With greater beings watching over the world – at times interfering, a select few mortals are favored, imparted with a gift of supernatural power. While this provides both defensive and offensive capabilities, it is their ability to heal that truly displays their gifts. Because it is the priest who is blessed, the healing is based on altruistic self-sacrifice wherein the priest takes on the trauma of another, giving up their own life energy to provide healing. After absorbing the trauma, they then call upon their god to heal themselves, which in turn allows them to continue aiding others.
This section includes a full explanation of the processes for Divine healing, the perception of priests, and plenty of roleplay options that can be adjusted to fit with many different deities. Because this type of healing works on the premise of self sacrifice, it adds potential damage from two sources – enemies and allies, making rendering aid during combat seem to be an extremely dangerous undertaking. But there is more to it than what is included in the Faith skill tree, and understanding the mechanics is how priests can render aid and still survive the combat.
For those who want to take on the role of a priest, the Faith skill tree seems like the most obvious place to start. Unlike some of the other roles available, though, the skill tree is only part of it, and in many ways not the most important part. Divine power does not come from skills or some unknowable arcane source, it is granted by a deity. As such, the character is subject to the will and whims of a force greater than themselves.
What does this all mean?
Choosing to be a priest means selecting a deity to worship, learning about their spheres of influence, and following their dogma with the appropriate level of conviction. While the available deities from which to choose will be based on the setting, there are some commonalities that run through them all, beginning with a lack of answers. Deities are fickle, their reasons are their own and they will not ever offer an explanation, despite this, priests who receive their divine power must be unwavering in their faith.
This is where a degree of roleplaying immersion is important. Those who fail to abide by the will and doctrines set down in the name of their god will suffer the penalties for it. Typically based on the severity of the infraction, these can include anything from penalty modifier to a loss of that divine touch. When this happens, penance is required, and gods are not known for making anything easy.
While all priests of a particular deity will have a similar knowledge base, the ability to perform rituals, offer blessings, etc., based on the religion and sphere of influence, that’s typically as far as it goes. So few are granted divine power that it is relatively unknown, more myth than truth. A big reason for this comes from the consequences of displaying this power to the public. Imagine the overwhelming response to someone with the ability to heal injuries and cure diseases in the town square.
With this in mind, those who are granted divine power will rarely serve as spiritual leaders in a single community. These abilities provide them the opportunity to spread knowledge of their deity far and wide, making them adventurers. And what better way than by grouping up with a bunch of heathens and showing them the way to truth through a display of divine power.
The use of any of the skills in the Faith skill tree begins a communal state. In essence, this means that the priest has actively beseeched their deity and been granted divine power.
Why is this important?
While in the communal state, the priest is imbued with divine power. This allows them to regain a number of exchanged Health or Body points equal to their Healing Rate plus 1 per 3 skill points in the Faith tree once per round. While an action must be spent to regain exchanged hit points, no skill roll is required.
Damage priests sustain in combat must be healed naturally or through the Tithing, Salvation (at expert rank), or First Aide skills. After all, gods help those who help themselves.
Paths to Adventure
There are as many different types of priests as there are entities to worship. While the information on the available deities is going to be included with the setting, even within the same orders of believers, there are going to be variants. Some of this is going to be the simple difference of being part of a community where services are held and being a traveler who spread their faith to those who need to hear it, but that is only where the differences begin.
As noted, deities are fickle, with reasons of their own and no will to offer explanations. Most times, this leaves their doctrines open to interpretation, allowing for believers of the same deity to follow radically different ideals. With this in mind, adventuring priests generally fall into one of the paths included in this section. Of course there are degrees, extremes that will be appealing to some, while others remain more moderate.
While not roles unto themselves, these paths can serve as the basis for creating a number of different roles. Any one of them could include specific combat or non-combat skill trees to flesh out their abilities.
These priests view themselves as messengers who seek to spread the influence of their deity. Unlike their community counterparts who must use their voice to be heard, heralds have the divine power to display their message through action. With a focus on the abilities granted by their god, they require little more than their vestments and symbols to travel the world.
Few spread the influence of their deity with the fervor and zeal of crusaders. Combining their divine powers with a focus on combat, typically melee, the sight of them is intimidating enough to draw the attention they want to their cause. Traveling the world provides them the opportunity to fight for their beliefs, while bringing more believers into the fold.
For these priests, it’s not as much about spreading the word of their deity as it is showing non-believers the error of their ways. Whether this involves displays of power or physical force, they find coercion to be the most effective tool. Among the most rewarding aspects of their travels is altering the beliefs of anyone they come across to match their own, or else suffer the consequences of ignorance.
