Design Call: Cleric Talents & Feats

Firstly, I’ve updated the Upcoming page with news of where I currently stand with HD&D, as well as the updates you can expect to see on the blog over the next couple of months. I’ve also set a date to begin playtesting of September 2010.

With that in mind, let’s talk about talents for the HD&D Cleric class. I don’t have any. I need some. That’s where you come in.

All about Spheres

Cleric talents are largely dependent upon the Spheres a cleric has access to. If you recall, I have a list of 46 Spheres of Influence (or Domains in 3rd ed-speak). Worship of a particular god gives the cleric access to the Spheres contained in that god’s portfolio. The more powerful the god, the more spheres the cleric has access to.

Each sphere is associated with a number of spells, and a number of talents and feats. If a cleric has access to a Sphere then he also as access to all the spells, talents and feats associated with that sphere. These are the spells that he can eventually learn, and the talents/feats he can acquire as he gains levels.

To slightly complicate matters, gods can grant minor or major access to a sphere:

Major Access: Spells of level 0-9, full access to all feats and talents.
Minor Access: Spells of level 0-4, no access to the sphere’s special feats and talents.

For game purposes each Sphere should grant access to at least five talents, and several feats (two per talent is a good guide). It’s these talents and feats that I want to look at in this design call.

Narrowing the Task

As I’m only interested (at this stage) of coming up with sufficient talents to cover the first playtest adventure I’m specifically asking for less, rather than more. Below, I present three gods from the third edition Player’s Handbook. These are not commonly worshipped on Iourn, but they will be the gods of the choice for the upcoming playtest adventure. You will notice that each of the gods grants major and minor access to particular spheres:

OlidammaraThe Laughing Rogue
Olidammara delights in wine, women, and song. He is a vagabond, a prankster, and a master of disguise. His temples are few, but many people are willing to raise a glass in his honour.

Major Spheres: All, Charm, Luck, Trickery
Minor Spheres: Healing, Shadow

PelorThe Shining One
Pelor is the creator of many good things, a supporter of those in need, and an adversary of all that is evil. He is the most commonly worshiped deity among ordinary humans, and his priests are well received wherever they go.

Major Spheres: All, Healing, Hope, Strength, Sun
Minor Spheres: Freedom, Justice

Wee JasWitch Goddess
Wee Jas is the goddess of death and magic. She is a demanding goddess who expects obedience from her followers. Her temples are few and far between, but she counts many powerful sorcerers and wizards (especially necromancers) among her worshipers.

Major Spheres: All, Elemental Death, Magic, Order
Minor Spheres: Healing, Undeath

Ingnore the minor spheres, they’re only for spell access and I’m already dealing with that. In terms of feats and talents, I need material for the following spheres:

  • Charm
  • Elemental Death
  • Healing
  • Hope
  • Luck
  • Magic
  • Order
  • Strength
  • Sun
  • Trickery

So that’s ten spheres. Each sphere should have about five talents in it, and each talent should be supported by two feats. So that’s 50 talents and 100 feats to come with between us. Dead easy!

Guide to Inventing Talents

The old post on Talents, Traits and Feats defines the difference between talents and feats, and offers some guidance on what they should look like. Remember that a Talent is the HD&D term for a class ability in third edition. They should be unique powers. Feats are not unique powers. They improve something the character can already do. In this context, a feat might improve a talent, or allow a character to use it in a different way.

Talents can be at-will abilities, continuously active or they can use the Recharge mechanic just like spells. But try to avoid making them too much like spells – clerics have a spell list, after all.

The benefit conferred by a talent may be static, or it may be possible to improve it. You decide if the effects of talent improve automatically as the cleric gains levels, if the cleric needs to choose a second related talent to unlock advanced abilities, or whether the talent can be improved by selecting feats. Sometimes all three might apply.

Try to avoid talents that confer Immunity to a particular type of attack. I’d rather see “Necrotic Resistance 10” at first level, increasing as a cleric gains levels, than I would “Necrotic Immunity”.

Please steer away from talents that Turn Undead. I’m approaching turn undead sligthly differently in HD&D, and making it a talent that is more universally available to clerics. This is in keeping with the way clerics have always functioned in the official rules, and I believe I have a rationale to make this work. Talents that let clerics blast undead, dominate undead or do anything else to undead is fine. Just leave Turning out of the equation.

