Okay so Clerics. First of all, I’m going to call them Mystics (or Cabalists, The Possess’d, Prophets, Seers, Emissaries, or Daemonseed depending on who you talk to). It’s never really made sense to me how holy missionary warrior priests end up robbing tombs with a bunch of misfits, but Mystics, spreading the word/infection of their strange god as they travel and getting some sweet loot while doing it, that makes sense.
Now, while I hold with the LotFP notion that there are no real gods and for the most part the deluded Mystics themselves are the ones with the power, let’s ignore that for now. Mystics are meant to draw their power from a god, some higher being, something that allows them to perform what might as well be miracles. However, mechanically they don’t work any differently to Magic-Users, their faith doesn’t come into things other than as flavouring. They have a set number of spells that they can cast per day and after that they dust off their hands and say “Welp, that’s that, I won’t bother god again until tomorrow.”
That’s some bullshit.
In my setting Mystics do not have a set spell limit, they have an ongoing Faith tally which measures both the strength of their belief and their perceived divine favour, and casting a Mystic spell uses Faith points equal to its level.
Mystics gain Faith by witnessing what they would interpret as divine intervention or proof of their god, or by actively achieving things in their name. When they slaughter the priest of a rival cult, when they convert a crowd of listeners, when they call out to their god and their fortunes change, when they eat a hallucinogenic mushroom and their god copulates with them while proclaiming their destiny, the Mystic gains d4 Faith. Your Referee will tell you when you’ve gained Faith, don’t be asking for it.
When the Mystic does something their god would not approve of or witnesses something which would shake their belief; a commune of the converted found diseased deformed and starved, a call for help which goes unanswered, a nocturnal visit by a creeping hulking thing which whispers terrible secrets of the endless sky into the Mystic’s ear heedless to the invocation of their god, they lose 2d4 Faith.
Yes that’s right, playing your Cleric like an actual Cleric will allow them to do more Cleric things, I know, it’s genius.
One of my favourite little bits in Vornheim is a random encounter table entry with a Cleric of Vorn kneeling in the snow crying out “Why? Why has thou forsaken me?????”, and it excites me that that is something which could happen naturally during a game simply because of the way a Mystic’s Faith works.
Mystics don’t prepare spells in advance, they may call upon any power they know, but it takes a round longer than normal Cleric spells as it’s more of a rite or ritual than a release of stored power. In fact let’s just call them rituals instead of spells.
After they have reached their Faith limit, the Mystic may attempt further pleas to their god with a 3d6 Test of Faith roll, with a penalty applied for every point needed after the first. If they suffer a Crisis of Faith or worse, they suffer a 2d4 penalty to Faith in addition to any other effects. My example Mystics also have personalised Malpractice tables for Crisis of Faith or Inverse Effect results while trying to heal someone.
|3d6||Test of Faith|
|11-13||Success/Crisis of Faith|
|8-10||Crisis of Faith|
|5-7||Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me|
|1-4||Inverse Effect/Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me|
Mystics can also attempt to amplify their rituals with a Hand of God roll. Bonuses can be applied by sacrificing additional Faith before rolling. The player announces what they want to happen, and the Referee applies penalties accordingly. An effect without penalties would be something like double duration/benefit.
Attempting to perform the same ritual more than once in a day also requires a Hand of God roll, gods get bored easily. Bonuses can be applied by sacrificing additional Faith before rolling.
|3d6||Hand of God|
|10-13||Success/Crisis of Faith|
|1-4||Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me|
It’s fun to keep in mind that there is no god and this is all in the Mystic’s head, anything physical manifested by their delusion.
|Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me|
|1||For the next d2 weeks animals shy and howl and cry when you are near. Make a Hand of God roll every time you cast a spell during this time.|
|2||You fall to your knees and regurgitate page after page scrawled with your own writing. They are filled with lies about your god, filled with doubt and blasphemy, there is enough to fill a tome. It will be 2d6 days before you are able to regain Faith.|
|3||Your holy symbol melts or crumbles into shards of refuse, like burs pulled from a dog's fur. Within is a black witchetty grub with eyes like a sunset. It raises itself up like a monolith, a mosquito's proboscis slowly extending from it's mandibles. If it bites you, lose d4 points of Wisdom, if you eat it gain one.|
|4||Possession. Your flesh boils and breaks, eyes bubble out at random, creaking tentacles of cartilage burst from your stomach, your fingers break and bend back so that the bones stick out like claws, your entire form swells and bloats and you scream as your face disappears into a mound with water-well eyes that reflect another place and a mouth like a prolapsed anus dried in the sun.
