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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Priestly Ceremonies

This isn't a clone-related post, but just some potential house rules. I was thinking about the day-to-day functions of a non-adventuring priest: blessings tied to different stages in life (birth, adolescence, last rites,) induction into a group (baptism, confirmation, conversion, initiation, priestly investment,) minor blessings of short-term events, and major blessings (marriage, funeral.) All religions have 'em, and most religions have loads of 'em. But the cleric rules, despite some of the level titles, aren't really designed around the duties of a priest.

It seems to me that the general intent of these ceremonies is to protect against malign influence. Not like Protection from Evil, but more like a Turn Undead against very minor spirits that attempt to lead the faithful astray at critical moments. Each ceremony protects the individuals involved for a short period of time, no more than a week and often shorter, based on the specific activity being protected: opening prayers at a worship service protect against disruption of that service for its duration, for example. Most of the time, you don't need to worry about mechanics, but if necessary, here are the effects:
  • blessed social interactions (like marriages): add double priest's level to reaction roll to indicate general initial mood of interaction.
  • blessed endeavors (prayer at the beginning of a trip, dedication of a building): if there is an "X in 6" chance of an accident, reduce the chance of the first accident by 1 for every level of the priest (or subtract 1 from the first Situation roll.)
  • protection from spirits/undead: treat as a one-time delayed Turn Undead; last rites and funerals specifically prevent the deceased from being transformed into an undead.
You do not need to make NPC priests into actual clerics to make this work; just assume they are 1st level, unless they are invested with a higher rank by the church. These "non-cleric clerics" can't cast spells except maybe on holy ground, however. The faithful who are not priests can even turn spirits (but not perform blessings) as if they were 0-level priests (reaction roll - double hit dice of spirit or undead; 9 or better turns the spirit.)


  1. Bruce Galloway's Fantasy Wargaming did a nice job providing rules for such ceremonies, which generally increased morale, and sometimes luck, and in the case of very devout participants might cause divine inspiration which gave significant bonuses to several attributes and the ability to ignore fatigue and wounds. I don't think the rules would be very easy to port to D&D but they may give you some more ideas.

    By the way, I can't read this blog in Firefox -- it has light blue or grey text over a brown wallpaper. FWIW.

  2. As I recall, the FW ceremonies were primarily focused on raising mana. I've thought about using the general model of FW magic for other things, but I don't think I'd port the whole system; plus, it's much more complex than what I'm talking about here.

    I use Firefox myself, but don't have the problem you describe. It's more of a medium blue on light tan. You might be having a browser preference issue.

  3. It's displaying correctly on the latest, updated version of Firefox, but I suspect Mikemonaco, like me at the moment, is using an older version of Firefox. The light tan text box isn't showing, just the brown background. It's showing up correctly in Opera v9.10, for what it's worth.

    I've personally commandeered The Dying Earth RPG's blessings and curses mechanic. Basically, if the PC or NPC utters an emotionally charged blessing or curse, backed by a few mystic gestures or short phrases, he gets a 1 in 6 chance of an entity answering the call and bestowing a (limited) blessing or curse upon the target. These would give a +1 or -1 to rolls involving the particulars of the blessing or curse. Characters can be the subject of more than one curse, but only one blessing. I've adapted it to include that characters can give out multiple blessings, but only one curse at a time.

    For example, if the players help out a hermit, he might say: "You have done me a great service. By the powers invested in my by the elementals of these mountains, I bless you to have a safe journey to your destination," or when a player pisses off a sorcerer, "Vile worm! Detestable villain! May the hideous doom of Syste follow you on your path!"

    I'd rule that priestly ceremonies are a specific kind of blessing backed by the priest's investment in, and devotion to, his religion and always work as long as they are in accordance with his religion. Otherwise, he's got the same chances as anyone of being heard.

  4. 2e D&D threw in minor ceremonies as spells. I also have an interest in seeing rules for "town priest" NPC types who aren't fully blessed with miracles, but do have some local-type command of the supernatural.