You know that guy…the player that begrudgingly agrees to play the Cleric for the “good of the team”. After dispensing some essential buffs, he waits around to dole out some healing and maybe, just maybe, get a few licks in during combat. Add to that, the group leader role is usually played by the more assertive, dynamic player who is the fighter. That guy gets the glory and the bulk of combat. Oh the indignity.
There are ways to make the Cleric more interesting and even the most desirable character to play. Here is how I did it.
- Roleplaying religion. D&D was clever enough to have alignments as proxies for religious belief. The God had an alignment, the character had an alignment so the player just needed to role-play within that framework. RM doesn’t have alignments and the Orhan and even Charon Pantheons don’t really fall into the Good/Evil spectrum: true evil is reserved for the Unlife. We use the Prayer skill for a variety of functions: Channeling spell castings, spell level limitations, invocation and as a measure of dedication. It’s a bit more abstract and quantitative than alignments, but for players that are uncomfortable or unable to role-play “religiousity” it works. They can enjoy the Cleric character without a real or perceived burden of special role-playing.
- We’ve rewritten the Channeling spells with more of an emphasis on followers. Priests/Clerics can summon a variety of help and have powerful spells that only effect members of the same religion. Being able to summon Holy Warriors, retainers and followers can have a great benefit and can also take the game narrative in new and interesting directions! Plus it puts the Priest into a leadership role.
- Aspect Spells. Most Gods have an Aspect or Flavor—their followers and Priests should be able to access spells that tap into that Aspect. Channeling Companion fleshes this out but GM’s should embrace this. Who should have better access to Fire spells—a mage studying Essence in a library or a True Cleric of the God of Fire? Some GMs might be cautious of crossing the delineation of Realms—don’t be.
- Membership has its privileges. If you have a priest you have an organization. That organization should be a wealth of resources, even to a low level member. Refuge, healing, equipment and even information could be available. Obviously this is not one sided—a church will want to the party to pursue goals that are either directly or tangentially to their benefit. Additionally, members of the group that worship Gods in opposition to the Church will not be extended such benefits.
- Invocation. In our Shadow World campaign, all characters can call upon their God in times of need. See Chart here and Diety modifiers here. However, Clerics have as added advantage given their focus on the Prayer skill and their innate connection to their patron God. Plus, Invocation works better than Fate Points—it allows for a saving grace, miracle or intervention within the narrative and not rely upon some abstract points used to make a re-roll or ret-con a game result.
A Priest is the emissary, avatar and representative of that God. Their job is to pursue the interests of the God, the “Church” and the God’s followers. That provides them special privileges unavailable to other professions. The Cleric is not just a singular character and member of the group, but the “tip of the spear”, representing a powerful organization and omniscient being. In practical terms that’s a direct line to God (the GM)! Who wouldn’t want to play a character like that?