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The Laws of Thrax: Clerics and Miracles

June 11, 2011

Every time I try to talk to someone it's "sorry this" and "forgive me that" and "I'm not worthy"...

You know what’s generally just all around awesome?  House rules.  I love house rules, and that’s a huge part of why I love Swords & Wizardry/OD&D/LotFP/etc.  Sure, you can and should house rule any system, but these games EXPECT you to do so and are simple enough that you can screw around with them without fear of making the whole game go wonky.

So, from time to time, I’ll be putting out some of the rules from my own game, for the purposes of discussion or inspiration or degredation or whatever.

Today:  CLERICS AND MIRACLES.

Two sessions ago, my cleric player got into trouble and  died.  Well, it was pretty clear that she was going to die, but at the last second the player said “I pray for mercy!”  Okay, so she did, and I decided that her goddess would shed a bit of the divine light and allow a re-roll on the Death and Dismemberment Table, and lo and behold, the cleric lived.

And that just seemed *right*, you know?  I mean, clerics should just be able to pray for things, any kind of thing, and sometimes their god should hear it and perform.

A few evenings later, I came up with some rules.

At any time, a cleric can pray for something… ANYTHING.  “Please heal my broken arm/cure my disease/save me from death/turn this water to wine/give the king syphilis/curse the peasants with a plague of flies/part the red sea”, anything at all.

The first question is, does the god hear the prayer?  The cleric has a cumulative 10% chance per session that has passed since the last prayer attempt.  So if she prayed for rain last game, the cleric has a 10% chance of being heard, but if it has been 10 sessions since the last time she has a 100% of getting through.  And please note, this is since the last prayer attempt, whether successful or not.

Okay, so the god has heard the prayer.  Now what?  Well, the DM has to decide what happens, and that’s it.  If the character is higher level, “devout” and asking for a reasonable thing in line with the god’s area of influence (“Please Diana, goddess of the hunt, send us a fat stag so that we will not starve in the wilderness”) then it should work.  But if, on the other hand, the character is not particularly devout, a low level and/or asking for something that’s kind of a big deal or outside the sphere of influence of the god (“God of the Sea, please set that tower on fire”), then no, it’s just not going to happen.  And if that cleric should have recently sinned in the eyes of his god or is asking for something completely unreasonable, then a full on curse or a good ol’ fashioned smiting is in order.

Which brings us to the next question:  What constitutes “devotion”?  And that, I’m afraid, must be left up to the individual DM and player, because I like my house rules nice and simple.  But, in general, the player should be making some effort to appease his god from time to time in a manner that seems appropriate to that god’s area of influence.  If he worships a god of the hunt, then prayers of thanks after a successful hunt, animal sacrifices, and feasts of wild game are perhaps in order.  If he worships the god of war, then there better be some combat related rituals (meditative sword sharpening?  bathing a mace in blood?)  And, I would say, the more complicated a ritual and the more resources it consumes, the more pleasing it is in the eyes of the deity.

What makes a request “reasonable”?  Again, that’s up to the DM, but the more mundane the request, the higher its likelihood of being granted.  A 1st level cleric could probably get away with praying to heal himself, for instance, and a 15th level cleric who has given his god lots of sacrifices and performed many complicated rituals costing tens of thousands of gold pieces could call for an avenging angel to descend from the heavens and rain fire on his enemies.  It’s up to the player to try and gain that worthiness, and up to the DM to decide if they have.

If any readers should wander over to this lonely little corner of the OSR blogosphere, please drop me a line and let me know your thoughts on this rule.

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