Thursday, September 15, 2011

To Train A Cleric

Yesterday I was asked how one would help a zero level NPC attached to the player party become a cleric.  Given that the NPC has the necessary stats, it should be possible.  I've never sat down and worked out rules for it, however.  I like to view my game as a court of law: once a ruling has been made on a given subject, that ruling now sets a precedent, which although it can be struck down, remains in force.  As such, I don't like to rush into making rulings like this.  In addition, I like the rulings I make to fit very well with the structure of the game I have created thus far.

Let's consider, then, what it takes to become a cleric, or indeed any kind of leveled person.  At the outset, let me dismiss the amazing pile of stinking feces that make up the experience advancement tables in the Dungeon Master's Guide, and let us start fresh.

Taking the simplest character class, the fighter, I can say I have had NPC's advance from zero-level to first level in my world before.  This has always occurred in the case of a man-at-arms attached to the party who has managed to survive some terrific encounter, who has dealt and suffered damage, and who has gained a fair bit of plunder as a result.  I've generally set a established measure of 1,000 x.p., making the difference between being a zero level and being a 'veteran.'

But there are certain things implied here. The man-at-arms is assumed to have had weapons training already, and to be familiar with a number of weapons.  They are also assumed in my world to have 4-7 hit points as a man-at-arms (as per the DMG), along with their mass hit points total, whatever that may be.  Thus, the zero level human man-at-arms, before becoming a first-level fighter, already has weapon skills and between 5-15 hit points.  The primary change is the 'to hit' table, and this is something that changes as a result of experience all the time.  As well, arguably, the man-at-arms method should be a common way of becoming a first-level fighter.

(I am very well aware that yesterday I said a first-level would have no experience whatsoever, so this appears to fly in the face of that.  However, I would argue that player characters do not become first-level fighters by playing as zero-level men-at-arms first ... though I suppose I could make the concession if they wanted to give it a try.  Player characters in my world, however, are generally assumed to have become first level through training, and not through experience, so what I said yesterday still stands.  This will become clearer as we get into the subject of training)

Very well, then, how does an ordinary person become a man-at-arms?

Allow me to return to a post I wrote back in May of last year.  In this post I proposed that the stats of a born individual would increase from year to year, so that children would be weaker, less intelligent, less wise and so on, advancing as they aged.  I also made the following argument:

"I believe that, past a certain age, one's ability scores would only increase through schooling ... and not naturally, as suggested above. The cut off date would be, I believe, the age of 10. And at that age, I would propose an additional -1 modifier to the gained ability stats ... so that at [the age of]10 without formal education, the total added would be 2d4 -2. This would make an overall average of 7 + 32 (4 x8 years) + 3 ... or 42. This is the same average that would be achieved by six rolls of 2d6 each."

I then go on to talk about levels of status and so on, but here let me change the discourse and talk about the schooling mentioned.

It's presupposed that with an additional five years of schooling, adding 2d4-1 to the individual stats each year, by the age of 15 the average for all six ability scores would be 63 ... which is the combined average of 18d6, or 3d6 per attribute.  Extraordinarily special students would roll high each year of their schooling, and would have those 'rolls' channeled into strength or wisdom or charisma, depending on what class was desired.  Thus fighter training would tend to move the stats 'randomly' into one ability more often than another.  This is much easier to understand if you're already familiar with the other post.

As it happens, the age of a first-level human fighter is 14+1d4.  To my mind, the die roll does not determine the amount of training the fighter receives, but rather the amount of distraction from that training.  Thus, a first-level fighter who is 15 years old would have been completely focused, while a first-level fighter who reached level at 18 would have spent 3 years at other things ... taking care of their sick mother, for instance.

This explains why other races tend to be older than humans ... though truth be told I don't use the long, long lifespans of non-human races described in the DMG.  I prefered to compress them down to what those lifespans would be in human terms.  Thus the elf is aged 15+1d4, the halfling is aged 17+1d4 and the half-orc is aged 25+1d6.  This is not because is takes longer to train a half-orc than a human, but because half-orcs tend to lead rowdy, irresponsible lives in their youth, and don't settle down to take training seriously until they're in their early 20s (remember, it still takes five years).  Elves and halflings have social obligations which humans don't have, which slows down their training schedules.  And so on.

