Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Crisis of PC Faith

As I mentioned before: in all of my years DMing, I have seen exactly two clerics who have shown anything more than lip service (if that) to their deities. One of those clerics is currently being played in my AD&D 1st edition game. (We had our fourth session last night) Two of the cleric's vows are proving somewhat troublesome for him in terms of experience points:

1. He may not partake of anything that influences the mind (So no gold can be spent on carousing, for which I award bonus xp)

2. He may not take anything that he hasn't earned, which means that he often refuses his share of the treasure if he believes it wasn't earned. (He equates it with stealing) This has so far denied him some xp. (However, the other party memembers often "pay" him for various services rendered as a way to talk him into taking gold. That, and the fighter/thief keeps paying for the cleric's lodgings)

Now, the player did create his own deity and decide upon these limitations, so they are self-imposed and willingly accepted. I know a fair number of DMs who would take the "let him eat cake" approach, but I disagree with this, because this is finally a cleric who acts like a damn cleric, and I'd hate to penalize him for it. One player has suggested that I "arrange" for acceptable loot or gear to be found, but I am also opposed to this, as it invalidates the religious vows that the players invented and has his character adhere to.

My thoughts are this: perhaps the cleric should get experience for the treasure he refuses. After all, coudln't you argue that adherence to his vows actually strengthens his faith as a cleric?

As I have stated before, clerics are the class that most players (in my experience) are reluctant to play, and I think a player should be rewarded, rather than punished, for not only playing a cleric, but playing him with actual limitations placed on his behavior.

...and you know, the more I discuss the subject of clerics, the more I like the notion of the Lay Healer profession in Rolemaster. (Which I haven't had time to peruse at length, but seems like an interesting alternative.)


  1. I would agree with the XP for treasure that's refused as part of his faith.

    Or maybe take it (earning XP) but then being required to donate it all, depending upon the specific oath and faith.

  2. Would you give XP for gold he broke his self imposed vow to receive?

  3. Award him for playing by his code, is my suggestion.

  4. O, I'd say any treasure the cleric refuses should count as full XP- but I'd add some mechanism to keep the party members from just paying for things. Perhaps the cleric has divinely enhanced sight, so he *knows* if a given gold piece is "earned" or not?

  5. Ryan, as long as he is thinking like a cleric, you have to think like a god.

    Following his clerical vows is not something to be rewarded, it is something to be expected ... as it, we don't give bonus pay for those doing their damn job.

    You must realize that being a cleric enables him to receive bonuses which are denied to other party members, as in preferred status, particularly in the form of gifts. I recognize that your cleric will think that he has not earned a 'gift', but it must be explained to him that gifts, as all things that are given out of the willingness of others, can only come second hand from his god. He would not spit in the face of his god, would he?

    It is perfectly natural for him to be ascetic and deny himself gain that he has stumbled across as a result of his activities - and he may fairly doubt the motivations of his comrades who attempt to gift him things to get out of his box. But if an NPC, one that he has never met, chooses to give him a substantially powerful item, he should not see it as stealing.

    This will enable you, as DM and 'god', to reward him for his piety, as rightly you should. Don't make up new rules which you may later regret. Trust your own instincts as a DM when they incline you towards generousity. Those are probably good instincts.

  6. If he got xp for refusing treasure I believe it's important that the other players don't get it. Have cleric's share donated to charities, given to the church, left in place.

    While the drunken heretics are off carousing you should let the cleric spend an equal amount(thus gain xp) on promoting his beliefs & religion. Paying for temple maintenance / improvements, hiring criers to extol the virtues of his deity, hiring scribes to create illuminated holy texts, the best sacrifices are expensive!

  7. I suggest looking at HackMaster Basic. Each Faith has details on what the cleric needs to do as far as goals and such. Also, the healing spells have a greater effect on those who are "Anointed", i.e. Allied/Faithful. If the rules are enforced as written no one should ever have a doubt as to what Faith any particular cleric represents.

  8. Following his clerical vows is not something to be rewarded, it is something to be expected ... as it, we don't give bonus pay for those doing their damn job.

    I don't view XP as "bonus pay".

