Since I am working on the cleric class, tweaking and adjusting the elements of the class within my game, I find myself faced one more with the question, one that came up before on this blog (not that I can find the post).
What effect does a cleric's preaching have?
There certainly should be an effect. A cleric preaching to a crowd is a highly symbolic act, one which defines the very nature of clericism - the pronouncement of 'truth,' carrying it to the people so that they may hear the spoken word, this is definitive. The word is the embodiment of the cleric's religion; the practice of speaking it is an exhibition of bravery and resolution, the statement that say "This I believe, and that belief shall not be hidden!"
Many of us believe things; we secretly hold something to be true, but we dare not say that thing out loud for fear that it will lose us friends, respect, even our jobs or our freedom. The boss is an idiot. I do not love my wife. I wish my best friend would stop going with that bitch/bastard. When a cleric stands up and says, "I believe in an invisible force that says YOU must live your life differently," this takes guts. An audience may not like it. Prostelytizers have been killed before.
So somehow, the power of sermonizing must embody these characteristics. It must be empowering; it must influence; it must be something practical for the cleric to do, but it should be something potentially dangerous, too. It must be useful. It must be practical. And while it can be magical, it can't step on pre-existing magic.
For many campaigns, the problem is already solved by the enthrall spell. When a cleric wishes to sermonize, he or she need only employ this spell:
"Enchants creatures who fail to make save vs. magic. Creatures less than 4 hit dice suffer a –4 penalty to their saving throws. Creatures that are neither human nor demi-human enjoy a +4 modifier to their saving throw. The cleric’s charisma is temporarily raised to 21. Listeners who fail their save will, in any event, continue to listen so long as the cleric continues speaking."
Somehow, this doesn't suit me. To begin with, I don't allow my clerics to change their spells from day to day - which is my means of reducing the power of spellcasting (damn, can't find that post either). Briefly explained, you pick your spells and those are your spells. No changing.
It's a cheap fix anyway. People don't get up and walk out of a temple when the priest starts speaking. It isn't a "saving throw" problem. The cleric ought to be able to affect everyone, but to a much lesser degree ... so that, in a slightly upgraded manner, people still leave the church or the circle feeling enlightened, invigorated ... and even intrigued with some matter about their lives.
It's difficult to manage a magical effect in D&D that isn't bold and forthright. Magic missile ... now that is simple. Bang, hits automatically, causes damage. No gray areas. How do you run a magical effect that "enlightens" but does not flat out affect the listener like a suggestion spell?
I've been building a straw man here, because the answer is actually easy.
D&D has so many ways to moderately push the numbers that there's always something that can be done. Another problem I've been working on has been the 'sage abilities,' which I think I mentioned last week ... but if I forgot, here's a link to what they've been for about three years.
I am enormously unhappy with these - primarily because of the lack of use players have put them to. The mage in the online campaign, played by 'Lukas' or Oddbit as he is called, has employed his architecture knowledge a fair bit; everyone who has taken "beasts" in the cleric list has definitely made use of that to know more about what's attacking them. There has been dabbling on a few other topics. But its not giving the guts I need to make the talents work, and I know that's because they're far too vague. My fault, not the player's.
So I am working through the lists to make them more concrete, which I know is going to be a year-long job, requiring a lot of brain hemorrages and imaginative effort. Mostly, I'm looking to enhance these things so that they can be played very simply. A set % per level chance at success, and very definite results that can be expected, which offer a wide range of talents and abilities - even some magic.
For example, a knowledge of Aesthetics, knowing better how performance and art has the potential to influence, could mean moderately greater effects for some spells (duration, area of effect, range), or an improvement in the use of physical tools ranging from weapons to mountain climbing equipment, or an increase in the value of property and equipment.
Let's break down Metaphysics ... which, if there was ever a topic that seemed impractical for a D&D player, this would seem to be it. But metaphysics is, after all, a greater comprehension of reality, and how to live within that reality. So we can presume that an advanced knowledge of "reality" might offer the following special abilities (still limited by a set % chance of success per level of the character):
Perception: a deeper comprehension of the nature of time enables the player to grasp more deeply its passage, so that if the % is rolled, time can be slowed so that the player is able to experience two rounds where others would only experience one - however, this can only be accomplished for a limited period, so long as the % is rolled and no more than 5 (possibly 10, needs gameplay) 'rounds' per day.
An alternate to the above would be to shorten distances to be crossed by half, so that while time remains the same players are able to step two spaces where they were ordinarily move one. Another alternate might be that the player could perceive distances visually, so that their vision was magnified 30x (equivalent of binoculars).
Asceticism: The body's natural functions can be overcome so that the player would be less dependent upon food or sleep, reducing the requirement for either by 50%, with this having no effect upon the player's combat or other abilities, when the % is rolled.
Sustained Life: The character is able to keep themselves alive even though their body has technically been "killed", to as far as -15 hit points, for a period of 1 to 4 minutes, giving time for the player to be healed by ordinary means, if the % is rolled.
I perceive a lot of differing rules like this, somewhat similar in some ways to the skills that pop up in a lot of games, but based on knowledge and not skill. In a sense, there's no difference, except that in the above it would also be taken for granted that the player knew just about everything there was to know about metaphysics, to even have a chance at performing these strange abilities.
So back to the sermon. I think an elegant solution is suggested by the ceremony found in the Unearthed Arcana, that gives a +1 to any roll for an individual when they are first baptized into a religion. This is a pretty crappy effect for a ceremony like that, but it would be marvelous for a congregation as they left the local temple. Everyone in the neighborhood gets a +1 modifier to one thing, probably to be used up that day? Marvelous.
It probably won't mean much to many the gentle reader, but I remember Sundays where the morning was screwed by church ... and the afternoon seemed strangely special afterwards. I think, subject to certain other conditions (done on holy ground, affecting only believers, that sort of thing) that this would be a great talent to allow a cleric to perform.