Friday, March 16, 2018

The Reluctant Cleric

Gendrick tried not to listen to what was happening in the street. He tried not to hear the shouts, the jeers, and under them, the pleas. He sipped at his wine, but it had gone bitter in his mouth. He thought about ordering another, but he knew it wouldn't taste any sweeter. He wondered, and not for the first time, why of all the drunks in all the bars the world over, it had to be his problem. Then he sighed, and stood. He picked up his sheathed rapier in his left hand, and walked out of the tavern.

They had the rope thrown over a beam, the noose swinging loosely. The boy was beaten almost blind, whimpering through swollen lips. The mob was a dull roar as its leader spat vile curses, accusing the boy of the darkest of deeds. Gendrick raised his voice, a leather-lunged bellow that had cut through the din of a battlefield in its day.

"Pardon me, friend," he shouted, cutting off the leader in mid rant. "Do you have a cure for what ails me?"

The man turned, sputtering and raising his fist. Gendrick threw his sour wine into the man's face, and drew his sword, smashing him square in the teeth with the pommel as he drew. The mob turned, and stared at him. Gendrick smiled; the smile of a drunk who had tried to keep the bottle closed, but who was now filled with enough liquid courage to make him feel invincible. He spoke a word of power, and cords of light danced around his blade. This was the last time... then again, that was what he said every time.

Take one down, pass it around, 99 favored weapons on the wall...

The Gods Choose Who They Will

When people think of clerics, they tend to picture priests who have trained their entire lives to serve their god. In some circumstances they may even be laymen, or just people devout enough to warrant the god's attention. However, there are some for whom serving a god is a burden they do not want. Because while they may be the right tool for the job, they truly wish they were not wielded. But the gods move in mysterious ways, and when they do finally break down and pray, they are given the power to move mountains.

Or to slay the first born, you know, whatever.
The idea behind the reluctant cleric is that, for whatever reason, you have a person who has been made into a divine conduit who really does not want that power. Maybe they've run from it, trying to live a simple life. Perhaps, like Gendrick, they find the raw power of divine magic akin to a drug; something that feels amazing, but which they try (often unsuccessfully) to stay away from. They may even be someone who has served a god for a long time, but they feel they no longer need to fulfill that purpose. Such as a cleric of a god of war who fought on a dozen battlefields, but who now wants to leave the blood and iron behind him... though, like a trusted sword, his god simply will not sheathe him.

A reluctant cleric has to be someone that the god in question feels is a good tool (and this can extend to other areas, like warpriests, and even to witch patrons if you wish). That means they have to meet the alignment restrictions, and there should be something inside them that speaks to the god's purpose. Someone who lived a life as a woods' guide being chosen by a nature god, for instance, or someone who knows what it is to have loved and lost being chosen by a god of love. Someone who always tries to do the right thing being chosen by a chaotic good deity, or someone who tells themselves they're truly a good person, and that this isn't who they really are, being imbued with power by a neutral evil deity of lies, secrets, or even assassins.

The most important thing to remember is that reluctant clerics have an arc. They want to avoid using their powers, for whatever reason, but they shouldn't remain in that arc forever. Perhaps they embrace their true nature, and become the savior, the warrior, or the storm that their god intended for them to be. Or, perhaps, they finally fulfill their god's needs, and they are allowed to rest. To put down the burden of their power, so that it may be given to another.

The concept was even mentioned in the latest Mythconceptions episode over on Dungeon Keeper Radio... Clerical Errors!

If you enjoyed this concept, you might also want to take a look at The Sacred Sorcerer, and The Heretic. Additionally, if you're looking for more ways to step outside of the stereotypes clerics often fall into, take a look at 5 Tips For Playing Better Clerics as well!

That's all for this week's installment of Unusual Character Concepts. If you enjoyed it, and you'd like to see more from me, then check out my Vocal archive, or head over to the YouTube channel Dungeon Keeper Radio where I and a bunch of other gaming geeks put together audio advice, skits, and other videos set in the world of Evora. If you want to keep up on all my latest releases, then follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Lastly, if you'd like to help support Improved Initiative, then become a patron on The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page, or Buy Me A Coffee! Either way, I'll send you some sweet gaming swag as a thank you!


  1. Oh neat. I just did a monk class for OSR games that has a similar origin: likely a layman called by God rather than a lifelong clergyman

  2. Reminds me a bit of the book Priest by Matt Colville. This is a fascinating character concept.