Where the divine exists, there is wickedness to oppose it, and these priests live to cleanse the world of it all. Driven to use their divine abilities to hunt down supernatural threats, they have become consumed with the idea of delving into the darkness, battling the things that exist there to protect the people of the world. Always on alert, they know that to wherever they travel, there will be something hiding, waiting to strike.
Combat or Non-Combat
Perhaps the most defining characteristic of a priest is determining their predilection for battle. This is the one type of character that can be played as a pacifist, refusing to engage in any activity that will directly lead to the harm of another being. It is possible to remain in a support role, choosing to allow others to enter combat, while they use their Divine Power to keep their allies alive. Of course, if the priest has a distaste for combat, they should also be influential in determining when the party engages in battle, putting them in a leadership or advisory role within the group.
On the other hand, as noted in the Priestly Ways, there are paths to battle priests. Those who worship gods with a sphere of influence that incldes war or combat prowess will often seek glory in carnage filled crusades. These armed and armored priests tend to lead the way into battle, using their powers to keep their allies fighting, striving ever onward, justifying their bloody actions in the name of their god. While this is an extreme version of a combat priest, the base concept is there.
Most adventuring priests will fall somewhere between the two examples above along one of the defined paths. Combining Divine Power with some level of combat ability does allow for a degree of versatility on the battlefield that is not available to other types of abilities. The Priest’s degree of combat prowess will typically be dependent on the deity’s doctrines, sphere of influence, path selected, and their role in the religion.
Depending on the setting, there are arguably more ways to play a character with the Faith skill tree than any other single skill set. While some of this will be dictated by the religion, path, and predilection for combat, the primary aspect is in how their personality was altered by being granted Divine Power. When it comes down to it, the character’s background will influence drive and motivation, but for all the other characters, their abilities are the result of learning and training.
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of defining the priest’s personality. It is possible that the divine power is the result of a lifetime of dedication, but just as likely could be granted to a seemingly random teenager for unknown reasons. As mentioned, deities are fickle, they don’t offer explanations, and what was granted can be taken away. The latter alone can have a dramatic affect on the priest’s personality.
From the driven leader on a crusade to the ongoing moral compass to the comedy relief, how a priest is roleplayed can be wide-ranging. Much of what makes the priest interesting and fun to play is also going to be what has driven them out into the world of adventure. Are they seeking to right a wrong, looking for penance, wanting to spread the word of their god, tired of humdrum of life in a village? There are many priest archetypes, any of these can be adopted and will fit well into the majority of fantasy campaign settings.
Blessings and Such
Religion typically plays a very large part in the world, and it is the priests who guide its teachings and influences. As such, there are aspects of that role that are important for the player to understand in order to properly portray them among the populace. Much of this is going to vary by the type of deity and arena of worship, but priests will almost always be responsible for carrying out some form of ritual duties. The following list may be tweaked to fit virtually any of these duties as basic aspects of the religion surrounding the deity.
Blessings. Be it a congregation, farmlands, a new dwelling, a baby, a festival, or the ceremonial hunt, priests are always present to bless it. There really is no limit to the type of blessing that can be granted within a particular sphere of influence, and can include simple concepts such as bringing health, luck, abundance, or virtually any other effect in the name of the deity.
Death Rituals. Most religions offer some type of service to make parishioners feel better about death. Whether in the promise of an afterlife or the disposal of the body, priests of the religion are able to conduct these rituals.
Marriage Ceremonies. The union between two beings is an important ritual among many parishioners as it’s a bond made before their deity. In most cultures, it’s the priest’s duty to conduct and/or oversee these ceremonies.
Offer Atonement. Unless they are psychopaths or murder hobos, people typically feel remorse for some of the things they have done, and it’s often up to the priest to offer them absolution for their thoughts or actions. This might require a monetary or other sacrifice, or else some ritual task, usually determined by the deity’s sphere of influence. Whether they deserve the atonement is not usually a matter for the priest to decide.
The divine powers included in the Faith skill tree are designed to be combat related. Even the Resurrect skill, is typically going to be used in and around combat situations. There are other divine feats, however, that most priests will be able to perform, based on their deity’s sphere of influence. A (modified) Faith skill check will likely be required to perform these feats, based on the situation and GM determination, but they are not abilities that need to be purchased.
