The Cleric – Take 3

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

In our first gripping instalment of the New Deal cleric, I proposed some new archetypes to force the heavily house-ruled class into the Pathfinder rules as written. In the second instalment new versions of the cleric were unveiled. Now the saga continues… let’s hope it’s a trilogy.

What I’ve tried to do this time is create a base cleric class that can be used for any of the faiths in the campaign world, but that is also much closer to the published rules than anything I’ve presented before. I’ve listened to all the comments that you’ve made – I can’t implement all of them as some are exact opposites – and hope that I’ve created enough options that this is a solution everyone will be able to accept. I think I’ve been a bit precious about the cleric in the past, so I’ve toned down many of the signature powers. Hopefully we now have something that stands on an equal footing with the other base classes – or as equal as you can get in third edition.

The New Deal Cleric

I’ve been very thorough at working out how these new rules affect Iourn. Therefore, I’ve expanded the material I’ve looked at from clerics of Calafax to include the rest of the Moon Gods and also the common deities of Lareth. The Prophet and Loss campaign is restarting next year, after all. As a result of this, the accompanying PDF is quite a hefty document with revised details of the cleric class as well as new spells, new archetypes, new domains, new subdomains and revised powers.

All the rules material is presented in the PDF below. What follows in this blog post is a quick summary of the changes (to save you reading the whole document), and then a quick critique of the changes I’ve made.

Click for the New Deal Cleric (version 3)

Rules Changes

I’m quickly going to go through the way this cleric differs from the published cleric as well as the versions of the new deal cleric that we’ve seen before. Hopefully this is a useful summary. You cna refer to the PDF for the full text.

Class Skills: All clerics have Craft (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Heal (Wis), Knowledge (religion) (Int), Linguistics (Int), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), and Spellcraft (Int) as class skills. They then get five additional class skills depending on the deity they worship or the church they belong to. This is the easiest way of enabling customisation of the cleric’s available skills without adding lots of additional rules to domains. I’m keen to keep domains largely as they are printed.

Aura and Alignment: The rules now downplay the importance of alignment. Clerics are not required to have an alignment within one step of their deity. The important thing is that they uphold the tenets of their faith. An incompatible alignment may make that very difficult or impossible. Likewise clerics decide whether they want to know and cast spells of an opposed alignment. It’s up to them if they want to deal with the consequences. This is largely the way alignment has always been viewed on Iourn and doesn’t really make much mechanical difference to the game.

Gaining Spells: The cleric uses the same rules as the wizard when calculating the number of spells a cleric knows, and the ways in which new spells are gained. We’ve all agreed that this is a desirable house rule, as less is definitely more when it comes to preparing spells. However, it is a reduction in the utility of the published cleric. To make up for this, to maintain greater continuity with previous adventures, and to help distinguish between clerics of different faiths the lists of domain spells have been greatly increased.

Domain Spells: You’ve seen this rule in my previous versions of the new deal cleric, and I know that not every one is on board about this. The new rules allow for thematically appropriate spells from elsewhere in the Core Rules (and only the Core Rules at present) to be added to the list of domain spells. However, this time I haven’t altered the level of existing domain spells, and where I’ve added a spell from outside the cleric list I have (mostly) increased the level of the spell by one. Additionally, I’ve removed the domain slot from spell preparation, and allowed all domain spells to be prepared in any approrpriate spell slot. This gets around the issue of a fire cleric only being able to prepare one fireball per day. It also means that clerics are far more likely to have a spell list made up of spells that truly reflect the portfolio of their deity.

Domains: Clerics gain two domains at first level as in the published rules. I’ve done away with the concept of the Deity Domain entirely. The rules for domain powers are unchanged.

Subdomains: I’ve incorporated the rules explaining what subdomains are into the main cleric rules. Because of the expansion of the domain spell lists, subdomains no longer carry any alternative spells. They are simply a source of alternative domain powers.