For the next 2d4 rounds all you desire is the rended flesh of your enemies. Double your hp during this time, make d6 d8 damage attacks per round, and move at double speed.
Afterwards you tear yourself out of the mouth of this horrific form and it slops to the ground, already rotting. Take an additional penalty to Faith equal to double the rounds you were in that form and roll d20. On a 1 you lose a level, on a 20 you gain one.
|5||Your god appears before you in all their terrible glory. No one else can see them. They wish to know the depths of your devotion, they demand sacrifice. What do you hold most dear? Burn or kill it and regain 4d4 Faith instead of losing 2d4, otherwise have fun living without the favour of your god.|
|6||Glass worms squirm from your skin and as they shatter on the ground they release whispers of doubts. Lose d4hp, it will be as many days before you can regain Faith.|
|7||The ritual works, but you know that the power did not come from your god. Another deity has taken an interest in you, from now on whenever your god fails you catch glimpses of this other being watching and smiling.|
|8||Emissary of Famine. For the next d4 weeks plants wilt in your wake, crops fail, goats give sour milk.|
|9||Stakes erupt from the ground bearing impaled lizards and crabs, tears stream from their eyes and they beg the Mystic's forgiveness in the voices of children.
They will continue to emerge at random until the Mystic Blesses them.
|10||You fall into a crypt, the only way out is the hole you just made and within the broken wooden coffin you have fallen into are twisted skeletal remains. They seem to have died in agony and the rotting objects around them identify them as a Mystic of your religion. On closer inspection their hands and feet are missing and through the empty sockets of their skull you can see a pink stone the size of a child's fist.|
|11||A new eye emerges on either side of the base of your throat. When you witness things that would normally gain Faith, there is a 50% chance that the eyes see the truth that there was nothing divine about it and you gain nothing.|
|12||A perfect sphere of swirling purple glass/metal falls from the sky and punches into the ground at the Mystic's feet. It is too hot for anyone but the Mystic to touch.
For every day that the orb is in their possession the Mystic's Constitution permanently decreases by 1, and they must save vs. Magical Device every time they think of disposing of it.
If it absorbs all of their Constitution it triggers a Summon spell.
|13||You find yourself unable to move, you smell the earth and your flesh hardens and stretches into porous wood, roots penetrate the soil and your legs melt and stretch into a supporting trunk, branches penetrate out from your body and grow vibrant green leaves, this is not painless. Flowers grow from amidst the leaves and shimmering insects swarm around them, vibrating within them for pollen until the flowers seem to melt over them and bear plump fruit the colour of a festering wound. Small furry things climb over your body and your silent cries for mercy from a mouth now almost swallowed by a gnarled trunk go unanswered. Make a Test of Faith roll. For anything other than absolute success your metamorphosis becomes complete and you remain rooted to the spot until such time as you are cut down. If successful, several of the small creatures pluck a fruit from your branches and force it into your open mouth, the flesh is rank but the juice is sweet and your transformation reverses, increase Wisdom and another random ability score by 1.|
|14||Your body becomes a pillar of salt. A monolith which stretches 30' high. Your consciousness remains within one of the grains.|
|15||Your mind embarks on a cosmic journey, flesh is shed in bubbling clumps and you ride black holes through the infinity of the sky. Your mind is gone for a hundred lifetimes but it passes within d6 turns in the perception of your companions. Gain that many points of Wisdom. Make a Test of Faith roll with a penalty equal to points of Wisdom gained and suffer any consequences.|
|16||Your Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution are reduced to 3 and you cannot gain Faith for the next d4 weeks. This is a test. If you survive, increase your original scores by the number of weeks it lasted.|
|17||You miscarry through your mouth. Your gender is irrelevant. The foetus's death rattle sounds like everything you've lost, it smells like places you will never be.|
|18||A manifestation of another god appears before you and proclaims that you have been worshipping a false idol. They give you this one chance of conversion, if you refuse they will ravage your flesh and cast your mind into oblivion.
