Removing clerics from a setting?

Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

So I'm creating a setting with a deity selection based on a melding of Sumerian, Canaanite, and Hittite religion.

It's a rich and wonderful mythology; it just doesn't really translate well into game terms. Almost everybody has the Weather domain, the Plant domain (a stand-in for a nonexistent Agriculture domain), and the Air domain. Several have the War domain, and almost all of those also have the Weather and Air domains.

Oh hell, I'll just transcribe the list for the gods I've done so far:

Major Divinities:
Adad: Cloud, Plant, Storms, Weather, Wind
Enki: Artifice, Knowledge, Magic, Rune, Trickery, Water
Enlil: Cloud, Destruction, Fate, Glory, Nobility, Plant, Storms, Weather, Wind
Ereshkigal: Caves, Death, Repose
Gibil: Destruction, Fire
Inanna: Charm, Knowledge, Lust, War
Marduk: Cloud, Nobility, Storms, Strength, War, Weather, Wind
Nabu: Knowledge, Law, Rune
Nanna: Knowledge, Moon*
Ninurta: Protection, Storms, Strength, War, Weather, Wind
Ningishzida: Ancestors, Healing, Plant, Repose, Restoration
Ninhursag: Earth, Family, Growth, Healing, Plant
Nirgal: Blood, Death, Destruction, Sun**, War
Ninlil: Charm, Family, Water, Weather, Wind
Shamash: Law***, Liberation, Protection, Sun
*Not an actual domain in Pathfinder for some reason.
**Specifically, the deadly summer sun that brought drought and scorching heat, which isn't the aspect of the sun reflected by the CRB domain.
***More specifically justice, rather than law for law's sake, though there isn't a domain or subdomain specifically for that.

I'm sure that using more subdomains (or converting one of the dozens of 3.5 domains) would add a bit more granularity to this list, but the things that make these deities special are the deeds attributed to them in myth, their relationships with one another, and their conflicting depictions in various sources spanning over a thousand years. As far as game-relevant information, I could only find favored weapons for Enlil (who invented the mattock), Ninurta (who bore a magic, sentient heavy mace), and Marduk, who bore a thunderbolt named Imhullu that could be represented by training his clerics in the javelin.

Now, there were rules in 3.5 for tight pantheons (like the Norse, Olympian, or Egyptian gods), and I suppose I could use those, but what would a setting lose mechanically by getting rid of clerics altogether?

By way of context, the divine spellcasting classes left are the oracle, druid, shaman, hunter, ranger, and warpriest (which also gets the paladin & antipaladin exclusive spells).

I am not sure how you go from "there are fewer domains and gods" to "get rid of all the clerics". Could you not simply restrict the domains available to clerics in your setting?

Anyhow, mechanically you lose the primary healer but you have a lot of secondary healers to take up the slack.

You also lose the easiest way of dealing with undead, but that is only a big deal if you decide to pile on the undead (and I don't think the Sumerian mythos was all about that anyhow).

Dark Archive

Life oracle with boots of earth can handle out of combat healing. Infernal healing still exists. Removing clerics doesnt really change much on the healing department. If you are healing in combat you are wasting an action.

Cleric as a class is a super varied class able to semicompetently handle any niche. But other classes exist which can fill that niche now. You could build a reach cleric from the core rules or you could build heck there is a fighter archetype, the warpriest, ranger archetype, and so many different options now.

Removing cleric as a class doesn't change anything about a setting. I guess now the priest of the goddess of trickery and the god of war aren't the same class. That is it.

Mechanically a cleric is a strong class that can be built for any niche. Other classes now exist that can be built for those niches. Mechanically a cleric isn't needed as a class anymore. You can even get their domains through some shenanigans.

If you need cleric spells it might be more difficult to get them. Since oracle is the only one with full spell list access and they are spontaneous casters. Scrolls would be more common.

The Exchange

I'm also wondering why any of this requires the removal of clerics as a viable class. I would think even altering other abilities in place of domain powers might be useful. You could reduce clerics to only selecting a single domain, and give them maybe a couple extra channels each day, or give them an extra spell per day for every spell level below max (a level 1 cleric would gain an extra lvl 0 spell, at lvl 3 and extra lvl 1 spell, at lvl 5 extra lvl 2 spell...)

But to try to answer your question, really all it does is remove the most common 'Pure Healer' the party may have available to them. In most parties that not even an issue as they run other options. If your party doesn't want to play a Cleric, then frankly, who cares if they also never encounter any? If your Party really wants a cleric, try to see if you can come to an arrangement on how you can work it in.

Oracles can handle everything and anything clerics can do (and Oracles of Life are by far the best healers in the game because CHARISMA)...