Altered Powers: I’ve modified five domain powers (which I thought was pretty restrained). The Electricity Resistance, Cold Resistance, Fire Resistance and Acid Resistance powers (of the Air, Water, Fire and Earth domains respectively) have been tweaked. Clerics of levels 1-5 now gain Resist 5 to the energy type. In the published rules the ability didn’t kick in until 6th level, when the cleric gained Resist 10. It’s important to me that Moon Priests still retain some energy resistance from first level. This level of resistance isn’t unusual for first level characters. Additionally the Sudden Shift power from the Deception subdomain was rewritten because it depended too heavily on a battlegrid to function.

Channel Energy: All clerics have the channel energy class feature. However, the class feature is flavoured by the god the cleric worships. The base rules for channel energy are included in the cleric description, while I’ve added an additional section to describe the version that is used by clerics of each faith. Using the faith-specific version of channel energy is not optional.

Variant Channel Energy: I’ve represented the rules for variant channel energy in the document, tweaking it slightly to make clear that these rules are not optional and clerics must take the variant of this ability if their god has one. For the most part I’ve taken the rules exactly as presented in Ultimate Magic. Terranor, Calafax, Zephyre and Sharash are special cases. Their versions of channel energy don’t follow this model. However… there are guidelines in Ultimate Magic for creating your own channel energy variants – and one of the examples they use is a fire cleric who inflicts fire damage with his chanelling. I therefore think all the powers are within the spirit of the rules that Paizo intended.

Spontaneous Casting: In practice this is exactly the same as the published rules: clerics can swap out any prepared spell for a cure or inflict spell of the same level – depending on the choice they made at first level. The only proviso is that (like the channel energy feature) it is the deity’s alignment, and not the cleric’s that defines which type of spontaneous casting the cleric uses. Also: because of the way that clerics now gains spells the eight cure spells (or the eight inflict spells) are added to the cleric’s list of known spells in addition to any other choices she may make.

New Rules Elements

The above are changes to existing rules. What follows are a list of the new rules elements I have included to help customise your cleric and make it function more like the clerics we are used to seeing on Iourn.

New Domain: I’ve created one new domain – the Pestilence domain. I felt that it was an element of a god’s portfolio that couldn’t adequatedly be reproduced with the current material. It is based on the Pestilence domain that was already published in Complete Divine (2004). The domain spells for the Pestilence domain come from the Core Rules, the Advanced Player’s Guide, Ultimate Combat and Ultimate Magic. It’s the only domain that’s had this thorough treatment so far. Of the domain powers: Plaguedog is taken directly from the third edition rules, and I think is fine. Cloak of Vermin is based on the Swarm Skin spell and the Swarm Form ability of the Pathfinder Spherewalker prestige class.

New Subdomains: The Moon Priests had a number of signature abilities that don’t appear in the published list of domain powers. Therefore I’ve invented eight new subdomains that hopefully plug these gaps. The Aquanaut, Interrogation, Pyre, Stone Voyager, Sweet Air, Terranite, Warbound and Windborn subdomains reintroduce these signature powers into the game. Although I have toned them down for Pathfinder. The beauty of this approach is that the subdomains can only be available to clerics of certain deities, meaning that no cleric outside the churches of Zephyre can fly in quite the same way as Jonus can.

New Spells: Otyugh Swarm is a spell form Complete Divine (2004) that appeared in the list of Pestilence domain spells. It’s a nice high-level spell for Pestilential clerics, and steps into Pathfinder seamlessly. Wake of Sharrash, Mastery of Flame, Unchaining the Flame, and Water Form are spells that were granted powers in the past. I didn’t think they were iconic enough to create their own subdomain around them, so I converted them into spells instead. See if you think they capture the intent of the original. They are also designed to only be available to gods of a particular deity in much the same way that some spells in Pathfinder can only be cast by certian races.

