Friday, July 18, 2014

Playing With Faith

I've made it no secret that I really enjoy playing clerics. While part of that is that I actually like playing support characters, the main reason is that I find playing characters who have decided to dedicate their lives to a specific deity for one reason or another interesting and offer a lot of potential for different kinds of adventures dealing with religion and faith.

Because I love playing these kinds of characters, it saddens me whenever I see someone who is playing a one-dimensional cleric who's squandering so much potential. With that in mind, I thought I'd post a few pieces of advice that I feel will help those players who want to make more interesting cleric characters.

When you first decide to make a cleric, you should ask yourself a very simple question about your character: "Why has this character decided to join the clergy and serve this specific deity?" In many ways, the answer to this question will act as the foundation for your character, determining how they will most likely act within the game and their opinions on their faith.

For example, let's say you're creating a cleric dedicated to Sarenrae, the goddess of the sun, healing, honesty, and redemption. Wanting to play up the redemption part, you decide your character spent most of his youth as part of a street gang and eventually ended up in prison due to his actions. During his time in jail, the character was introduced to the Sarenite faith and felt the goddess' redeeming light. Once he was released, he decided to spend the rest of his life preaching the teachings of the Dawnflower and helping those who he views as "lost souls" find their way to the right path. Knowing this is how your character came to worship Sarenrae, you're character will probably be more willing to forgive those others would see as irredeemable and might be more merciful than other agents of the faith.

Keeping that in mind, the next two questions you should probably ask about your character are "What religious beliefs are most important to your cleric?" and "Does your cleric question any of the religion's beliefs?" Unless the cleric's a complete zealot, they'll probably favor certain beliefs over others and find certain ideas either questionable or downright objectionable. Answering these questions will help you figure out how your cleric interprets their religion's scriptures and teachings, most likely leading you to figure out how they'd probably fit in with the other agents of their faith and how they might express said beliefs.

Continuing to use our Sarenite example from above, we can probably figure out that he greatly favor's the redemption aspects of the faith and most likely follows the healing and honestly sections of Sarenrae's portfolio too. However, he might question the popular belief that certain creatures (like evil outsiders or intelligent undead) are utterly irredeemable and should be destroyed on sight. He'd probably espouse that almost everyone deserves a second chance, even those who you might believe don't deserve it. His view of Sarenrae would be much more loving and forgiving then some members of the flock's perception of the Dawnflower.

Finally, you might ask one additional question: "What is your cleric's current relationship with the church?" The main reason you should ask this question is that it'll give the Game Master something to work with and possibly explain why you're going on adventures in the first place. While most clerics will probably be on good terms with their church, it can be interesting to play a character who's working relationship with the leaders of the faith is a little more strained or downright hostile.

Because our above Sarenite disagrees with a rather popular belief within Sarenrae's faith, his relationship with the church might be a little rocky depending on how strongly he observes this alternate beliefs and how often he preaches it. Due to this rocky relationship, the leaders might have sent him on a quest with the hopes that he'd be too busy adventuring to preach or maybe seeing how the world really works might change his opinions. If things get worse, he might be labeled a heretic and some really interesting things could happen within the campaign and for the character.

Like any character, clerics are as interesting as you make them. As you have to do is ask yourself a few questions and seize upon the opportunities laid out before you.