The Roving Hospital


It seems that whenever someone plays a cleric, they end up acting as an on-site hospital, healing the other characters after every battle and never really teaching or preaching to others about their religion or following their own religion's creed. This is rampant throughout the gaming industry, both in tabletop and electronic gaming.

A friend of mine read the article that I wrote about thieves and pointed out that Clerics and Priests, especially of the D&D persuasion, were far more likely than thieves to be played cookie-cutter style, by that I mean the same way, every time. It seems that whenever someone plays a cleric, they end up acting as an on-site hospital, healing the other characters after every battle and never really teaching or preaching to others about their religion or following their own religion's creed. This is rampant throughout the gaming industry, both in tabletop and electronic gaming.

Here's a not atypical example:
"So you're a cleric, huh?"
"What god?"
"What does he do?"
"War and stuff."
"Cool: Hey, can you fix my arm? It's broken in six places."
"Sure, hold on a bit:"

Have you ever seen a person play a priest that acted as if they truly believed...

Have you ever seen a person play a priest that acted as if they truly believed in whatever religion they were (supposedly) devout followers of? How about a cleric who didn't have the motivation or ability to heal people? What about a priest who actually preaches religion, or tries to influence people by words or action? In the fifteen years of roleplaying that I've been privileged to, I have seen one person play a priest as the epitome of the religion he served. He played a Shaolin Priest (as opposed to a Christian variant or pre-made fantasy one) and took the time and effort to study the religion and talk to me (the GM) about my views of the religion before playing the priest. He did an awesome job and played one of the most memorable characters that I've ever had the pleasure of running.

Now, I know a lot of you don't like to take the time or effort to create and play a memorable or unique character. As always, my article will piss you off, so either move on or deal with it. If you want to try playing something new, or if you want to play a cleric who is more than just a mobile hospital, then please, read on.

Lets try something. Let's try making up (or picking up) a religion. I'll use examples along the way. First we have to make up the Basic Belief System. This is the idea or basic belief of the religion, some of it's tenets, and some (or all) of it's god(s).

For example, in Christianity the belief is that there is one God, but only through belief in and acceptance of his son Jesus Christ, and Christ's teachings, can one reach heaven in the after-life. The teachings of Christ are told in stories and parables written down in a book called the Bible. The teachings boil down to the following: do not steal (life, property, spouses), respect others, and treat other people as you would like to be treated. If a person obeys these rules (and others) then they will go to a paradise in the after-life referred to as Heaven. If they don't then they will be tortured for eternity in a placed called Hell.

In my sample I want a "good" religion, but I want it centered on death. I'm going to loosely pattern mine off of Norse Mythology and the Mexican Day of the Dead. We'll take Odin, Thor, Hel and Loki as gods and use Valhalla as a heavenly reward. Odin and Thor are the "good" gods. Odin is the God of wisdom, knowledge and the sacrifice made to gain either. Thor is the god of war, battles, and honorable death. Loki is the god of mischief, trickery, and luck. Hel is the god of the underworld, death, and the end of all things. The dead are divided evenly between Odin and Hel. In order to get into Valhalla one must die in combat. Only the best, most honorable warriors will be chosen to go to Valhalla. All the others will be given to Hel to serve her in the underworld. Valhalla is a heaven for warriors. Every morning its inhabitant arise and fight a daylong battle. In the evening all those who have fallen arise and all injuries disappear. Everyone then goes to a mead hall where they feast and boast of their exploits in that day's battle. They are served by warrior women angels called Valkyrie, who also serve as escorts for the dead to reach Valhalla.

Next we have to make up the Religion's Demands. These are the daily and periodic rituals that the faithful must observe. These are also the limitations that the religion places on the worshipper. Muslims have to pray to Allah while facing Mecca three to five times a day. Once during their lifetime, the devout Muslim must journey in a pilgrimage to Mecca. Muslim women are not allowed to show much more than their eyes while in public, to do otherwise is indecent and punishable. They wear veils and baggy clothing to disguise their looks.

In my world, combat must be in close quarters, no missile weapons allowed. Bows and other missile weapons can be used in hunting but not in combat. Armor is for the clumsy, a skilled warrior has no need for armor. Everyone knows how to fight. The people are trained in the martial arts and religion from childhood. Only those who die in combat have a chance to go to Valhalla.

