Get Religion with Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics

Who’s your sky daddy?

If you’ve got dungeons and you’ve got clerics, then you want GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics by Phil Masters. At just 37 pages, this supplement lets you trade in your bland and no-brand McPriest for a uniquely devoted servant of . . .

Wait a second, why do clerics get their own special book? I mean, sure, there are dedicated books for Barbarians and Swashbucklers, but those are part of the offshoot GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Denizens sub-series that will (I presume) eventually showcase all of the adventurer archetypes. But of the PC types in the main Dungeon Fantasy series’ Adventurers book, why do clerics alone get the splatbook spotlight within the main Dungeon Fantasy series??

You’ll have to ask SJG for their official answer, but I’ll guess it’s the following simple reason. For a lot of gaming groups, clerics require a big customization step all their own: definition of god and sect. Because making the Flame Priests of the Fire God and the Deep Prelates of the Ocean God identical in all but name is . . . well, if not quite sacrilegious, definitely boring.

Sure, any character of any type can have affiliations with guilds, schools, home towns, patrons, even a favored religion and church. But for most dungeon fantasy PCs, these are last-step additions for color. By contrast, clerics are largely defined by their god and sect (unless you’re just stuffing them all under the campaign-wide Church of Ogolnybog the Generic and Mighty). Dungeon Fantasy 7 tackles this task with custom-crafted clergy for every cult.

The book goes broader than just that one archetype, though! It can flesh out your druid, holy warrior, evil cleric, or unholy warrior with an appropriate deity, and provide a demigod or half-spirit character with a holy/unholy family tree to roost in. Even mundane, non-ecclesiastical adventurers are more interesting when they adopt a deity. And should you enhance one of those adventurers with the cleric lens, why not pick some powers from a themed deity to build yourself a night knight or a flamin’ shaman?

“Do I want this book?” (Spoiler: Yes)

Fire Gods! Death Gods! Gods of Healing! War Priests! Priests of the Harvest! Holy Warriors of the Storm! Unholy Warriors of the Sea! Dark Priests of . . . uh, Darkness! And – because it can be done – Holy Riders of the God of Horses! Clerics offers dozens of variant clerics and holy warriors (with notes on their evil counterparts and druids, too), some sketched with just a few notes, others with detailed powers, spell lists, moral views, and goals. On top of that are sections on holy symbol weapons, divine items and relics, and other special clerical gear (including the low-down on holy water), as well as useful discussions of the roles of gods, pantheons, sects, and followers in the game. (It’s a shame this book didn’t come after Dungeon Fantasy 17: Guilds in the series; some sample faiths, cults, and monasteries in the Guilds format would be a great addition to Clerics.)

Take note that Clerics offers god types, not specific gods. There are no write-ups of Thor or Anubis, no suggestions for placing real-world religions into the game, no named gods like D&D‘s Pelor and Garl Glittergold. Clerics leaves you to make up the exact gods of your pantheon(s), the names of their churches, their holy regalia, and so on. Or you can leave them barely-sketched, if you like: “There’s a sun god. Her holy symbol is . . . sun-like.” The point is simply that the sun god gives her powered followers commandments and abilities that differ from what the mountain god confers. That’s what matters most from the dungeon fantasy perspective, and that’s what Clerics delivers. (Should you want to creatively flesh out specific gods and their sects for a detailed campaign background, Clerics isn’t a complete primer for the task but it will help.)

Marginalia

The gods presented in the book spurred a few humble thoughts in this mortal:

Priests of the Hunt and Holy Hunters (pp. 17-18)

These are fun character concepts. I’d add a note that such a god is perfect for dungeon delvers. These adventurers can literally be on a holy mission to hunt monsters!

Gods of Love and Fertility (pp. 18-20)

These gods are depicted as focusing on beauty, romance, flirtation, seduction, and all the fun stuff that follows. That’s fine and good. I’d just add that you could also place a quite different god in this category: a god of love and order – i.e, “proper” love, as the god sees it.

It’s easy to imagine, for example, a god of romance, passion, and flirtation, possibly tied to domains of beauty, chaos, wine, poetry, song, and flighty capriciousness . . . and, as a counter, a god of commitment, chastity, marriage, and other sanctioned relations, tied to domains of order, home, hearth, family, community, law, and self-discipline. Sex, fertility, and reproduction (within the ordained boundaries, of course!) could also fall under this god, or possibly under a third deity (who might moonlight as a god of animal husbandry, harvests, nature, child-rearing, and so on).

An evil god of love, meanwhile, seems an odd concept, but Clerics creatively fields the idea with a god of seductive manipulation, jealousy, and vice. I’ll offer another possibility: my suggested Eros-like god of sensuality and Puritanical god of propriety could be mutually complementary partners – or they could be bitter enemies, each considering the other an evil god who perverts love’s true ideal. (I won’t say which god is right, only that one is more fun at parties.)

Sun Gods (pp. 28-29)

I rather expected there’d be an optional power modifier here for a Sun God priest whose powers wane at night, presumably with the opposite of the effect available to priests of Gods of the Night.

If you like that effect, GURPS Powers should have your back. Or take a hint from Clerics‘ suggestion for Sea Gods: use the standard Druidic power modifier, but change its reliance on “nature’s strength” to reliance on whatever’s appropriate. That could mean distance from the sea for Sea Gods, or amount of sunlight for Sun Gods, or degree of darkness or moonlight for Gods of the Night.

The latter suggests an interesting split between priests of the Night God, who’d enjoy full power on moonless nights, lesser power as the moon waxes, and weakness in daylight; and priests of the Moon God, who’d experience full strength under the full moon, lesser power as the moon wanes, and weakness in daylight. Alternately, Moon God powers could be affected only by the current phase of the moon, regardless of day or night. (You could also rule that Sun God priests, weakest at night, get back a little power from moonlight, since it’s reflected sunlight – but this is supposed to be dungeon fantasy, not dungeon modern scientific understanding!)

That is all.

Now go forth, child, and make ye a sacrifice of ninety-nine and seven hundred cents. It is pleasing to the All-Seeing Eye in the Pyramid.

Dungeon Fantasy 7: Clerics

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