Kill the god and gain 6d6 Faith and two random Magic-User spells of your highest level.
|19||It all suddenly becomes clear. You realise there are no true gods and fly into a violent rage against any and all around you. If you survive you may no longer use Mystic rituals, are immune to the rituals of other Mystics, and hold nothing but contempt for those who maintain their religious beliefs.|
|20||Wrath of God. You mutate into the terrible form of your god, your mind is no longer your own, you desire sacrifice and destruction, these cowering mortals around you seem a good place to start.|
Sacrificing for Fun and Profit
For every hour spent in this way they must save vs. Magic, with a bonus for every 5sp worth of ritual components/sacrifices spent in worship that hour. If successful they gain d4 Faith, if not they gain nothing and roll on the Divine Disfavour table.
|1||Any item you bear that was intended for sacrifice rots, it is irrelevant what it is, it rots and ants crawl out of the mess like a hive and eat each other.|
|2||Your vision is stolen for the next day. When it returns you recall phantom flesh memory glimpses that you would rather not understand.|
|3||Your god demands that you recover a sacred relic from heathen hands, until you do so you cannot gain any further Faith. (Referee places relic and those holding it no more than a few days away, the Mystic instinctively knows where it is)|
|4||Bulbous hanging lesions develop on your skin, crusted with cancer while still being vaguely transparent. Every hour there is a 1 in 6 chance of one bursting, spilling a flopping thing onto the floor, the moment you start to comprehend the shape of its body it seems to change, almost phasing and surging between material existence. Every time you question your god the lesions grow larger and more numerous. They will disappear after a complaint-free week.|
|5||Any light sources in the area blow out, dark clouds cover the sun during the day, worms that you can only see because they're so much darker than anything around them squirm from the earth and wriggle around your feet. It will be over in d4 hours.|
|6||A random companion is stricken with a wasting disease, their skin already blackens and breaks from the inside, tiny white bubbles boiling around the edges of the wound. You are the only one that can cure them, but can only do so with a Test of Faith roll. If you succeed in healing them without any repercussions gain 2d4 Faith.|
|7||A beetle the size of your fist crawls in front of you and flips onto its back. It vomits up some kind of violently pink bulging fluid and continues to lie there, its legs wriggling in the air, vomiting.|
|8||A meteorite burns through the sky overhead, boiling slops of something like tar fall in its wake and the resultant booming echo and dust cloud that rolls towards you tells you the crash site isn't far off.|
|9||An acrid stench wafts over you, every hair on your body is decomposing, you'll be bald by morning.|
|10||You sweat and shake with religious fever, incapacitated for the next 3d6 hours, but when you regain control of yourself you gain 2d4 Faith and a random ritual of the next level.|
Earhorn of the Three-Nippled Prophet
I’ve already mentioned several times in previous posts that I don’t like magic scrolls or potions, so sorry, but you won’t be distilling the miracle of divine healing today.
But, I’m sure you’d love to go out and find you some sacred relics am I right?
Relics work pretty much the same way all Mystic power does, they’re deluded into thinking it helps them do something. Relics can be symbols of religious past, body parts of notable figures, or some weird new thing that the Mystic is convinced came from their god. When they are found the Mystic rolls percentile dice. The result is the Relic’s Sanctity. Relics can be used to replace any number of Faith points or for a bonus up to the Mystic’s level on Hand of God rolls.
Every time the Mystic uses a Relic they have to roll under its Sanctity with a perpetually stacking penalty equal to Faith/bonuses used. If they fail, the Relic is destroyed and they roll on the Inadvertent Iconoclasm table, losing 2d4 Faith in addition to any other effects.
|1||Falls apart, revealing an angular black mirror within, it hums momentarily and seems to cloud over. Permanently lose a random ritual of a random level.|
|2||Begins to bleed on you from unseen holes, but on closer inspection it isn't a divine portent, there are needle-like pipes stuck into your flesh, syphoning your lifeblood. Lose d6hp.|
|3||Smoulders and sheds parts of itself as ash to the floor, the heat is unbearable, when you let go it remains unmoved in mid-air, smouldering and shedding without ever diminishing, forever.|
|4||Splits in half, releasing the voice of the person with which it was associated, on their deathbed, renouncing their faith. Lose an additional 2d4 Faith.|
|5||Embeds itself into your body in a spray of shrapnel, as if suddenly fired from a blunderbuss, dealing d20 damage. If dropped to 0hp or less, you regain d6hp. If this is enough to resurrect you above 0hp, you gain d4 Faith every day, glorifying in the Relic shards now housed within your body.|
|6||Sweats mouths that cackle hysterically while splattering to the ground until there is nothing left of it. d6 nights later the Mystic wakes up with the mouths plastered to their torso like a wet sheet, chewing into their body, inflicting d4 damage every round.|
|7||Crumbles to dust and shuddering phantom skeletons solidify in a dancing circle around you, they wear their skulls as codpieces and a new wind blows through the myriad holes in their bones, weaving a hollow orchestra around your mind. Save vs. Magic or lose points of Wisdom equal to your failure.|
|8||Weeps pus from unseen pores, within moments it coats your hands, creeping up your arms, rolling and stretching. Unless you find a way to get it off in the next 4 rounds it will enter your mouth, causing you to spontaneously gain a level but decreasing your Intelligence by d6.|
|9||Is a pile of worms. Have you been carrying around a pile of worms this whole time?
