Friday, September 18, 2009

We're on a mission from God

Thorkhammer started a thread over on Dragonsfoot that touched on something I had planned to post about here on the blog. He was wondering about how Clerics in Classic D&D manage to heal enough, when Cure Light Wounds only heals an average of 4.5 points per casting, and with Cure Serious being a whopping 4th level spell with an average of 9 points per casting. And that's also without being able to cast bonus spells for high Wisdom, or even any spells at all at 1st level.

Several of us answered to the effect that Clerics AREN'T supposed to be the bandaid. They help when it comes to healing, but consumables (potions and scrolls) as well as good old fashioned retreating to heal up are just as important as having that Cleric around.

Looking at the Cleric's spell list, I love the fact that there are no curative spells of any sort for Clerics in the 2nd spell level, with the possible exception of a reversed Hold Person, but by the book that only works to remove Hold Person spells, not any form of paralysis. Cure Light Wounds does that for ghoul, carrion crawler, or other forms of paralysis. So I really don't think of Free Person as a healing spell so much as a counter-spell. But that may just be me.

As a player of a Cleric, you should love those 2nd level spells. Everyone else may expect to go without Resist Cold, or let the M-U or Elf take Dispel Magic (but since they could sling another Fireball instead they usually don't...) in order to get as many cure wounds spells as possible. And 3rd level spells tend to be reserved for the 'condition' heals to borrow a CRPG term, although you can get away with Striking now and then. 2nd level, though, is where you get to take some spells that you can use during the exploration phase, or to benefit the group during a tough battle in a way besides healing up lost hit points, even if the group demands you perform a walking bandaid function.

I also like the way most of the Cleric spells are arranged in groups that make selections meaningful. Every level, besides the above mentioned 2nd, has some healing magic, some general purpose exploration magic, some protective magic, and now and then something offensive. Because Clerics have access to any spells on the list, the choices they make matter.

And this brings me back to the first point, about Clerics not being the walking bandaid--or at least not during a dungeon exploration. Back when I was a kid, our Clerics rarely maxed out healing spells. They'd maybe have one per level healing for emergencies, and other slots would be filled with other useful spells. When we'd retreat and rest, we'd often specify that we were doing so for 2 days' time. That way, the first day Clerics could max out healing spells, and the second day they could then regain the general mix of healing, protective, and exploratory spells that came in handy.

Clerics just have too many useful spells for exploring dungeons to waste all of them on bandaid spells.


  1. D&D would probably be better served if Clerics couldn't heal at all. Then there wouldn't be the pressure to make them the walking first-aid clinics of the party. Let the Clerics focus on bringing down divine wrath upon the unbelievers, and make the players pay more attention to preserving their precious hit points instead of wading into battle after battle, knowing the cleric will be maxed out on CLW's.

  2. @ Pal
    Actually, at least in the oldest version of D&D (the little black books) and B/X (OD&D's direct, better organized decendant), the light and serious cure spells provide nice little minor miracles perfect for the scale of the game. It's with AD&D, the increased hit points and the woefully inadequate "natural" healing that more might curing magic is necessary...and lumping THAT into the cleric class (the only place it seems to fit) is what transforms them from a witch-hunter/undead slayer to a paramedic.

    @ Gwyd:
    Just by the by...I have found that when introducing the D&D game to new players, if they don't have pre-conceived notions of the cleric class (i.e. as "medics") they naturally gravitate towards non-healing spells in their spell selection. After all, healing can be performed during down-time periods (i.e. between adventures) rather than in the depths of some dank hole.
    : )