New Archetypes: I’ve tried to keep the number of new archetypes to a minimum. Lunar Priest is a required archetype for any priest of a Moon God. It’s a cost-neutral archetype that adds the rules for the cycles of the moons affecting the cleric’s powers and spellcasting prowess. As there’s no deity domain in the game any more, the Moon affects all domain powers. Therefore each domain and subdomain power that a moon priest could conceivably possess now has a “diminished” and “enhanced” version. A lot of work, but it’s done now. I’ve kept the simplification that the dark of the moon and the full moon act upon the cleric equally during the day and at night. It’s slightly less evocative but mechanically easier. However, we could say that the cleric functions normally during the day, is diminished at night during the dark of the moon, and enhanced at night during the full moon. That might be an easy compromise.

The second new archetype is Divine Prodigy, and it’s there for players who really want to recapture the diversity of the granted powers clerics used to have. Clerics with this archetype lose the Channel Energy and Spontaneous Casting class features in return for two additional domains (one at 1st level, and one at 11th), or the ability to choose a subdomain power in addition to the two normal domain powers. This might be a more appropriate choice for Nicos or for Jonus. I didn’t want to front-load the cleric with these options – I wanted to present a cleric that’s really close to the book rules – but the option is now there if you want it.


The cleric’s list of class skills is now closely tied to his church. The cleric’s choice of spells is broader and more thematic, but the number of spells he actually knows is reduced. Aside from those changes, this is the Cleric exactly as its published. Yes, we’re relying on the rules for Subdomains from the Advanced Player’s Guide, and the rules for variant chanelling from Ultimate Magic… but this is all Pathfinder material. The new rules and archetypes I’ve added are all solidly based on Pathfinder principles (I hope).

This is a long way from how I envisioned the cleric when I started this process: which is probably a good thing. The granted powers are now toned down to sensible levels, all of the game elements that are presented in the published rules are available, and players who want more powers at the expense of the new Pathfinder abilities can have them.

I think I’ve got this right. Now prove me wrong.

Go to the Pathfinder: The New Deal index

15 thoughts on “The Cleric – Take 3

  1. Hey Neil

    Where do the god specific spells come into this? i.e. Will the ultimate fiery death spell ‘shooting stars’ appear on the main Cleric list but as Calafaxian priests only?

    Also, on a more general note will existing spells, feats and prestige classes from 3.5 be completely unavailable, or will they be reviewed by yourself on a case by case basis as players request them?

  2. Hi Steve! Wasn’t expecting to hear from you on the blog for a while!

    Consider spells in the PDF like Unchaining the Flame as the model for spells specific to a certain god. They would appear in the list of domain spells, with a note in the spell text saying that it was specific to a certain god or a certain church.

    Yes, I’d review requests to use 3.5 material on a case-by-case basis. Some conversion may be required. I’d prefer it if everyone just stuck to material from the Pathfinder books. If you ask for something completely off the wall from the Tome of Battle, or you want to be a Truenamer, or build a character around the reserve feats from Complete Mage…. then I’d probably have to a lot of work hammering those concepts into Pathfinder. I may say no simply because I don’t have the time – in which case the more notice I have the better.

    I already have to consider the Binder and the Soulknife for next April…

  3. Hey Neil. With a newborn and a toddler I imagine that I will be at home a lot more in the evenings! Hence I have had time to read the blog.

    I guess my issue with the Cleric is that I cannot look at it objectively. As a class it looks reasonable to create a new character under, but with each change I will always be thinking ‘what will this mean for Nicos?’.

    The last time we played, Clerics also had a personal Wizard style spell list, where they chose a subset from the wider available list. Unlike a standard rules Wizard they could cast any of them, which I think was overpowered, as was the way that metamagic was applied to all spells. However, I am concerned about the wholesale differences to his personal spell list. There are a staggering 74 spells that were previously on his personal list but are no longer on the lists available to him. I was expecting to see nearly all of these spells make an appearance in the extended domain lists. They are mostly 3.5 spells, but are we saying that we will review all of them and bash them into pathfinder, or are they mostly going to disappear?