Religious Services are next. This includes church and holidays. The most important holy days in Judaism are the weekly Sabbath, the major holidays of Rosh ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkoth, Simhat Torah, Passover, and Shavuot, and the minor holidays of Hanukkah, Purim, and Tisha B'Av. I apologize but I couldn't possibly tell you what they do in church or on their holidays, as I don't personally know any practicing Jews.

In my sample however, let's say that daily worship is through prayer. There are no churches although there are schools that teach about the gods along with other things. The minor holidays are the summer and winter solstice, and the first of spring. The one major holiday is based on Mexico's Day of the Dead festival where the worshippers celebrate the memory of their dead.

The last things to make up are the Priests.

The last things to make up are the Priests. These are the teachers of the religion. They teach by word, deed, and example. Jesus told stories called parables, which illustrated his teachings. Mohammed spoke to Muslims in much the same way. The American Indians have Shamans who tell stories of their gods, heroes, animals, and the earth.

In my world I want the priests to be like the Nordic Skalds. Skalds taught their people the history of their race and religion through stories, chants, and song. They also acted as mediators and advisors. I want to give my Skalds total legal enforcement powers. In other words, they act as judge, jury, and executioner in all capital crime cases. I'll also say that although they teach about all the gods, they specialize in one and are granted magical powers from that god. So a Skald for Loki would be granted powers like move silently, luck, and the ability to affect large areas with small acts (like throwing a stone into a still pond).

A character made with this religion would have to be a singer/storyteller, probably be able to play a musical instrument or two, be handy in combat (because they must die in combat in order to go to heaven, but they aren't suicidal), know and understand the laws of their country and have the ability to enforce it, and are granted magical powers based on how much like their god's ideals they act on a day to day basis. Nowhere in the description of the god's, religion, practices, or beliefs does it state that healing is part of this religion.

So you see, your priest is (or can be) much more than a mobile hospital, healing all the other characters for nothing, not doing much else other than turning the occasional undead (although that usually requires true faith:). Your cleric can be a complex, thoughtful, multi-layered addition to your group. As long as you are willing to take the time and effort needed flesh them out. Give it a try and see what happens. My bet would a truly memorable and fun character.

"There was also something panicky and desperate in Usires' high pitched voice, and the puppet's painted, upturned eyes seemed unutterably sad. She turned to find Cadrach looking at her somberly. 'So we labor to build our little dams,' the monk said, barely audible above the shouting throng, 'while the waters rise all around us.' He made the sign of the Tree above his gray vestments." - A scene from Tad Williams' Memory, Sorrow, Thorn trilogy. A puppet show is being enacted in which the characters of Crexis and Usires (parallels of Satan and Jesus) are symbolic for the struggle of Osten Ard between the mortal population and the Storm King, Ineluki.

I have not really encountered this problem to the degree you have.

I feel obliged to point out that D&D is mostly responsible for it; in another system (take GURPS, for example) wielders of healing magic need not be priests and vice versa. In d20 (D&D 3.0+), good-aligned clerics explicitly gain the power to channel their spells into healing spells. The implication is clear: in a "balanced" game of D&D, the party "needs" a healer.

That said, you've correctly identified the source of cookie-cutter cleric roleplay: impoverished mythological backdrops and poorly fleshed-out pantheons. I wrote in another article on this site that the Gods are some of the most important NPCs of all, and I maintain that position. It is my experience that given a vibrant, recognizable pantheon, all player characters have the chance to develop their spiritual sides (even if that only means highlighting their indifference to the gods), and most players will make the most of such opportunities provided by a thoughtful GM. Careful world-building is rewarding, yes.

