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.