Legend & Lore: Cleric Design Goals

More good than bad, this time around. The bullet list I can get behind, although some people are contending the part about relating to "archetypal characters, stories, legends, and myths". What is more interesting to me is the second list; A cleric's abilities being reflected by her god? I like that. I also like the idea of subtle, indirect magic. Fits the mantra god(s) working in "mysterious ways" and what-have-you (though summoning monsters, animating the dead, and calling down divine fire do not particularly sound subtle).

What I am more iffy on is the parts about being an armored warrior and healer.

When it comes to armor clerics have always been able to wear the heavy stuff, whether it was up to plate (OD&D and 3rd Edition, maybe 2nd?), or stuck with chainmail (4th Edition). While the article just mentions them wearing armor and packing shields, it seems to be, ahem, "heavily" implied that it will be up to plate again. My question is...why does the cleric need to wear heavy armor? Clerics of Moradin, Heironeous, or Bane I can see, but what about Melora, Obad-Hai, Sehanine, and other gods of natural forces? How about Ioun, Yondalla, or Vecna? Do you envision clerics of Olidammara (god of rogues, yo) running around in heavy armor and smacking things with maces?

I think that what a cleric can use should be defined by her god. Nature-based clerics probably wear leather and hide armor, perhaps something a bit heavier, and generally use spears, bows, sickles, etc. Clerics of knowledge and/or magic might wear no armor at all, perhaps having something like armor of faith to bolster their AC, or just be plain easy to hit. Clerics of shadows or rogues would stick to light armor and weapons. Inspiration can be drawn from the invoker and avenger, but I think that the nature- and shadow-clerics might tread on the toes of the druid and assassin...

...which makes me wonder how much his sample bow-using, leather armor-wearing, stealthing cleric of Apollo differs from the ranger (especially after buffs). They have made it clear that clerics and wizards will no longer be able to buff themselves up and outclass the fighter, so hopefully the ranger is likewise not left out in the cold. I am also wondering if said cleric was able to trade out her heavy armor proficiencies for something else, or if it is just "wasted" class features.

For similar reasons about heavy armor, while I know that clerics are "supposed" to have access to healing, but I do not think that they all need it by default. 3rd Edition clerics could opt to spontaneously cast inflict wounds spells, and did not have to take healing at all. I do not mind this so long as clerics who want to heal can get away without dumping cure spells on the fighter, which quickly stopped healing enough to make it worthwhile.


  1. I do think that is a common problem with the post-2E cleric ("priests of a specific mythos"). Domain-specific clerics tend to step on the toes of other classes (as you noted with the druid example). Why have both a cleric of Ares and a Fighter?

    If they stick to the traditional cleric, which was based on a strange mix of Hammer horror films (Van Helsing) and medieval crusaders, the problem goes away, but then people complain about the cultural specificity of the traditional cleric (which is true, it is heavily rooted in Christianity). I don't know, it's a tough problem. Maybe this idea of clerics worshipping specific gods needs to go (it's not all that reflective of polytheism anyways).

  2. I suspect they'll use Theme to modify the basic cleric abilities into more specialized forms. Probably the base recommendation is a heavy-armor theme for the more "classic" cleric with lighter-armored themes for alternative-types. Just a guess, mind you, but that seems in keeping with how they are designing.

  3. "My question is...why does the cleric need to wear heavy armor?"

    I think the better question is why do you (=wotc) need to make armor a class feature. IMHO it's the same twisted logic as making knights summon horses because hey, knight ride horses. No one needs or wants to wear armor unless they go to combat and only the privileged - or adventurers - can afford a good horse or a plate armor.

    Of course if the new edition's assumed world is different, they should make adjustments to the gear. If warhorses are useless because people can easily fly and teleport, then don't have them - much less assume professional warriors would ride them.

    If you want to preserve certain image of adventuring thieves (who could afford a plate armor) sneaking in leather armor, you can penalize them mechanically for carrying a lot of gear.

  4. @Pekka

    Armor is a class feature because defense is one of the most consequential aspects of a D&D character. I think we should remember that D&D is not supposed to be an abstract simulator, it is built to support a certain style of game and a certain implied setting. They should not (and likely will not) change that implied setting too much, or people will not be getting what they expect. Personally, I like making the choice of armor more flexible and building in penalties to using some class features (sneaking, casting spells) rather than forbidding heavy armor. Also, knights don't summon horses, paladins bind mounts. This is usually described as akin to a magic-user's familiar, not a knight's horse. It makes more sense to me that standard run of the mill mounted soldiers just be fighters.