However, that's not where I thought you were going in this article. I thought you were going to highlight alernate ways of playing the class, whether given the familiar boundaries of D&D or taken to another system, but you only brush the surface of this idea. I cannot remember the last time one of my players played a "cookie-cutter" cleric. Perhaps I am fortunate in this regard, but I have seen players enthusiastically promote their in-character religion's ethics and teachings. One of the best clerics was played in a very judeo-christian mode, but with a twist: he refused to heal the unrepentant or anyone else who showed no loyalty to his church. That cleric was irritating, pompous, and extremely memorable. Even when asked to perform the last rites for his fallen comrade, the player seized this opportunity to deliver a cursory eulogy followed by a stinging rebuke of the dead character's wicked ways. This speech was thoughtful, thoroughly in-character, and from my perspective, very, very funny. I've had other players focus on other, "less traditional" aspects of the cleric class. Not one of the last four clerics in my campaigns, presented over a period of the last five years, has been a healer first and foremost.

One thing more: you take a condescending and possibly even hostile tone toward your target audience. While I respect your thoughtfulness and appreciate your devotion to writing more articles for this site, hostility is not a virtue in an article writer. I quote:

Now, I know a lot of you don't like to take the time or effort to create and play a memorable or unique character. As always, my article will piss you off, so either move on or deal with it.

Um...ok. So, you've just encouraged someone, and apparently in your mind a sizable group, to navigate away from this site. Why? How does this serve you, your article, or Gamegrene? I understand how you feel, but it is my personal opinion that such statements have no place in serious articles.


I agree with Cocytus' rebuke of your tone -- but appreciate the input on a subject that is quite interesting. This gives me a much needed diversion from going bug-eyed revising EFRP material all weekend long for the past four weekends (For those of you who have been waiting -- it is almost there).
There are many challenges in role-playing, yet choosing a devoutly religous character is unique in many ways. I have long been baffled by the fact that Paladins have been portrayed and encouraged to be more devout, more structured, than the Priests who should be nurturing their spiritual journey. You are right that Clerics are often viewed by their utility not by their belief -- which in the end is what defines them. There is already a very good thread on the role of myth and how these elements can enhance the role-playing experience. But let's leave that aside and suggest that the DM has already created a world rich in myth, symbolism, and meaning.
Into this excellent world you put a player character priest and voila you end up with a medic. What went wrong? Peer-pressure. The agenda of the group is often a mosaic of vastly different beliefs. Calamar you encourage this very notion when you put such an emphasis on making unique characters. Well, if every character in the group is unique and operating from a different viewpoint then where is the glue that holds the group together? Certainly unique characters can create some very interesting banter (speaking of banter and pith -- I am enjoying Firefly immensely,and the western/space mix is refreshingly quirky). At a gaming table the mixed agendas can often take a back seat to the common goals of treasure a victory -- think about it. How do Clerics go up in level ... yes, that's right, by murder and plunder. Experience points are awarded for acquiring treasure and killing monsters. While this yardstick works for thieves, warriors, and perhaps even wizards, it really doesn't fit for a priest.
Be careful that when we ask something of our players we don't reward them for the opposite behaviour. Amidst this we all have sessions that are brilliant and sessions that suck. Your Cleric players are trying to have fun too -- what tactics do you use to keep the group unified but diverse? How do you reward the Cleric-Player for reflecting the ethos? How do we step this character away from their utility role and make them part of the plot? I would guess that many of us have played with rule-variant Priests who have little or no healing.
On the other side of the coin, I have powerful healing clerics in a campaign that I run that no-one wants to play -- Priests of Omashis are fabulous healers -- but they won't do harm to others and have a nasty tendancy to heal everyone and try and stop the fighting. Players love them at times, but are mortified when they show up on the other side of the battlefield. What tactics do you employ against the Good brothers of the order of Light who are protecting a Goblin Infantry troop? Nobody wants to play one of THOSE kinds of Cleric, because their morality in the hands of a Player could spoil the game.
I don't have all the answers, but it is much more complicated than just making a really good set of ethics and turning the players loose. Any thoughts/suggestions?

well, Calamar, thanks for the article.
I am, in fact, starting a brand new campaign (first session later tonight) as a Cleric/Psychic warrior. I am indeed in need of developing a personality and ethos for my character, but I've stumbled on a second problem: what do you do when you cleric represents a pantheon and not a single god? preaching about divine superiority and adminstring services aside, how do you make a geneic priest special?

BTW, calamar, you can come to me with any questions regarding Judaism, I'd be happy to help.

I've played Druids as True Neutral before, carefully ballencing the creation and destruction caused by the party.

