Divine casting is weird.


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


So what would the game look like if all casting suffered from Arcane failure?

I'm not specifically trying to implement this in my games or encourage others to do it, it just seemed weird to me that it only affected arcane spells and every arcane caster that isn't a full caster gets some kind of exception language to bypass it. Given how rare it is to see armor proficiency feats actually taken it seems like it would be easier to just be able to cast in what you're proficient in. (a la 5th edition) But I wanted to put the question to the other end because for the most part the logic seems to be that you have to wave your hands and do precise gang signs to cast arcane magic and armor impedes your movement, BUUUUT divine casting has spells with somatic components so why wouldn't they suffer from it as well? The only ones that should be able to get away with it are Psychic classes that just need to think and feel their magic. Right?

But enough rambling what do you think the game would look like if divine casting suffered from arcane failure chance in armor? Would tings be better? Worse? Of course it would be a heavy nerf to divine casting but also imagine that the right exception language that the Magus and Bard enjoy would apply to the likes of Paladins and Warpriests.


It's not that heavy a nerf really. It might sting a bit a low level, but at high levels, casters are going to have the highest ACs and being able to use armors that have a maximum DEX to AC doesn't contribute much to that.


Divine casters would have a much harder time if they had a spell failure chance. Several Arcane spells can make up for or bypass the need for armor entirely (mage armor, shield, mirror image, displacement, fly), while divine spells compliment armor instead (magic vestment), or enhances playstyles that requires you to have good armor. The divine casting lists also lack extradimensional mobility, which is another way the Wizard gets around without armor. The Cleric in particular will suffer, though I can see the Oracle being fine with this nerf.

If this applies to all casters without exceptions, this will nerf divine casters fairly heavily relative to arcane casters. If you have exceptions for each class (Rangers, Hunters, Inquisitors, Warpriests, Clerics, Druids, Oracles can all cast in medium, Paladin can cast in heavy), then this will not be much of a nerf.


My Self wrote:

Divine casters would have a much harder time if they had a spell failure chance. Several Arcane spells can make up for or bypass the need for armor entirely (mage armor, shield, mirror image, displacement, fly), while divine spells compliment armor instead (magic vestment), or enhances playstyles that requires you to have good armor. The divine casting lists also lack extradimensional mobility, which is another way the Wizard gets around without armor. The Cleric in particular will suffer, though I can see the Oracle being fine with this nerf.

If this applies to all casters without exceptions, this will nerf divine casters fairly heavily relative to arcane casters. If you have exceptions for each class (Rangers, Hunters, Inquisitors, Warpriests, Clerics, Druids, Oracles can all cast in medium, Paladin can cast in heavy), then this will not be much of a nerf.

The above is kind of limited by the fact that the best armor in the game is a Haramaki and it has no spell failure though.


Anzyr wrote:
My Self wrote:

Divine casters would have a much harder time if they had a spell failure chance. Several Arcane spells can make up for or bypass the need for armor entirely (mage armor, shield, mirror image, displacement, fly), while divine spells compliment armor instead (magic vestment), or enhances playstyles that requires you to have good armor. The divine casting lists also lack extradimensional mobility, which is another way the Wizard gets around without armor. The Cleric in particular will suffer, though I can see the Oracle being fine with this nerf.

If this applies to all casters without exceptions, this will nerf divine casters fairly heavily relative to arcane casters. If you have exceptions for each class (Rangers, Hunters, Inquisitors, Warpriests, Clerics, Druids, Oracles can all cast in medium, Paladin can cast in heavy), then this will not be much of a nerf.

You know the best armor in the game is a Haramaki and it has no spell failure ya?

It's the best armor for a very specific subset of people. If you dump DEX, you're going to want full plate much more than a haramaki. +9 is a much sweeter bonus than +1. What would you pay for an effective +8 of armor? Probably a lot. Even if it's only a breastplate, that's still +5 armor better. And it stacks with armor enhancers, and lets you wear things on your wrists other than bracers of armor.


My Self wrote:
Anzyr wrote:
My Self wrote:

Divine casters would have a much harder time if they had a spell failure chance. Several Arcane spells can make up for or bypass the need for armor entirely (mage armor, shield, mirror image, displacement, fly), while divine spells compliment armor instead (magic vestment), or enhances playstyles that requires you to have good armor. The divine casting lists also lack extradimensional mobility, which is another way the Wizard gets around without armor. The Cleric in particular will suffer, though I can see the Oracle being fine with this nerf.

