So I was thinking about class design and archtypes and it dawned on me that Clerics are a good idea poorly executed.

So I was thinking about class design and archtypes and it dawned on me that Clerics are a good idea poorly executed.

So I was thinking about class design and archtypes and it dawned on me that Clerics are a good idea poorly executed.

I think the biggest problem is the fluff and how they’re poorly integrated in setting. They are part priest, warrior, mage, with a mix of convoluted religious elements and tropes. They’re everything and not anything at the same time. They also have nearly no equivalents in pre DND myth/literature/TV. Here are my ideas to fix clerics across any game system.

-Make healing spells a part of normal spell list and let spellcasters learn them. (Like FF white mage)

-Create detailed setting which explains why temples are full of healing magic men and how they fit in society and why.

-Create a wizard/fighter hybrid minus religious elements for those who want it.

-make holy man compendium class with specific niche abilities for those who want it.

Make clerics descendants or children of God’s, or the highly favored of gods (so extra exceptional or quite rare.)

-Give cleric types abilities that expand and improve upon their abilities. Don’t limit them to being undead killers and party healer/buffer. Allow them to work on their own. Same goes for Bards.

Any other ideas, thoughts, or opinions? I’m happy to hear.

13 thoughts on “So I was thinking about class design and archtypes and it dawned on me that Clerics are a good idea poorly executed.”

  1. Building on what Deep 6 Delver said:

    And Bishop Odo from the Battle of Hastings. That was a huge influence on the leap from TSR’s Chainmail to the very first D&D rules. It was reputed that Odo, who used a club, because he didn’t want to “spill blood”.

  2. I’ll second The Priest as a good fix, but acknowledge it might not address all your issues with the trope. I had a long time RP’er (familiar w/ D&D and Numenera) try out DW (I had the 4 alternates available) for the first time last Sunday, using Ray Otus’s Plundergrounds no. 2: Kazarak! He loved the idea of getting to make up his own god/pantheon (god of refuse, discarded things and downtrodden people), and would always declare “in the name of (his god… already forgot the name) (desired effect here)” when he’d cast a spell (which was often — none of this forgetting spells business).

  3. I hated the idea of clerics before I learned of their origin in fiction. And then I saw the LotFP cleric, and the idea of clergy hunting the undead, demons, or witches clicked. The historical Inquisitors and/or Cotton Mather types are useful models. Even Hellboy, with his holy amulets and incantations, could be part cleric.

    If we take that idea as the archetype, what is wrong with the Dungeon World cleric? What are the problems that need a-fixing?

    I can see not liking the archetype and cutting the class from your game, but I don’t see it as a given that the cleric as presented has problems in light of the archetype.

    I’m not saying the problems don’t exist, but they haven’t been enumerated. What are they?

  4. Deep Six Delver I guess just in my experience, there haven’t been many examples of magic holy men/women who are also warriors in pre DND fantasy literature or myth. Whereas other classes have more common equivalents. And thematically, have the tendency to become similar and boring to play like the stereotypical rpg paladin.

    But that doesn’t mean there’s no good them or their no fun. I just think they need a little work to be more fun (just like how RPGs have been improved upon since the 70s)

  5. A lot of the design choices of old school role-playing games seemed dumb to me before I learned the rationale and sources in fiction—especially the Appendix N reading list, but also the broader comics and sci-fi fandom in the ’70s.

    “Magic”-using holy men/women who also use weapons are around in myth and fiction, they’re just not as common as their Faustian counterparts. Gandalf the White, for example.

    Originally, the cleric was one of 3 D&D classes, and that made it a lot more significant in terms of the implied role: The cleric was the middle option between full-on Fighting Man and full-on Magic-User.

    If your model is the White Mage from Final Fantasy, of course the cleric is dumb. And with 8–10 core classes, plus whatever supplemental classes you want to include, the cleric’s unique game role is somewhat thinner.

    All the classes in Dungeon World lean more on fictional archetypes than fiction-independent game mechanics. If players and GMs aren’t familiar with the fictional or historical precedents of a given class, it’s pretty easy for the class to seem dumb or archaic.

    No reason to use the classes as-is if you think they are dumb or archaic, but it you really want to fix their problems, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the fiction they come from.

  6. My problem with the Dungeon World cleric is that the spell list overlaps too much with the wizard for my taste.

    This is something LotFP Weird Fantasy addresses really well: LotFP defines magic-users as inherrently Chaotic and clerics as inherently Lawful, and their separate spell lists include no duplicates. Their spells are also very flavorful and evocative of their differences.

    That would be my approach to fixing the Dungeon World cleric and wizard: Comb through their spell lists, including their rotes and cantrips, to eliminate all overlap and provide more spells for each that are utterly unique to the role and purpose of each class.

  7. Correction: At a glance, I could only find two spells that DW clerics and wizards have in common. The “Light” rote/cantrip, and the spell called “Trap Soul” for clerics and “Soul Gem” for wizards.

    Still, I like to draw the distinction between Faustian wizards and order-oriented clerics (even if individual wizards and clerics play against the archetype), and I think their Alignment moves could be reworked to draw a sharper distinction along that line.

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