If you are wondering now much damage an offensive talent should do, then use the following table as a guide. This is the baseline; there can be some variation from these figures. Attacks that affect numerous targets tend to inflict less damage, than those that target one individual:

Level

Average Damage

1

6

2

7

3

8

4

9

5

11

6

12

7

13

8

14

9

16

10

17

11

20

12

21

13

22

14

23

15

25

16

26

17

27

18

28

19

30

20

31

21

33

22

34

23

36

24

37

25

38

26

39

27

41

28

42

29

43

30

44

Finally, remember to pillage exisiting books for ideas. The domain powers from third edition, the sphere powers from second edition – and even 4e’s domain feats all offer inspiration. If you have access to Faiths & Avatars, Powers & Pantheons or Demihuman Deities then you’ll find yourself swimming in options. It’s easier to convert something that already exists than it is to invent it from whole cloth.

The Hope Sphere

The best advice I can offer is by way of example. Here are five talents and the related feats granted by the Hope Sphere.  This is one of Pelor’s spheres from the list above, so we’re already down to nine. See how easy this will be?

Talents

Bulwark Against Fear  – Cleric Talent
You are an inspiration to those around you. As long as you remain strong, then your allies will not falter.
Continuous Effect | Supernatural, Mind-Affecting
Immediate Interrupt
Trigger:
You are targeted by a Close or Far Fear effect
Prerequisite: Major access to the Hope sphere
Duration: Instantaneous
Area of Effect: Close Burst 20 ft. radius
Target: All allies within area of effect

Effect: Add your Charisma bonus (minimum +1) as a Morale bonus to your Will defence against Fear effects. Additionally, whenever you are targeted by a Close or Far Fear effect (i.e. a Fear effect that targets an area, as opposed to just you), the following rules apply:

Before you roll your saving throw (or before the result of the attack roll is known) you can call upon your allies to put their faith in you. Any companions, characters or non-player characters within twenty feet have the option to trust in you to defend them from fear.

Once your allies have decided, the GM reveals the result of the attack roll (or you make your saving throw). If a Fear attack misses you, then it automatically misses all your declared allies. But if Fear strikes you then all your declared allies are also affected.

Consecrated Strike – Cleric Talent
You can focus the holy power of your god to sanctify your mêlée attacks. You deal additional damage to the heinous denizens of infamy.
Continuous Effect | Supernatural, Good
No Action
Prerequisite: Major access to the Hope sphere
Duration: Instantaneous
Area of Effect: Mêlée (weapon)
Target: One creature

Effect: Your mêlée attacks are particularly effective against creatures that carry Taint. All demons, devils and the undead are somewhat tainted, but beings of all races have the potential to be so corrupted.

If you attack a Tainted creature (with either your natural attacks, or with a mêlée weapon) you inflict an additional 1d6 damage per attack. This damage increases to 2d6 at level 11, and 3d6 at level 21.

You are considered armed when making attacks with your natural weapons against  a Tainted creature. If your natural attacks normally inflict subdual damage, they inflict lethal damage against Tainted foes.

Simply touching (not attacking) a Tainted creature causes tainted flesh to sizzle and burn inflicting 1d4 damage. Tainted creatures try to avoid shaking hands with clerics with access to the Hope sphere.

One Good Turn – Cleric Talent
You reap the rewards of performing good deeds for others, and can use this positive karma to your own advantage.
Recharge | Supernatural
No Action
Prerequisite: Major access to the Hope sphere

Effect: When you spend an Action Point to help or aid another character, you gain another Action Point at the beginning of your next turn. The definition of ‘helping another character’ is deliberately broad, and open to interpretation by the GM. Such help might include:

  • Attacking a foe who is assaulting your ally.
  • Casting a protective spell on your ally.
  • Taunting or causing an enemy to disengage from your ally and target you instead.
  • Using a power or ability that somehow mitigates or negates damage to your ally.
  • Utilising an effect that allows your ally to make a saving throw.
  • Performing an act that practically helps your ally – e.g. pushing them in a river if they’re on fire.

After you use this talent, you must take a short rest before you can use it again.

Sanctified Aura – Cleric Talent
You are surrounded by a holy aura of pearly goodness, that keeps out evil creatures and protects you from harm.
At-Will | Supernatural, Good
Standard Action
Prerequisite:
Major access to the Hope sphere
Duration: 1 round/level.
Area of Effect: Personal
Target: You.

Effect: At will, you can surround yourself in an opalescent aura of divine power. This aura is antithetical to Tainted creatures, who will not approach or physically lay a hand on you if they can avoid it. All demons, devils and the undead are somewhat tainted, but beings of all races have the potential to be so corrupted.

Tainted creatures of a lower level than the caster recoil from the warded creature, and will not make mêlée attacks against you. They can still make ranged, close or far attacks against you. If you make a mêlée attack against a Tainted creature, or you try to force the aura against a tainted creature that cannot physically get away, then the Sanctified Aura automatically ends. It can still be restored with a standard action.

