Once you’ve chosen a deity, consider your cleric’s relationship to that god. Did you enter this service willingly? Or did the god choose you, impelling you into service with no regard for your wishes?
The 5th-edition Player’s Handbook, page 57
It’s funny how often lines like the one above get overlooked as players and GMs flip pages to the crunchy bits. How often at the gaming table have I seen a cleric who was impelled into service, as the above question describes? Never. But it’s a cool idea. The new Player’s Handbook is filled with such lines, full of thought and likely to be unread.
Previous editions have similarly encouraged clerical variety, with most of that variety going unexplored. For instance, 3rd edition introduced the idea that clerics might draw their power from devotion to a philosophy or cause, instead of from a deity. That option appears again in 5th edition’s advice to game masters. (Wallace Cleaves, in a response to my previous column, explored a famous example of such a philosophy-dedicated cleric: the Jedi.) It really is a pity that players and GMs explore the full range of variety for elves, halflings, dragonborn, fighters, types of rogues, and clerical domains — but that when it comes to the cleric’s relationship to the divine, everyone goes back to the same cookie-cutter approach, even when the rulebooks explicitly give permission to be more creative than that.
It’s the line quoted at the top of this column that I’m drawing from to create my next Dice Unloaded character: Galatherina.
Galatherina can make magic with her sword that most other clergy envy, yet she does not know a word of their formal blessings or marriage rites. She brings her horse into the temple and expects friars to clean up its messes.