Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Articles of Dragon: "Should They Have an Edge?"

Issue #66 of Dragon (October 1982) featured paired articles that each attempted to answer the question "Should They Have an Edge?" -- the "they" in question being clerics. John Sapienza's article answered in the affirmative, while Bruce Humphrey's replied in the negative. The question of the cleric's weapons selection is a very old one. I'd not be the least bit surprised to discover that there were groups that opted for a wider selection of weapons almost immediately upon reading the LBBs back in 1974. That's why I consider clerical weapons to be one of the great fault lines of D&D fandom, along with alignment and demihuman level limits. It's a topic about which a lot of gamers have not just a strongly held opinion but one to whose rightness they believe they can sway others through "logical" argument.

In his article, Sapienza provides a pretty good snapshot of the various arguments used to suggest that limiting clerics to non-edged weapons is ludicrous. In particular, he stresses that, as a roleplaying game, D&D needs to be open to societies other than those colored by implicit Christianity. For Sapienza, it makes no sense for a cleric of, say, Odin or Ares, to be prevented from wielding weapons strongly associated with their patron deities. That said, he recognizes the fact that, if there are no restrictions on a cleric's weapons use, then the class quickly eclipses the fighter as the all-around best combatant. This is a very good point and one strongly rooted in OD&D, where in the LBBs anyway, there are comparatively few magic weapons a cleric can use and magic swords are by far and away the most powerful enchanted weapons.

What Sapienza proposes is class-based weapon damage, an idea that's been kicked around the OSR for several years now. Sapienza divides characters up into fighters, semi-fighters, and non-fighters. How much damage a weapon deals is based not on the weapon itself but on the class that wields it. Thus, while a cleric -- a semi-fighter -- can wield a sword, he does only 1d6 damage with it rather than the 1d8 of fighters (or, for that matter, the 1d4 of non-fighters, like magic-users). It's an interesting approach that shows cognizance of the fact that eliminating weapon restrictions takes away some of the fighter's uniqueness.

Humphrey, on the other hand, relies almost entirely on roleplaying considerations to justify his defense of limiting clerics to blunt weapons. He spends some time examining what the game's restrictions suggest about the psychologies of the various classes. It's thus a variation on the "D&D is Always Right" principle, I've sometimes alluded to -- the notion that, rather than assume that some aspect of the game you don't like is wrong and therefore must be corrected, it's often better to ponder just why that aspect is the way it is. Unfortunately, in Humphrey's case, I don't think the principle serves him very well, as he stretches it too far, making unsubstantiated assertions about the "impurity" of blood and how even evil clerics ought to stay clear of it outside of ritual circumstances.

The one idea Humphrey does have that I like is one that I employ in my Dwimmermount campaign. Humphrey points out that the mace is a rod of office, a regal symbol that indicates the cleric has been granted power in this world by his divine patron. Thus, the wielding of the mace is a reminder, both to outsiders and to the cleric himself, of his role as a vicar for his deity. The Thulian Great Church had a similar mindset, which is how I justify the use of maces by Lawful clerics in my game world. (Neutral clerics -- i.e. druids -- and Chaotic anti-clerics have no such restrictions).

What I find interesting about these paired articles is that, while I am predisposed to agree with Humphrey, I think Sapienza's article is better argued and presented. His answer to this perennial question is an elegant one, even if it's not one I'd ever adopt, while Humphrey comes across as largely handwaving away the question. Still, I always enjoyed paired articles like this in Dragon and will no doubt point out others in this vein in future installments of this series.

78 comments:

  1. We've allowed Clerics to use diety-centric, edged weapons for a couple years now in our AD&D 1e Greyhawk game, with no problems. The Clerics start off with BtB restrictions, and earn the right to use the edged weapons as they level up. (I think this comes straight out of The Dragon articles on the GH gods.)

    However, in OD&D/S&W/LL/B/X, I can see some concern, as the combat progression for all of the classes are "chunkier", and *all* classes start off on even footing.

    Clerics and Fighters start off on even footing in AD&D as well, but Fighters start to pull away around levels 5 and 6, and as I said, when they reach 3/2 attacks, there is a stark contrast in combat ability between the two, especially when those big d10 hit dice start adding up.

