Non-cleric priests for religions


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


I had always been interested in the nature of clergy within Golarion. I wanted to see whether head priests in a local church could be someone other than a cleric. Oracles can apply for any religion, though they may never know their true patron.

Iomadae Seems like the clergy would usually defer rank to clerics, though paladins, inquisitors and warpriests may take over

Torag Same as above, though there could be an argument for a fighter take that role

Erastil I can see rangers and hunters having a high priest rank if a cleric isn't available.

Sarenrae She doesn't seem to mind anyone taking that role as long as said person follows her beliefs.

Shelyn Definitely see bards having equal say as they are most associated with love and the arts.

Cayden Cailean Probably the god with the least regard with anyone taking the high priest role... so as long they adhere to his teachings.

Desna This one's difficult. She doesn't have much of a hierarchy due to the nomadic nature of her followers.

Abadar Most likely to only have clerics as the high priest role. Maybe an inquisitor, but that's it.

Irori Monks have an equal chance as clerics, perhaps brawlers and unarmed fighters as well.

Pharasma I can definitely see inquisitors and good necromancers getting high ranks within the clergy

Gozreh Druids and Hunters definitely get as much say here as clerics

Nethys Basically any arcane caster can get high ranks, though wizards, witches and arcanist would receive the lion share of that.

Calistria Interestingly, rank here depends on their persuasion skills, so theoretically anyone could achieve this, though rogues, bards and sorcerers would have the greatest advantage

Gorum This seems to be based on physical prowess, so any martial class can qualify

Asmodeus, like Abadar, the clergy would likely defer to clerics

Zon-Kuthon Clerics probably have high priority here, but I can see anyone adept in torture getting a role here

Urgathoa Necromancers, witches and inquisitors would probably get as high a ranking here

Norgorber Rouges, alchemists and slayers seemed apt for this role.

Lamashtu I'm not sure here in this case.

Rovagug Can definitely see fighters, barbarians and bloodrager take up that role


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Most people don't have an adventuring class. Most NPCs belong to a NPC class. Most aspiring priests would actually be Adepts. Cleric is a much more powerful class that only special NPCs should be a part of.

Truely exceptional NPCs would have player classes, but more typical would be a mixture of NPC and PC classes. Like a high ranking priest might have 2-3 levels of Aristocrat and then either cleric of adept levels to represent his noble upbringing and his families' influence on his life and current position.

Most NPCs don't battle their way into the position of a religious leader. Kind of like most generals aren't the strongest warriors in their army.

Generally speaking, most religious organizations are run by classes that dedicate themselves to a deity, but there can certainly be exceptions.


It is also going to depend on the culture they are from. Some cultures the ruler of the nation is also the head of the church. In the real world the queen of England is considered to be the head of the church. In Japan the empower is also considered divine. Any cultures that are basically a theocracy will have the ruler of the country as the high priest.

Many religions may not even have a high priest at all. Lawful deities for sure will have a organization with a defined chain of command and established ranks. Chaotic deities may prefer not to have a defined structure so may have only a rudimentary chain of command. Neutral deities will have some sort of structure but will often be a lot more flexible than the lawful deities. I don’t see Cayden Cailean as having any real chain of command. Each of his churches will be completely separate from each other. Sure they will cooperate with each other but only out of respect. Iomade on the other hand will have a clearly defined rank system. Each of her followers will report to a superior, who in turn reports their superiors.

I agree with Meirril that many “priests” will not have a PC class. I would say that most of them would be experts or possibly aristocrats instead of adepts. The typical parish priest would be an expert unless he came from a noble background in which case he would be an aristocrat. High ranking “priests” would probably have a few levels of cleric, but probably not that many. Queen Abrogail Thrune II is listed as a Aristocrate 2/ Sorcerer 16. This gives a pretty good example of what someone of high rank would be like.

The highest ranking member of a church may not even be high level. Often rank will be determined by a politics and the ability to manage people. Neither of which require high level characters.

The Exchange

if you look at stats for cities and towns they list clerics. clerics in pathfinder get there power from there god. can someone create a shrine or temple, sure.


