... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Books from Above

The blog is probably going to undergo a huge transformation soon. More on that later. But in the meantime, I thought I’d ask: How could you make clerics require spell books and recieve spells directly from their god, simultaneously?

Men & Magic, famously, states that all spell casters are considered to have spell books. Greyhawk apparently contradicts this, stating that cleric spells are divinely given. But the Zenopus Archives blog has been working through the Holmes manuscript and found that Holmes labeled the Magic-User spell lists as “Book of 1st Level Spells”, “Book of 2nd Level Spells”, etc., but didn’t do the same for clerics… and someone at TSR (perhaps Gygax?) added spell lists labeled in the same style as the Holmes version of the M-U spell lists. So, the published version of Holmes states that clerical magic is divinely given, but implies the existences of clerical spell books.

This isn’t speculation about how you are supposed to do it. This is a challenge: if you had to do both, if each clerical spell had to be in a spell book, but divinely given, how would you implement that?


  1. Easy. They have a bible, sutras, eddas, or other mystical holy texts that they need to read over in order to "prepare" their spells. Need to part the waters? Meditate on the story of Exodus. Need to turn harmless plants into missile weapons? Focus on the story of Baldr's death by mistletoe. (For example only, no need to use actual world religious texts in game, of course).

    The books/scrolls/whatever are not spellbooks in the same sense as with magic users, but you get the same effect while still having the powers be divinely granted. And as the Cleric rises in power, the church grants access to more "mysteries" so that the Cleric can get higher level spells out of those holy books.

  2. Probably something similar to Gwydion's suggestion, though making them something other than simply a spell book isn't necessary. I could imagine a world where clerics aren't praying for God to grant them spells. Rather, they are already given to the world. The cleric is merely tapping into the divine power around him. Doing so works much like the magic-user's spellcasting (hence the need for spell books), but divine spells are simpler, so there are no percentage chances for learning or maximum numbers of spells per level

    This has me reconsidering some changes I've been planning for the cleric, but that's more due to my worries I've gone too far astray

  3. Bibles, prayer books and so on. They need to study the religious texts of their order to learn what miracles they might become cable of, but they'd certainly still need to spend time each morning in prayer and contemplation to be granted the power to cast those spells.

  4. If the real model of the cleric was, "originally" a Christian (and medieval Christian) cleric, then even calling it a "spell" doesn't make a lot of sense. I like the other comments so far. They could be "sacraments," "mysteries," prayers," "blessings," "curses," "exorcisms," and the like. It is God who grants the miracle: the Christian cleric doesn't perform miracles. But I suppose "miracle," should be the generic term to cover all those things, rather than spells. And my long list represents the thing the Christian cleric performs by which his God promises always to provide said miracle.

    Now, if it is pagan clerics, well, I don't know. But it still isn't really "anything goes." Pagan gods are more, not less, nit-picky about how they are worshipped than the Christian God!

  5. I think this precision came in Greyhawk because the same supplement gave us the "% to learn" spells for Magic-users, and the author felt that it was necessary to clarify the point that Clerics were not expected to "learn" their spelle the way MU did.
    In other terms: the wizard must rely on his own intelligence to acquire the power to cast the spells written in his book (i-e to "learn" them) , but the cleric is imbued with the power to cast any spell ("miracle" ) written in his sellbook ("breviary"/"holy book") by the only virtue of being a priest.

  6. Perhaps they need to study the "Book of Spells" to learn the ritual to begin with, but once they've mastered it, they can simply perform the ritual and gain the spell divinely.

  7. How about making the cleric essentially a magic-user but one whose "source of power" has a veto right? So clerics have to "research" the "miracles" they want to perform by finding them in old texts and translating them into "modern language" and whatnot, and if their "god" likes them those "miracles" actually happen. A well-played cleric will presumably never have a problem in that department, so really you're just making them magic-users with a slightly different back-story and spell-selection. That's certainly a way to remove Delta's complaint about "new" cleric spells suddenly becoming available to all clerics. (And it's in fact roughly how I handle clerics in my game.)

  8. You get up on a tall mountain, and you get a stone tablet for each spell. Better bring a big backpack...