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Dungeons & Dragons: Defenders of the Faith - A Guidebook to Clerics and Paladins

Defenders of the Faith: A Guidebook to Clerics and Paladins

One of the first group of 'splat-books' produced to provide addtional material for different character classes, this one looks at the roles of the cleric and the paladin. Many players view these two, particularly the cleric, as 'healing machines' with reasonable fighting capability, but even for those whose games focus mainly on combat will find that there can be much more to these two classes.

A brief Introduction highlights the fact that, while interventionist deities are part and parcel of most Dungeons & Dragons games, the cleric and the paladin are the only characters who of necessity begin the game with a special relationship with a particularly god or gods within the setting. This gives them the benefit of divine support - in terms of spells and special abilities - but also means that they have to conduct themselves with due consideration to the tenets of their chosen faith.

Chapter 1 looks at the two classes from a mechanical view - their abilities, skills and feats, and the sort of equipment and magical items that they can use to enhance their natural capabilities.

For a cleric, the main spell-casting activities appear on the face of it to be healing and the turning/controlling of undead. But there is plenty more that the astute cleric can do, and even these core roles can be enhanced by the intelligent use of appropriate items - especially healing, where a wise cleric arms himself with potions and scrolls to supplement his own spell-casting, and uses the Heal skill to good effect particularly for stabilising dying party members and for longer-term care as they recover after combat. And of course, if you are evil, you can do a lot more fun things with any undead that you encounter than just turn them! That's just an example, there is more good advice on the best choices in weapons and armour, tactics and even the use of divination as well.

Now for paladins... these can be difficult to play well, rather than as just another fighter. Even from a mechanical rather than a role-playing standpoint, however, it is worth considering and making use of the additional dimensions of a paladin over any other fellow in armour with a big sword, and once you look at [i]how[/i] the paladin ought to be played it gets quite fascinating with great potential for memorable adventures. Plenty of practical advice as well, particularly on how to use the strengths of the class to best advantage in the tactical choices you make when preparing for combat. There's quite a lot about mounts as well - from choosing the most appropriate one to ensuring that it's well looked after when you have gone down a dungeon that is not suitable for it.

There are some notes on 'channelling' - a means for the cleric or paladin to use the energy he'd normally use to turn/control undead to generate some other kind of effect such as opening or sealing a portal to another plane or warding an area. Divine intervention is discussed, as is that rather thorny question of what a cleric does if he decides that his original deity is no longer for him and he'd rather worship someone else.

Skills are looked at next, with 3 new sub-skills - craft: stonecarving, craft: woodcarving and profession: astrologer - to consider as well as new uses for existing skills. There's also a selection of new feats to choose from, and the chapter is rounded out with sacred gear and magical items suitable for the two classes under consideration.

Chapter 2 looks at churches and organisations. While characters of all classes may at some point in their careers become interested in joining some group or another, clerics and paladins by virtue of their profession start off as members - indeed leaders - within the hierarchy of their chosen faith. It's worth the effort for both DM and player to work out at least some of the details of that organisation, so that the character has some idea of where he fits in and what is expected of him. Naturally, the church may be a useful source during the campaign, from a provider of resources to the source of actual missions to base adventures on - but care must be taken especially when there's just the one member of a particular faith in the party not to overwhelm the others with a plethora of religious quests which may well not motivate other party members. There are quite a few good ideas for the more role-playing aspects of belonging to something bigger than yourself here, well worth consideration if you are the DM.

The rest of the chapter looks at examples of churches classified by alignment. For those games using the deities in the Player's Handbook, there's a little about individual faith's beliefs and attitudes; otherwise it is rather generalised. However, it would make useful reading for anyone trying to decide on a faith for their character, even one who is only considering lay membership as it is a good overview of the different philosophies involved.

The chapter continues with a selection of quite unusual paladinical orders - ones which are formed around an ideal or purpose rather than in the service of a single religion... indeed, many will accept you whatever your faith (if any) if you are willing to work towards their stated goals. Some look wider than paladins, and so could serve as a parent organisation for a whole party. Indeed, from the role-playing point of view, the use of such organisations to give background and a reason for an otherwise disparate group of adventurers to stay together can be very effective - I once ran a sucessful campaign in which the players were informed that they could be anything they pleased, but had to be worshippers of Kord and willing to undertake missionary work in his name. Finally, there is an excellent overview of what is involved in the day-to-day life of a religious establishment - worship, fund-raising, teaching and the other duties that fall on those who serve there.

Chapter 3 introduces some prestige classes that would make a suitable aim for clerics and paladins as they develop. Most are linked to the concept of remaining in good standing with your chosen deity, and the abilities they confer depend on this... stray and atonement will be necessary. Some, like the contemplative and the divine oracle, are more suited to NPCs rather than player characters; while the church inquisitor could be either a novel turn for a character or a powerful opponent. There's plenty more in there, well worth examining if you have ideas about progressing a cleric or paladin character into a specialist area within his faith.

Finally, Chapter 4 looks at divine magic and, as uyou would expect, has an array of new spells. Many are linked with domains that become available to those who chose one of the prestige classes in Chapter 3, which often give the option of adding a third domain to those already known. After the spell listings, there is an Appendix that gives brief notes on deities for those monsters intelligent enough to seek out something to worship.

Overall, this book gives useful ideas for bringing a cleric or paladin character to life, rounding him out to be more than a healing-turning-fighting machine. For the DM, there is even more useful material about building up the fabric of the world, of the alternate reality that your characters will inhabit during the game.

Return to Defenders of the Faith: A Guidebook to Cleric and Paladins page.

Reviewed: 29 December 2006