I think that, ironically, the cleric class doesn't make for a good preacher. I would define preacher as someone who takes care of a community's religions wants, such as baptism/christening (a religious ritual used on newborns), religious services (the frequency would vary across religions, from daily, weekly, to only on holidays), confirmation (generally done by teenagers or adults to demonstrate they have knowingly joined the religion, or have converted to it, and sometimes denoted by taking a religious name), marriage, divorce (if allowed), and funerals.

In medieval Europe, coronation was also a religious ceremony. (Joan of Arc helped the French king become king. While the previous king was dead, the current "king" could not be crowned because the cathedral had been occupied by his enemies.) In Pathfinder, coronation might literally grant the king or queen religious powers, such as being linked to the land (for good or for ill). A bad king or queen would physically suffer due to that! Or just switch religions. Plot hook!

I've obviously just used the Catholic names for the most part, but equivalents are found in many religions. For instance, the religious name thing used to be common in Japan (many lords took a religious name, sometimes even more than once). I've left out confession because I imagine only a lawful good or lawful neutral religion would be at all interested in something like that.

The preacher needs to be charismatic. That is probably more important than being wise. They would settle disputes, take care of the poor or people going through a hard time, and (if this is part of their religion) lead ceremonies which are presumably not actually magical in nature. Expert and aristocrat would be the best choices, probably the first most often, as most of these priests would not know how to fight (which aristocrats have some degree of knowledge in).

I think marriage (and divorce) would be crucial in world-building politics as well, especially since Golarion has multiple religions. What if Count Bob, a worshiper of the Green Man, married Baroness Alice, a worshiper of Sarenrae. The wedding alone would have lots of politics, since there would be two priests... or would there? They raise Bob II, who wants to be confirmed as a worshiper of Sarenrae. Uh oh. The church of the Green Man won't be too happy about this. Bob II would essentially elevate Sarenrae to the local officially-supported church, which would cost the Green Man a lot of power or money (power in this case, as I doubt the Green Man wants money). No support for the official groves, and bringing in all these "foreign" clerics. All this without much gap in alignments.


I have always felt that we should have had a Priest class, archetype, or at least an NPC class.


The ironic thing is that all a 'Priest' is in the general sense of the word is a worshipper of a deity who has a specific function within the church (as opposed to just a member of the masses).....but in PF the class of 'Priest' is often mentioned as being the hypothetical pure caster (aka D6 1/2 BAB) version of the cleric.

In reality though a 'Priest' can come from any class and can fill any role.... someone who handed out temple leaflets in the town square could correctly be described as a 'Priest' of Deity X....

In short.... all clerics are priests but the majority of priests are not clerics.


Most priests aren’t actual clerics, but I think most head priests in the world are. For most commoners, it’s hard to argue with the idea that the guy in your religion with the most powerful holy abilities is the closest to your deity. A level 9 cleric has a nearly direct line to his god. That’s the sort of authority that’s hard to go against.


I think in real life the term "priest" refers to people who sacrifice, so it does not apply to some religions.

Protestants don't have priests. (Catholics do, because some of their rituals are technically sacrifices, even though nothing actually dies.) Rabbis aren't priests, because they don't sacrifice, but the old kohanim did (and they were often called priests).

So we ... need a new term for a religious "minister" in general.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

... no

Dark Archive

Per Gods & Magic, back in the day;