If this applies to all casters without exceptions, this will nerf divine casters fairly heavily relative to arcane casters. If you have exceptions for each class (Rangers, Hunters, Inquisitors, Warpriests, Clerics, Druids, Oracles can all cast in medium, Paladin can cast in heavy), then this will not be much of a nerf.

You know the best armor in the game is a Haramaki and it has no spell failure ya?
It's the best armor for a very specific subset of people. If you dump DEX, you're going to want full plate much more than a haramaki. +9 is a much sweeter bonus than +1. What would you pay for an effective +8 of armor? Probably a lot. Even if it's only a breastplate, that's still +5 armor better. And it stacks with armor enhancers, and lets you wear things on your wrists other than bracers of armor.

I would argue that when it comes to casters "People who dump DEX."* is a much more specific subset.

*That aren't replacing it with Charisma.

As to Haramaki being the best armor in the game:

Objectively speaking, Haramaki has the highest possible combination of AC and DEX bonus, has no ASF chance, no armor check penalty, only weighs 1 pound, and is light armor so it doesn't affect move speed. It's also the cheapest armor to boot. It's even made out of metal so it can benefit from some excellent special materials. That's a mighty hard list to argue with.


While I'm at it, I always found clerics to be weird for being semi-martial. Okay, so I didn't exactly grow up with D&D logic for magic. The first time I was hit with that kind of influence was late in elementary school with Margaret Weis/Tracy Hickman's Death Gate Cycle. Most of my early assumptions are from JRPGs. So its a bit jarring that the Cleric is considered a martial powerhouse, when my instinct is to assume that Clerics are on par with a Final Fantasy White Mage; Basically essential because it can heal, summon, and is OP against undead but physically useless. So a wizard with a different spell list. Not to say I don't understand where the Cleric gets it's tropes and how it came to be what it is, but it looks weird to have a grand total of 3 classes in the 1/2 BAB slot and the lack of spell failure falls into that too.

Even weirder are spells like Mage armor and shield, as if the point of being a wizard wasn't being super powerful in exchange for being squishy. It doesn't make wizards all that good at defense but on principle why get rid of armor and then give them those spells? wouldn't it be more efficient if they simply didn't have arcane armor failure? Especially since it's only relevant in three classes really.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

There are several historical and fictional priests going to war with a full complement of armor.
Look the period of the Investiture Controversy. A large quantity of high ranking priest were chosen by the secular powers from the nobility, people that had trained with arms from a early age.
So there was a good number of war trained priests.


I just said that I know how the cleric gets its tropes. It still looks weird to have a war trained holy man, (cleric) a war trained holy man, (paladin) and a war trained holy man, (warpriest) in the game. Warpriest is just picking fun at the game but isn't it weird to anyone else that the paladin hasn't absorbed the cleric's martial leanings a long time ago?

Liberty's Edge

Not really. There's a reason healing focused clerics are referred to as heal-bots and it isn't because most people consider them fun to play. Other than mmos where do you really see games where the only character you control is only good for healing?


The way I see it is that arcane spells are done via study and knowledge of how magic works. It's like a science that the wizard is actively participating in. The divine spells are more like miracles that aren't actually done by the cleric alone. The god they worship grants them these powers instead. So in the divine case, the gods are the ones doing the magic, so I think the only somatic component may be just a "father son Holy Ghost" hand gesture and a prayer thing. Whereas the wizard may be doing much more somatic activities for his spells.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Malwing wrote:
But I wanted to put the question to the other end because for the most part the logic seems to be that you have to wave your hands and do precise gang signs to cast arcane magic and armor impedes your movement, BUUUUT divine casting has spells with somatic components so why wouldn't they suffer from it as well?

I see this as being one of the "invisible benefits" that goes into having a god (or at least one of their divine servants) hand you your spells, rather than you having to actually construct them yourself the way a wizard does.

Why doesn't armor interfere with your (somatic) spells the way it does for wizards? Because your god is "fixing" the spell so that it works that way as part of casting it. You'll still need to gesture like normal, but any issues that the armor gives you simply won't interfere with the actual casting. It's part of the package deal you get with having someone upstairs (or downstairs) who's making sure that there's "quality control" with the "product" (e.g. the spells) that they send out to subscribers (e.g. priests).


Divine Casters would be dying a lot more at low levels. Anyone notice how little good stuff there's on the 1st level cleric spell list? Not being able to suit up in a heavy shield and scale mail, in order to go whack at things up close in melee would be a drag.

Also, you'd be putting the magus, bard, inquisitor, bloodrager etc. in an awkward spot.