We can use as a standard the lowest possible age for each class in order to establish the actual amount of time necessary to 'train' for that class.  As it happens, if you compress the number of years for a high elf in the DMG down to a human lifespan, you find that the youngest possible age for an elven thief is 8 years old.  I played this for a few years, having the occasional child, aka Artful Dodger, running in my world, but it was forever problematic and players couldn't get 'into' the character very well.  I jumped the base age for an elven thief by five years and added another d4 many years ago (12+2d4), so that the youngest they can start is now 14.  This keeps in better with the overall game, and certainly with the overall age system as it stands.  And now thinking in terms of training (seriously, this has come into my noggin only in the last 24 hours), this would mean an elven thief has the ability to concentrate on the task and become a level in just four years.  A human, however, takes 9 to 12 years (age 18+1d4).  The gentle reader can see, therefore, how this comes together.

Let's take the cleric, then, though truth be told we could probably write a post about each class from this point out, excepting the fighter which is easy enough.  According to our charts, a human cleric starts at an age of 20+1d4, or from 21 to 24 years of age.  This makes the actual curriculum one of 11 years, and begs the question, what is it that happens in this time?

First of all, a proper liberal education in the secular and non-secular elements of the religion in question.  This is the sort of thing schoolboys would be taught by a 17th century Deacon, or schoolmaster, which in my world I usually judge to be a 2nd level cleric.  This would account for the first five years, I think; so that while a fighter passes through all of their training, the cleric is just finishing with the classroom.

At 16 the would-be cleric heads for a seminary, where he or she then spends two to four years in rigorous public speaking and spiritual training ... and the next two to four years after that is the truly critical time in the cleric's coming of power.

For it occurred to me yesterday that even if an NPC has the necessary stats, and even the will to become a cleric, this doesn't mean they will make the cut.  Even if they succeed in their seminary training, this still doesn't make them a cleric.

Consider: what does it take to be a religious leader in today's world?  Almost nothing, really, if the evangels have anything to say about it.  A will to lie, to spew out the same 18 bible verses ad nauseum, to have a smattering of religious comprehension and to have lots and lots of personal charisma.   But you don't actually have to do anything to prove you have the 'true faith,' yes?  Any would-be religious leader can simply start forth, make claims and go for the status upgrade ... and many do.

But a D&D cleric can't get away with that.  The would-be charlatans would find themselves at some point compelled to produce a bit of magic to justify their religious positions ... which would be difficult for a fighter or a thief.  And the manner in which clerics get their magic means that no matter how much earthly training the would-be cleric has, they've got to be accepted by their god first.

We can posit, therefore, that the cleric passes out of the seminary, then steps off for a bit of spiritual contemplation - possibly to a monastery, or into the wilderness, or upon a mission. In the last case, obviously not as the missionary, since they have not yet obtained the necessary ability to convince the natives of their religious potency.  They could be an assistant, however ... and hopefully awake with a vision and find themselves suddenly blessed, for the first time, with the ability to cast a spell.  They've been trained for the moment, the moment has been explained in regards to how it would manifest, and of course the moment itself would come with enlightenment.  What a moment that would be for a cleric.

Of course, this means that not every cleric would actually need full seminary training ... if the god felt they were good to go, they would be.  But in general the seminary training would be seen as something useful and practical, to bring the cleric into the ranks of the religious organization if nothing else.

This brought to mind a problem yesterday that I think I can solve.  The cleric obviously can't reasonably be expected to cast spells in the midst of the church ceremony, to wow the parishioners ... and in any case this seems inconvenient if the cleric needs those spells after weekly services.  Not every spell has a physical manifestation, either ... so what does a cleric in my world do, when they can't change their spells from day to day?

I take note that of the ceremonies proposed in the Unearthed Arcana, there is one missing.  The ceremonies in that book (coming of age, investiture, consecration and so on) were meant to be part of a spell the cleric chose, but that seemed stupid.  What cleric can't perform a ceremony?  Obviously a cleric should be able to baptise, or consecrate ground, or bury someone ... and that shouldn't be a spell, even if it might have some magical effect.  If a paladin can heal a disease once a week, a cleric ought to be able to carry forth a ceremony without it needing the be a spell.  The same ought to stand for the druid.

But the one missing ceremony from the list is the most important one: the Mass itself.  A cleric stands at the head of the temple and church and leads his or her flock in prayer.  Of any other element of the cleric's life has influence over would be followers, this ought to be KEY ... and given what I've said already about charlatans and fakers to the clerical field, the mass ought to show a manifestation that proves religious potency, and it ought to have some measurable effect upon the congregation.  AND it ought to have a increased effect with the level of the cleric.

