell being cast are removed from the die pool until the next day. Thus, casting higher level spells will exhaust a cleric’s favor more quickly. There is also a risk/reward element to choosing how many dice to roll for each spell. More dice means a greater likelihood of success, but it also creates more opportunities for dice to end up removed from the dice pool.

How God Responds to Your Petition:
God is not listening. The spell fails.
3-5: God is disinterested. The spell goes off at the end of the next round, after all parties have acted.
6-11: God acknowledges your faithful service. The spell goes off immediately
12+: God is pleased with you. The spell goes off immediately, and any variable effects are maximized.

Optionally, the referee may allow clerics to purchase consumable items such as holy water or incense to assist in their spellcasting. A single use worth of these items is encumbering. When used as part of casting a spell, these consumables allow the cleric to “fudge” one of their dice by 1. Using this method, dice may even be raised above their maximum face value. So a 6 rolled on a d6 may become a 7, allowing the cleric to retain that die in their pool even if a 6th level spell was cast.

That covers everything that the player need worry about directly. While the system may seem daunting, it is worth pointing out that players will only need access to 3 pieces of information at the table:

  • Their spell list. Presumably they would already have this anyway.
  • The size of their dice pool, which would be a very simple thing to record on the character sheet, or to recalculate if it is forgotten.
  • The 4-entry table for interpreting the results of a spell casting check.

If this is all that interests you, then this is all you need. Referees can use any means they prefer to create their spells, giving clerics whatever flavor suits their campaign world the best. For my own purposes, though, I would like to see cleric magic relegated to a very specific niche, distinct from the magic user. A niche without any healing in it whatsoever.

I’ll detail more thoughts on clerical spell creation in my next post.

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