Religion in Seekers of Lore

I realized today that clerics may have to work differently in Seekers of Lore than I was expecting. This is something of an exploratory article, I don’t know what the conclusion will be.

Seekers of Lore

Seekers of Lore

First Thoughts

Part of the premise of Seekers of Lore is that experience points are gained by discovering and recovering that which was lost. In the case of clerics, they will be the primary actors in restoring the worship of lost gods. In a way, that could be one of their richest, if uncommon, sources of experience points.

In some settings and rule sets there is little to differentiate clerics mechanically beyond alignment. For instance, in B/X it was sufficient to know your alignment (because it suggested what form of certain spells could be cast, what ‘turn undead’ did, and which team you were on), but you could name your patron god if you wanted. I think in AD&D 1e this could also be so, but I do remember that you could have your clerical spells limited if your god was not reachable — but this mostly really only applied at high level, I think.

In later editions, and in many settings (including some from AD&D 1e times) there was a fairly strong expectation that each cleric would primarily follow a single god. A cleric could be expected to acknowledge (and possibly fight) other gods, but they got their power from a specific one.

In Seekers of Lore I don’t know that is the best approach. Having a cleric gain power by restoring and encouraging worship of gods other than his own does not seem to align with this.

Or does it? I can see an argument that clerics exist to encourage the belief in gods altogether, regardless of orientation. Each cleric might primarily serve a particular god, but still work to bring about the worship of all gods. This could be appropriate for this setting because perhaps if enough gods could come together they could complete their original plan to create a safe haven for themselves. There is even some slight precedent in Dragonlance for clerics having at least some interchangeable abilities (any cleric can create a new medallion of faith for a cleric of any other god, even one of a different or opposing alignment).

Okay, it appears it could be legitimate to have clerics behave, mechanically, just as they do in about any other edition. Regardless of alignment, a cleric can gain experience points for restoring a temple to use or worship of a lost god, even if that god’s purpose ends up being contrary to the cleric’s own god’s purpose. Or rather, regardless of allegiance; simply by declaring that pretty much all gods have an inherent interest in reestablishing relationships so they can complete the Prime Plane and get to a safer haven it can be handwaved. There might be disagreements about which gods are in power once they get here, and internecine warfare between them, but at least they’ll be away from Amorphia.

It seems a little weird to me, though, that the cleric in this scenario could have to find someone else to do the actual worship. It feels a little like a Zelda quest: restore the temple to service, then walk away because your part is done, actual followers will show up to take over.

I think this a workable approach, as much as it feels awkward to me.

Now I’d like to explore a bit what happens if the allegiance concerns are modified, especially how they interact with other rules.

Second Thoughts

What if clerics are considered kind of interchangeable still? The power gained (spells and other abilities) comes basically as a straight trade – service for power. As above, the gods still have the overarching goal of completing the Prime Plane and can work together toward that goal, but can have pretty strong differences. As long as a cleric meets his obligations he can call on the power of multiple gods.

Yes, this can result in conflicts between allegiances. There is a reason many clerics don’t do this.

However, it does open the door fairly wide to a cleric working for multiple gods, and more to the point, being able to make use of their power and restore their worship. They may still move on once someone else takes over that part of the job (the experience points gained are lost if the god falls out of worship, just as the experience points for ruling a land are lost if the ruler is ousted from power and loses the land, so even if they can’t abide working for a particular god they’ll probably want someone to do it).

How this gets implemented mechanically varies by rule set, though.

Old School D&D and Clones

This is very simple. A cleric has initial training from one church or another, supporting a particular god. The core spell list is pretty small and covers most of what most clerics can expect to need, so start there.

As the cleric discovers lost religious lore and studies it, he can gain access to new (or lost) prayers to new (or lost) gods. As long as he doesn’t cross his allegiance requirements there should be no problem using these. Review to discover what the lore is, study to be able to use it, mastery probably involves gaining a new allegiance and some kind of power to go with it.

So, a cleric of the god of sun, healing, and glory might find a religious tome containing rites and prayers to an unfamiliar god of war. Studying this tome grants him the ability to prepare some spells not known to other clerics — possibly at all, since this is book of prayers to a lost god. In order to unlock the book’s true potential he has to master it, and take allegiance to the lost god. It may be that he will refuse to do so because it contradicts another allegiance. He might destroy the book (and his ability to use the spells; he never gained the benefits of mastery, and probably the experience points gained from this knowledge), or he might try to get it into the hands of someone he can tolerate supporting this god. Or he might just hold onto it, continuing to use the spells that are not contradictory to his allegiance’s requirements and keeping it out of everyone else’s hands.