I haven't quite got a proposition yet (I only came up with this yesterday).  This would usually mean a lot of really stupid suggestions from the less bright readers of the blog, who will make propositions based on D&D and RPG video games without having the slightest idea of what a religious service entails - or probably ever having attended one.  Me, I've attended hundreds and hundreds of services, in the Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic religions, and I have a deep background in religious studies ... so the fact that I haven't thought of something yet isn't an invitation for a lot of lay people to pipe up.  Obviously, if someone who actually knows a great deal about a ceremony-heavy religion (Christian, Islamic or Eastern, I'm not particular), then chime in with something useful.  Mostly, it ought to give A) a brief effect, no more than an hour, after the ceremony is completed; B) it ought to affect a lot of people if the cleric is high level; and C) it ought to have no relationship to existing clerical spells, such as bless or aid ... and should indeed not be as powerful as a clerical spell.  Though it could probably raise the crowd's morale, encourage them to stand fast in the face of the enemy, push them to give a little more money to the collect and so on.

If we step back to our post-seminary, not-quite-cleric wannabe, consider how the mass itself might be the first proof of religious integrity.  This fits with the first experience of many a post-seminary religious leader ... the first adventure at the head of the flock, giving the first of many thousands of sermons, and hoping it pans well.  Perhaps the podium glows; perhaps the room warms a bit, or the candlelight brightens.  Perhaps the cleric's feet rise an inch or so from the floor as the power overcomes them.  Perhaps a member of the audience, a la Blues Brothers, breaks out into spontaneous celebration.  James Brown would be a mighty powerful minister if the film were the manifestation of that particular cleric's mass.  Perhaps even the same effect may not apply to all priests, even in the same religion.

Consider the effects upon the seminary, as an individual is clapped on the back, reassured that the gods are surely on their side and that the first spells will undoubtably be coming soon to their minds during the morning's prayer.  Oh, what a glorious day that will be for you, brother!

And let's take another step back and look at the question of bringing an NPC to the clerical level.

First, I think to some degree the early five years of training, the ones the cleric gets as an older boy, can be gained by some measure through a lifetime of taking part in a church.  These things are obtained with experience ... and five years of real life could equal one year of a Deacon's tutelage.  Moreover, the remaining schooling could be crammed into a smaller time period, as the older NPC could be expected to be more focused than a 12 to 14 year old child (yes, yes, I know, a 13-year-old was considered a man and all that - stow it!) ... perhaps in half or a third of the time.  Therefore, in the case of Emmanuel, who is the zero-level NPC that started this line of inquiry, he is 25 years old and has a bent for public speaking.  He was haranguing about the upper classes the first day he was met by the party.  His 15 years since age 10 as a regular church goer stands in for 3 years of schooling, and the last two could be crammed into a period of say 8 months (a third of two years).

Following that, he would have to attend a seminary somewhere, or at the very least take full-time training under a personal tutelage of at least a 4th level cleric.  That level isn't arbitrary ... it takes a 4th level to cast investiture, which is the spell that defines a person as being knowledgeable enough to BE a cleric.  Under personal tutelage, two years training would be enough (focusing on training would be more focused), but in a seminary it would depend upon Emmanuel's drive.  He could also flunk out, obviously, either with one-on-one training or otherwise, even if he really, really wanted to be a cleric.  If he did not, and finished his training, there would still be the question of his being accepted by the god - in this case, the Roman Catholic god.  And that could take anywhere from a day to four years ... if it were to happen at all.

So, not an easy thing, and not something that can simply be gained by experience, like a fighter.  But then magic is complicated.


James C. said...

Thoughtful and thought-provoking and as a player, very acceptable.

As for the effects of the mass... great idea, and its one I stumbled upon myself sometime back but never attacked with any vigor when playing Andrej in the online campaign. Andrej would simply as others to pray with him and I left it at that. When appropriate he would uses his burial ceremony... but what I really wanted him to perform was a mass. Some tangible but not necessarily gamey indication that he was somehtign other than a mediocre fighter with healing skills.

Impact of the mass? Aside from visible proof of the "magic" of the moment, which I think you're already on to, I'd recommend that the faithful watching it should more susceptible to a specific suggestion in the form of a sermon or speech given in conjunction with the official mass. "Give more money"... "be kinder to your neighbors"... "kill the infidels". This is not akin per se to the suggestion spell, perhaps, but rather some card or bonus to play in your IMech system. The priest has this card when giving a mass. Further, the morale of those effected could be higher when carrying out this task.

Alexis said...

Ah, James, you remind me of the film The Man Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain ... that's quite good. Better than morale, it's motivation.

Now how to measure it?

James C. said...

I wouldn't re-invent the wheel. I would and will probably re-review the Conflict! rules and offer a suggestion related to that. I set them aside when I set my home campaign aside, only play-testing them briefly with one player and never getting them out onto my table. When we resume early next year sometime they'll be in use.

