View Full Version : Appropriate Clerical Motives

Fiery Justice
2009-07-12, 03:16 PM
Okay, so everyone knows that a cleric is someone who worships a deity and gains power through that worship. But why? Are all motives equal? Which ones can and should be used (for a cleric) and which ones should not?

In order to facilitate easy discussion, I'm going to post a few examples using Jozan (NG Would-Be-Cleric of Pelor) as the character and offering different potential motives. You can answer a single example (such as #2 or #4) or just the ones you believe inappropriate (or appropriate for that matter) or all of them, if you like.

Example One
Jozan had lived on a farm all his life, working under the sun. When a man came through town, proclaiming that the Sun had a message he listened. The young Jozan was enthralled by the message of hope and of righteousness and so he committed himself to Pelor, joining the priesthood. Three years later, that commitment and enthrallment carries on.

Example Two
Jozan was a young man when his sister was struck with a terrible disease and seemingly doomed to death. But a cleric of Pelor passed through town, he laid hands on her and healed her (free of charge). Struck with a deep sense of gratitude and debt to Pelor, Darren joined the priesthood of Pelor.

Example Three
Jozan joined the Order of St. Tarin, the only organized group of healers in his city. Jozan does not view Pelor in the worshipful view of many of his companions, but he respects him as a representative of Good and the source of his power.

Example Four
Jozan is the next in a long line of minor lords sponsored directly by Pelor himself. Jozan has no real interest in religion but his fief greatly benefits from being ruled by a cleric and he is willing to put in the effort to appease Pelor.

If anyone can think of any other motives, I'd like to hear about it.

2009-07-12, 03:32 PM
How about this: Someone who finds his personal ideals match exactly, or nearly so, the ideals of a deity, and who then dedicates himself to that deity because the deity represents everything he stands for.

Another common motivation is that the character's friends are also dedicate to that deity, and he likes the community that their faith gives them.

Also, you're using a Good deity here; L/CE types have different motivations, too. It's not all that uncommon for a LE character to worship a deity because of the promise of power over others, or a character to worship a CE deity out of fear, because he has gotten entangled and knows the deity will smite him into powder if he ever removes his allegiance.

There are people who will worship certain deities because they are the patrons of... (whatever)--magic, their race, their country, etc... and they are dedicated to the (whatever), so worshiping that deity is a natural part of that dedication.

Pharaoh's Fist
2009-07-12, 03:58 PM
Eldest son got the land and money, Jozan had to turn elsewhere.

2009-07-12, 05:42 PM
Agent Dale Cooper, Twin Peaks, explaining why he joined the FBI: "I thought it was the strongest possible statement I could make about the kind of person I wanted to be."

2009-07-12, 06:02 PM
Jozan's older brother was an adventurer. Over about 9 months of 4-encounter-per-day cycles, his brother hit epic levels and made an epic spell that gave him a divine rank, with all the people he'd helped along the way becoming his worshipers, and elevating him to minor deityhood.

Jozan now talks with his brother regularly, and his brother grants him 9th level spells for kicks, and to help out his family around the house.


Jozan got bullied as a child, and so he became a cleric of Pelor after seeing a Divine Metamagic Persisted Righteous Might using cleric come through town and slaughter gaggles of fighters of the same level.

He helps out at the local soup kitchen to balance out his egotistical motives.

2009-07-13, 07:19 PM
Okay, so everyone knows that a cleric is someone who worships a deity and gains power through that worship. But why? Are all motives equal? Which ones can and should be used (for a cleric) and which ones should not?

Any motive can and should be used.

I once had an anti-theistic cleric. Not atheist -- he acknowledged the existence of deities. He simply believed that their existence didn't necessarily hold any relevance for mortals, and that ideally mortals should be free of divine entanglements, and chart their own destinies.

It came off as a blend of deism, Buddhism, and secular humanism. His belief in the concept was strong enough to grant him "divine" powers, though he always referred to them as "the deeper secrets of natural philosophy."

