Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Ruminations on OD&D: Clerics (Addendum)

I forgot to mention how I would actually handle applying the Moldvay principle to the cleric.

Firstly, I would not require the cleric to keep a spellbook, nor study to regain spells. They would need to spend an appropriate amount of time in meditation/prayer, following proper rest.

Secondly, they may only "know" a number of spells equal to their spells slots available, +1 per spell level, if Wisdom is 15+. For example, a 4th level cleric with a Wisdom of 16 would know three 1st and two 2nd level spells.

Thirdly, they may cast any spells they know, in any combination, up to the number of times listed for their level. This is not adjusted for Wisdom. So, the cleric in the example above could cast two 1st and one 2nd level spells. They do not have to prepare them ahead of time.

Fourthly, the cleric's spell selection should be based on player choice, broadly influenced by deity. Detailed pantheons aren't strictly required. It should be a simple matter for a player to declare that his cleric is devoted to a god of battle and choose spells loosely based on that. Once chosen the selection may only be changed when the cleric gains a level. At that time, the cleric may change one spell per spell level. So, the cleric above could change one 1st and one 2nd level spell upon attaining the 5th level.

At the risk of sounding immodest, I am pretty happy with how this reads. Of course, playtest may reveal problems, but that's a horse of another color.


  1. Seems like it would be a bit narrow on the variety of play to me, though I do like the casting from any they know to recover some variety within the reduced list. The whole spell list in the three little brown books is small enough, I'd rather they had access to all that are compatible with their alignment. But then again, if using memorized spells, they get stuck mostly slotting heals. I went a different direction last time I ran a longish campaign of OD&D. I gave them the full list as above, but they could slot any and had the option to hot swap in heals. So if they weren't too pressed, they got to use the more interesting spells, but could still heal in a pinch. I was using casting checks on a D20, spells were only lost uncast on a fumble roll. Other failures let them try again next round. I probably gave a bonus for a memorized heal over a swapped in heal on the check, but don't really remember offhand.

  2. I agree that the lists strictly from the LBBs would be too restrictive using the ideas I've outlined. If I were to do it this way, though, I would be adding spells to the lists. I would do it with an eye toward the type of clerics I want to portray within the setting. So, for example, bring in the Druid spells from Eldritch Wizardy, and have clerics who center their selection around those. Of course, beefing up necromancy spells would be a must, as well.

    The way I see it, the spell lists become a toolkit that enables the player to define his cleric's deity/philosophy. Actually, now that I think of it, what the player is really defining is his cleric's cult/order within a deity's institution. So, it gives the flavor and focus of the Domain system of later editions, but at the same time doesn't limit the player's ability to define his character as he sees fit.

  3. I really like this idea, but how do you handle the "walking band-aid" problem? Given this system, it would seem that the player would either need to be a dedicated "healing" cleric, or give up on healing to focus on more deity/cult/concept based spells.

  4. Well, in "reality" shouldn't a healer be focused on healing? But, remember, spell selection is all character choice. It's not restricted by a deity/pantheon choice. I just suggest that selection should have a pattern behind it, so that it is the player's choice of spells that informs the mythology, instead of the mythology restricting the player's choice.