They squirm and nip at you with mouthless heads. Save vs. Poison or suffer a Crisis of Faith.
|10||Liquefies, splashing to the ground and shimmering like a rainbow reflected on an oil slick. An acidic smell wafts over anyone within 30', save vs. Poison. If you fail fall to your knees and lap at the puddle. There is a 50% chance of gaining a random Insanity, otherwise you are granted mastery over time, gaining the ability to reverse it by 6 seconds once during your life (you can roll back a round and immediately take an action).|
|11||Crackles and spits like overheated oil, anyone within 10' loses d4hp as they're showered with burning drops of fat while the Relic slips from the Mystic's hands like melted butter. That night those burnt by the Relic dream of walking down a grass-strewn path to a lurid blue pool of water hedged by ornate grey bricks.
Within the water black things with more legs and tails than you believe they should have surface to look at you with purple eyes before diving and circling about the pond. You feel like others are here by the pool's edge but you cannot see them, the air is stifling and the water seems so inviting.
If you enter the water it is so relaxing that you don't even mind when the creatures start clinging to your body with suction-cupped fingers, licking your skin, burrowing numerous tails into your flesh and pumping something into the wound. You awake feeling revitalised, permanently increasing your hp by d6, but need to submerge yourself for a number of hours equal to that roll at least once a week or you will lose d2hp per day, drying to a husk. Something is gestating beneath your skin.
If you refuse to enter the pool you awake to find your burns festering with disease, losing 1hp every day until you are Blessed by a Mystic of the same religion as the Relic.
|12||Begins to glow ever more magnificently with a roving deep green light as it fuses into your skin and begins to absorb all the fluid from your body. Lose d2hp, make a contested Strength roll (roll d20 and add your modifier) every subsequent round to remove it or lose another d2hp. The Relic rolls with a stacking bonus equal to hp it has drained, and you roll with a matching penalty.
If someone else tries to pull it away from you it requires almost no effort, but your hands tear away with it, pulling apart from your forearms like they were made of putty. Then they realise that their own hands have become fused. Repeat.
|13||Is part of your flesh, it always has been. It twists and curls and turns to face you, bubbles of skin pop to reveal luminous pink wells beneath. The light washes over your face and you feel reborn, made anew, the scraping voice in the light is not that of your god, your god is dead.
When you open your eyes the flesh Relic is gone, a moist, limp hanging film of skin dangles from your palm, joined at the edges like a burst blister.
Your god is dead. Gain 4d4 Faith instead of losing 2d4, but you cannot gain any more until you find the god of the pink wells and drink of their flesh.
|14||Falls from your hand. It rolls away, leaving a trail of rotting blue leaves in its wake. The trail is winding, you forget time, you lose your face. At the end of the trail is a sapling, it grows from a lump of quartz, the history of matter is etched in the lines of its age withered branches, its falling blue leaves are the end of civilisations. Ruby sap leaks from the base of its trunk, finding lines in the quartz, the primal scent of hunger fills your lungs.
Eat of its bark and gain a level, eat of its leaves and lose one, taste its sap and roll on the Transmutation table, break the quartz and every living thing within 300' collapses into a primordial ooze.
If you leave without eating of the tree, rotting blue leaves will follow in your wake for the rest of your life, unless you follow the trail back to the tree, it will not take long.
|15||Emits an incessant weeping sound, like something is trapped within. The Relic can no longer be used, but continues to appear amidst your belongings no matter how many times you leave it behind. If you break it open a hairy caterpillar rolls out, as it moves the hairs grind together and weeping fills the air. It divides like a protozoa, and again, and again. It shows no signs of stopping now.|
|16||Breaks into 5 pieces, the alluring turquoise inner surface glistens like an adhesive. Every time you rejoin a piece the swamp stench wafting from it increases. If you complete the reconstruction a turquoise toad in the shape of a man with 5 hanging arms expands in its place. Its skin glistens and it wishes to join with you.
The only attack it will make is a wrestling check (roll d20 and add your Attack Bonus and Strength modifier, the toad begins at +1), either by leaping at you or with its 10' tongue. The moment it takes hold you can feel your skin incorporating into its body, sucking you in. Take a -2 penalty to your rolls every round, taking damage equal to your penalty if you manage to escape, and incorporating into the toad completely if you haven't escaped after 3 rounds. With its increased mass the toad gains a HD, sprouts another arm and a further bonus to wrestling checks, and its tongue grows another 5'.