    This is one of the reasons why AD&D works better for me and my group than OD&D/OD&D-ish systems.

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  2. I love whenever Mr. Sapienza speaks. His arguments are always elegant and he is almost always right.

    By the way, do you know that "Sapienza" means "Wisdom"? i don't remember if in italian or french language.

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  3. Religiously themed weapons are fine, as long as that weapon isn't a sword.

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  4. I use Akrasia's Class Based Weapon Damage. I like it! :) My players seem to like this solution as well.

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  5. Seems to me a simple solution to the problem "if clerics get magic swords they're better than fighters" is just disallow clerics from using enchanted weapons.

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  6. " For Sapienza, it makes no sense for a cleric of, say, Odin or Ares, to be prevented from wielding weapons strongly associated with their patron deities. "

    Then again, since when have religious dictates been required to make sense?

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  7. The thing I don't like about allowing, say, priests of Ares to use swords, etc., is that "deity's weapon" always seems to be one of really good fighter weapons -- swords, bows, spears. In my experience, most 'dedicated' clerics end up asking for swords, bows, or maybe axes if dwarves. So, they can only use the *best* edged/pointy weapon. Assuming balance was a consideration in weapon restrictions, it's not a very good solution. (Yeah I know 'balance' is a dirty word, but as far as I know the whole magic swords thing was a consideration in OD&D.)

    FWIW, in my last campaign where we used Norse deities, the clerics were forbidden edged weapons because they should only spill blood as sacrifices to the gods. And we used class-based damage. But a cleric could dedicate himself to Tyr, cut off one of his hands, and use a sword (as a fighter, with fighter damage).

    Maybe class-based + blunt only is too restrictive, although the cleric players never complained.

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  8. @ Jon - I just don't see the religious hierarchies of Odin or Ares, being quite that nonsensical when it comes to war.

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  9. I remember reading this article when it first was published, and finding myself in agreement with Sapienza. I don't think that I've looked at it in over two decades, yet it clearly left a strong impression on me, as I reproduced essentially the same system for an article in Knockspell a couple of years ago.

    I wish that I had acknowledged appropriately Sapienza's original article in my own piece. Thanks very much for the reminder, and the information on the specific issue in which the article appeared!

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  10. @ James: great to hear that your players enjoy the system! :)

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  11. I'd be in the Sapienza camp here. However, I never would have considered class-based weapon damage. Interesting concept.

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  12. My inclination is two pronged:

    1. Magic swords can ONLY be used by Fighters. Because the entities that are bound to swords to make them magical are the souls of dead fighters, and they are TOTAL SNOBS.

    2. Clerics are only trained in the use of the weapons that are allowed by their sect. What weapons those are may vary from sect to sect, but it's always a very *limited* selection, because spiritual discipline doesn't allow a lot of time for learning to use more than one or two weapons.

    The thing about magic swords is that in the original rules, they were the big special ability of Fighters... but because it was never explicitly spelled out, all the new classes that were added over the years who could also use swords gradually diluted that specialness away to nothing.

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  13. I am with James, I like Sapienza's argument, even though I don't apply it; however, I have contemplated another mechanical solution to the problem. Weapons can be categorized into three groups: blunt, slashing and piercing. Fighters can use all three. Clerics may only choose one (chosen at creation). Magic-users can only use one weapon (also chosen at creation). If you have a problem with magic swords, they can be given a label fighter-only in the same way other magic items are cleric and magic-user only.

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  14. I like the idea of Clerics limited to blunt weapons, because it points to that 'it was based on something' feel of the early versions of the game. Yeah, it was based on the old notion of limiting weapons due to religious reasons in the Middle Ages. And yeah, it was culture specific. I'm OK with that. We handle it by having the Clerics of AD&D be default in our own campaign world, while other clerics from other parts of the world can use any weapon they want (depending on culture/belief). But I liked this rule enough, and the kids agreed, to keep the restrictions on our own clerics, at least to start with.

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  15. Put me firmly in the class-based damage group; the weapons restrictions on wizards, thieves, and clerics never made much sense to me from a roleplaying perspective. The B/X Companion has the most recent iteration of class-based damage that I've seen, and I think the author implements it elegantly.