The idea of a cleric having not only the holy books of his primary faith, but collecting manuscripts and visiting holy places of other gods in order to maintain his power really, really appeals to me. I think in most Old School style games this could work fairly well.

Dungeons & Dragons 3.x and Pathfinder

In Dungeons & Dragons 3.x and in Pathfinder, the cleric class spell list is immense. I wrote the rules I did Polyhedral Pantheon Clerics (posted just over a year ago, yikes!) to limit somewhat the breadth of abilities gainable through spells. I think that if I run Seekers of Lore in either of these systems I would have to use these rules.

Each cleric learns spells for free from the domains of his primary god, and can learn other spells at cost. This is much as a wizard does, learning two spells per class level for free and then gaining knowledge of other spells via various other means. As above, a cleric who finds a holy book from another faith could study it to gain knowledge of the spells in it. Domain powers could come with mastery, or be a specific thing that could be learned from a source of knowledge. I think perhaps domains (powers and spells) gained this way might necessarily need to be prepared in place of normal effects. That is, a cleric who normally has access to Sun, Healing, Glory, and Protection (Sun and Healing his chosen domains) who gains the Book of War described above might be able to prepare spells from the Book of War, but could not spontaneously cast those spells — the chosen domains do not change unless allegiance does. However, it might be possible to gain the ability to use additional domain powers, in which case the domain power granted by this book could be chosen.

This feels a little shaky yet, but I think mostly because I am not certain how to organize the information in the Book of War to best fit the “sources of knowledge rules”.

Closing Comments

I see three primary pieces of interest here.

First, clerics have obligations that go beyond following a single god. Ultimately the completion of the Prime Plane (which I just realized is done in part by finding all the pieces!) overrides individual agendas, so it is possible for any cleric to restore to service any temple and restore the worship of any god. They don’t have to practice at a particular temple or worship a particular god.

Second, clerics in Old School games are abstract enough that the above is basically just true anyway. Restoring a lost faith gains the character experience points and can expand his repertoire of spells, but unless there is a gross mismatch this should not matter.

Third, clerics in newer versions of D&D have more powers to consider, but the framework I would use that limits their basic spell knowledge meshes pretty well with the approach taken in the Old School games.Treating the character as simply having the new spells as ‘not-domain’ spells (i.e. general cleric spells… hmm, perhaps this is the source of ‘general cleric spells’, come to that) should work pretty well. Feats or lore mastery could even let the cleric be treated as ‘having’ that domain, though not as a ‘chosen domain’… and other abilities after that could even let the cleric treat the domain as chosen, granting the domain powers and spontaneous casting from that domain.

I really need to work out some examples so I can see what this actually looks like. I think it can work, for pretty much any edition, but I need to see how it looks in practice.

4 Comments to "Religion in Seekers of Lore"

  1. April 20, 2013 - 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Ignoring the clerics themselves for a moment and just looking at the cosmology:

    We can take as given that all the gods want to complete their project. Now Yog-Sotheby the Formless Horror has been lost since the maelstrom struck… well, nobody liked him anyway, right? So why not complete the project and we’ll er look for him later… maybe. Well a simple explanation is that the gods literally can’t complete it without every god. A mere “many hands make light work” won’t suffice IMHO, what if something in the makeup of the created world literally requires a “keystone” from each god to allow such a large change? Perhaps it was originally set up like that deliberately, so that once the paradise was built and finished no changes could be made to it except unanimously. With such a wide variety of attitudes and natures amongst them, it may have been seen as a necessity to avoid political antics.

    So the surviving gods may need their agents to find and awaken the lost ones if only for their keystones so that the project can be completed. Since in your most recent description of the setting mortals came about almost as an afterthought I assume the lost gods don’t “need” worship, so the agent cleric doesn’t need to concern himself with that as such. But perhaps they want it for their own reasons, so they may (will, probably) start up proper operations at the rediscovered temple. The agent cleric might be drafted to help set this up as part of a “deal” struck between this god and the rest for his contribution to the project.

  2. May 5, 2013 - 7:10 pm | Permalink

    Q: Upon reaching a pre-designated level caster classes gain the research ability. What do clerics use for research to create their spells?

Leave a Reply