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Setting Design Report, Part 13: Cosmology, Part 2: Clerics and Paladins

As always, the full list of posts in this series can be found here.

In the last post of this series, I promised I’d spend some time explaining how clerics and paladins in the setting are different from the D&D norm, so I figured I’d get that in before I forgot.

Hands of God

Good clerics could also be known as “true” clerics – they receive their power directly from God, and they use it for God’s purposes, however imperfectly. In game mechanical terms, they get access to the default cleric spell list and everything works as described with one key exception: clerics who get their powers from God do not have access to spells that make undead creatures or augment them specifically. Good clerics restore life, they don’t twist it into a perversion of its former self. This includes the few very rare examples where an undead has found redemption and become a cleric, by the way, though there’s another important exception: any sapient being who has been redeemed to the point where they have a good alignment will benefit from a good cleric’s healing spells. (If an undead is slain and is resurrected, they come back as the person they were before becoming undead.)

In addition, the healing magic of good clerics is purely restorative. Wounds close without scarring and without lingering effects, pain goes away with healing, and the magic itself is soothing and comforting. Good clerics still have access to offensive spells, but tend to stay away from spells that inflict disease or poison, and while spells that utilize necrotic damage appear on their spell list, the use of them is frowned on even when fighting truly evil foes. Some rare examples of undead who were redeemed and became clerics have actually been shocked to discover they have a pulse again after channeling a bunch of healing magic over time!

Good clerics can choose from a wide variety of domains, most of which have their own holy order associated with them. (The exceptions to this general rule are the Light and Life domains, which are the domains of the “mother church.”) In addition to all of the domains in the PHB, good clerics can choose the Forge and Grave domains from XgtE, the Arcana domain from SCAG, the Dust domain from the Gunpowder Codex, and the Celebration, Peace, and Retribution domains from Compendium of Sacred Mysteries.

Good paladins are trained by The Church, and can take the oaths of Devotion, Ancients, and Vengeance from the PHB and the Oath of Redemption from XgtE. They can also take the Oath of Resolve from the Gunpowder Codex.

Specific holy orders will get their own posts eventually, or at least a couple of posts detailing a few orders per.

It’s worth noting that there are a huge number of people who faithfully serve God and The Church with nary a spell or magic power to their name. Clerics and Paladins are a cut above normal priests and soldiers. However, clerics in particular are ordained ministers and will sometimes live out their lives as normal priests, taking up arms and spells only when necessary to help those around them. Church-operated hospitals usually have a number of clerics on hand for emergencies, but still practice plenty of what we’d call normal medical care, setting bones, prescribing normal medicines for aches and pains, allergies, chronic illnesses, and the like. Cleric just aren’t numerous enough to magic away all the medical problems of even a medium-sized town, but they will definitely step in to save lives and stop pandemics. Clerics stationed in hospitals usually work with specially-trained triage nurses and will run through any open spell slots on the worst cases in the place before going home for the day.

Claws of the Profane

Evil clerics have access to the twisted copy of divine magic supplied by The Adversary. While most of their spells work as advertised, they do not have access to the Lesser Restoration, Greater Restoration, Revivify, Resurrection, or True Resurrection spells. In addition healing magic they use is painful, leaves horrible scars, and is markedly less effective than that practiced by their good counterparts. All dice used in healing spells from an Adversary empowered spellcaster are rolled as if they had disadvantage – that is, for each die of healing, roll two dice instead and take the lower value. At the GM’s option, certain powerful evil clerics may also roll Inflict Wounds and Harm spells as if their damage dice had advantage – that is, roll two dice for each die and take the higher value. Those particular NPCs should be well along the road of corruption I described back in the 4th post of this series.

In addition, The Adversary grants a smaller number of domains. Adversary empowered clerics can pick from Tempest, Trickery, and War domains in the PHB, the Death domain from the DMG, the Entropy domain from Xanathar’s Lost Notes, and the Scorn, Venom, and Witchcraft domains from Compendium of Sacred Mysteries.

Evil paladins can choose from the Oathbreaker archetype in the DMG or the Oath of Conquest from Xanathar’s Guide. They can also use the Oath of Predation from Xanathar’s Lost Notes.

Unlike The Church, there isn’t much in the way of formal orders of these agents of darkness – they tend to either be master-apprentice groupings or solo operators, though the occasional cult definitely exists, and various Grim Cities have created their own “churches” as an additional means of exploiting or controlling the populace.

Next post I’ll probably get into some of the other planes that make up the setting – I’m hoping to pare the crazy number of extra planes down a bit from the D&D standard. As always, I love hearing your thoughts and questions! Please feel free to comment below.

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