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  16. @James "I just don't see the religious hierarchies of Odin or Ares, being quite that nonsensical when it comes to war."

    What I'm saying is that their priests may have restrictions on them that *don't* make sense as far as "what would be advantageous to an adventuring cleric".

    Maybe their clerics eschew edged weapons, because that's the purview of trained warriors? If a cleric of a god of war has access to a finely-crafted or magic sword, isn't it arguably more religiously appropriate that it be handed to an actual warrior for use in battle? Blunt weapons are easily improvised, after all. A cleric of a god like Ares certainly can support a war effort better through healing and/or preaching than through waving a sword or axe around.

    Similarly, a cleric of a god of wealth might live in luxury - or might live in poverty, so that any wealth that comes into the temple can be passed on to the god, for the god to pass on to his favored people (in reality, or merely in belief, while the gold sits in the vault.)

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  17. @Dave G. wrote: "And yeah, it was culture specific."

    Not *that* specific. Buddhists aren't supposed to kill, and if you're using edged weapons, it's that much harder to avoid dealing fatal wounds. So it would be reasonable for a Buddhist-ish Asian-flavored cleric class to be limited to blunt weapons.

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  18. @jon henry

    Except clerics of a god of wealth are still knights. Clerics aren't holy magic users, they're knights who's fanatical devotion inspires allies in battle. There is no such thing as a cleric of a pacifist god.

    Cleric = religious knight.

    People have gotten it into their head that blunt weapon = non combatant. Clerics still build strongholds and raise armies in 0d&d, they don't build temples.

    Part of the problem is d&d mixes greek clerics (robed polythiests) with tutonic knights.

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  19. I notice this article was published when AD&D was in full swing (1982.) Thing is, the weapon restriction makes less sense once you have weapon proficiencies. But then, I hate the proficiencies.

    I think my preference is to prohibit missile weapons and polearms and limit clerics to either non-edged or non-magic weapons otherwise.

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  20. Jon,

    I was talking about the basis for the rule, not how it could be applied. I might well have other cultures in my campaign world use only blunt weapons. But our campaign world is obviously of a medieval European flavor, and that's the starting point for our PCs, just like this rule seems based on that particular historical reference to Medieval Europe.

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  21. To preface this comment, I play AD&D 2e.

    I've always allowed clerics of an appropriate mythos to use swords, or whatever weapon be appropriate.

    The ability of the fighter to specialize in weapons, the sheer number of weapons he can start the game with, and the d10 HP puts him head, if not head and shoulders, above the cleric in terms of fighting ability.

    On class-based damage: That is the most illogical and ugly mechanic I think I've ever heard of. I'm not a huge simulation gamer, but I do lean that way. Class-based damage seems to march away from an interpretation of fantastic reality and head straight towards a milton bradley style game.

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  22. @aharshDM Why is class-based damage any less simulationist than abstract HP in general? I find it quite easy to believe that a fighter is better able to cause punishment with a sword than a magic-user.

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  23. Cleric = religious knight.

    You didn't see de Molay cast resurrection, though.

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  24. I'm sure you already know this, but there really was a restriction against priests spilling blood, and there really were fightin' priests who went into battle with maces to get around it. I don't find embodying this in the game any more "culture specific" than having paladins as a class -- it's just a little bit of D&D's wargaming bones showing through the sword & sorcery skin.

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  25. "On class-based damage: That is the most illogical and ugly mechanic I think I've ever heard of. I'm not a huge simulation gamer, but I do lean that way."

    It is no more "illogical" and "ugly" than the mechanic that ensures that fighters have a greater chance to hit than clerics, and that clerics have a greater chance to hit than magic-users.

    Different classes have different levels of skill with weapons. The mechanic 'simulates' that. Nothing "milton bradley" about it!

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  26. Everything you need to know about D&D can be found in the first 145 issues of the Dragon.

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  27. i like the class-based damage, but having a chart that splits up all the weapons in damage dice by class seems like a hassle.

    so i'm thinking about damage from all* weapons being equal to the PC's hit die, so fighters can still have a d10 sword (ad&d), and mu's could use anything but never get more than a d4 damage, and i don't have to keep track of anything.

    if the weapon is a 2-handed weapon, they roll two dice, and take the higher number.

