September 23, 2020

Something to Believe In: Unconventional Clerics

I have to admit I feel a little guilty. When I started the site, I wanted the content to be accessible to all TRPG players, but thus far, I think things have skewed towards game masters. It’s not deliberate, but it’s turned out this way. In order to remedy this, I’ve got one for all the people who are players only.

Clerics are a staple of fantasy roleplaying. There is something satisfying about being a goodly healer in white and gold vestments, following a benevolent deity, and doling out healing spells. As a matter of fact, my first character was a cleric of Pelor with the healing domain. But maybe you’ve been there and done that, or that’s not your speed in the first place. I’ve come up with some unusual things to be priest of. Notice I said ‘things’ and not gods. We’re going to get a little out there and just theorize clerics who follow a concept rather than a divinity. If your DM has a problem with it, send ‘em my way, and I’ll set them straight. If you’re dead set on actually having a supernatural being to talk to, you can do that too, but you’re on your own.

Sewers

Can you think of a fantasy game that doesn’t send you through the sewers at some point? All sorts of things happen down there. The thieves guild probably has their headquarters set up somewhere, maybe there’s a mind flayer lurking in the shadows, or maybe there’s something as mundane as a giant crocodile swimming around. If you find yourself in a city of any significant size, there’s gonna be a labyrinthian sewer system with a ton of action happening.

Your whole raison d’etre is using your powers for the health and well being of sanitation systems. If there is a cult abusing the privilege of tunel access, it is your holy mission to purge the evil. If there is an accumulation of monsters causing issues, it is your charge to restore the balance. This might not sound glamorous, but you better believe the local mayor/duke/authority is going to be happy to see you roll into town. The sewers are vital to functional civic society, and any reasonable noble should be thrilled to have you go down there and at least throw a couple blessings. But there’s always a slime monster causing trouble, so you’ll never hurt for work.

If for some reason you find solely being a cleric of the sewers limiting, you can branch out into aqueducts and/or irrigation. But even if you dabble in other plumbing, lead with sewers because that’s where all the real excitement is.

Taverns

Another thing you probably won’t go long without seeing on a fantasy adventure is the local inn. Now, I know it might not have the prestige of watching over the sewers, but you’ll still be in high demand.

A cleric of the tavern understands the importance of community- that a healthy society has a place where people can gather together and converse, commiserate, and strengthen their social bonds. You want everyone to have a great time. You want the positive energy of a raucous night to ripple through the multiverse and spread positive vibes through the ether. And before everyone retires for the night you bless them with a simple prayer that allows them to sleep well.

The innkeeper is always thrilled to see you, because they know it is your righteous cause to make patrons happy. Your version of tithing is set aside for buying people food and drink. As a matter of fact, clerics of this order are required to set aside 10% of their adventuring hauls to purchase a round for everyone.

In many ways, this type of cleric is even better suited for the itinerant hero life than your standard healing a buff/spell priest. Because you’re so good for business, barkeeps love to have you around and are very incentivized to make you successful. After all, they know a tenth of whatever you find will likely wind up back in their coffers, so they’re extremely willing to tell you every rumor and secret they can think of to make sure you’re finding ample treasure.

One caveat though, most other clerics will despise you. Since your temple is the local watering hole, this means their worshipers might be too hung over to show up to their ceremonies. It might be wise to squirrel away some more gold for a generous donation to nearby religious orders just to smooth out any hard feelings.

The Gaps

In theology, the term ‘God of the Gaps’ refers to a fallacy wherein believers cease to attribute any explainable phenomenon to God and see only the mysterious as the work of the almighty. Theists point out that this mindset inevitably leads to the shrinking importance of God as more of the universe becomes scientifically understood.

In most fantasy universes, belief isn’t an issue. In D&D for instance, there are spells that allow you commune directly to your deity. If a scholar was able to determine exactly how lightning worked, it wouldn’t do anything to diminish the power and influence thunder god. But what about all the stuff that doesn’t have a deity. Of course there are always representatives of things like healing, harvests, warfare et cetera, but what about, I don’t know, wooden toys or dust or whatever?

This where the cleric of the gaps comes in. You are the one who looks out for everything that does not have a god overseeing it. It’s a big job because there’s so much in the world that isn’t in the portfolio of some minor deity. But this path might have the most room for growth out of any. By the end of your adventuring career, maybe you’ll have found something to really make your own- like mud or something. And if anyone is going to ascend to be the god of mud it pretty much has to be you, right?

???

So, full disclosure, I don’t know how you’re going to end up like this, but you don’t know who or what your god is. You don’t even know if they are a god in the conventional sense. Maybe a coconut fell from a palm tree and bonked you on the head, which caused you to embark upon the journey to be a cleric of some unknown force.

Every adventure you go on is a chance to learn some aspect of this mysterious presence. Maybe a sudden fortuitous storm puts out a raging inferno threatening your party. That probably means this is a god of rain or water. An arrow shot directly at you lands harmlessly in the soil a foot in front of you. That’s gotta be a revelation that yours is the god of gravity. You’re basically going to be looking at everything that happens to you as some type of sign or omen. This might annoy your companions, but it’s a small price to pay to get in on the ground floor of your cryptic religion. It’s impossible to say how many other adherents there are, but you’ve got to be at least a bishop or cardinal.

The risk here is that you might end up worshiping something that sucks, but hey, it’ll be a hell of a ride to find out.

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