Sunday, February 5, 2012

Holy man

My favorite class, bar none, is the cleric. Crwth has been a cleric in his every appearance in D&D, and when he appears in other worlds (MMOs, etc.) he gravitates to the cleric/holy-man/healer role appropriate to that world.

Bruce Cordell asked in a recent blogpost about the reader's viewpoint on the cleric. Healer, or holy warrior?

I've always played Crwth as the heavy-armored cleric who wades into battle, taking some swings, providing some flanking, but mostly acting as field medic. Crwth the Cleric is like the IT in your company: doesn't bring a lot of tangible value to the endeavor, but the rest of the group couldn't function without him.

My wife plays a cleric the opposite way (she's not a D&D player except for Neverwinter Nights, but it's D&D enough). She has every slot filled with searing light, harm, holy word and fire storm. Once she's done mopping up the battlefield with the enemy, she might dig her party members' bodies out from underneath and pour one of their own potions down their necks.

The poll accompanying the article discusses the alternatives provided by 3.5 and 4e regarding how healing places in the cleric's turn. Third edition provided the spontaneous casting of healing spells (provided you were a Good cleric), which at first glance provided extra functionality to the battle medic I played. However, while I would happily go through the cleric spell lists, choosing select spells that sounded powerful and impressive, I could probably count on one hand the number of times those spells did NOT get converted to a healing spell via spontaneous casting. No matter how good it sounded to blast out a flame strike against a difficult enemy, it was instead saved for a Cure Critical Wounds to help out whichever party member went toe-to-toe with said enemy instead.

4e was definitely geared towards me as a cleric, providing ways to heal the party while still doing some magical damage to foes. But while we didn't exhaustively play 4e to 30th level, I did feel that 4e Crwth was always lacking in healing effectiveness, that I was giving up some of that total healing that I could accomplish by being given this other way of participating. Even with every character having their own healing surges and second winds, I still had the feeling (not backed by numbers, mind you) that we were worse off as a party in the healthcare department.

Along the same topic, Cordell also comments on the idea of holy damage vs. radiant damage. The difference, to me, was minor. Radiant is described as "light charged with uncommon energy", so that could include holy-backed energy, as well as "mystical moonlight or starlight, and the alien light of far realms". To me, all of these other lights are still the realm of the gods -- the moon, the stars, other realms. Perhaps it hasn't come from a prayer-backed source, but the deities are behind it regardless. Granted, this doesn't differentiate between good gods and bad - radiant doesn't have any alignment behind it. That's why I feel that holy/unholy is the better way to go, and yet the non-devout can still harness it through other means. That's just my opinion, of course, but you can guess how I voted in his poll.

And finally, in the same vein, there's the Angry DM's response to Cordell's healing post, and his take on healing overall. It's quite the interesting read, but I won't address his points for now; I mention it to bring together the discussion of such things as they stand in the early stages of #dndnext, D&D 5, or whatever they end up calling it.

So my overall view of what I want the new cleric to look like? The same as he was in 3.5. That's right, I thought the cleric in 3.5 was just fine, with his limitations and decisions. 4e was nice in that I felt more participatory in the damage-dealing (well, not really; I still can't roll worth a damn when it comes to attacks), but I felt less participatory as the field medic because everyone could heal themselves. I don't begrudge the party member who carries Cure Light Wounds potions, but leave the rest to me!

Of course, as long as they allow me to heal in some capacity, any capacity, I'll be there, no matter what the rules provide.


Crwth said...

Bad form to comment on your own post, I know, but I think it's worse form to edit the post after it has existed for a few days...

I had intended on mentioning the comment in the ENWorld transcripts regarding the cleric, where they posited the idea of the priest being the spellcasting holy man, acting as a channel for the gods' power, blasting foes with unbridled energy.

I like this idea, of the battlefield medic being different enough from the holy warrior to warrant a separate class. The priest is described as having less armor as well, further separating their wartime roles. Granted, this could be accomplished with the player's choice, but this post was borne from the stereotyping of the cleric and their expected role in the party; if another class exists, then stereotypes aren't broken.

Instead of a class, I'd also accept a prestige class that customized the cleric in that direction, but that would still require the player to play their character contrary to their eventual path for a while -- if the priest is meant to be able to survive wearing nothing but holy vestments, then you don't want their first few levels as a cleric to require them to be laden in metal, nor to have them cower behind the meat shields until their divine protection kicks in.

Griff said...

I'm also a fan of the Priest/healer vs the Cleric/holy warrior classes.

The more classes the better, I say!

In my experience, it's the class that sets the tone for the character. A fighter that specializes in light armor, daggers, and sneakiness, feels far differently than a rogue.