... BUT - and that's a big but - unless you're going to refluff Oracles AS clerics (ie, priests and priestesses) then you're leaving a strangely huge gap culturally speaking.

If you're uncomfortable with domains, then you can remove domains (and replace them with something else) without breaking clerics. Look for cleric archetypes that replace domains with other things, look for "domain alternatives" from other classes (like Inquisitions or Blessings) and consider swapping those in. Or, if you don't like any of those, swap out domains for a Bonus Feat (with each god granting their clerics a specific bonus feat). The Feat route is technically weaker, but it might allow for better flavor.

Then, when you go to character creation, warn everyone up front that Clerics are going to be weird (no domains, domains replaced with X) so that no one is surprised.

Alternatively, if you really do want to replace all clerics with Oracles, then consider writing a custom curse for your universe that ties the Oracle to the specific tenants of her faith (ie, restricting her like a cleric). Maybe in return for requiring holy symbols and such, the oracle could gain some of the proficiencies normally granted to clerics. Not sure the exact balance - this is all just off the top of my head.

Do it. I removed clerics from my home game years ago and have been pleased with the result. I allow wizards to memorize many of the divine spells and it works fine. I do allow many of the other divine classes such as druids and oracles.

If someone wants to be a cleric just make it work. Work with them to pick domains fitting to their deity, much like they would if they were worshipping a philosophy. You "can" remove any class from a setting, but there's no real good reason for doing so.

This sounds like an interesting idea!

Losing the cleric loses little. Oracles will be able to cast those spells that clerics have, after all. The difference is that the priest of a major town in Somewheresvill used to be a 5th level cleric and could help the PCs tomorrow if he didn't have a spell they came looking for (e.g. remove disease). Now, if the priest there is say an oracle, they'll be out of luck in that regard.

Oracles are diverse enough in terms of mysteries that they can make excellent 'priest' characters. Clerics only have a few mechanics: cleric spell list, channelling, and domains. Life oracles get channelling. All oracles have the spell list but as spontaneous casters. As for domains, druids can get a few of those themselves.

I do note there's no inquisitor or paladin in your list of divine classes. Were those intentionally dropped as well, or accidental omissions?

If you have oracles not clerics, then perhaps knowledge or diplomacy (gather information) checks could be used to see if players can find out where the nearest npc oracle is that can cast spell X that the party needs.

You may want to take a look at Green Ronin's Testament. It was written for v.3.5, but has chapters on Mesopotamia and Canaan, including tables of info on domains, alignments, and favored weapons for each god's clerics. There is also a web enhancement covering the Hittites.

BTW, there is an official Moon subdomain for Darkness, but it's not in the PRD on the Paizo site. You'll need to go to the site for the text (subdomains page here). That site also has a Thirst subdomain for Sun, and Justice subdomain for Law, which sound more like what you're looking for.

In regards to removing clerics- it appears that he is doing class restrictions separately to fit his 'early world' theme.

So the idea there is that he is removing the classes more associated with large, institutionalized religion. Paladins are devotees in large knightly orders, inquisitors are the bloodhounds of large institutions that span society, and clerics can be seen as a large, highly developed practice that turns people into vessels for advanced magical power from their gods.

The only straight god following class he has left is the warpriest... and that is the 'crazy, club swining' one. Nice and barbarian-y.

I would also advise removing wizards, magi, and perhaps alchemists- tend towards arcane classes that work more off of feeling or being given power from another source. Maybe even go with making the remaining casters into spontaneous casters, so that magic is more about personal discovery than having a dictionary of spells.

I know it's not an actual domain, but if you gave Moon* to Nanna, shouldn't Nin Hursag have it too?

Also, removing clerics from a universe where so many people are direct servants of the Temple, if not actual Chosen of the Deity, seems a bit excessive, the actual Priests should be Chosen of the Deity and have appropriate powers to go with it, which oracles, chosen by Forces rather than directly serving a named God don't render properly... at least that's how I see it.

i think it's just easier to change the flavor or the way you look at a class instead of mechanically changing the world, if you just look at the cleric mechanically, they don't even need to be strictly religious

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Considering how many early civilizations were theocracies I don’t think removing clerics from the world fits an early world theme. During that time period many religions were local, but no less organized than modern religions. Often each city had its own deity that was only worshiped in that city, or those conquered by the original city.

What I would do for a setting like this is to keep the cleric class, but have each city or at most small group of nearby cities have their own deity. The domains the deity grants would be chosen individually without factoring in the domains of other deities. This may lead to situations where some domains are fairly common or even almost universal, where others may not show up at all. I would also have each deities chosen weapon be completely random and more based on the culture of the individual city.

This also has the benefit of allowing the GM to create deities as needed. Simply create a couple of deities for prominent cities or small group of cities, and then add more as needed.

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