Tainted creatures of equal or greater level, may still recoil from the sanctified aura. However, they may also choose to make mêlée attacks. Every round in phase one of their turn, a tainted attacker may make a Will saving throw to follow throw with its mêlée attacks for the round. They must make this saving throw every round they wish to attack.

A tainted attacker takes 1d6 damage with each mêlée attack it makes against you in a round (regardless of whether the attacks were successful or not). Attacking a tainted creature that attacks you, still causes the Sanctified Aura to end.

Soothing Words – Cleric Talent
The power of your god manifests in your words, allowing you to soothe and pacify the uruly and aggressive with the sound of your voice.
At-Will |Supernatural, Mind-Affecting
Standard Action
Prerequisite: Major access to the Hope sphere
Duration: Concentration + 1 round/level
Area of Effect: Close Burst 20 ft. radius
Target: All creatures in area of effect
Attack: Spellcraft vs. Will

Effect: The sound of your words suppresses bases emotions such as anger, rage and hostility. You may use Soothing Words on creatures that have initiated hostile action against you or your companions, but the power will not work if you or your companions initiated combat, or fought back when attacked.

If your attack roll is successful then the target’s negative hostile emotions are suppressed. Their attitude shifts to Indifferent. Indifferent characters do not care much about you one way or the other; they will deliver any socially expected interaction, but won’t go out of their way to do you any favours .

The effect lasts for as long as you spend a standard each round to continue speaking + a further 1 round per level. You must also remain withing twenty feet of all the targets of this power.

At the end of the duration, the targets’ original emotions and intent reassert themselves.

Feats

Brutal Consecration – Cleric Feat
Your mêlée attacks inflict even more damage against opponents.
At-Will | Supernatural, Good
No Action
Prerequisite: Major access to the Hope sphere, Consecrated Strike talent.
Area of Effect: Mêlée (weapon)
Target: One creature

Effect: Add one die to the extra damage inflicted with the Consecrated Strike talent. In addition all mêlée attacks against Tainted creatures gain the Brutal quality.

In the event of a critical hit, attacks with Brutal weapons roll the damage die in addition to maximising the damage result. For example, a 7th level cleric with Str 14, Consecrated Strike and Brutal Consecration attacking with a mace would inflict 1d8+1d6+2 damage. In the event of a critical hit, he would inflict 1d8+16 damage.

The effects of Brutal Consecration and Critical Consecration stack.

Critical Consecration – Cleric Feat
Your mêlée attacks have a greater chance of scoring a critical hit if you direct them at Tainted foes.
At-Will | Supernatural, Good
No Action
Prerequisite:
Major access to the Hope sphere, Consecrated Strike talent
Area of Effect: Mêlée (weapon)
Target: One creature

Effect: When attacking with the Consecrated Strike talent roll d8s for he extra damage, instead of d6s. In addition, all mêlée attacks against Tainted creatures gain the High Crit quality.

High Crit weapons score a critical hit on a roll of 19 or 20, instead of just a natural 20. The 19 must otherwise be a hit for it to be a critical hit.

The effects of Critical Consecration and Brutal Consecration stack.

Exalted Mists of Sanctity – Cleric Feat
You can increase the intensity of sanctified aura, to obscure you from harm and attacks.
At-Will | Supernatural, Good
Move Action
Prerequisite: Major access to the Hope sphere, Sanctified Aura talent.
Duration: For the remaining duration of Sanctified Aura talent

Effect: As a move action, you thicken your Sanctified Aura turning it from an opalescent shene into a thick swirling silver mist. All creatures within the Sanctified Aura gain concealment from everyone outside the Sanctified Aura. You may spend a Move action to raise or lower concealment at any point during the duration of the Sanctified Aura talent.

Concealment grants a +2 bonus to Reflex defence against mêlée and ranged attacks, but not against Close or Far attacks.

Persistant Words – Cleric Feat
When you speak, your words can have a profound and lasting effect on your subjects.
At-Will | Supernatural, Mind-Affecting
No Action
Prerequisite: Major access to the Hope sphere, Soothing Words talent.

Effect: When you use your Soothing Words talent, there is a chance that your targets’ new emotional state persists after the duration of the talent expires.

Soothing Words lasts for as many rounds as you are willing to commit a standard action to its upkeep, plus one round per level. At the end of this time, all targets must make a Will Saving throw against a DC equal to your Passive Spellcraft. If they fail, then their new attitude toward you persists.

Those who fail the saving throw, may make an additional saving throw once every day until they eventually shake off the effects of this talent.

Reliable Bulwark – Cleric Feat
You are even more adept at inspiring your allies to stand firm in the face of bowel-clenching terror.
At-Will | Supernatural, Mind-Affecting
Free Action
Trigger:
You are targeted by a Close or Far Fear effect
Prerequisite: Major access to the Hope sphere, Bulawark Against Fear talent.