    100 XP for treasure or combat is not a "bonus" any more than selling something for 100 GP would be a 100 GP "bonus" for selling something.

    As I noted above, I would award XP for treasure not taken, though I would also make sure that other PCs didn't get the treasure afterward (or XP for it, of course).

  9. I will address some comments!
    Kilgore- I’ll have to talk with the player regarding donation. From what I understood, it is unacceptable to take money that is found or stolen from others, regardless of what you do with it.
    Ragnorakk- I would award him XP, as all other players receive, but he would likely lose access to his spells and turning ability until he undertook some kind of atonement for it.
    Eric- The party members pay only for his food and lodgings, saying that it is in return for his healing them and protecting them. Nobody has purchased him any equipment, etc. He initially refuses such things, but when the party member explains that “this is for healing that arrow wound, friend” he will usually accept minimal provisions.
    I like the idea of being able to detect if something was earned or not, but I’m not sure I’d implement it. The ability would likely turn him into a raging paranoid as everyone around him would give off vibes from even things like gifts (which technically you did not earn) or gold found in a dungeon.
    Alexis- I like where you’re going with this…that is, NPC gifts that can be seen as rewards from his god. I don’t think the xp is bonus pay, though… I actually see it as a penalty for the cleric. If he were of the usual genericleric with no particular restrictions on his behavior aside from following his alignment, he would receive both the xp from the treasure and the buying power. The cleric in my party might receive the xp under my rules, but wouldn’t have the treasure to spend. The problem here, however, is that the rest of the party essentially gains 16.66% bonus treasure (and xp awarded from its capture) because the cleric isn’t taking his share, unless I introduce some forced method of “zapping” the treasure. Hmm… this gives me a thought, which I may just make a new post from.

  10. I will address some further comments, as the character limit was apparently to low...

    Norman- I have a hard time vanishing the treasure before the other PCs get it. Thus far, they do take the gold. Even if the cleric persuaded them to leave it in peace, I’ve no doubt that the thief and fighter/thief of the party wouldn’t return to the scene later to claim it for themselves, if the reward were enough.
    As for the reward/tithe mode, the circumstances of this particular campaign are a bit different with regards to religion: in the kingdom where the players operate, there is only one legally sanctioned, recognized deity, and the player character cleric does not worship that deity. The other religions are not illegal, but they are not allowed to build temples (only small shrines) and not able to establish more than six clerics of a foreign deity in any given town. This makes it difficult to find any place to donate such monies.
    I will talk with the player to further clarify his vows. As I interpret it so far, he’s not allowed to donate the money because he’s not allowed to take it in the first place.
    Your post has me thinking, however… this religion is becoming somewhat popular in rural areas because it is a “people’s” religion, stressing that there are more important things in life than wealth. It is gaining popularity among rural folk much the way that Buddhism became a popular religion among the common folks in China when Confucianism was more popular among the civil servants and those with means. Perhaps he could earn experience for money donated to the poor peasants, serfs, and farmers. On the other hand, the player’s religion stresses self-reliance, so I’m not sure if a donation would be appropriate. I’ll talk with him before the next game session.
    Greylond- I do plan to eventually purchase Hackmaster Basic. It should be available now, no? The anointed/similar faith rule is interesting, and I have seen this appear as a house rule in other fantasy games. I could implement it in mine, but it wouldn’t make much of a difference, as the player character cleric ‘s religion is not shared by any of the other PCs. (In fact, I’m not sure any of them have demonstrated any religious tendencies at all, as is typical of most non-cleric/paladin/druid D&D characters in my experience.)
    All, I will continue this in a new post, as I prefer that to running comment threads.

  11. Well, I handle clerics a bit different to avoid this ever coming up, but as an aside, consider this.

    He is refusing the money to please his diety. I believe in old D&D there was a listing how much spells cost to get a healer cast the on you?

    All the gold he gives up, can be used to pray for bonus spells to cast along those lines.

    So, he gives up money to please his god, his god rewards him with more miracles.

    What can I say, thats how my mind works with "divine magic". But it rewards him for following vows while still making the forgoing of wages a sacrifice.