    * i do have a second class of weapons: concealed/improvised. if it's small enough to hide like a dagger, or just some random thing you picked up, it does a max of d4.

    buti don't feel like i have a satisfactory answer for arrow damage. 1d4 for small weapon seems too little for a fighter, but 1d10 for an arrow is way too much.

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  28. I agree strongly with Sapienza. But I'd like to also point out that swords are symbols of rulership too... Excalibur, anyone?

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  29. I never got the "spill no blood aspect" of the ban on edged weapons. By the time you've caved in some poor so-and-so's skull with four pounds of iron on a yard-long handle, There Will, to quote the movie, Be Blood. Also brain matter, bone fragments and a wide range of other icky human detritus spattered around the locale.

    BTW, I rather like the class-based damage concept.

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  30. Matthew Johnson: Could you elaborate on the prohibition you talk about? So far as I ever heard, the idea that priests in the Middle Ages only used blunt instruments was a 19th-century myth:

    http://l-clausewitz.livejournal.com/394539.html

    I can see the game balance issue of limiting the cleric's weapon selection, but I tend to believe that the limitation doesn't in the end mean much. The difference between a d6 mace and a d8 sword really doesn't seem like a significant amount. Conversely, the assumption that a cleric, whatever their faith, will have a limitation on bladed weapons seems to me to intrude on my ability to create an internally-consistent world. It tells me that the faiths of the world need to be a certain way, and feels constraining.

    This is actually odd, since in other contexts I don't find the cleric class to be too restrictive. The basic idea of a person with a direct connection to divinity, who can fight and also heal, is very broad. That is, if I want to have a society where there is no official priesthood, but where the head of a family or household also wields divine power, the cleric class is usable to represent that. But the 'no edged weapons due to reasons of belief' rule gives the class a specificity that feels, as I say, intrusive.

    (On a related point, I'm not even sure about the armour/weapon limitations on a magic-user. Given their low hit points, even at higher levels, it seems like an m-u is going to avoid combat any which way. The problem, I guess, comes at higher levels, when they'd be able to use magic weapons and armour. Reading the comments on this blog, I'm struck by the possibility of just denying them magic weapons; saying that the enchantments on swords and armour interfere with their own magics, say. What kind of experience have people had with letting magic-users use a full range of weapons and armour?)

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  31. Yay, my favourite D&D debate!

    Personally I fall very much on the blunt weapons side of the fence, for reasons I will attempt to explain by way of an imaginary dialogue between a fighter and a cleric:

    "Excuse me, I notice that all your weapons are blunt. Well, check it out, mine have edges, they can cut through stuff. How you like them apples?"

    "That's nice. Actually, I spend most of my time cultivating a special relationship with divine beings of almost unimaginable power. I can feel their presence around me all the time, and sometimes they grant me a portion of their vast energies to act in the world on their behalf. Can you imagine that, touching the forces of life and death, the very fabric of the universe itself?"

    "Well, I also have a dagger hidden in my boot ..."

    I'm also a fan of the stout holy symbol school of clerical weapon design, particularly after reading Clark Ashton Smith's "Colossus of Ylourgne", wherein part 3 begins:

    "Following the above-related occurrence, two of the brothers who had previously desired to visit the haunted castle again applied to the abbot for this permission, saying that God would surely aid them in avenging the abduction of Theophile's body as well as the taking of many others from consecrated ground. Marvelling at the hardihood of these lusty monks, who preposed to beard the Arch-enemy in his lair, the abbot permitted them to go forth, furnished with aspergilluses [holy water sprinklers - PCB] and flasks of holy water, and bearing great crosses of hornbeam, such as would have served for maces with which to brain an armoured knight."

    The image of the monks charging into the necromancer's lair "chanting loud exorcisms and brandishing their mighty crosses" (even if they do get their arses handed back to them) leaves me wondering why people feel clerics are somehow lacking without swords and spears. I suspect that many people look at clerics as being some kind of substandard magic-user (less sexy spells) or weakened fighter (fewer hit-points, worse to-hit).

