Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Rethinking clerics and religion, part 2

The main thing I don’t like about clerics is that they are the only ones who can invoke the gods. I mean, this is also kind of setting-related, and a matter of personal preference, but for me; I don’t like it.

In Circassa, the gods, powers, and nameless structure of reality the different peoples believe in are relevant to everyone.

One solution to this is to remove clerics entirely and allow every character to call upon their gods, powers, et cetera. I don’t really like this solution. Rather, I’d like all characters to be able to call upon their gods, with clerics having a few special abilities in doing so. This post will be dived into two parts; religion - rules; religion for all classes; the cleric.

This system has the following effects:
  • Engagement with the gods is an optional part of the game for all characters for certain bonuses at the cost of certain rules.
  • A form of prayer-healing that can be performed by anyone and gets a bonus from the cleric just being nearby, to prevent the cleric from being the heal-monkey.
  • Clerical magic is entirely different from wizard magic. Clerical magic is a form of prayer in which the player asks for something to occur, the outcome of which is determined by a d6 roll modified by certain things (the player’s favour with that god, whether the prayer is related to the god’s portfolio…). If this wish is within the realm of possibility, the DM decides how the god will answer.
It's probably overly complicated. I might try to simplify it.


Part 1: Religion - Rules

All players start with one to three connections with a deity. Usually, these will be:

  • the patron deity of your class or (pre-adventuring) profession
  • the patron deity of your city or homeland
  • a family / cultural deity

“Deity”, here, can also mean an impersonal reality or force, akin to the Hindu Dharma, the Egyptian Maat, or the Tao of Taoism. See the end of this post.

Because I think a lot of what makes for compelling, mysterious gods is the absence of knowledge, I’d suggest keeping your players in the dark on these numbers and rolls. Normally I’m all for letting the players roll and be in charge, but I think the mechanics of deities benefit from obscurity.


This religion system introduces a new stat called Favour. This Favour differs per deity per player. It represents how likely the god is to help you. You can only track the Favour of up to three different gods. If you have a connection to two gods, your maximum favour for each is 2. If you have a connection to three gods, your maximum favour for each is 1.
If you are a cleric, your maximum favour is 4 for one god, 2 for two others.
The lowest amount of favour you can have is -4. But only positive Favour (that is, above 0) can be used for prayers et cetera.
If you wish to stop tracking your Favour with one god, all gods, or wish to switch to another, just tell the DM.


Favour goes down when you violate a deities’ Taboos and goes up when you act in accordance to their Edicts. 

If a player violates one of the Taboos, roll a d6. On 4-6, their favour is reduced by 1.

So, take your deities, give them names, territories (I interpret this as the area the god’s power works in; usually this will be “everywhere”), their portfolio’s (already decided), and holy sites. Then, going by their portfolio’s, give them Taboo’s (acts antithetical to their spheres) and Edicts (behaviour in line with their spheres).

So, for the cattle goddess I made in the previous post:

Name: Hentenao
Type: Deity
Culture: All Salori peoples (known as Hentahrahn by the nomadic Ura branch)
Territory: everywhere
Portfolio: Cattle, fertility, cattle disease, good marriages
By association: Faithfulness (in love, in business (cattle trading))
Symbols, images, statues: A cow, a woman with a cow head, two horns/a half moon/a half-circle.
Holy site: Home shrines for many farmers, temples and shrines in many cities, villages, great temple in Ennem Salor.

  • Theft
  • Cheating (in love or otherwise)
  • Animal cruelty (outside of food production or sacrifice)
  • Honesty
  • Faithfulness


There are multiple ways of gaining Favour.


Favour can be gained by acting in accordance to your god’s Edicts. Edicts should be treated like Convictions. As Convictions are there to inspire roleplaying in an interesting way beyond alignment, so are Edicts. You won’t get a plus 1 Favour with the cattle goddess for every cow you pat on the head. You gain Favour for following an Edict when it is gameplay wise not optimal. In other words, you only gain Favour when you follow an Edict at the expense of “murderhobo” gameplay.


You can make a vow to your god at any time. Write your vow on your character sheet. 
As long as you maintain the vow, your Favour cannot be reduced to 0, always remaining at 1. If you break the vow, your favour is reduced by -2. 
A vow can be related to your deity’s portfolio, but it doesn’t have to. Think about it as a sacrifice of effort. A vow of silence, a vow of going barefeet, a vow of poverty, a vow of never killing... A vow that will work for almost all personal deities is a promise of sacrifice should the god grant you favour. If you fail to actually perform this sacrifice upon return to civilization, your favour is reduced by -2 and you have a 1-in-6 chance of being Cursed.


You can sacrifice to your god at any time. If you don’t want to design specific sacrificial customs for your deity, assume that a sacrifice is food, money, flowers, and incense, sacrificed by burning.
There are three levels of sacrifices: improvised, simple, and lavish. The levels relate to the value of the things sacrificed, and the amount of Favour gained. Offering a sacrifice at your deity’s central holy site gives an additional +1 favour.

