Classic Greece and the D&D Cleric Problem

mattei_athena_louvre_ma530_n2

IIRC, celibacy was not the norm for the clergy back then unless they served the awesome badass up here

D&D clerics perform exorcisms and turn undead. That’s very D&D, as in it’s part of it’s implied setting. Other settings’ clerics should have different powers, or else what you’re really playing is your setting mixed with Blackmoor.

An easy way to do this is to replace Turn Undead with granted powers.

If you want a “Classic Greece/Swords & Sandals” approach, let clerics use spears and replace Turn Undead with the following powers, depending on the god. A priest of a given god can use their god’s granted power once a day, twice at level 3, thrice at level 6:

    • Zeus’s Lightning: lightning can be called from the sky, dealing 1d6 damage on an opponent.
    • Hera’s Revenge: if the cleric is wounded, the same amount of damage is dealt to the attacker. This power can be used instantly and during the opponent’s turn.
    • Aphrodite’s Looks: charm person.
    • Poseidon’s Spawn: a small horrible monster (2HD, ATK bite 1d6) appears and fights the enemies of the priest.
    • Athena’s Wit: the priest can spend a minute coming up with a plan that can either automatically win initiative or gain surprise.
    • Demeter’s Care: cure light wounds.
    • Apollo’s Scrying: augury.
    • Artemis’s Aim: the cleric can use a bow. One arrow shot hits automatically.
    • Hephaestus’s Forge: for the rest of the combat the party’s weapons become so sharp all opponents have ac 9 [10].
    • Ares’s Hand: after the cleric hits, the damage dealt can be doubled.
    • Hermes’s Speed: the priest can outrun a group of opponents.
    • Dionysus’s Wine: dance. If the subject is attacked they will stop dancing.
    • Hades’s Shroud: invisibility self for 6 rounds.
    • Hekate’s Keys: knock or animate dead (1 hd per caster level, maximum 2 hd per caster level controlled) or trivial knowledge (the cleric knows something useful about a topic) or find the direction (the character, in a crossroad or fork in the path or dungeon room or whatever can find what’s the right way toward a chosen destination) or poison use or light or look I have a dog (the cleric has a pet dog of 1 hd more than their level, if it dies the new pup will start at level 0 and grow appropriately at a rate of 1 level a month until it reaches cleric level +1).

Right, I cheated for Hekate. Just pick a power. Hekate’s portfolio seems to be pretty much more or less everything you ever wanted. Quoting the wikipedia:

She was variously associated with crossroads, entrance-ways, dogs, light, the moon, magic, witchcraft, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, ghosts, necromancy, and sorcery

More in general, this was actually not an uncommon thing. Religion in ancient Greece was not homogeneous, and gods were worshipped in many different aspects and with different rites. Also, the split between Chthonic and Olympic was not as clear-cut as we imagine it, and many European intellectuals from the Renaissance to the 19th century and the Romantics spent a lot of effort to fit the square peg of Hellenic worship practice into the round hole of a Christian perspective, including a split of “Olympians good/Chthonic and Titans evil” and much other bullshit.

Magic in Whitebox20 and other playtest results

Playtesting kicks ass. I’m so happy about this last session with the Original Tilean Murderhoboes. Much progress led to a much more solid game experience.

 

whitebox20New Casting Rules

W20 has a bunch of different magic rules because I like to keep my magic mechanics as varied as possible, from the very simple Bene Gesserit-like Voice (roll on the skill to basically cast “command” or “dominate” on someone, depending on the success level) to Wonder & Wickedness RAW, to the new thing we playtested tonight (which is built on top of W&W). It works this way:

Casters start with 3 spells,+3 if they take the apprentice background. These spells can be picked from all the schools. Caster also can benefit from skills: Channel (based on Heart) and the skill of the school they’re trying to cast (all based on Wit for now).

To cast the spell the caster spends 1 round and must roll:

  • first, a skill roll on the School ability; there is an ability for each school, so a caster rolls on Elementalism to cast Stonespeak. Some schools have penalties from -2 to -6 for reasons, such as wearing armour, holding stuff on fire, being underground and so on. If the roll fails the spell is botched.
  • roll on Channel to power the spell. If the roll passes, the spell is cast successfully. If the roll is failed, the caster can try to channel again next round (and then the round after, etc).

Casters can spend a fate point, even after failing either roll, turns automatically the spell into a success. Non-casters can only spend fate points to reroll the skill rolls.

BOTCH: when a spell is botched and the fate point is not spent to turn the spell into an automatic success, the round after the caster must roll a channel roll. If they fail, the spell fizzles harmlessly and all is well. But if the channeling goes well, the caster pumped enough mojo into a badwrong spell, and the following happens:

  • The caster can’t use the spell again until dawn.
  • 50% chance of a Catastrophe! Roll on the appropriate Catastrophe table
  • …and then the caster takes temporary damage equal to the result of the Channel roll.

These are the outcomes:

  • non-casters can cast too. I’m not sure if they want to, but it’s an option. It’s interesting because without a high channel skill there’s less chance of failing horribly.
  • a caster with no skills can just spend fate points and cast away, exactly like in mana-based W&W.
  • casters can decide to focus and spend their skills in casting to cast more spells.
  • there’s a tradeoff in casting without fate left. You’re playing with fire that can explode in your face and potentially kill the whole party.
  • even if the caster has fate left, they can cast and botch, but convert the botch to a success by spending fate. Or, if they pass the first roll, they can fail the channel roll, so they might take several rounds to cast a spell for free.
  • that whole “retry channeling next round” makes great suspense and is hella cool in fiction too.

It’s possible to channel shields too. If the channeling is successful the shield lasts 1 round.

New Melee Rules: Defence & Shields

Shields give +2 to defence rolls. Shields had no rules before tonight. Playtest went ok. I might change it to +3 or +4.

Another important change: in melee characters get an attack roll and a defence roll every round, which used to be the Fighter perk. The Fighter perk becomes: “+1 melee, a successful attack roll can only be blocked if the defence roll is at least as much as the attack roll”.

So, for example, if the fighter attacks successfully with a 9 the defender must succeed a defence roll with a 9 or more to defend successfully.

The positive outcome is many-fold:

  1. if you are not a fighter you totally have a chance blocking non-fighters, but fighters will be harder to block.
  2. more blocking curbs lethality, which was a tad too high even for me.
  3. fighters and their really high melee scores don’t make an impassable wall… if you are a fighter too.
  4. the “decide to attack OR block” role sucked because it slowed combat and yes it gave a decision but it was not interesting. Uninteresting decisions suck.

New Fate Point rules

Characters stat with zero fate points, +1 if Hearth is 11 or more, +1 if they have the caster class, +1 if they have the Fool background, +1 for each extra level.

In general, any character can spend a fate point to pass a save even after failing, or reroll a d20.

Casters can spend a fate point to cast a spell successfully even if they failed a roll.

Mystic Knights can spend a fate point to pick a result on an attack or defence roll before rolling the die.

It’s not possible under any circumstance to use a fate point to automatically succeed in any roll where the character is taking Risk.