Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Cleric's Choice And The Paladin's Dilemma

I did eventually settle on a solution for resurrection and raise dead, in answer to the problems presented in this post.   Rather than ban either spell, impose restrictions on their use, impose penalties on the players or any of the other suggestions, I went an entirely different route and lowered the cost of the spells.  This was, after all, my actual problem - that players would be able to make hordes of money by sitting on their butts casting their new raise dead spell at 9th level.  I did not actually have any problem whatsoever with the presence or benefit of the spell.

While lowering the cost does mean that the players do not need to give an arm and a leg to get raised (which was actually one literal suggestion), the overall availability of raise dead means that unless the party happens to be in a fairly heavily populated area, chances are the spell won't be available.  Not because a cleric won't give it, but because there is no cleric of sufficient level around.

Once, when running a party 20 years ago, they found themselves in the Caribbean after numerous adventures, a major character died and there was no civilization at all.  Nor was it likely they were going to be returning to Europe any time soon.  So the party carefully cleaned up the character's skull of meaty bits, mounted it on a staff and had the cleric carry it around for the next eight months of real time (I was running once/week, so about 30 gaming sessions) before it could be resurrected.  They paid heftily, and the player succeeded at his resurrection survival roll.  Good times.

Anyway, for me, the problem is solved.  A lot of the time the party won't find a cleric in raise dead's time frame, and pay more for the higher spell ... and meanwhile, they themselves won't produce a 16th level cleric for some time.

It occurs to me that a 16th level cleric is such a rare thing in my world that the pressure to use the spell upon only worthy people will be very great.  I do impose a rule that you must be of the cleric's religion gain the benefit of certain clerical spells, but not for healing spells: cure light wounds, remove paralysis, remove blindness, dispel magic, cure serious wounds, neutralize poison, raise dead, restoration, heal, resurrection and so on ... any spell, in fact, that does not require the recipient to believe anything.  The reverse of all these spells work on non-believers ... why not the good as well?

Where faith matters happens when the spell requires a belief from the recipient.  Bless, for example, gives a +1 to hit as a matter of believing the bless has effect.  The same goes for chant or prayerAid, which is not a healing spell, but the addition of extra hit points, is also a blessing, as is any spell that empowers a recipient.  Atonement requires a willingness to believe.

Others might interpret the spells differently, but I'm not concerned with that; this is how I do it in my world.

Where it really makes a difference in day-to-day affairs is the party's paladin.  The 10' radius protection, and the lay-on hands, only extends to those who are the same religion as the paladin - i.e., have formally been baptised or otherwise indoctrinated into the religion.  And once your player has been, there is a certain responsibility put on the player - cleric and non-cleric alike - in return for that bonus 2 AC (or any other benefit).

(Yes, I do require the same religion for the paladin to heal ... it is a different kind of healing, and does require faith)

Now, it so happens that I am running a mage in my daughter's world, who is about to become 3rd level.  I am looking forward to 5th, when I will receive a henchmen - she plays the same rules as me.  And it is my plan to roll a cleric.

The party is divided, religiously.  The paladin and the druid in the party are Celtic.  The fighter, thief and illusionist are Roman Catholic.  I am the only undeclared member.

The player who runs the paladin rolled a spectacular character: four 17s.  Strength, Constitution, Dexterity and Charisma ... with high rolls for Intelligence and Wisdom besides.  He is a formidable powerhouse, and is now moving steadily towards fourth level.  If I play the sort of cleric I plan to play, namely an aggressive authoritarian with delusions of divine infallibility, and I pick Roman Catholic, the paladin and my cleric will eventually go toe-to-toe.  Which is fine, the cleric only has to endure for two or three rounds for my mage to rip the paladin a new asshole.  (of course, he's reading this right now and wondering if he should let my mage live to be 3rd).

Alternately, I could choose to be Celtic.  This, I think, could be very interesting, because it provides my character with some immunity regarding the paladin.  Gods do not look with great love upon paladins who destroy clerics of their own religion.  Kill me, and be a fighter forever.

Of course, this all depends on how thoroughly I play the cleric character.  I feel I have a good sense for the dramatic, the screaming of "For Manannan!" as I crush skulls with my mace, the gentle influence of giving alms to hundreds as I enter towns, the patient assassination of hated catholic clerics and the steady anarchy I encourage by converting not the resident humans, but the dispossessed orcs and half-orcs of the nearby hills.  After all, Celtic gods are less preachy about racial purity.  It might be interesting to have the paladin not as an enemy, but as a puppet, dancing on my string of religious agenda, marching ahead of said wretched denizens of the dark to destroy a hated Gothic church.

Mwah hah hah.

And once again, the paladin is reading this, wondering if I should be allowed to live.  But this post is really only written for his benefit.  There are things a paladin must contend with, and annoying, pious clerics are the worst.