Bit of a shame the party and GM just saw me as a healer.

Well, first of all I'd like to apologize for the hostile tone exhibited in this article. Posts for my previous articles on roleplaying stated that not everyone wants to role-play as opposed to roll-play and that I was pretentious and obtuse. These people felt that I was demanding, arrogant, and full of bad advice. I don't write for those people.

I write for people who want new ways of solving problems. People who like new ideas or new ways of playing characters. I write for people who role-play for the characters and the story, not to go up in levels and get cool shit. But that's enough about that...

Going backwards, I think that I'll address Zipdrive's questions first:

"what do you do when you cleric represents a pantheon and not a single god?"

I assume that you have the gods that you worship already drawn out? If you do and you know them well enough, then you can draw up some parables, stories, and other examples for each of the gods.

During the game, drop in a parable or short story each session, pray out loud to whatever god fits the situation (a short "Crom" will do fine), and give each god a distinct personality based on the god AND on your character's view of the god (Lady Luck is a fickle bitch at best, I'd rather pray to Crom in situations like this). This will enhance your character and make him a memorable (if potentially annoying) addition to your group...

"...if every character in the group is unique and operating from a different viewpoint then where is the glue that holds the group together?"

Yes, Gilgamesh, you're next! I like playing in and running groups of individuals who are unique and multifaceted creatures with their own beliefs and views working together for some common goal, even if it is only to make money...

I recently ran a fantasy campaign set in the city of Lankhmar (but in my world, I just like the map). The characters all started off as poor teenagers trying to make their way in the big city. The characters included an escaped slave, a pick pocket, an apprentice mage trying to pay for her schooling, and a gambler/con artist.

They didn't have much in common, but their skills and abilities complimented each other and they were able to accomplish much more working as a group than as individuals. The jobs that they took paid more and they were able to boost their reputation enough to get noticed by the power players in the city.

They stuck together because they worked better as a group. Their personalities clashed, they did stupid things because their characters didn't know any better, they went off on individual adventures and tangents that affected the whole group, and generally acted like the unique, different individuals that they were. It was a fun campaign mostly because of that.

You see, it can be done as long as the characters are all working for the same goal or if their skills and abilities compliment each other. For other examples look at the X-Men movies, Serenity (Firefly), and the miniseries V. For literary examples look at Stephen King's the Stand and the Dark Tower, Dean Koontz' Midnight, Robert R. McCammon's Stinger, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, and the Theif's Gamble by Juliett E. McKenna.

Cocytus, I too play Gurps and honestly, I don't have a problem with clerics anymore, it's with mages. However, when I did play D&D (and I still do on rare occasions), this was a problem. According to friends who play, this is an ongoing problem mainly due to the fact that D&D doesn't reward players as much for role-playing. It rewards them for spells cast, enemies killed, and treasure gained. That's about it.

In Gurps, I find that everyone who plays a mage take the healing college. Then they heal everyone after every battle. Sooner rather than later they have become a roving hospital. Devastating spells in Gurps are too hard to cast without becoming so fatigued that the character is useless. Fireball and lightning bolt are dangerous without costing much fatigue, especially at higher levels.

I find that most mages will cast a few fireballs, shoot a crossbow, and then heal everyone. I wouldn't have a problem with this if it didn't happen in every campaign. I have written a whole article about mages. I'll say more after it gets published...

I'm very interested! Please send me a basic rundown of Judaism, its core beliefs, practices, and an explanation of the holidays. I'd really appreciate it.


Calamar wrote,

"You see, it can be done as long as the characters are all working for the same goal or if their skills and abilities compliment each other. For other examples look at the X-Men movies, Serenity (Firefly), and the miniseries V. For literary examples look at Stephen King's the Stand and the Dark Tower, Dean Koontz' Midnight, Robert R. McCammon's Stinger, Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, and the Theif's Gamble by Juliett E. McKenna."

