An awkward, extended silence developed. No one moved, nor spoke.
Finally, Corumet cleared her throat at Arethkayn. “Priest, I think we’re counting on you for this part.”
“Right,” Arethkayn said. “Apologies. We’ll need to circle the ruin nine times.”
“Sinister? Or dexter?” Corumet asked.
Corumet was invoking old shield terminology for left and right. If sinister, they would turn right to circle the ruins, keeping the ruins always at their left. If dexter, they’d go the other way.
“Dexter,” Arethkayn lied.
“Sinister,” Malecibe corrected.
Rhurrinore shot Malecibe a nasty look. He shook his head almost imperceptibly.
Hah! Got you both, Arethkayn thought.
So at least two of her companions knew something of magic…
Back in October, I started a series of articles exploring alternative takes on the cleric. In each of the articles, I’ve described characters who use the same game rules and game mechanics as regular clerics, and who retain the usual cleric’s focus on divine power. However, their relationships with gods aren’t the ones we’re used to seeing:
- Galatherina has been drafted into service of a god she never sought.
- Bettelfegne is a semidivine being in alliance with a god.
- Mitra is a demigod.
- Raicho is a mercenary to the gods.
This article concerns the fifth and final cleric in the series: Arethkayn.
Arethkayn’s twist on clerichood is that her family has a long-standing arrangement with a handful of gods, rather than with a single deity. That by itself may not seem to push the envelope. However, in her case, times have changed since her family’s pact was forged: Her gods don’t necessarily get along with each other anymore. They continue to honor their covenant with her family for the same metaphysical reasons that devils might stick with the terms of a contract.
And these sorts of details inevitably change the clerical relationship a little bit from the usual. Although Arethkayn might seem to serve the four gods of her covenant as a priest at times, it’s far more accurate to say that she is honoring her ends of an agreement and that they are doing the same. The parties don’t, in this configuration, have to like each other all that much or even agree with each other.
Previous exchanges with readers have taught me to expect a lot of questions about the cleric’s domain. So… the fact that Arethkayn is allied with multiple deities doesn’t mean she has multiple domains, or changes domains, or anything like that. The domain for this cleric works just like the 5th-edition DMG suggests in its section on clerics and deities (see pages 11-13, particularly the section on animistic clerics, who work with multiple spirits). In short, Arethkayn picks a domain and sticks with it. Because her family’s covenant was with four gods of the Storm Court (a court within the pantheon of the Vorago), and the chief of those gods is a storm god, Arethkayn has the tempest domain.
You can get a better sense of Arethkayn’s character from the novella to which I have linked above. It’s free. Some quick notes on how to translate some elements from the story into game terms:
- The spells Harpsire’s tongue and Theryn’s Veil, the routine she does with her coin, and the healing bit she does with the draugarbjorn are all just reskinnings of popular spells from the cleric and bard list. Most readers will be able to figure out what they are.
- The painting ritual that Arethkayn does at the circle of stones is a specialized ritual variant of the speak with dead spell. As a GM, I would rule that any cleric with the speak with dead spell prepared could do what she does there, gaining three visual clues through a vision instead of the usual verbal answers to questions.
- The claiming laws are my own, borrowed from an in-house RPG I developed. However, I think they work well as a novel way to explain saving throws against magic, so I used them here.
- The thrall revenant is a tweaked zombie. See Arethkayn’s stat block below.
- For the draugarbjorn, use the cave bear stats but give the beast horns and the phase spider’s ether jump ability.
- The pocket wyvern uses the poisonous snake stats. (Note: In the scene in the story in which it appears to glide, that was writerly sleight-of-hand on my part. It’s a familiar. Shortly after it dropped out of view, it was temporarily dismissed until Malecibe reached the bottom.)
- Zuuduun is an 8th-level barbarian with gnoll racial features and adjustments, plus the totem path, from which she has selected all of the bear options. When Zuuduun uses totem features, as a purely descriptive effect, she appears to shift physically, becoming more ursine. Her “therianthrope” trait has no measurable game effect, or, at least it wouldn’t at my own table.
- Most readers will be able to figure out what monster stat block to use for a Skyking.
Arethkayn’s Stat Blocks
Here are Arethkayn’s stat blocks for 1st, 5th, and 10th-level. The version in the story is 10th-level.
An OGL for the stat blocks can be found here.