    From a powers perspective, there are three that Nicos previously had that have now gone – Second Chance and Renewal from the Rebirth domain, and Healing Flame. Like the new Pestilence domain, do you think Rebirth could be a viable domain? I know it is only 1 level to wait until level 20, but I liked it when fire healed all fire priests during the full moon. The point blank fireball to heal Nicos and harm the bad’uns is a tactic that I have used so many times that I don’t want to see it disappear. Perhaps during the full of the moon, the Clerics own spells heal him up to a limit?

    I can’t help but feel that the changes reduce the relative power of the Cleric, and when we last played (aside from the things already mentioned) Nicos didn’t feel overpowered compared to the other PCs.

  4. Excellent. I knew there was an up side to having children.

    It’s understandable that you have Nicos’s best interests at heart: and I won’t lie to you – this version of the cleric is a reduction in Nicos’s power level and versatility. However, it’s like that for all the other classes as well. The difference with the cleric is I’m trying to hang onto some of the house rules instead of flushing everything. Using the rules as written isn’t going to do any favours for the sorcerer or the paladin.

    Last time we played I think Nicos had to select the spells that he knew from a wider spell list. I know that we redid Arvan so he had to. So his spell list should have been constructed this way already. The main difference will be the pool of spells from which he was able to choose.

    Don’t worry too much about that at present. The expanded spells for most of the domains only use spells from the Pathfinder Core Rules because frankly I only had time to look in the Pathfinder Core Rules. There’s no reason why these domain spell lists can’t be extended indefinitely…. and as long as a third edition spell works in Pathfinder then there’s no reason why we can’t make the necessary changes and add it to the list. Of course, there are plenty of good spells in Pathfinder sourcebooks that might serve equally well. The short answer: yes, we can review all of them and bash them into Pathfinder.

    When I was looking at moon god powers I just looked at the powers which are up at I reasoned that these are the powers that have been in existence for the longest time, and therefore the ones we’d most likely want to keep. Second Chance and Renewal are not ones I really considered.

    I suppose we could have a Rebirth domain, and maybe some related subdomains to mop up certain powers. It wouldn’t be a very densely populated domain on the spells front, though.

    As for Healing Flame… that could be hived off into subdomain related to Fire. You’d probably need to select the Divine Prodigy archetype for Nicos and choose the extra subdomain powers to get it as well as the fundamental powers of fire resistance and cloak of Calafax.

    Of course, if I did that then I’d probably have to change the ability of fire resistance during the full moon.

    So most of the powers and spells that are missing could be recreated and made available to the cleric. It would just be a question of prioritising which ones you wanted.

  5. That sounds fine to me then. At some point I will run through Nicos’s character sheet and pick out the spells, feats, powers etc that are no longer in pathfinder and that I still actually want. I will send the details on an e-mail though rather than through this blog.

  6. Also, will you be extending the spell table so that 10+ level spells exist? These would only be used with metamagic but as this mechanic is not in the standard rules, I thought I would check.

  7. Hi Neil,
    Just a quickie, but I’d add Perform (Oratory or SInging) to the skill list for all clerics. After all, thats what they do in the temple isn’t it?

  8. Hi Steve. That’s fine. Send the email along when it’s ready and I promise to have sorted everything out before you play Nicos again.

    I’m not 100% sure what’s happening after 20th level yet. There’s a fairly important blog post about that in the offing. I don’t see any reason why characters couldn’t continue to gain access to higher level spell slots for the purpose as casting metamagically enhanced spells as their caster level increased. However, as there are no epic level rules to speak of in Pathfinder we’ll have to consider the matter carefully. I don’t really want to use the 3.0 Epic Level Handbook. There were issues using it with 3.5, let alone Pathfinder.