Effect: When you are affected by a Close or Far Fear effect (i.e. a Fear effect that affects an area as opposed to just you), you gain a second chance to resist it. If this effect is a Fear attack, you may force the attacker to reroll the attack. If this effect forces you to make a Fear saving throw, you may reroll the saving throw.

Two Good Turns – Cleric Feat
You are able to benefit from karmic good fortune more often than other clerics.
Recharge (Special) | Supernatural
No Action
Prerequisite: 11th level, major access to the Hope sphere, One Good Turn talent.

Effect: You may use your One Good Turn talent twice before taking a short rest. You may not spend more than one Action Point in a round.

Wide Arms of Sanctity – Cleric Feat
You can use the divine power of your god to protect innocents from the unholy touch of the tainted.
At-Will | Supernatural, Good
No Action
Prerequisite: Major access to the Hope sphere, Sanctified Aura talent.
Duration: 1 round/level
Area of Effect: Close Burst 10 ft radius
Target: All creatures in area of effect

Effect: When you use your Sanctified Aura talent, you can choose to widen the effect of the aura to emcompass all non-tainted creatures within a ten foot radius of you. Tainted creatures will not now approach within ten feet of you, and cannot make mêlée attacks into the area of effect of this feat.

As with Sanctified Aura, any mêlée attack against a tainted creature or attempt to force a tainted creature up against a barrier prematurely ends the aura. This restriction applies to all those sheltering within the widened aura. If one of your companions makes a mêlée attack against a tainted creature when inside the aura, then the aura ends for everybody.

The ten foot radius of this aura is centred on you, and moves with you when you move. Anyone in the area of effect would also have to move to keep up, if they want to retain the aura’s benefits.

Winning Words – Cleric Feat
The honeyed words of your god are particularly pleasing to the ear.
At-Will | Supernatural, Mind-Affecting
No Action
Prerequisite: Major access to the Hope sphere, Soothing Words talent.

Effect: When you successivefully use your Soothing Words talent you are able to shift  the attitude of the targets to Friendly instead of Indifferent. Friendly characters are happy to chat, advise and stand up for your interests. They will help in your endeavours, but draw the line at any activity that risks their lives or wellbeing. All other effects of the Soothing Words talent are unchanged. 

Over to You

Looking at the work that needs to be done to get the playtest ready for September, I could really use some help with this. Clerics represent the single largest amount of work of any of the character classes. Any help that anyone can offer would be greatly appreciated.

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4 thoughts on “Design Call: Cleric Talents & Feats

  1. Hey Neil

    I will help out a bit. Call me self-centred but I am much more motivated to work on spheres that will eventually appear on the Calafax list. Of those listed above sun, charm or luck (second chances) are possibilities. What do you reckon?

  2. Thanks Steve. Anything would be a big help.

    I haven’t hammered out the Spheres for clerics of Calafax as yet. It might be that the Firestarters, Bombastics and Warmakers have access to different spheres, it may not.

    Of the ten spheres in this post I would agree that Sun, Charm and Luck are all contenders for a future Calafax cleric. Go for it!

  3. Hey Neil.

    I have some ideas and will get this finished and back to you over the weekend. In the meantime I was thinking of an alternative for the minor access to spheres. It seems a bit odd that the gods lesser aspects are equal in potency to the greater ones up until level four when they disappear completely. How about the following:-

    Cleric Spell Talent 1: Level 1 Spells for major spheres and Level 1 spells for minor spheres
    Cleric Spell Talent 2: Level 2 Spells for major spheres and Level 1 spells for minor spheres
    Cleric Spell Talent 3: Level 3 Spells for major spheres and Level 2 spells for minor spheres
    Cleric Spell Talent 4: Level 4 Spells for major spheres and Level 2 spells for minor spheres
    Cleric Spell Talent 5: Level 5 Spells for major spheres and Level 3 spells for minor spheres

    . . . and so on. What do you think?

  4. That’s an option I hadn’t considered.

    The reason it works as it does at present is because a) that’s how it worked under second edition; and b) it spreads out more utility spells and options to low level clerics.

    Healing is the prime example of this. Under the current rules for minor spheres, clerics of 7th level with either minor or major access to the Healing sphere will be able to cast cure serious wounds. They wouldn’t be able to resurrect, or regenerate missing limbs, but they could still set a broken bone.

    However, the more I think about you suggestion, the more I think it might work better. It would obviously limit casters, but perhaps in a good way. It won’t matter in the context of the first playtest adventure, but I think I’ll adopt this idea. At least until I get an overwhelming wave of complaints about it!

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