The Dragon wrote:

Divine Casters would be dying a lot more at low levels. Anyone notice how little good stuff there's on the 1st level cleric spell list? Not being able to suit up in a heavy shield and scale mail, in order to go whack at things up close in melee would be a drag.

Also, you'd be putting the magus, bard, inquisitor, bloodrager etc. in an awkward spot.

Magi, Bards and Bloodragers are already in an awkward spot because they have exception language.

One thing that gets me is that whenever I bring up the weirdness of martial clerics, the subject of just being a healbot comes up. But even in the situation where your powerful casters are basically white mages in videogames they still are divine blasters, summoners and curse dispensers, and in the context of of clerics having domain spells they could have easily have been themed casters (if they got more than one domain spell per level). There's more than one way to slice a divine caster, I just find it weird that we have three to four classes occupying the 'fightin holy man' slot. Yeah we can say that they have different themes but really I'm having a hard time remembering a cleric or oracle that wasn't gussied up to be a pseudo martial.


1) Arcane spell lists are generally better than divine spell lists
2) Divine spell casters low levels spells are mostly just small buffs. Nothing terribly powerful offensively, especially not compared to arcane spell list
3) The difference is thematic. It needn't necessarily be balanced.
4) Mage Armor - At low levels mage armor more than makes up for the inability to wear actual armor. Cleric's get magic vestment, which enhances their armor. They can also just buy enhancement bonuses (though having this spell can save them quite a bit of money).

Overall, I see no cause to make divine spell casters have spell failure chance with their casting. Most of the ones that should be casting in armor have the ability to do so, and the other have ways of making up for it.

Also, since the advent of psychic magic, it's arcane magic that's weird not divine.

Neither divine or psychic is hampered by armor. It's only arcane magic.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Malwing wrote:
The Dragon wrote:

Divine Casters would be dying a lot more at low levels. Anyone notice how little good stuff there's on the 1st level cleric spell list? Not being able to suit up in a heavy shield and scale mail, in order to go whack at things up close in melee would be a drag.

Also, you'd be putting the magus, bard, inquisitor, bloodrager etc. in an awkward spot.

Magi, Bards and Bloodragers are already in an awkward spot because they have exception language.

One thing that gets me is that whenever I bring up the weirdness of martial clerics, the subject of just being a healbot comes up. But even in the situation where your powerful casters are basically white mages in videogames they still are divine blasters, summoners and curse dispensers, and in the context of of clerics having domain spells they could have easily have been themed casters (if they got more than one domain spell per level). There's more than one way to slice a divine caster, I just find it weird that we have three to four classes occupying the 'fightin holy man' slot. Yeah we can say that they have different themes but really I'm having a hard time remembering a cleric or oracle that wasn't gussied up to be a pseudo martial.

If you want the cleric to be more 'casty' and less 'martial', you would have to rewrite basically the whole divine spell list.

The reason so many divine classes and characters are martial, is because the original divine class in dnd (the cleric) was designed that way. Most of their best spells are either single target or self only combat buffs. Their non combat buff offensive spells are far more limited then the arcane list. They have control, blasting, and debuff spells, but they are almost universally weaker then arcane spells of the same type at the same levels.

If you wanted to make the cleric or oracle into a 'white mage' as it's default you would literally need to rewrite most of the divine spell list. Not just adding new spells, but moving existing ones around, and possibly removing a number of them (or making them paladin/inquisitor/war priest only when they are combat focused).

Pathfinder, like the different editions of dnd before it follow that original model. Most of the core spells carry through in form and function from ADnD. Even new spells are compared against that form and function of those first spells (where the cleric was a face smashy divine warrior) so adding other functions to the cleric is challenging, since an already powerful, and flexible class would have to gain additional potential power and flexibility (to be a blaster, controller, or debuffer type on par with arcane casting).

In terms of armor, again this is mostly tradition. Not just because clerics traditionally wore armor, but because of the defensive capabilities of the traditional cleric spell list. Where as arcane casters have mage armor and shield at first level, its quite some time before an unarmored cleric could be reasonably safe AC wise on dex and magic alone (assuming reasonable stats). You would again need to re-evaluate how clerics protect themselves if you wanted to ditch the armor use for them and oracles.

The reason the game hasn't done it, even as some kind of option rather then the core class, is because the cleric is already really strong, and adding new capability to it would be straight up power creep over the existing version. Until we break almost completely from the original vision of how the game works, it will be very difficult to make a 'white mage' style cleric without it being either very lackluster (if you used the existing rules and spells but made the cleric non-martial) or way to powerful (adding spells and options to be more white magey while maintaining the tradition spells and abilities of the cleric).