You have a great weight of evidence for how it works -- and when it works well it is wonderful (as above). I with you in spirit, but have to re-state my premise in response. All your examples explore the knife's edge of those relationships -- the story is so well controlled in literature that the author can pull back and forth from the brink of ruin. Unless the DM/GM is over-manipulating the players, there is not that level of control. Typically, players stay in the group because of the game firstly, and secondly because there is some kind of in-game excuse to do so. A character with a deeply religous agenda is under pressure from the players, and sometimes the DM, to surpress that agenda and "play nice" with the others so that the story can advance and characters can go up levels. While everyone enjoys the added flavour of an interesting characters, my experience is that most groups will subtlely "contain" the viewpoints that take away from the action. Before anyone is tempted to respond with a litany of "not us, not me, we're different", take a moment to reflect. Players have three separate stories going on every time they play -- the real world story of their friends, the story of the group, and the story of the individual character. I don't think it would be fun to play with someone who only ever worked from the last perspective -- just as it is not fun to play with someone who never does. My experience is that most good role-players tend to work from the middle perspective -- the perspective of the story, and are able to drop deeply into character WHEN APPROPRIATE, but are also aware of the feelings of the other players at the table. A Cleric typically has the most extreme set of values and principles of any character at the table. A poor player will have their Cleric's viewpoint take the game over; a poor player will let their Cleric's viewpoint get lost; a good player has to do both. That is why I believe that there are important considerations that the DM must address to help the integration of the viewpoints into the campaign -- the Clerical voice can be lost through no fault of the players.

I used movie and literary examples because they are easily accesable (sp) by everyone. For a gaming example please read the Dragonlance Chronicals. (please excuse my spelling, I'm not quite awake yet). These novels are written by Margaret Weise and Tracy Hickman based off of audio recordings and notes that they made of actual campaign sessions. The characters portrayed in the novels are characters that were played in the game.

These characters all have distinct personalities with their own goals, beliefs, morals, and reasons for continuing as a group instead of going their seperate ways. A theif, a knight, a mage, a barbarian, a barmaid, and three warriors manage to stay together for the majority of the campaign. The only one to leave was the mage who turned towards the dark side and made a redemption appearance at the very end of the campaign.

These books, while not written very well, show a great example of what I am talking about with the whole distinct personality thing. The game was played using (I believe) D&D 2nd ed. rules. Unfortunately, the lone cleric in the series does act as a roving hospital, but there is much more background than typical for her class.

I believe that the GM must balance control of the game and the PCs with the player's freedom of choice and control of their characters. Player manipulation is fine if they don't realize that they are being manipulated. It's the GMs job to act as a referee for their players and the characters.

As for clerics, not every god is a god of healing. Why should every cleric have healing powers? Not even all the good gods would grant healing powers unless that was explicitly stated in their sphere of influence. Even if they did, why heal non-believers and sinners? Would the cleric's powers, granted to them by their god, even work on non-believers? Especially on a non-believer who they have already healed once before? I doubt it.

For example, the God of Luck may grant healing powers but give you a percentage chance of it working. The God of War would give you strength and prowess in battle but wouldn't heal you afterwards, he doesn't care. Pseidon might make it rain or storm for you, but why would he have anything to do with healing? Why would Thor, Zeus, Loki, Artemis, Hades, Hel, and countless others grant healing powers to clerics or allow them to be used on the unfaithful?

I don't think that they would. It depends on the god, their sphere of influence, the cleric, the one being healed, and the GM, of course.

"Mother is the word for God on the lips and hearts of all children."
The Crow

I am in complete agreement with your post Calamar. The abilities of a Cleric should depend on their religion. In my AD&D campaign the Religion of a Cleric determines many things: The spells they get, what level they get them, what their secondary attribute is, when they can pray for new spells, when they are most powerful, and what their special abilities/weaknesses are.

But, it seemed to me that your criticism was about how they were played, not what they can do. I wanted to put forward my belief that apart from the obvious reasons why a Cleric may not be played according to the ethos that is created, there are two often overlook factors: peer pressure, and the rules of the game.

There is artificial pressure to keep the game cohesive. In a book the author can create balance personality and situation. In a game they can't/shouldn't. Players choose traits and beliefs for their characters -- and the DM must struggle to provide common purpose to make the cohesion possible. A cleric should be a character with an extreme viewpoint. The more extreme the beliefs, the harder it is to keep a group together.

