D&D: Role of the Cleric

One question that always seems to pop up when you are beginning a new campaign is: “Who’s gonna play the cleric?”. This job generally goes to the newcomer or the last to arrive. The cleric, as a “role-playable” character has been grossly neglected. Throughout my years as a role-player and dungeonmaster, many people who play clerics have play them incorrectly, not incorrect as in the rules the rules but incorrect as a developed character. Most people play clerics as boring magic-users with healing spells vs. deeply rich characters with an interesting background. This article will discuss some cleric archetypes you can use in your games to give life to a character class deemed by many as boring.

The Deity and the Church

The deity dedicated cleric is the most way people play clerics. The primary focus of this character is to attract followers to their deity’s philosophies. The pinnacle of this archetype is the physical construction of a church or shrine in the name of their deity. However,  clerics of this archetype are never satisfied with the opening of just one church or gaining half a dozen followers, they will be constantly trying to gain more and more followers and opening more churches until the time of they leave to meet their maker.

The Cleric and the Cause

One possible way to liven up the cleric is to give him or her a cause. During the early stages of the characters life they may adopt a particular cause. Examples of a cause might be: the recovery of the “Holy Icon of Mazdar” or the establishment of a new religious outpost in the “Barbarian Tribes of Highdale”. The character’s life would be spent seeking to achieve the goals of their cause. Sometimes this cause might put the characters in jeopardy or might give them potentials for new adventures

The Cleric as Shaman

Usually portrayed as an NPC, the shaman or witchdoctor is a path seldom travelled by a player. The existence of Barbarian class opens possibilities for an interesting barbarian specialty: the barbarian shaman. The barbarian shaman would specialize in the use of primitive spells and would be more of a land or nature orientated cleric, much like a druid. This specialty might also have unique abilities to such as the ability to craft healing balms or salves potions from the land.

The Cleric in Exile

Another possible playing a cleric is to have that cleric fall from grace within their church. The exiled cleric would still spread the word of their deity with or without permission. Or they might preach a very different version of their religion causing them to be labeled a heretic. This archetype  would provide for some interesting adventures especially when the cleric’s party visits a town or city where the cleric’s religion is active.

The Cleric as Wanderer

Another closely related cleric would be the wanderer. The wanderer cleric would have no one place designated as his or her home base. Instead opting to travel about spreading the word of his or her god. The wanderer cleric would be a chief source of news in small towns and would be greatly appreciated. If bards are active within a campaign a wandering cleric and a bard would make for a good combination.

Some examples of refugee and wandering clerics would be: “Warren Borinias” the traveling preacher of Helm and the bringer of good tidings or “Kalox the Banished”, fleeing the church of Athena for refusing to sacrifice war criminals.

The Cleric as Charlatan

“Give me a religion and I give you a profit center” says Kaj the Profit, a well known and highly respected figure among the  desert tribal regions.  Preaching fire and  brimstone  this cleric seeks food, cash and favors in order to make people “right with their gods” while extracting as much money as possible before hitting the road to their next conquest. This archetype has many possibilities as the cleric might find themselves in situations where they are being hunted or recognized by authorities as false preachers.

As can be seen the cleric can be a class as lively as any knightly-knight of decrepit arch-mage, This article is dedicated to the people might be reluctant to play a character or are looking new ideas to breathe life into their existing character

Adventures in Writing Part 2: The Amateur Years

My last post Adventured in Writing Part 1 talked about my experiences as a fledgling writer and how I published my 1st article. That experience was truly life affirming. Unfortunately, that was my 1st and last D&D related article. But this did happen:

Met Gary Gygax at a conference in Evansville, Indiana.

Not too long after the D&D article was published, my family moved to Bend Oregon where I registered at Central Oregon Community College. When I built my schedule, I took as many classes as possible that related to writing and publishing. Here’s my schedule (Yes, I have a lot of this crap in my binders)

I had every plan on becoming a full-time writer. As a matter of fact, one of my first papers for writing comp was called “Tales of a freelance writer”. Check out the red typewriter ink on this baby:

Term Paper For The Win!