He was amazing. I ended up making him a demigod of sorts after the character ultimately met his end facing down several powerful evil divine types in order to buy time for the rest of the party. Turns out he'd led by example, and his followers' fervor was sufficient (along with some behind-the-scenes sponsorship by a certain good-aligned deity who admired his conviction) to trigger apotheosis.

Naturally, he's a very hands-off demigod, but that campaign world still has a God of Seeking One's Own Destiny Free of Gods. It's always worth a doubletake from new players.

2009-07-13, 08:26 PM
Eldest son got the land and money, Jozan had to turn elsewhere.

The classic origin for medieval clergymen. :)

Other variations;

Jozan's elder brother received the hand of the woman he loved in an arranged marriage between their families. He shaved his head and joined the clergy, rather than watch his brother marry his lover, vowing to never return home.

Jozan was a foundling, whose parents left him on the doorstep of the Mission of St. Anders, a famous priest of Pelor. Raised in the mission as a ward of the church, he learned how to assist the priests from the time he could walk, and muttered liturgies to himself as he went to sleep. He has quite literally never considered any other life than to be a priest of Pelor.

Jozan was a street rat, having fled overbearing and distracted parents who already had their hands full with their other seven children, and found himself in the big city, far from the farm of his birth. Running the streets, stealing bread and fleecing gullible out-of-towners for small coin (and sometimes even doing a bit of honest work, as a guide, porter or message runner), Jozan was well on his way to earning an unmarked grave or a berth in the local beggars, rogues or dungsweepers guilds, until plague ravaged the city. One of hundreds of random people left to die in a poor quarter sealed off by panicky authorities, who sought to stop the spread of the plague, your life (and that of the others) was saved when an angelic deva appeared, having been invoked by the high patriarch of Pelor, and sent into the plague-ridden poor quarter with instructions to 'save all that you can.' Jozan was among several dozen sudden converts who signed up for the clergy that day, but one of the few who actually struck through the training, and became a priest.

Jozan was on pilgrimage with his family when a bandit raid left them penniless and destitute, and Jozan orphaned. A party of adventurers stumbled upon the sorry caravan of survivors, and the priestess of Pelor with them conjured up food and drink for them, handed them coin from her own purse, and adopted the ophaned Jozan as her own ward. Raised as a squire / lackey to a team of successful adventurers, he would wait in town while they explored dangerous areas, ready to clean their armor (and, often, their wounds) when they returned. One day they did not return, and Jozan travelled in the direction they had travelled to find them. He found only the signs of a great battle, and their bodies. He still carries his foster-mother's holy symbol on a chain around his heart (and another one that he uses, as he does not risk this last keepsake of his mentor in combat), and has followed in her footsteps in joining the clergy.

Jozan's father raised him alone, working a quiet life as a scribe and records-keeper. He never spoke of his mother, only to say that she 'was no longer with us, but she watches over us.' Sometimes, late at night, when he was supposed to be asleep, his father would sneak out, and go into the scriptorum in the dry cellar, where the texts and records were archived. Sometimes, there would be strange lights, shining through the cracks. It was in his teen years that a local moneylender decided to make an example of his father for failing to return a payment in time, and armed thugs burst in and began beating his father, while another thug held a knife to Jozan's throat, telling his father that he would watch his son die. A blinding light erupted from the cellar and the door exploded open, shattering the iron-bound wooden hatchway. Jozan could barely see through eyes streaming from the light, but he saw a female form in glistening armor lay the thugs low with sweeps of a golden sword. Knocked unconscious in the fray, he woke to find his father dead, surrounded by the bodies of the moneylender and his men. A note in handwriting that he did not recognize called him son and told him to take his fathers coin and travel to the church of Pelor to seek sanctuary. To this day, young Jozan does not know if the angelic being he saw was truly his mysterious mother, but he intends to learn the necessary divine rites to call her up...