Secondly, the game rules reward plunder and murder. Typically this is not condusive to playing a Good Cleric. It doesn't matter how you flesh the class out, provide plausible history and beliefs, and encourage the player to role-play, those two factors will be present.

"Secondly, the game rules reward plunder and murder. Typically this is not condusive to playing a Good Cleric."

This is only true of D&D. Other games reward players on how well they role-play their characters.

Having a cleric played as an extreme character wouldn't happen as much if religion was a part of the game from the beginning and all the characters had a set of religious beliefs. Then it would be a lot more real.

Everyone has beliefs about God, the Afterlife, and Creation. Create a religious mythos for your world and have all the players state their character's beliefs within that mythos. Make sure that a maximum of one person in the group is allowed the Athiest or Agnostic excuse. Ninety something percent of the world is religious, it would be a big stretch of the imagination to have all of the characters but the one who is the priest be a non-believer in something.

I didn't really want to get into another article on the creation of a religion for your world. I barely touched on a quick and simple method of religion creation. But I have to state, if you want a realistic multidimensional gaming experience then you must include religion in your game. It is too vital a part of our world and people to discard when roleplaying.

Now, assuming that you have a functioning religion in your world and you play a game system with the intelligence to reward players for role-playing rather than for killing, you may still have the roving hospital problem.

This article got sidetracked from that problem and delved into the creation of religion instead. I apologize for that.

I guess that the only way to handle the Roving Hospital, outside of private GM/Player chats, is by having the God in question punish the cleric. Much like a Paladin who goes against their God's teaching loses their abilities and have to redeem themselves, so would a cleric.

What would the cleric do if God took away all the cleric's magical abilities? What would it take to get back in God's favor? That would depend on the game world's God or Gods. Either way, no player that I know of would let something like that happen more than once. Of course, if it did then the character might have to find a new line of work...

"Some things are true whether you believe in them or not."

And if you like I can explain Christianity. :> But, it's not as "gamable" as the standard impression.

Cocytus wrote: The implication is clear: in a "balanced" game of D&D, the party "needs" a healer.

I think that Cocytus answered the question correctly, but this point diserves further exploration. The group mechanics of the original D&D games were straightforward and somewhat rigid because they worked. Every good dungeon crawling had had these four members -- a fighter to inflict loss of hitpoints against monsters, a magic user to produce specific effects, a theif to deal with traps, and a cleric to regenerate lost hitpoints. Many of the other early RPG fantasy games like Palladium Fantasy followed this lead because they were attempting to streamline the dungeon crawling experience without redefining it. In that example, PF put much more emphasis on psionics so psychic healers were as common as cleric healers, but healing clerics were still a common site. Religious characters in science fiction games tend to have nothing to do with healing.

If you don't like clerics being used a walking bandaids, then you need to replace them with some other class which fills this slot in the party. The healing psionicists in Palladium Fantasy and Rolemaster are a good starting point. In Knights of the Dinner Table, hit point regeneration is almost never performed by a cleric but rather by taking a sip from a healing potion. That suggests alchemists are the default healers in B.A.'s campaign.

Games developed within the last twenty years have bent further away from the concept of a typical party. White Wolf tried to define a standard gaming experience by establishing rolls for characters in each group but failed. For example, a werewolf pack is supposed to have five different characters whose responcibilities depend on the stage of the moon during their births. White Wolf failed because it provided no compelling reason in the mechanics of the WoD games for players to stick to these roles. Serenity is trying to bring the concept of a standardized party of PC's as a standard crew, but this is an exception.

The DnD defintion of a cleric comes down the Western European definition of a cleric. The powers of clerics parallels the powers of the original Apostles in the Bible. Using the Holy Spirt they healed disease no matter what the person had done (however the person did have to repent). They also had the ability to perform exorcisms, control snakes, cause earthquakes, and control the elements. However, the Apostle's main power was to heal. Physical healing reflected an inner healing and salvation of the soul and therefore is a tenet of Christianity.

Of course this is not the case in all religions. However, if the religion is salvation or soteriologically based then healing would be one of the main abilities of the clerics.

I agree that DnD makes healing into a mechanical and sterile affair. Try making healing like it was for the apostles. A person can only be healed if he has faith and repents. Physical healing should only go as far as the mental healing occurs. Trying to implement would give me headaches but its something to think about.

