Wednesday, June 28, 2017

I Don't Like Clerics in Pathfinder

Now that I have your attention: I don't like them because they're too good.
  • They have two "fast" save progressions;
  • They have a medium attack progression;
  • They are proficient in simple weapons (a mace or morningstar does as much damage as a longsword);
  • They are proficient in shields and medium armor;
  • They can cast spells in that armor without penalty;
  • With few exceptions, they have access to all the divine spells in the books;
  • They have nine levels of spells;
  • Plus two domains with extra spells and abilities;
  • Plus they channel energy to heal or harm or turn undead;
  • Plus they don't even have to memorize healing spells if good / inflict spells if evil. 
Basically, they're second-line tanks with both the ability to heal and cast spells. They're too good at what they do. The worst thing that can be said about them is that they're only adequate in combat and that their class progression is rather boring with just increases in spells and energy channeling, and even that can be mitigated somewhat with the right archetype. 

Oh sure, someone is going to say "Just take away their holy symbol and then they're second-rate fighters,", but that's missing the point, which happens to be "What would be a crippling loss to any other class merely inconveniences clerics. They can still contribute to the party in combat until such time as they can craft another holy symbol, or paint one on their shield, once combat is over." (Unless, of course, they took the Birthmark trait, which is a holy symbol that can't be removed without a very specific maiming.)

A well-built, well-run cleric will tear up an encounter. While it will never be the damage dealer the fighter is, nor can it call down quite the same FWAKOOM that a wizard can (although Harm and Flame Strike are nothing to sneeze at), the fact that it can stand knee-deep in the carnage and sling spells and radiate heals means the cleric is the heart of an adventuring party. 

Perhaps the cleric doesn't need fixing. Perhaps I'm proposing solutions in search of problems. But here are my thoughts on the matter.

Split the traditional cleric into two separate classes: Cloistered Cleric and Templar
(I would have used "warpriest", because the name fits perfectly, but I'm trying to avoid confusion with the class from the Advanced Class Guide. [and yes, there is a cleric archetype called cloistered cleric, but it's awful and no one in their right mind uses it.])

The Templar is what you think of when you think cleric 
Armor, attack progression, the whole bit. There are just two key changes:
  1. It is a spontaneous caster, like the oracle, including access to Cure/Inflict spells based on deity and alignment. 
  2. It only has six levels of spells, like the warpriest, and uses that spell progression. 
The Templar still has access to Channel Energy and Domains, adding domain spells to its list of those known. 

The Cloistered Cleric is more like a divine wizard
Because "cloistered" means "sheltered", the CC has spent much of his life in the temple being a professional priest and as such doesn't know how to wear armor or swing a mace. (Although there's nothing stopping him from spending the feats to do either.)
I'm not ashamed to admit that Etoh from
Record of Lodoss Wars was my inspiration.
  1. Skill points are 4+ Int per level, and all Knowledge skills are available. 
  2. Hit dice reduced to d6.
  3. Attack progression is slow. 
  4. Only one fast save progression (Will). 
  5. No armor or shield proficiency. 
  6. Proficient only in club, dagger, heavy crossbow, light crossbow, and quarterstaff. 
  7. Still able to Channel Energy. 
  8. Nine levels of spells. 
  9. Three domains instead of two. (From an aesthetic standpoint, I suppose that the Templar should only have one domain and the CC have two, but there are several archetypes which demand the loss of a domain. Having no domains would hurt the Templar class, especially since it's now a spontaneous caster and needs all the choices it can get.)
Speaking of Archetypes
Use your best judgement. Some, like Crusader or Divine Strategist, are clearly better suited to the Templar, while others (Scroll Scholar, Theologian) are obviously more scholarly and thus should be assigned to the Cloistered Cleric. Some need to be eliminated (the aforementioned cloistered archetype), and the rest (such as Evangelist or Merciful Healer) should be available to both classes. As always, the GM should exercise her best judgement and tweak as necessary.

I realize this is deeply heretical in terms of butchering sacred cows, but this notion intrigues me. I would greatly appreciate coherent, reasoned critiques on this proposal, specifically in matters of game balance.

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