Not about what I 'want' out of the game or changing anything. Or even questioning how they got like that in the first place. Just pointing the finger and going "It looks weird".

But Claxon is kind of right, Arcane magic is the weird one here because its the only magic affected by armor failure and only three arcane classes don't have exception language to let them cast in armor, so its basically pointless and leads to spells that didn't need to exist in the first place.


Kolokotroni wrote:
The reason the game hasn't done it, even as some kind of option rather then the core class, is because the cleric is already really strong, and adding new capability to it would be straight up power creep over the existing version. Until we break almost completely from the original vision of how the game works, it will be very difficult to make a 'white mage' style cleric without it being either very lackluster (if you used the existing rules and spells but made the cleric non-martial) or way to powerful (adding spells and options to be more white magey while maintaining the tradition spells and abilities of the cleric).

Absolutely. And this is evidenced by the cleric archetype that they attempted to make more like a wizard, the Ecclesitheurge. It was terrible. The lack of weapons and armor was not made up for by the Blessing of the Faithful or Domain Mastery abilities. Blessing of the faithful only provided a non-scaling +2 bonus that last for 1 round unless the cleric expended uses of his channel energy. Domain Mastery was potentially cool and opened up the possibility of some neat things for a cleric to do (like a cleric of Sarenrae throwing a lot of fireballs). But the sacrifice of everything else just made it terrible. A good support NPC character, but pretty much a downgrade unless you had a very specific idea you wanted to do as a cleric that required you to cast a lot of spells that were only accessible through your domain.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Most of Core pathfinder was also based on D&D 3.5e, where clerics were a 3/4 BAB caster who waded into melee most of the time and warpriest didn't exist, so they still had their important niche in the game as the divine armored warrior. D&D 3.5 also offered an actually useful cloistered cleric class focused on casting rather than combat (which, unfortunately, was a strict power upgrade due to Divine Power giving full BAB and Divine Metamagic Persist).


I completely disagree, making a D6 1/2 BAB divine is easy. If you go on to homebrew there have been many who have knocked them up. Hell.... have a look at the 3PP and theres plenty there, and they havent done anything that revolutionary.

Minimise weapons
Minimise armour
Either remove channeling or change how it can be utilised
... etc

Compensatory benefits could be extra domains, bonus feats..... blah blah blah... any number of options

The above is the lazy, easy way.... but nevertheless effective. If Paizo really wanted to put something different out there, a version of the Archivist would be an excellent idea IMO


sometimes I'm still boggled how clerics lost all armor prof it had since the '70s

oops, gave away I'm old(no really just middle-aged damnit)


Silver Surfer wrote:

I completely disagree, making a D6 1/2 BAB divine is easy. If you go on to homebrew there have been many who have knocked them up. Hell.... have a look at the 3PP and theres plenty there, and they havent done anything that revolutionary.

Minimise weapons
Minimise armour
Either remove channeling or change how it can be utilised
... etc

Compensatory benefits could be extra domains, bonus feats..... blah blah blah... any number of options

The above is the lazy, easy way.... but nevertheless effective. If Paizo really wanted to put something different out there, a version of the Archivist would be an excellent idea IMO

True. I've found plenty of 1/2 BAB divine casters in third party and they aren't terrible.

I think the idea of a 1/2 BAB divine caster is a bit beyond just wanting to play a white mage but aesthetically it looks weird to have one type of class, full arcane casters, occupying 1/2 BAB, which is just as weird as the arcane spell failure situation because the same three classes where that kind of thing is relevant are also the 1/2 BAB classes. Its like, why even have 1/2 BAB? So wouldn't it feel aesthetically more pleasing if there was a 1/2 BAB divine caster, nature caster and maybe even some kind of mundane scholar class?

On that note, if you have picked up the third party product, Book of Collective Influence, I think there's a 1/2 BAB spell-less class in there somewhere, but to keep on the subject I wanted to mention the Pauper class. Depite it being the 'pauper' class I've found it to be more like the stereotypical princess class. Basically useless but has a lot of narrative power because of hope or the power of friendship or whatever. Honestly, its the best non-fighting priest I've seen along with Rite's Luckbringer. Played both as holy men that just have inexplicable 'miracles' happen.