Repahim's suggestion is very interesting to me.

I can see the anology between the D&D clerics and the twelve apostles. I don't recall the apostles of New Testiment wearing armor and carrying blunt weapons, but I can see some similarities.

The requirement of conversion for healing is an interesting plot element. It would work well in some settings where the faiths are particularly well organized and numerous. I wouldn't use this mechanic in every fantasy setting. In Gareeze Wurld (of HackMaster), I prefer the clerics as they are commonly seen in KoDT, merchant priests who negociate and wheel and deal for their services.

On a related note, I was wondering if anyone who posts here has ever seen a Christian Cleric in a non-earth game. Christian clerics and priests are common enough in historical and modern campaigns, but they sometimes pop up in settings like Greyhawk or Paladium Fantasy. A friend of mine, Rob, was an old school gamer. He kept a house rule that he allowed these characters in any setting. The origin of this rule dates back to the late eighties shortly after the height of anti-gamer propoganda. At the time, the GM was running a long campaign while one of his regular players was becoming a Born Again Christian. The player wanted to continue playing, but he had become uncomfortable with the pagan and violent aspects of AD&D. The player asked Rob if he could play a priest using the regular rules but nonviolently and in service to the Christian faith. Rob thought it was an interetsting idea and accepted the offer. The player's cleric then followed the rest of the party for the remaineder of their adventures and acted as a "walking band-aid" to quote Rob. So long as the cleric himself didn't perform any fighting, he was okay with the idea of his party-mates cutting down others. Everyone was happy.

So long as the cleric himself didn't perform any fighting, he was okay with the idea of his party-mates cutting down others. Everyone was happy.

I have seen similar play when it comes to a character's honor or other core moral value. It isn't always easy to portray, and not every setting lends itself to such, but it can be pulled off if the player wants to put the effort into it.

A druid may not like the destruction of a particular portion of the forest, but if in doing so the party is able to exterminate a very problematic tribe of goblins or something, then the druid may accept the action as it relates to the larger picture.

I actually have a problem with this line of thought. A cleric who cannot kill for moral reasons backing up and encouraging others to do so? That doesn't sound right.

That would be like me hating drugs from a moral and ethical standpoint and then hanging out with a bunch of druggies.

But if we follow that clerical example above, I wouldn't just hang out with the druggies, I'd provide them with medical aid when they o.d., help them buy drugs when they couldn't afford it, babysits them while they're high and act as the sober driver.

I would be encourage and condoning a type of behaviour that goes against everything that I believe in.

If a cleric refuses to fight from a moral or ethical reason, especially if this is mandated by their religion, then why would they encourage others to do so?

I can understand if this was an issue of self defense or even the defense of another. But that's not what that example stated. That example gave the strong impression that the rest of the group just carried on about like business as usual and the cleric's only contribution to the game was as a walking bandaid.

How boring is that?

The cleric's player had a wonderful ooportunity to act as the concience of the group, to dissagree with the others on how to solve problems, and to try to "spread the word" to their enemies.

That would've been much cooler.

"I guess that we're gonna have to agree to disagree then."

It's one thing to back up others and quite another to be encouraging them. But I concede your point. I think we're on the same thought here; just different tangents.

The GM in my example wasn't this detailed in his relation of events. I don't know if the cleric refused to fight because of the general ethics of his faith or because he had taken a specific oath of pacifism. If the case is the later, then there is no conflict or interest. I've taken an oath of chastisty, but I have no objections to anyone else having sex -- in fact, I encourage it. I simply don't know all the circumstances of that particular campaign.

One of the best priests I've seen played was by my brother, in a game I GMed. As much as my brother often seems to role play with the intent of causing as much turmoil as possible, in this case, he did it in character.

His priest followed a death religion, and he rarely healed anyone, unless they seemed to be killing a lot of people, so that their continued life would lead to more death in the future. He spent most of his time ushering people off to meet his god, and on the rare cases that he did heal someone, he usually extorted some kind of payment from them, in the form of a tribute to his church, or the promise of a service to his faith.

From an OOC standpoint, he was a real pain in the butt. From a game standpoint, he was right on the money with his character, and very entertaining to play with.