Abadar - majority of priests are clerics
Asmodeus - priests are clerics, blackguards, diabolist mages and thaumaturges
Calistria - usually bards or clerics, although more exotic spellcasters may be clergy in other areas
Cayden Cailean - usually clerics, with a smattering of bards, adepts and druids
Desna - priests of Desna - cleric, bard, ranger and the rare druid
Erastil - most clerics with a few paladins and druids
Gorum - clerics and the rare battle-druid. Rangers and war-bards have roles but are not considered clergy.
Gozreh - mostly clerics, about a tenth druids, with a small number of weather-hunters (rangers) and adepts
Iomedae - all clerics and paladins
Irori - equal numbers of clerics and monks, with a few druids
Lamashtu - priest (cleric, druid, adept or even a thaumaturge)
Nethys - any spellcaster, from a cleric or sorcerer to something more exotic like a hedge wizard, witch doctor, adept or folk ritualist
Norgorber - mostly rogues, clerics, bards or assassins, but also shadowdancers, illusionists, enchanters and more exotic types are not uncommon, plus a few druids
Pharasma - usually clerics, diviners and 'white necromancers' (wizards who do not use undead creation spells, but practice necromancy)
Rovagug - a disorganized mix of clerics, adepts, classless monsters, a few thaumaturges and even some non-spellcasters
Sarenrae - most clerics, but many paladins and rangers, and a smattering of sun-druids and sun-bards
Shelyn - mostly clerics and bards, but also a few paladins, druids and rangers
Torag - among dwarves, mostly clerics, but about 10% paladins and dwarven defenders, among humans, mostly clerics, but a few adepts
Urgathoa - 2/3rd clerics, 1/3rd necromancers, necromancy-inclined sorcerers, blackguards and miscellaneous undead
Zon-Kuthon - mostly clerics, several orders of blackguards and corrupted paladins, and a few adepts in primitive areas

I particularly liked how bards could be priests in several religions (Calistria, Cayden, Desna, etc.), and that non-spellcasters (monks for Irori, rogues & assassins for Norgorber, dwarven defenders for Torag, random monsters and undead for Rovagug and Urgathoa) could be priests in others.

I'm not sure if Pathfinder ever officially updated the Thaumaturge class, which makes mentions of it as a priest possibility amusing and no longer particularly relevant. :)

I'm sure Inner Sea Gods updated these possibilities, but I don't have that book handy.


Kimera757 wrote:

I think in real life the term "priest" refers to people who sacrifice, so it does not apply to some religions.

Protestants don't have priests. (Catholics do, because some of their rituals are technically sacrifices, even though nothing actually dies.) Rabbis aren't priests, because they don't sacrifice, but the old kohanim did (and they were often called priests).

So we ... need a new term for a religious "minister" in general.

I disagree. There are a lot of real-life terms that have a special meaning in Pathfinder (E.G "large" just means big in real-life, but in Pathfinder as a game term it means a specific size range (when used to describe a creature, at least). I believe "term of art" is the proper name for this. I think "priest" as an umbrella term for divine casters is fine.


I'm guessing I'm in the minority but I don't usually use PC class NPCs for priests. Often, I don't even use Adepts. Oh, I don't make magic scarce in my homebrew world; I use the standard stats for Settlements from the GMG. I do however like to put NPC spellcasters into unexpected roles in communities though.

As a result I've had a lot of NPC priests/priestesses take levels in Adept, Expert or Warrior. Once I had one take levels in Aristocrat as they were the third-born son of a noble.

If I ran strictly out of Golarion I'd likely follow the guidelines laid out by Set above.

Meanwhile, in my settlements you might find that NPC spellcasting can be obtained from a witch with the Cauldron hex that makes a special kind of potion; she bakes pies laced with spells.

For divine spellcasting you might look for a helpful hunter that frequents a Desnan shrine, or perhaps encounter a CE cleric of Gorum who doesn't so much head up a convent of warrior nuns as much as she runs a fight club for the bored wives of the nobles.

Religion and class selection IMO are sometimes exclusive to one another. Being the priest/priestess of a local RELIGION may only take knowing a whole lot about the religion and its practices. Being the chief spellcaster dedicated to a particular deity, patron or faith might appear completely different.

This concept is somewhat supported in the depiction of the places of worship that can be found dedicated to some deities. Cayden Cailean for example is venerated in bars; Torag could be worshipped at a blacksmith's forge. So the head priest of a church of Torag might not necessarily be a cleric, but a highly-skilled smithy (NPC LG F Humanoid [Dwarf] Expert 6) or the local barman may be the high pontif of Cayden (NPC CG M Humanoid (Human) Expert 2/Warrior 1) who also happens to be a bit of a lucky former adventurer as well.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / General Discussion / Non-cleric priests for religions All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.