Anthony said...

How did you lower the cost? Strictly in terms of gold coin or did you move the actual spell level?

Alexis said...

I reduced the base cost for all spells ... remembering that the base cost is determined by my trade tables, as a reflection of the amount of trade located in a particular town, which is calculated as all my trade commodities are calculated. One trade reference is equal in value to one gold reference ... so if a town is labeled a 'market' by my sources, then that is one trade reference.

Typically, a town in the heart of Europe will have fifty trade references (reflected in local and outside trade interests), designating about 100,000 oz. gold in floating capital. This is then broken down according to the number of clerics and the level of cleric to get the price of the spell; because of the mercantalist ideal, the less floating capital, the less likelihood that there is a cleric operating in the area and therefore the more expensive the spell.

The tendency is to think that less floating capital means things are cheaper, but floating capital does not include all GDP ... and that's where the supply argument falls down.

Sorry you asked?

Kaspars said...

How come all the clerics aren’t busy resurrecting important people like dukes and bishops? And if there is enough capable clerics, knights, guild masters and so on would come before some wandering swords-for-hire (what low level PCs basically are).
I would think there would be a great demand for these spells. Prices would either go through the roof or some organization would put restrictions on it.

Alexis said...


They are. But if a kingdom like Norway and Denmark has one million people (and it does, according to today's earlier post), then according to the table I posted here, that's 12,641 clerics, which, according to the table I posted here, would include 56 clerics of 9th level or better. That's a total of 20,940 raise dead spells per year. As well, applying the above two links, there's a 73% chance of a cleric of 16th level or higher, who if he existed could bestow 365 resurrection spells per year.

How many nobles are dying every year?

It isn't that I don't love you all weighing in, but my world is not the equivalent of a random posing of a question. I have hard statistics which I have developed to determine answers to these questions which are not based on pulling it out of my ass. I have been posting these calculations and reasoning out how the calculations were arrived at for two-and-a-half years. Those other posts have arguments presented, but for my money it is lovely that I don't have to guess, I don't have to wonder. I don't have to repeat, "if, if, if" over and over. I have data.

Zzarchov said...

At first I wondered how a spell like "Resurrect" could even have a cost. If you had such an ability in this day and age you could charge anything you wish, even in D&D the travel distances means one can't shop around, it is very much a monopoly ("do you want your child to live or not? Give me everything you got and a roll in the hay with your wife and daughter at the same time or he stays dead").

But then there is the counter: Would there be such a fear of death if it was a scientific and incontrovertable fact that heaven and hell and the like existed (ie, plane shift). "Ressurrect me? why would I want to leave heaven, I died on the crusades and I intend to STAY in paradise thank you very much"

Alexis said...

HAH! Brilliant, Zzarchov!

Could change the meaning of DNR.

Oddbit said...

I've had characters refuse a raise before. Usually due to background info. Orphans who went adventuring for vengance are suddenly reunited with their family... hrm... vengance seems pretty hard right now compared to being with these people I care about.

Anonymous said...

And hence we veer into the behavioral end of the economics pool.

The availability and cost of raising dead has long vexed me as a DM. My best and last word on the matter was that the spell was known and generally made available to those able to pay the price. The catch was the caster needed to commit a soul to replace the one being brought back from the afterlife. The gods, afterall, exact their price as well.

One might think this put the matter out of reach for the players. Indeed not. Many, many disadvantaged families or orphanages would willingly offer up the souls of a less-needed individuals for the amount of money a reasonably successful adventuring party can muster. This is, in fact, much of the cost of the spell.

When faced with the choice, the player in question decided to simply roll up another character. It was an exceptionally worthwhile bit of role playing. I didn't even have to make the party squirm through a visit to the orphanage to pick out their comrade's replacement.

It introduces the opportunity to inject some real dystopian themes into the game that I myself haven't yet pursued deeply, but will someday. Imagine an elderly or sickly king kept alive by the souls of unfortunate street urchins?

Alexis said...

In the game, I'm too much like a character from Reservoir Dogs to get squirmy about sacrificing someone else's life. I need a soul?

*nab* *gurk, kaff, gurg!*

Will this little snot do?

Anonymous said...

Here, here!

My party is half and half on the moral/ amoral spectrum. Luckily for the orphans of Valinport, it was the morals who did the deciding and the amorals who were more or less occupied with divvying up the dead character's possessions. The character was only 3rd level, though, so perhaps in a few more months...

Anonymous said...

Hey, not all the characters in Reservoir Dogs were casual about killing anyone; though I guess any of them would be able to find someone they'd happily trade.

How'd that exchange go?
"Did you kill anyone on the way out?"
"A few cops."
"No real people?"