As far as Cleric filling it's niche for fighting holy man before Warpriest or Inquisitor, what about the Paladin? After an edition of that existing you'd expect him to be the fighting holy man instead of constantly handing the cleric a mace and have it try to do everything. It just turns the theme redundant.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Malwing wrote:


As far as Cleric filling it's niche for fighting holy man before Warpriest or Inquisitor, what about the Paladin? After an edition of that existing you'd expect him to be the fighting holy man instead of constantly handing the cleric a mace and have it try to do everything. It just turns the theme redundant.

The paladin is a very specific theme, not just the holy warrior, but the holy paragon of good and justice holy warrior. That doesn't work for not LG deities. It couldn't have replaced the cleric entirely (at least not as presented)

In addition, all the underlying influence from when the cleric was the only holy warrior (read: the beginning) is still there. The basics of what divine magic is good at hasn't really changed since ADnD. Combat, baring some changes to mechanics is fundamentally the same. Magic and actions are more or less the same. There are some tweaks in power and effects, but the core of it is the same. Adding the paladin as a core class doesn't automatically change the kinds of spells that appear in the divine spell list. If you don't change those, and don't make dramatic changes to how the cleric works, it doesn't matter that there are other divine warrior types about, the cleric still HAS to be a divine warrior type.

And remember pathfinder was mostly built on the idea that it will still look and feel like 3rd edition. You cant rewrite divine magic, or even completely re-write the cleric, an iconic class and make that happen.

Mind you I am not saying there aren't ways to make this happen, but the cleric specifically isn't going to change because all the things AROUND the cleric haven't changed, and wont change in something like pathfinder.

And honestly I haven't seen a 3rd party class or a homebrew that presented white mage type that looked like it was fun to play or at least comparable to a standard cleric in power and capability. I would be interested to see one. But short of revamping divine spells as a whole I don't see how it could be done.


Kolokotroni wrote:
Malwing wrote:


As far as Cleric filling it's niche for fighting holy man before Warpriest or Inquisitor, what about the Paladin? After an edition of that existing you'd expect him to be the fighting holy man instead of constantly handing the cleric a mace and have it try to do everything. It just turns the theme redundant.

The paladin is a very specific theme, not just the holy warrior, but the holy paragon of good and justice holy warrior. That doesn't work for not LG deities. It couldn't have replaced the cleric entirely (at least not as presented)

In addition, all the underlying influence from when the cleric was the only holy warrior (read: the beginning) is still there. The basics of what divine magic is good at hasn't really changed since ADnD. Combat, baring some changes to mechanics is fundamentally the same. Magic and actions are more or less the same. There are some tweaks in power and effects, but the core of it is the same. Adding the paladin as a core class doesn't automatically change the kinds of spells that appear in the divine spell list. If you don't change those, and don't make dramatic changes to how the cleric works, it doesn't matter that there are other divine warrior types about, the cleric still HAS to be a divine warrior type.

And remember pathfinder was mostly built on the idea that it will still look and feel like 3rd edition. You cant rewrite divine magic, or even completely re-write the cleric, an iconic class and make that happen.

Mind you I am not saying there aren't ways to make this happen, but the cleric specifically isn't going to change because all the things AROUND the cleric haven't changed, and wont change in something like pathfinder.

And honestly I haven't seen a 3rd party class or a homebrew that presented white mage type that looked like it was fun to play or at least comparable to a standard cleric in power and capability. I would be interested to see one. But short of revamping divine spells as a whole I don't see how it...

I don't expect me, Paizo or third party products to do anything about it or think they should have done something about it. I just find it weird that this is how the cleric and divine casting progressed in it's own insulated trope sphere.

Speaking of which; Want to see something interesting? Its a japanese rules cyclopedia with some borderline Shotaro Ishinomori art.


Honestly, I'd rather see ASF just go away for any armor you're proficient in and give wizards, sorcerers, and arcanists light armor proficiency.

Chain shirt is only a +4 armor bonus, just like Mage Armor. The main benefit is they'll be able to start enchanting it for increased armor bonus.


Why is it weird that different styles of magic have different limitation? Most divine casters have a specific code of conduct they have to follow or lose all class abilities. A cleric whose alignment is no longer within one step of his deity loses is completely useless unless he switches deities. Putting a druid in metal armor completely shuts him down. Paladins fall from grace all the time. Most also have alignment restrictions on what they can cast.

Arcane magic has none of these limitations. Even witches who are supposed to be drawing power for strange beings can switch from lawful good to chaotic evil without even blinking. They can also cast any spell on their list regardless of their alignment.


Different sources of magical power = different inherent limitations.

Tap into the general magical world, either through natural talent or study. Or being granted powers by your god for services rendered.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / Divine casting is weird. All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.