    Jack: Although I’m sure most clerics sing or preach, I’m not sure that they all need Perform as a class skill. After all you can hold a tune without Perform, and sermons often have a reputation for being very dull (although none that Tracey is a part of, I’m sure!). The Pathfinder system is more forgiving when it comes to spending ranks on cross-class skills, so I’m tempted to leave it the way it is. Still, I’d be interested to hear other opinions on the matter.

  9. I agree pathfinder is more forgiving with cross class skills, and its one of the areas which i think i prefer over 3.5.

    In considering Perform as a class skill, please consider that a priest of any religion can alter the mood of a crowd with the right (or wrong) sort of sermon. Since they can alter peoples reactions quite markedly with the right words and music, I’d say it should be a class skill in the same way diplomacy and sense motive are.

    I think its important that the d&d cleric should be able to whip up a congregation into a witch burning frenzy … or send them all to sleep so they can slip out to the pub during the interval … just like real life ;-)

    Also, consider, in a pantheistic world, presumably clerics don’t have a congregational monoply over their community. Therefore they’re ability to perform and preach would, in the long term, affect the size of their church, the coinage in their pocket and whether anyone takes them seriously.

    As for Tracey, no matter how many ranks she puts into Perform, it appears she won’t be Bishop anytime soon!!!

  10. Hi Neil.

    I have noticed that not all subdomains are available for each domain. Most noticeably, Nicos has the chaos powers Fury of the Abyss and Aura of Chaos (both of which I like very much). These were general chaos powers last time around. Under the new system, he couldn’t select either of these as Demon and Protean are not listed subdomains. This would mean that I wouldn’t have chosen the chaos domain and would have a moderately different spell list. Is this an oversight or were they deliberately excluded?

  11. Hi Steve. This is deliberate, and it’s the way that the rules for subdomains seem to work in Pathfinder. Not all gods get access to the subdomains related to the respective domain. Subdomains are uncommon specialisations that only apply to gods that truly epitomise the governing domain.

    As for Calafax… he’s a chaotic god of fire, but he’s not a god of Chaos. Therefore he gets the Chaos domain, but not Chaos’s subdomains. The Demon and Protean subdomains would be reserved foe a true god of Chaos – like the Queen of Chaos, or Orcus.

    As another example, take the Hadradan god Helian. He’s a Sun God, so you would imagine that fire and heat are part of his purview. It’s therefore appropriate for him to have access to the Fire domain. But Helian is not a fire god in the same way that Calafax is. So Helian doesn’t have access to the Fire subdomains of Arson, Ash and Smoke while Calafax.

    I don’t think I’d want to give Calafax access to Chaos subdomains, as keeping the subdomains special helps to differentiate clerics. However, if that means Nicos doesn’t have access to the Chaos domain at all and therefore has a different spell list, then I’m fine for you to make those changes. In some regards (particularly with clerics) theh characters might need to be slightly rebuilt to fit intot he rules.

  12. Hey Neil. I didn’t know that the subdomains worked this way. However, it makes complete sense. In standard pathfinder, do all gods have the same number of domains / subdomains or does it vary? It just looks like Moradin is harshly done to compared with Helian.

  13. No, not all gods necessarily have an equal number of domains or subdomains in their portfolio. Some gods just don’t have as wide a remit as others.

    Gods like Helian (or the Moon Gods) cater for a diverse number of different priesthoods within their worshippers… which is often why gods like that have more domains/subdomains than gods like Moradin that have only one priesthood.

    That said, a wider choice of domains/subdomains doesn’t necessarily reflect a wider choice in spells as some domains will have far more spells in them than others. Plus regardless of the choices available during character generation, once a cleric is created then it should be equal to other other clerics in that it has two domains, four domain powers and certain number of known spells.

  14. Prophet and Loss campaign? Oh dear….

    I think it’s good, Neil. I think it covers all of our concerns with regard to narrative and power balance. We’ll see how it pans out, but I’m happy with this compromise.

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