Posted by : David Guyll March 20, 2009

Perusing the Wizards.com forums for topics of worth, I found a thread concerning D&D and customization. The OP is apparently upset because he thinks there is a lack of versatility in the game, and gives us an opening example of an evil cleric: if you play an evil cleric in D&D, you are mechanically no different than a good one. There are no 'evil" divine feats or anything like that.

My thoughts on this issue are that first of all, we didnt get divine feats right out of the gate. I think the earliest we got divine feats was in Complete Warrior, published three years after 3rd Edition was released. Three years. Of course, we got all manner of evil stuff in Book of Vile Darkness, but that didnt hit until the second year of the game.
The other thing that occured to me is that he's not even complaining about the cleric in general, but that he specifically wants to play an evil cleric and have it make a mechanical impact.

See, in 3E if you were evil you had the ability to spontaneously channel negative energy and cause undead to just stand there and gawk at you. From a team perspective, this was often bad because clerics were basically the best healings in 3E. Playing an evil cleric meant that you had to start prepping healing spells instead of just converting them on the fly, and rebuke undead was only nifty if you got a really good roll so that you could command them: generally it was better to just make them run away or back the fuck off until you finished the threats that werent going to turn tail.

His example is extremely specific and brings to mind people complaining about the inability to play an unarmored or light-armored fighter in 3E: you cant jump to the conclusion that the game has no versatility just because an extremely specific concept doesnt exist in the offical rules. Likewise, its also not grounds to declare the game as unfinished or non-functional.

The poster moves on to cite how wizards arent as flexible because of fewer feats and spells. Now, there werent a lot of good feats in 3E, either. Sure, there were a slew of Metamagic feats, but a lot of them took a long time to get around to using since they increased the effective spell's level, or sucked. I dont consider a crapton of feats to be a good thing when people arent going to use most of them. To me thats just text padding in disguise.

Officially, you can play an evil cleric. On the upside, you arent screwing over the rest of the party in doing so, since clerics can always heal their allies, now. I dont see this is a problem since, as others have said, if an evil cleric is hanging around in a group he probably wants them alive for some reason. That I do not expect to change. As for commanding undead, thats an option I could see in an issue of Dragon or Divine Power. Of course, you could take a pro-active step and try to create a variant class feature yourself. On the other hand, rebuke undead basically made them stand there, and thats what turn undead does now so if you just describe it differently you have the same result, but whatever.

As for the rest of it, you can argue that if you want to play an evil cleric and have it make a mechanical impact that he could houserule energy keywords, change names and descriptions, and maybe create a few simple houserules, but I think the real solution is to just be patient. Make houserules if you want, but stop pretending that the game has no flexibility because it doesnt contain the specific rules you want, especially rules that we didnt see for years in a previous game edition. 3rd Edition had a lot of problems with rules bloat, power creep, and useless crunch.

Customization (along with accessibility and playability) is one of 4E's strong points. You can take any race and attach it to any class end up with a functional character, which I certainly couldnt say for 3E. Fighters can use many more weapons and not suck, there are less newbie-trap feats, and I havent found a power that sucked. I think I've said before here that you would have to go out of your way to make a crippled character, but that doesnt mean you have cookie cutter characters, either.
In Red Jason's Scions on Punjar, Josh is playing a halfling fighter that dual-wield kukris. Try achieving a similar concept without a lot of min/maxing and likely rogue multiclassing and its a recipie for disaster. He didnt have to fret about any of that, simply placing his Strength at 16, taking Weapon Proficiency, and then worrying about the personality and background.

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