During my tenure at C.O.C.C. I kept the dream of writing alive and the college newspaper became my outlet. I wrote few profiles of a couple of my instructors. Presented for your enjoyment: my profiles of Art Sanchez and Gene Taylor

Profile of Art Sanchez

One item I would like to note is that these two professors were in the Business Software track at the community college. I had changed my focus from becoming a writer to becoming a computer programmer. If you look at my schedule, you’ll see that in the 2nd and following semesters I took more and more technology programs. After a little more than 2 years I had succeeded in becoming a programmer. But what happened to my writing? Honestly my writing took a back seat to my coding. I had traded one passion for another.

After spending a few years as a programmer for a local vacation resort I set out for the big city: SEATTLE! After a brief stint working at CSC (Computer Sciences Corp), I went to work for a company called The Juiceman. You remember the Juiceman:

You know you’ve made it as a company when Jim Carry mocks your founder 😊 At the Juiceman I worked on a kick ass team where we toiled building innovative order entry, fulfillment and payment processing systems. For the time this was large scale application capable of supporting literally hundreds of users (LOL)

Our company was exploding at the seams and our team was in a race to keep up with the growth. One night we were deploying our software and things went horribly wrong. A conversion application we had written was seriously flawed and we had to roll back our deployment. This recovery was done with a partial backup I had miraculously created. It was not a planned backup, it was a lucky backup. After a very LONG night another LONG day after we managed to recover.

After some sorely needed rest we took time analyze what went wrong. I took copious notes. These notes rekindled something that had gone dormant: my desire to be a writer. “This could be a cool article” I thought to myself. But where to publish this article. In the next post I’ll talk about getting published professionally.

Adventures in Writing Part 1

A good friend of mine C. Robert Cargill  is a screen writer who spends a lot of his time on Twitter (@massawrym) mentoring writers. The biggest themes in his mentoring include: being disciplined and never giving up. I wanted to share my story to help emphasize theme of never giving up.

My story begins in the early 80’s. In the early 80’s I, like many other writers, discovered the game Dungeons & Dragon. I was a player and eventually became a dungeon master. As the mid 80’s rolled around I got deeper into the game and eventually started to go to D&D conventions that occurred throughout the Los Angeles area. Along with attending D&D conventions I felt the urge to write about the game I truly loved. I had a goal: I wanted to be published in either Dragon (the O.G. of D&D magazines) or Dungeon (a new magazine dedicated to short one adventures).

My first submission was an adventure for the new magazine called Dungeon: 

Here you can see my 1st submission being SOUNDLY REJECTED…

Being the ever diligent adventurer (writer) I didn’t give up. I started work almost immediately on my next article. This one would be for Dragon Magazine and had the title “Before First Level”. This one took a long time and I was proud of the work. When I was done I printed it on the good old dot-matrix printer in computer science class (APPLE IIe and submitted it to Dragon Magazine c/o TSR Hobbies.

It took forever to get a response. Oh no, it was another rejection…. But WAIT! This time the rejection letter had a NOTE. Check it out…

Yup I received praise from the Editor in Chief…. The one and only Roger Moore (no not James Bond) He said I had talent. WOW this was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I persevered. While I waited to hear from Dragon Magazine, I became a member of the RPGA (Role Playing Gamers Association). The RPGA had a newsletter called Polyhedron.  Oh boy yet another place I could possibly get published….

I soon went to work putting together a submission for Polyhedron. My 1st article for Poly was called “Solutions to the Monty Haul” campaign.

I soon received a letter from Jean Rabe the editor in chief of Polyhedron. She rejected the article:

She also suggested I flesh out one of the threads in the article… I chose an idea related to taxes. I called it “The Role of Taxes” This one was put together on a typewriter and submitted to Polyhedron. Sometime later I received a note from Jean… CONGRATULATIONS we will be printing your article in a future issue of Polyhedron.

My 1st (non-professional) article was published in Issue #38 of Polyhedron. Here’s the table of contents with a shot of the cover and the text of the printed article..

This publication occurred in 1987 and it took me nearly 5 more years before I got paid to write. Now I didn’t stop writing I just had stuff like college take over a bit. In my next part I’ll talk about college and how I became a professional writer.