AC12, ignores direct magic effects,10hp+d8 per HD gained. If you hit it in melee your weapon sticks in its flesh, make a Strength check the next round to get it back. The toad will try to grab anyone that comes near enough, or with its tongue if no one is already in its mouth, but won't move until it has finished incorporating those already joined to it.
|17||Oozes black oil from its entire surface, it doesn't flow too fast, maybe a litre every 10 minutes, but it burns like a rash and won't stop oozing until the Relic has submerged itself under 10' of oil.|
|18||Implodes, devouring all light. In the darkness you hear the all-penetrating voice of your god. They ask if you love them, they ask to know the depth of your devotion. Make a Test of Faith, additional Faith may be sacrificed before rolling. If the result includes a Crisis of Faith lose a level, if the result includes Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me your god leaves you floating in eternity. If you succeed you awake in the moment you left, bearing a large discoloured arrangement of symbols on your belly, stinging as if it was burnt into your flesh, you don't understand what it is for.|
|19||Simply ceases to be. In the silence that follows roll on Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me.|
|20||Is absorbed into your skin. Save vs. Poison or transform into the vengeful form of your god for the next d20 rounds, attacking everything around you, intent on killing your companions first.|
New Dogs, Old Tricks
Aside from denoting how many Faith points are used I want to get rid of ritual levels, but I also don’t want to choicecripple players with sudden access to 46 rituals.
So, Mystics gain new rituals by going on fuckin’ spirit journeys.
Their eyes roll back into their heads and they froth and faint and try to gain new knowledge from their god and the aether at large. They’ll be out for d8 hours, this doesn’t count as rest, it’s a fuckin’ spirit journey. They make a Test of Faith roll with a bonus equal to their level, and if successful gain a random ritual of a random level.
They can do this as often as they want but after waking up with a Crisis of Faith a few times they’ll probably decide to stop bothering god until they’re more exalted (i.e. higher level with a higher bonus).
When you gain a level you can choose a ritual of a level equal to half your level or lower that pops into your head as if your god were speaking to you. If you’re on an odd level add 1 before halving the number (so a level 3 Mystic can pick a level 2 ritual).
Start with all first level rituals as normal.
Putting the Ferryman Out of a Job
In my setting not only are there no true gods, but there is no afterlife. That means that any undead that may show up aren’t undead in the usual sense, they’re something else, and they really do not care about the religious doctrine you’re spouting at them.
Besides, I wasn’t at the meeting when we decided that every religion is hung up on creation with Clerics on a mission to destroy undead blasphemies anyway. I don’t think Devotees of the Corpulent One actually care, they’re all really drunk. So in my setting Mystics have different rituals to replace Turn Undead, they all work similarly, but they’re not so fanatical about the sanctity of creation, more of an infliction of religious hysteria.
And as much as I like the description of Magic-User’s Speak With Dead in the LotFP book, it works better in my setting for it to just call up echoes of who the person was, limiting the information they can give to what they would have known or believed in life. Unless of course their consciousness was stolen for slow digestion by some outer being, in which case they are going to be hysterical and that outer being is going to be really mad at you.
Burn the Witch
As a final thought, why should Mystics be part of large religions? If you have an overarching religious regime in your game isn’t it immediately more interesting for any miracle workers to adhere to strange esoteric beliefs? Too crazy and dirty for religious organisation to be built up around them, but a slap in the church’s face regardless.
Even apart from that, in a setting where gods either aren’t real or are dark beings parading as gods it makes much more sense if the Mystics themselves are strange outsiders, rather than Your Friendly Local Cleric, appearing soon at a Town Hall near you.
I think this post is probably long enough, I’m going to give my Mystics a post of their own.
Credit Where Credit is Due
I think I accidentally stole the name and concept of the Corpulent One from wrathofzombie, but didn’t actually realise it until his recent Hubris update. Thank you, he keeps me warm at night.
More importantly though, I read Neoclassical Geek Revival when I was only just starting to play, but never came back to it. Then a few days ago when I was searching through his site for a play report called Candyland is Fucking Metal [edit: as it turns out the play report was taken down for various reasons including the release of Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess which you should go buy right now], I realised that the whole concept of Clerics using Faith had embedded itself in my head like a worm from my one read-through of NGR, only to come out months later when I became dissatisfied with normal Cleric magic.
So this is dedicated to Zzarchov. Your idea infested my brain.