Silvius Volundr said...

Really good post.

Your Mass ceremony suggestions make a lot of sense for the Judeo-Christian religions, particularly the Charm aspect.

Just to take a slightly different angle at this, I will so something i have vowed not to do and that is bring up my own religion (albeit briefly). I am Buddhist and have attended all sorts of ceremonies, some of which resemble Catholic masses.

The "effect", as it were, leaves one highly introspective, and to dumb this down into gaming terms, can result in gained wisdom- even if temporary.

Translation: correct execution of particular "mass" equals +1 increase of "parishioners" WIS.

Just a thought for your character generation tables...

Alexis said...

That is a pretty sensible suggestion as well, Silvius, and worth considering. Perhaps it and the motivation idea from James could be somehow linked together: greater wisdom makes you want to do religion-appropriate things.

No worries about bringing up your religion; I am well versed in Buddhism, understand it, familiar with quite a number of Buddhists and am not threatened by it. I'm the sort of scholar who, while not being religious, recognizes that the world and culture is mostly fashioned from religion, and that is it therefore something worthy of studying and in which to acquire an interest.

Alexis said...

Unlike grammar, which I have clearly abandoned.

Silvius Volundr said...

Theological Sociology. Not sure if that is grammatically correct either.

Wickedmurph said...

Perhaps one of 2 possible effects - either a +1 bonus to Wisdom checks for a specific time period (Priests in D&D are by definition wise, and many religious sermons I've heard seemed to try and enhance the wisdom of the listeners by relating teachings from scripture).

Or a temporary +2 reaction bonus for members of the same religion - loving thy neighbor, as it were.

That basic structure would probably work for most religions - general benefits for worshipers who regularly attend mass, and enhanced solidarity between worshipers of the religion.

More specific benefits of certain "transcendent" rituals like Sama for Sufi's would be available mostly to Clerics themselves, and determines based on the nature of the ritual.

James C. said...

Good food for thought, and there's room for plenty of interpretations and I don't want to turn a discussion ongame mechanics into one something so personal as a religious discussion. But... a WIS bonus would not necessarily be consistent with some of the darker or more absurd aspects of religion. How would a parishioner's higher wisdom nudge them to build a cairn on a hill to call it a mountain or to march on Jerusalem or bomb airplanes? I think any meaningful and game-able rules for religion must recognize that it's not all about enlightenment and transcendence.

Let me once again stress, I'm not here to engage anybody on the merits or negative aspects of belief systems... rather, what will make playing a belief system a deep, fun and satisfying part of the game.

Silvius Volundr said...

James, if some of your religious discussion comment was directed my way, not to worry; I'm not sensitive about it at all.

As to the effect of the mass, I submitted that as one possible outcome depending on the deity or cleric responsible for the mass.

I was imagining one of Alexis' tables for PC/NPC creation and was attempting to offer quantifiable content for something other than a Christian religion.

Your point is a good one though, in addition to being more interesting of an effect from a gaming standpoint.

P.S. what did the Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?

Beedo said...

Just a minor nit about the gaining of 1st level spells - if you're using the AD&D DMG as I suspect,the guideline is that the casting of 3rd and higher level spells are granted by the supernatural agents of the deity; the 1st and 2nd level spells are granted by the clerical training and background (dmg39). It doesn't change your thesis around study and development time one bit, but does open the door for limiting the power of NPC clerics that don't have the faith or confidence of the divine to allow the casting of higher spells.

I really like the idea of a "limited suggestion" effect coming out of a mass, as it would be universally applicable - the peacenik worshippers would be more peacable, the warmongers more warlike, the goddess of love followers more... hey, where's that temple again?

Alexis said...

Yes Beedo, there are many things I ignore in the DMG.

James C. said...

Not so much you Sean, though I did want to reassure that I wasn't attacking you, but more so somebody else wandering through. I was trying to be proactive in seeing that the thread didn't get hijacked based on a misinterpretation of my point.

Silvius Volundr said...

I see your point, James.

p.s. "make me one with everything"

...I will be here all week.

Baron Opal said...

Part of the worship service is to instruct the faithful and to reinforce the community of faith. So, if a worship service is successful, the flock would have an increased sense of those in their community and the direction the priest would want them to go.

This could manifest in a +1 reaction bonus among others in the community, even a further +1 if the direction of the sermon is being considered. That may be too much, however, if you are using the 2d6 reaction table.

You even have a breakpoint where opposing forces could interrupt the ceremony. The priest delivers the sermon and the act of sharing the bread and wine "seals the deal", so to speak. The psychic uplift of Communion proves the worth of the message as well as being the lynch pin that outsiders can disrupt.

