Friday, January 23, 2015
A Small Change, a Very Different Cleric
The healer role has become entrenched in D&D play over the years, and contributed to a combat-heavy game. By the time of the AD&D 1e Player's Handbook, the first level cleric with a Wisdom of 14 or better can cast Cure Light Wounds three times per day. Armed with this heavy rotation of healing spells, is it any surprise that D&D went from being exploration-first to combat-first? And the cleric's supply of healing spells forms a big part of the basis for the "15 minute workday" problem.
All of that could be adjusted by removing two spells from the cleric's spell list: Cure Light Wounds and Cure Serious Wounds. Without them, the cleric is a much more interesting spellcaster. Rather than running about curing others, he is a front-line combatant who has the ability to augment other characters or cast an occasional in-combat spell. Turning undead and fighting are his biggest attributes.
Once you've done this, healing can go a couple of ways. An "ironman" option is to simply cut the healing down dramatically. This will certainly discourage the combat-first mentality of more recent versions of D&D, as PCs go into a dungeon with pretty much exactly as many HP as they will emerge with. Variants of D&D more or less like this have generally worked.
If that's too extreme, one option might be to take a page from 5e D&D and make healing potions something that can be bought normally for a GP cost. While I generally object strongly to the idea of buying and selling magic items, it's possible that such potions in your setting are not "magic" but simply alchemy or herbalism. It also gives the referee the option of including, say, a chart indicating the efficacy of such potions; a few might be more potent or less so, and a rare few may go bad and turn to poison. (I generally like this approach, of making some of D&D's "common" magic items actually nonmagical; the same logic works for making +1 swords masterwork or mithril or adamantine instead of enchanted.)
A third possibility is to give magic-users the ability to research the healing spells, but at 1 level up. I'm not fond of this, because it just restores the "healer" and moves it over to the M-U, and imperils cool 2nd level spells like Invisibility, but if the players absolutely insisted, I'd certainly allow them to use the magic research rules on analogs to the Cure spells.
There is a second, parallel shift I'd consider for the cleric. Basically, narrowing the scope of the weapon restriction to magical swords. It never made sense to me that clerics can't use swords; the templar certainly wasn't restricted to the mace, which was a specialized spiked weapon mostly used for punching through armor, and after all the image in this post has a knight drawing his sword. Also, if we want more Solomon Kane in our clerics, he certainly was a sword man.
I've thought a lot recently about whether clerics have a place in my D&D going forward. I'm thinking that they might, but with this small change that makes that a very different place.