Friday, July 1, 2011

Reading Room: Clerics by Retro-clone

Go Aleena! Show him that blunt
weapons are more powerful than
sharp magical missiles!
Similar to what I did for the Fighter Class, I'm reading through various retro-clone descriptions of the Cleric Class in an effort to glean the essence of this particular character class before going to town on it in HERO System 6th Edition.

Basic Fantasy RPG says:
Clerics are those who have devoted themselves to the service of a deity, pantheon or other belief system. Most Clerics spend their time in mundane forms of service such as preaching and ministering in a temple; but there are those who are called to go abroad from the temple and serve their deity in a more direct way, smiting undead monsters and aiding in the battle against evil and chaos. Player character Clerics are assumed to be among the latter group.

Clerics fight about as well as Thieves, but not as well as Fighters. They are hardier than Thieves, at least at lower levels, as they are accustomed to physical labor that the Thief would deftly avoid. Clerics can cast spells of divine nature starting at 2nd level, and they have the power to Turn the Undead, that is, to drive away undead monsters by means of faith alone.

They may wear any armor, but may only use blunt weapons (specifically including warhammer, mace, maul, club, quarterstaff, and sling).
In the Basic Fantasy RPG therefore, the cleric class is envisioned as a certain type of priest -- not one who administers to a given community, but one who is sent out to directly oppose the physical forces (and other such minions) present in the world. It's not clear if the community / temple -bound clerics have the same abilities or can even shift back and forth between the two types.

The ability to turn undead here is based on the cleric's faith, implying that a cleric's faith increases as he/she rises in level.

Labyrinth Lord RPG says:
Humans who become clerics have pledged their lives to serve a deity. To this end, they conduct their lives in a way to further the desires and will of their gods or goddesses. Clerics may use divine energy in the form of spells, which are granted through prayer and worship. The power and number of cleric spells available to a character are determined by level. Clerics are also trained to fight, and they should be thought of not as passive priests but as fighting holy crusaders. If a cleric ever falls from favor, due to violating the beliefs of his god or breaking the rules of his clergy, the god may impose penalties upon the cleric.

Clerics can use any form of armor and weapons except for weapons that have a sharp edge. This eliminates weapons such as swords, axes, and arrows, but not slings, maces, or other blunt items. Strict holy doctrine prevents clerics from using any cutting or impaling weapons.

Clerics have the ability to Turn Undead. The potency of this ability is determined by level. The cleric is able to call upon the name and power of his deity to repel, and even destroy, undead. Turned undead will leave the area by any means they can, and will not attempt to harm or make contact with the cleric.
Here, the cleric is representative of a given deity and not necessarily of a broad pantheon. Again, however, they are differentiated as 'fighting priests' (who are apparently fond of blunt instruments). Labyrinth Lord differs by citing specific penalties for 'violating religious beliefs) as well.

Furthermore, the ability to turn undead is mentioned here as well, but the source of power seems to be the name and power of the deity and not necessarily the cleric's level of faith.

Swords & Wizardry says:
Clerics are armored warrior-priests (or priestesses) who serve the cause of Law or Chaos. Most Clerics have a patron deity or serve a particular religion. As a Cleric, you are a champion of your faith and moral alignment. You might be a shining knight of the faith, an exorcist of demons, or a sinister witchhunter. Because most of a Cleric’s abilities are oriented toward healing and protecting, Clerics tend to play a support role during combat: backing up the front line, but able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the party’s Fighters if the need arises—at least for a while...Clerics may not be of neutral alignment unless the Referee rules otherwise.
Swords & Wizardry takes a slighly different view on the cleric, making him/her not so much a member of the clergy but a roving champion of the faith -- especially since one of the stated examples is one such 'shining knight'.

It also reinforces the role of the cleric in combat as a healer, and a secondary fighter. This is interesting as the prior two descriptions tend to focus on the broader ability to ask for spells from their patron diety.

OSRIC says:
Clerics are moral and spiritual leaders, warriors of faith who preach the will of the gods, interpret omens and portents, and strike down the evil or unfaithful. Most clerics have a patron deity, but some are champions of a particular moral alignment, venerating all deities of that alignment in addition to a patron deity, and yet others are the servants of a particular pantheon of deities. In a world of swords and sorcery, force of arms often speaks louder than moral suasion, and clerics are trained to do battle against the enemies of their gods. Some clerics are fanatics, zealously seeking new converts or hunting heretics. Others seem almost burdened by an inconvenient or even oppressive relationship with the divine forces. Evil clerics—sinister villains who prey upon fear and jealousy—sow discord in the world and gather converts for their demonic masters.

Clerics play an important support role for an adventuring party. Most clerical spells are oriented toward healing, strengthening, and defending others. However, when the need arises the cleric is fully capable of taking a place in the line of battle and smiting down infidels and foes. Clerics employ their holy symbols rather than spell books as a focus for their meditation.
OSRIC also paints a broader view of the cleric -- a preacher, an interpreter of omens, and a righteous hand of the faith. It also is more generous in the definition of the cause that the cleric serves -- even allowing for a cleric to serve a given alignment. OSRIC does reiterate the healing role of the priest, and is the only one to specifically cite in the character description something necessary to gain the spells: the holy symbols they carry.

Consolidated Character Class Guideline Essences:

It would appear that based on what has been written, the Cleric is a secondary fighter (perhaps equal to the Thief in combat skill, or more) with the ability to heal (important in combat) and the ability to gain clerical spells. They are also capable of turning undead creatures -- suggesting that perhaps plagues and infestatons of these undead are not as rare as they should be -- using either their own faith or the authority granted them by their position.

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