  • Improvised sacrifice
    • Site required: improvised / portable altar
    • Cost: 1 gp
    • Favour gained: 1
  • Simple sacrifice
    • Site required: local holy site (shrine, temple, grove)
    • Cost: 5 gp
    • Favour gained: 2
  • Lavish sacrifice
    • Site required: big holy site (city temple)
    • Cost: 20 gp
    • Favour gained: 3


Most personal deities have holy sites: shrines, temples, and one central holy site. These are important for sacrifices to be effective. They also give a +1 bonus to the success rolls of prayers performed there. However, shed blood or break one of the deity’s Taboo’s on the holy site, and you will lose -3 favour and be Cursed instantly.

Part 2 - Religion for all classes

These are religious “abilities” any player can perform.


At any time, players can pray to one of their deities for help. They can only do this once a day, but don’t tell them. If a player prays for something, roll a d6. If the result is equal to or less than their Favour with that deity, it succeeds, and their Favour is reduced by 1. If the prayer is related to that deity’s portfolio, add a +1 to the dice threshold.
Prayer is limited in two important ways:
  • The players must require help. The prayer mechanic cannot be used frivolously.
  • This is not divine intervention, nor wish granting, nor a miracle. Rather, a succesful prayer is an invitation for you, the DM, to start thinking about a way to give your players a helping hand. An answered prayer should be indistinguishable from happy coincidence.


  • So, if a player prays to get out of a cave unharmed, maybe add a -2 to the amount of enemies in the next encounter.
  • If a player prays to get out of a cave they’re stuck in, give them a tiny bit of help: perhaps they find a partially scrawled map two rooms over, or perhaps they can feel fresh air rushing by in the next passage.
  • If a player purposefully prays for something impossible, like to turn into a dragon, or for the big bad lich to keel over dead, you can roll a dice, but just do nothing. If they keep doing stuff like that, cast the god’s Curse on them. 


Once a day, you can invoke your deity’s power for any combat roll. Roleplay your battle cry of shouting their names, perhaps. The DM rolls a d6. If the result is equal to or less than their Favour, the roll succeeds, consuming the Favour. You can add +3 to the combat damage or spell effectiveness. If the deity’s portfolio is related to the combat action (battle, archery, magic, trickery), add an additional +2.


You can pray for the healing of your teammates as much as you like during any fight. You must touch them to heal them. Roll a d6. If the roll is lower than your favour + their highest favour (for any god) + the party’s cleric’s favour (to maximum of +2), they are healed for 1d6. This consumes 1 Favour of the person healed. You can choose to add more d6, but for every d6 added, you consume 1 of your own Favour.


Curses are a negative type of divine action. Curses are cast by the deity, not by people. The best people can do is invoke them. Curses can only be invoked on characters with a favour below 1 by characters with a favour above 1. A requirement for curses to be invoked is that it be cast in response to a deep, personal wrong. 
Curses can be cast by anyone, including that farmer whose house the PC’s just set on fire.
To call down a curse, roll a d6. You roll against the others Favour, - 2. So if their Favour is -2 and yours is 3, you must roll below 5 - 2 = 3. This means that only a curse by a maximally favoured cleric versus a maximally despised criminal has a 100% success rate.
You cannot decide which curse will be cast.

Curses cannot be removed magically. Only by appeasing the god (raise your favour to maximum) or the party who invoked the curse can it be removed.

I suggest you make up a number of curses for your deity’s portfolio. This is work, so I’ll probably make a general “divine curses” table later. For my Hentenao, though:

  • Cow head
    • You have the head of a cow. You can speak, but your Charisma is halved, and people will treat you like a freak. You must eat grass for one hour everyday or suffer a -1 max HP reduction per day. (It isn’t very nutricious).
  • Cattle hatred
    • Cattle, if it sees you, will go crazy in an attempt to attack you.
  • Infertility
    • You are infertile. Not just biologically, but spiritually. Any incoming XP is halved. Every day, you misplace 5 coins of the most valuable coins you have. Nothing you do quite succeeds.
  • Cattle disease
    • You are cursed with a cattle disease. Your tongue becomes purple and swells up, boils rise out of your face. Any cattle you come near to will catch the disease and die. They’ll run you out of town if they don’t kill you.

Part 3 - GLOG Class: Cleric


Starting equipment: robes, pilgrim’s walking staff (+1 CONS, 1d6 damage, 2-handed), deity’s amulet

Your maximum Favour is equal to your amount of Cleric templates.

A: Dedicated, Of the Cloth, Investiture
B: Prayerful, Oracle, The Power Compels You
C: We’re on a mission from god, Consecrate
D: Miracle worker


As a cleric, you have dedicated yourself to one deity. You probably recognize other gods as real and often beneficial, but your god is the only one you need. You can only track your Favour with one god, but you get a +1 on any skill check related to that god’s portfolio.