Some beings are able to infect others with a type of disease that changes them, in effect creating others like themselves, such as lycanthropy or vampirism. Priests may try to cleanse victims of these infections with a daylong ritual that involves penance or some type of sacrifice. A Faith skill check is always required to purge the infection. While the GM can make determination on difficulty, generally those recently who have not yet made a kill as a result of the infection will have a difficult modifier, while those who have killed will have a very difficult modifier, and those who are unwilling have an amazing modifier to be cleansed. Should the attempt fail, that priest may not try again on that character.
Evil spirits, demons, or devils may have the ability to take control of another, when this occurs, the priest can attempt to expel them. These rituals can last minutes, hours, or days, culminating when the priest attempts the exorcism with a skill check and the possessing spirit makes a Willpower save. If the attempt fails, the priest must typically wait until they increase in character rank to try again.
Priests of some deities can bless some quantity of an element, whether it is dirt, fire, water, etc, for use in rituals, or may be employed against undead creatures, causing damage equal to the blessing priest’s Faith skill rank. There must be enough of a quantity to make a splash attack to cause damage, though a splash attack from a very large quantity will not necessarily cause more damage.
A priest of a specific deity will have the ability to create the symbol of his god, and bless it with his power. Should the attempt fail, the crafting is not good enough and it cannot be blessed. Those who display the symbol of the deity will typically have a +2 modifier to the priests skill check, when the Priest is calling upon a Divine Power for use on them.
When there is great need and the deity is listening, there is always the option for something phenomenal to occur. Of course, this is also a once in multiple campaigns type of event that typically involves a significant sacrifice, extraordinary devotion, or impossible achievement that falls within the deity’s sphere of influence.
This is an optional rule for those who would like to take on a more immersive roleplay experience by delving into a pure devotion of the priest’s beliefs. Available to those who worship any entity, it involves engaging in a series of rituals that brings the priest closer to their religion. The actual form these rituals take on will likely vary by deity and sphere of influence, but those who choose to pursue this Purity are granted a +2 bonus modifier to all skills in the Faith skill.
Unfortunately, that means that failure to follow the rituals is viewed as a corruption of Faith, giving the priest a -2 to modifier to all skills in Faith skill tree. Further, a failure to show penitence and reestablish the rituals could cause the priest to lose access to one or more of the divine abilities.
It is up to the player and GM to come up with a list of daily rituals to match the character’s religious doctrines. These are almost entirely roleplaying in nature and have very few, if any, in-game effects. So, it is important to set clear expectations on the player’s responsibilities, penalties for infractions, and methods of penance.
Below are some basic principles that could be used to develop the purity doctrines:
• Maintaining a shaved head, regularly washing hands or feet, wearing only a specific color of garments, etc.
• Timed Rituals – prayers or sacrifices that are centered around or focus on sunset or sunrise, etc.
• Funeral Rituals – burning or burying the dead, offering last rites, consuming the heart, etc.
The deity’s sphere of influence can generate many doctrines, or very few. Simply put, some religions make it more difficult to remain than others, though with fewer doctrines, penance tends to be more severe.
With exceptions based in specific religions, all priests hold some form of public worship. The nature of these can vary, especially among those who adventure, but it is an essential part of spreading the doctrines, glory, and/or word of their deity. It is typically left up to the player to determine how they want to roleplay this, and it can most often be performed off-panel so as to not take time away from the game, though there are some exceptions.
As has been noted several times, deities are fickle. No mechanic simulates this better than rolling the dice. One of the things that differentiates priests from other types of characters is that their abilities are granted, and what is given can be taken away. The GM or player can proclaim multiple failures to be evidence that the deity has been angered and now the player must provide a display of public worship to win back favor.
Additionally, some Faith skills mention that one or more failures can require liturgy. This is a relatively subjective requirement, essentially requiring religious platitudes, proverbs, and truisms before they can try again. Ultimately, the type of action and degree to which the player participates will determine how long it takes, with the simple, I kneel and pray proclamation requiring around ten minutes of game time and roleplayed pleas, rants, or speeches dropping that to a few rounds.
This is an optional rule that encourages creativity and roleplaying. Since priests tend to be loud and enjoy spouting the praises of their deities, this rule rewards those players who are willing to make up elaborate prayers, customizing them for each new individual and/or situation.
A subjective bonus may be given to a skill check in the Faith tree, of not greater than a +2 modifier, at the GM’s discretion, whenever a prayer is made. The same prayers cannot be made over and over, and must be stated aloud for everyone to enjoy. Since these are intended for more dramatic moments, the GM is encouraged to limit how often a modifier is granted.