David R said...

I like the +1 wisdom for an hour. It's just enough some number of participants could settle some personal problem or quarrel in that time.

My thought was one extra saving throw against any ongoing disease or curse. Though that runs up against being as powerful as spells. Maybe start it at a hefty penalty but add the cleric's level as an offset.

Ben Brooks said...

Alexis, why not allow some charlatans with extraordinary charisma a very short term buff to the mark in question? Fakers and con-men have always found a way to prove they're 'real' to believers. Even today we've got people selling magnetic bracelets that people swear increase their circulation. Mind having the power to influence the body and all that.

Credulity could just as easily apply to larger things. I mean, in a world where magic and godly intervention is a proven fact how why wouldn't someone believe that the 100% guaranteed blessed ankle bone they just bought keeps the orcs from invading? They don't know it's doesn't and they're not going to knock it unless they know for sure it doesn't work; and even then they could find a scape goat.

What does a peasant know about magic and gods anyway?

David R: "My thought was one extra saving throw against any ongoing disease or curse. Though that runs up against being as powerful as spells. Maybe start it at a hefty penalty but add the cleric's level as an offset."

Depends on how you run diseases and curses I guess. Those would most often be longer term concerns, not just the result of one save.

On the other hand imagine the benefit to a society even for just a +1 versus illness over the winter season. Of course if rulers figure such out you'd wonder if they wouldn't try to "game" it by putting archbishops in a countries most productive resource gathering areas.

It would also probably accelerate the growth of cities as it would negate or lessen the effects of living before proper sanitary conditions.

You could also imagine different effects depending on the god or even a particular legendary saint. Like having various cities dedicated to superior tool, weapon, and armor production under the influence of a high level priest of Hephaestus or some other smithy god. Merchants who haggle better, higher quality wine from the locality, and so on. Though that would most likely be very rare and a very high level cleric, or group of them.

Ben Brooks said...

Also: What about those who come to power by some miraculous event? Like say Joan of Arc or Muhammed and the galaxies of Catholic saints? Would you consider them having levels of cleric?

And on the subject of religion, but quite off topic. What do you think of a powerful character or ruler who isn't a cleric getting the benefit of some high level clerical or druidic spell by say devoting victory in a pivotal battle to a god or gods?

In actual history it was always retroactive propaganda of some sort or other, and there's a danger of making it abusable or too much DM fiat. But you'd kind of expect it in a game where gods had enough influence to have little divine power batteries running around.

Alexis said...

"Hey, you d'guy wit' da bless'd ankle bone?"

Skittering as charlatan tries to hurry away.

"Ya, dat's da guy. Grab 'em, Charlie."


"What'cha say, Paul? Is he legit?"

"No. I detect no magic on this person."

"Ya, figgur'd. Gut 'em Charlie."

And that's about as long as a charlatan would last. In the modern world the church does not go around hunting and killing fakes because they haven't got proof of their own legitimacy. But in a D&D world, there'd be no reason to tolerate these people for five minutes. There are too many spells capable of exposing them, and it would be too easy for someone in the crowd to detect a lie or the lack of magic or some other element that exposed the faker.

Point in fact, Joan of Arc would definitely have been a Paladin. But of course the god can choose his prophet; I did make the point in the post that the seminary wasn't actually necessary for the magic, didn't I?

I have explained how gods work in my world. Check it out.

Ben Brooks said...

I believe you've also said magic is somewhat rare and hoarded by the wealthy and powerful. So while what you said might be the case in certain places, there would still be large areas of the world were there was no such magical lie detection or too many people inclined to bother. At least until the grifter in question is far away.

And I'm sure there's always going to be someone willing to risk the wrath of a god just to survive.

Dan K said...

A good mass is like a good narrative, it should build up tension in the congregation which is released at the high point of the service releasing a sense of euphoria - the magic of the moment as James rightly put it. To achieve that effect there are many things the minister has to do in order to satisfy the rites and his audience, all of which might effect them in different ways.

To this end a cleric could perhaps have several tasks which they would have to preform in order to fully satisfy their flock: The correct performance of the rituals, the delivery of a sermon or recitation of a martyrs life, ending in a healing or in a very important service a battle with and exorcism of a demoniac. All of which are aimed at confirming his spiritual authority and the presence of the god in the community.

Effects would then depend on the events of the mass and also the nature of the god being worshipped. Sorry I don't know the mechanics well enough to place those concepts in game terms. The way I see it though a really important mass has enough going on for it to be a story arc in its own right rather than a way of gaining basic advantages.