You gain +1 Defense and +2 HP for every template in Cleric you possess, provided you wear no armour.
If your chosen deity has battle / war in their portfolio, you gain +1 Attack for every template in Cleric you possess, but only if you wear armor.


Given a medium to work with and an hour, you can carve an amulet or statuette of your deity. This amulet confers +1 Favour to whomever wears it for one day. You already have one. Brandishing the amulet gives you a 1d6 chance to repel creatures with harmful intent, effectively causing them Fear.


Your prayers are more potent than those of laymen. 
  • Your prayers need not be born of dire need to be answered.
  • You can pray as often as you like, not once daily.
  • Whereas the prayer of a layman may be answered in small ways, indistinguishable from chance, your prayers can be answered within the realms of what would be possible with a basic magic spell.
  • You do not need to speak aloud to pray. But if you roleplay your prayer, you get +1 on your prayer roll.
  • You may take half an hour daily to contemplate. Roll a d6. On a 1-3, your Favour is restored by 1.


You can ask your deity for a vision of any time. Gods do not speak in words. The wise way is to ask for guidance in a dream. Roll a d6. This consumes Favour.
Say we ask: where can we find the girl abducted by pirates?

  • d6 Under your Favour
    • A clear vision dream
      • A small flower blooms, caged in driftwood. The waves of the sea flow between trees, you hear the call of swamp birds and you smell the rotting bog. (In a camp in the swamps)
  • d6 On your Favour
    • A confusing vision dream
      • You hear the ocean and the creaking of wood, the wind rustling in the trees, frightened breathing and the smell of alcohol. (The ocean? Or the forest?)
  • d6 Above your Favour
    • An ordinary dream
      • The king has given you the keys of the city for cleaning up his room.

You can of course go to an oracle and ask them to do it. Pro’s: it’s always the clearest, doesn’t cost you favour. cons: it’s expensive and you’ll likely have to go to the central holy site.
If time sensitive you can also ask for a vision in waking life; you’ll need to focus and prepare for a few minutes. This vision works if you roll Under Favour or On Favour, but on On Favour you must make a save or suffer a seizure and lose 1 Wisdom. The voice of the gods is hard to bear.


You can banish hostile beings with your amulet. Roll Wisdom + Favour. Treat this as a Fear mechanic. If used on magically animated beings such as undead, or on incorporeal spirits, has a 1d6 chance of instantly dispelling 1d6 of them. Costs 1 Favour.


You’ve received a vision in which your god gives you a quest. It requires some interpretation (in other words, let players in on deciding the quest). From now on, you can overrule charisma or intimidation checks by saying “we’re on a mission from [deity]” once daily. Roll a d6 under your Favour to succeed. Complete your divine quest, and you will receive a permanent +1 to your prayer rolls.


Using your amulet and one substance from your deity’s shrine (water, sand, oil), you can consecrate objects and area’s. Consecrated objects are slightly more effective in whatever they do. Weapons or armour get a +1 to their stats when consecrated; +2 if used against evil magical beings. Consecrated area’s cannot be crossed by evil magical beings and have a 1d6 chance of repelling creatures of ill intent in general.


A miracle is an act of god, a shift in reality.
A miracle can only be asked for once in-between lavish sacrifices or retreats to holy sites. Roll one d6 for all your Favour points. 
If the total is above 9, the miracle occurs. (Depending on how crazy the request is, the DM can up this roll by up to 5.) Your favour is reset to 1. If the DM says the roll is more difficult than 9 and you decide to go along with it, any double numbers rolled means that your maximum Favour is permanently lowered by 1.
If the total is below 9, the request is treated as an answered prayer. This consumes 1 favour.
A miracle can also occur spontaneously, when a cleric or the party is near death. This costs nothing but can occur only once, ever.

A miracle is extremely powerful magic. But there are limits. A fist-rule about miracles is that they should be *occurences*. A cleric can’t ask to be miraculously immortal, unless he ask it for just one day. A second rule about miracles is that they can’t effect an area larger than a city.


For impersonal forces comparable to the Tao, the Dharma, or the Maat, create Taboos and Edicts just the same.
You can still have holy sites as well as sacrifices, but see these as a way to balance your position within the Tao/Dharma/Maat.
Instead of “favour”, the cleric of the impersonal force has “attunement”. Attunement can only go up to 2, but it is not expended by prayer or other uses.
Instead of “prayer”, the cleric of the impersonal force tries to meditate and contemplate to more clearly allow the impersonal force to flow through her, to become closer to it. In doing so, a solution offers itself. In other words, the DM offers a way to solve the problem in response to the meditation.
The cleric of the impersonal force loses attunement if they lose their calm. If the cleric does act and roleplay calmness in their actions, they get a bonus to their stat rolls equal to their attunement.


  1. This is amazing; thank you. You've given me a way to begin to address something that's always bothered me about all my games, but for which I hadn't even begun to conceive of a solution. This is going right in my binder and will be an integral part of my next campaign.

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