I love Dungeons and Dragons, however, before one can play, they first have to acknowledge that the game is essentially broken, and before the game is playable and fun, it's up to the Dungeon Master to fix a lot of things. The greatest obstacle is the problem of balance, and the harshest victim of this balance is to the Cleric. Of all the complaints about D&D, the cleric is the most unattractive, and boring class that one can play if it's taken without any modifications.
To play the cleric as written, you play a nurse. Somebody whose only job is to chase off undead, and heal the idiot warrior who thinks himself invincible. Wizards are no better mind you; They don't have enough spells to really be effective throughout the entire game, but at least their spells are more useful then a clerics. Before you can play any magic-user, you first have to modify these two classes.
Now before I get nasty E-mails from professional Cleric players who are mad because I've just mocked their favorite class, I just want to say that I've played tons of clerics and LOVE the class, but none of my clerics were walking hospitals. This post is about fixing classes, and if a class needs more power then it would be the cleric.
Another word that gets tossed around the gaming groups is ," Vibrant worlds!" . . . well, that's two words really, but no need to be so picky. Creating a vibrant world that is alive around the players, not dependent upon them. The world doesn't revolve around the PCs, this is a lot harder to do then it sounds like, but you can fix classes that you think need modified by creating a vibrant world that is independent of itself.
Wars are the cornerstone of any good campaign world. These take place on a rather constant basis, lords squabbling about land, or evil done to them from far away lands, there are lots of reasons for a king to declare war on a country, just look back at history and you can find lots of ideas for background wars that the PC's can interact with, but even if they don't, would rage on independently. One of the coolest and most bloody wars that will fix your Cleric class is of course the always feared "Holy War", and there is no better example of a holy evil then the Inquisitions.
INQUISITIONS AND GAMING
This is a civil war that rages independent of kings, the church is above them and allows them to govern the people as the church sees fit. We enter magic into the world of Church, specifically wizardry, and we put a man in charge of the church who believes that wizardry is the work of the devil. All Wizards and Witches must be suffered for the world to be a better place. Look at your map and section off an area where Magic is against the law . . . not to say that there can't be native mages! There can be, they just have to be secretive about their arts! The Inquisitions weren't just about riding the world of Satan, their true goal was to capture power and wealth, and with realizing this goal there was NOTHING that could stop them. They didn't believe that everybody that they arrested, tortured, and murdered were witches, by arresting them they would also take their land and seize their property, all of it! If someone flaunted their wealth, they would set them up and they would take it.
Not everybody involved was evil, and this is what fixes your Cleric class as well as your Paladin class, the Clerics who enforced this stuff believed that what they were doing was good. They were ridding the world of evil! However, and here is were the fun role-playing side comes in, the more powerful you get, the further up the totem pole you can see. Imagine your horror once you discover this terrible secret! Of course you as a DM never have to go there if you don't want to. The man in charge of the civil war could be a Lawful Good alignment as well, and simply have some questionable generals in his war that are just too effective to get rid of. The details are up to you, but this does strengthen your cleric class. Within his own nation he is seen as a hero immediately. He is somebody to be trusted and protects the masses from the evils of Satan. It also gives the cleric a cabal to report to, his superiors will also give him specific tasks to accomplish from time to time. The evil within the church will always be hidden from view . . . unless of course your profession is a Wizard, then you would instantly be made privy to the underlying bigotry of this regime.
To have a holy uprising, one needs an enemy to fight. There are two ways to do this, either Satan is real or he is not! Personally I always do have a being of ultimate evil which looms over my world like a dark cloud. I restrict my players to playing only Good and Neutral characters, if they slip into an evil alignment then I don't hide the fact that something is watching and if they become a minion of it then they will lose their characters to it. This works for me and my group, it may not work for yours. The Satanic being actually deserves its own post, so for this one we'll go right to the opposing side, the Wizard!
In order to have a good war you need two sides. Both of these sides can be Lawful Good, this is a war between laws. One law says that Magic is a beneficial science that is good for mankind, and the other law says that it isn't. Neither side is truly "evil" and if PC's get themselves tangled up in it from time to time, no matter what side they are on, they can see the logic in that sides thinking.
Depending on the extreme of power that your inquisitions have, your wizard class will be extremely challenged . . . by deciding to do this you are at the same time limiting magical items, as those will be illegal as well and if flaunted may become evidence used against you. Of course the Wizards would demand that they are not the tools of Satan, simply scientists who use their powers for the good and advancement of mankind, which may or may not be true in all cases. The Wizards would take over the ideals of their section of the world, this would include other clerics from religions that the Inquisition would seek to destroy and convert to their own god (which this god should always be Lawful Good or else you'll run into to problems later on down the road).
Wizards would be forced underground in the taken cities as well, forming groups and networks to further the battles that will take place within the city itself. It is up to you to apply logic to the scenario, and tailor it to fit your style and to the world in which you run your games.
EFFECTS ON GAMEPLAY
Essentially this puts the Cleric into a more attractive class, and gives him a purpose and goals, be they to oppose the civil war or to further it. This goes the same for all other classes as well. If you have a magically dead section of the world, the philosophy on magic would be that it is dangerous and evil, for warriors as well. It effects the Paladins the most, it actually builds a world were they are needed. There are a lot of rules regarding them that have to do with balancing the game that just doesn't make sense any other way. This puts a name to their religion and gives them real superiors to answer to, instead of them just having to erase most of their money from their character sheet at the end of the session.
Some DM's will see this as a unfair restriction on Wizards, actually it's not! Players like to play classes that are dangerous, they enjoy doing things that they aren't suppose to be doing. A wizard in a party will have to warm up to his fellow players, and philosophies will change (or not!) depending on the role-playing done during the game. This is essentially bigotry, and will have to be dealt with in the game.
Some of the down-sides are that it may be too challenging for your group, especially your Super Player characters who love to collect extremely powerful magic items and impress NPC's with them. You will also need to set limits on what magic can do, as it becomes a lost and dying art, things will start to change from how they are written in the Players Handbook, the easy fix that I use is that casting times are doubled, but it is really more involved then that, but that is up to you, and doesn't need to be dealt with right away. It depends of the degree of power and the time that the inquisitions have influenced your world. If it has been decades or centuries then clearly the nature of Magic would be changed considerably.
Of course the upsides are that it aids you in setting limits fairly, expands the possibilities of stories, role-players love this kind of stuff, and it adds a lot of color completely independent of your players and how they chose to play the game.
Have fun with this idea and if it sounds like something that you would like to incorporate into your games, do it slowly! It all starts with one man and one city, and slowly spreads from there. Watch your players and how they react to it and let me know how things go.
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