  5. I know all the gamist reasons why stuff is made how it is since I've played D&D since B/X and I'm very familiar with its history. I'm saying you don't have to twist logic and make artificial limitations if you make your game consistent and follow real world (though fantastic) logic. Deconstruct the iconic classes & tropes and see why they would work that way (the way you want) in your fantasy world - instead of forcing them to work in a manner that is not consistent with your world and its ingame logic.

    You don't have to go GURPS on it, just give some general guidelines like some armor penalties for physical activity or nature priest codes that forbid the use of metal.

    When it comes to summoning horses, paladins did it it in 3e:
    "Once per day, as a full-round action, a paladin may magically call her mount from the celestial realms in which it resides. -- The mount immediately appears adjacent to the paladin--"

    In AD&D 2nd Edition you had:
    "A paladin may call for his war horse --. The paladin does not really "call" [ie. summon] the animal, nor does the horse instantly appear in front of him. Rather, the characer must find his war horse in some memorable way, most frequently by a specific quest."

    I'm familiar with 4e paladins but aren't 4e familiar summonable, ie. you can poof them away and back at will?

  6. Totally agree with everything in your most recent post. What I think is problematic is something like:

    warhorses are useless because people can easily fly and teleport

    If that is true, then I think the rules that suggest such should be revisited and changed. Warhorses shouldn't be useless in a core "implied setting" D&D game (all bets are off, of course, if using one of the less traditional settings like Dark Sun or Eberron).

  7. @Pekka: What I am getting at, and probably explaining poorly, is that I can see some clerical orders touring around in heavy armor (especially those with a focus on strength, war, fighting, etc), but not all of them. I think that the god (gods?) a cleric follows should have some sort of influence on this, but it sounds like that they are going to stick clerics in heavy armor by default because that's how it was done before.

  8. My impression of 5e design philosophy is that they make "traditional" recommendations, but let you replace those recommendations using the Theme/Background mechanics. It does look like the default cleric will be a heavy-armor wearer, but the example makes it pretty clear that this isn't by any means a binding option.

  9. True, though I am curious if the heavy armor becomes a wasted feature (like 3rd Edition elves who take a class that gets martial weapon proficiency), or if there was some sort of trade off. Also given the character's equipment loadout, I am hoping that the cleric was not able to use magic to be a better ranger or rogue than an actual ranger or rogue.

    I am more excited than cautious, because if a cleric can do these things I want to see how other classes can branch out. It sounds like that we won't end up with a bunch of pre-combined classes from 3rd Edition, such as the lurk and duskblade. On the other hand it makes we wonder how multiclassing will fit into the picture.

  10. The whole issue of wasted features is what I like about the Theme/Background idea - it looks like by swapping those around you get a different set of features, rather than having to just not use a standard one.

    Multiclass... does seem a bit tougher. I've generally disliked multiclass characters, though - they almost always devolve into min/maxing attempts without adding much to the overall game. I basically didn't play 3e because the whole system was designed around what I saw as the absolute worst bits of previous multiclassing rules.

    Which is why I'm also dead happy that Monte Cook has packed his bags. 5e will probably be better off without too much involvement from him.

    But I digress - I've always liked being able to design a character that functions a bit like another class. If they are better than the other class, though, that's a design flaw - a rangery cleric should be OK at rangery stuff with a slant on support. Not a full replacement for a real ranger, though.

  11. I loved the idea of Priests in 2nd ed. but it did defocus the class entirely. A refocus on healing and party support may well be indicated (thought I loathe the idea of fitting everyone in too specific a role). Still, different religions should be allowed and catered to.

    Perhaps it's a question of making the cleric more blatantly a member of the religion's army, with the Priest a more spell-based specialist.

  12. You know what?
    The thing about priests being able to buff themselves to outfight the fighter?
    Yeah, that's true, but I really think this means that fighters ought to get a boost, not that casters need (much) of a nerf. (Of course, removing some of the sillier things won't hurt.)

    Examples of silliness?
    Divine Might.
    I get + Caster level to hit, + Caster level to hitpoints, and +6 STR.
    That's... Awesome.
    However, you know what would be more awesome?
    Being able to give the party Barbarian that buff instead.
    Because I chose to play as a Cleric, so I'm happy buffing people. When our Barbarian and Rogue dish out 40 and 50 damage each, I see it as a team victory, because we all know that those Prayers, Cats Graces, Inspire Courages, etc... Those made a real difference there.

    The fact that I as a buffer have my best buffs reserved for myself sucks. I hope that THIS changes more than nerfing my buffs.
    Let me make the fighter classes awesome again. Please WotC, the game is more enjoyable when teamwork is more essential.

    I think that Divine Might would be a much better spell if it were reserved for party members that weren't yourself. Because the cleric helping others is a much more fun role to play for me. (Evil aligned priests may differ.)


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