    As for the oft repeated saw "what about priests of Odin or Ares?", you shouldn't confuse the deity's priesthood with their worshippers. The closest that Norse culture had to clerics were seeresses called the Volva - they participated in the battles of their clans not by taking up spears but by practising magic through their weaving. Likewise among the ancient Greeks, the priesthood were largely oracles, communicating with their gods and interpreting the messages. Sure, the Greeks and the Norse were each ready to take up their axes and spears, but their priests didn't. They had too much on their minds to worry about mundane things like whether their weapons were sharp - I think that people wanting to give their clerics swords is a sign that we aren't doing enough to reflect that religious aspect in our own games.

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  32. Besides, Its not as if they cant use an assortment of other weapons.

    The PRODD is by definition a crossbow designed to fire balls of metal or stone.

    The HOOKED SWORD which is a blade-less and point-less 'sword' designed with hooks for grappling other weapons. Oddly these are categorized as a 'civilian weapon'.

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  33. I like class-based damage, if only because it means that weapons are color and you use the weapon you feel fits the character. I like the idea of big barbarians with clubs instead of using swords like everyone else.

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  34. I don't see a logical argument to be derived from the the two sides. Since clerics were made up from a variety of sources; Van Helsing, medieval crusades and priests, templars, and then woven together to form the original D&D class, then that is the archetype that was created for the game of that setting. There was probably some thought given by Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax about how to differentiate the classes and what would constitute balance (Although how well they succeeded is up for debate).

    I seem to recall that Gygax did not even want to have Gods to worship when players started playing cleric's and asking about who they serve.

    But if you are running a sword and sorcery derived campaign, you might say that you want a class that is more akin to the evil dagger wielding priests of some cult. The original D&D cleric class does not seem to fit that archetype.

    If you want to house-rule that clerics can use other weapons so that they can more closely resemble other archetypes such as cultists or a hammer wielding priest of Thor, then you house-rule that they can.

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  35. However, in OD&D/S&W/LL/B/X, I can see some concern, as the combat progression for all of the classes are "chunkier", and *all* classes start off on even footing.

    That's a very good point.

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  36. The thing about magic swords is that in the original rules, they were the big special ability of Fighters... but because it was never explicitly spelled out, all the new classes that were added over the years who could also use swords gradually diluted that specialness away to nothing.

    Yep. If Gygax had been more aware of this when he introduced the thief, we might have been spared stuff like weapon specialization later on as an ad hoc "fix" to the problem of fighters being weaker than other classes.

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  37. Part of the problem is d&d mixes greek clerics (robed polythiests) with tutonic knights.

    I agree with this, which is why I've come to emphasize the fact that clerics are not priests, or at least they're not the same kind of priest as those who perform rituals in the temples.

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  38. You didn't see de Molay cast resurrection, though.

    That's because he wasn't a cleric but an anti-cleric who served Baphomet. Anti-clerics can only cast finger of death.

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  39. Everything you need to know about D&D can be found in the first 145 issues of the Dragon.

    That many issues? I'd have pegged it much lower than that.

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  40. So far as I ever heard, the idea that priests in the Middle Ages only used blunt instruments was a 19th-century myth

    Indeed. Gygax relied on a lot of Victorian "scholarship" for many of his notions about the Middle Ages and this is one of them. Though many prelates and theologians thought it unseemly for a cleric to wield weapons -- any weapons -- many nevertheless did and they didn't restrict themselves solely to blunt ones.

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  41. Actually, thinking about the issue some more. The Dragon magazine article was published in 1982, and something I did not consider is by 1982, it is probably referencing 1st edition AD&D. The game changes with each edition, adding on layers to what came before. I can see having an open forum discussion on the matter of, how do handle priests of non christian, non cleric derived religions. And how do we maintain balance (although, the balance of the classes to begin with is debatable).

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  42. My apologies to post so many comments, but this discussion made me think of a tangental reference. In BECMI D&D, specifically in the Gazetter for dwarves, it introduced a new class called the Dwarf Cleric. They used dwarf attack ranks and could use axes. They could not turn undead and they could not cast resurrection or raise dead on non dwarf races. Just thought it was an interesting attempt at trying to balance them.

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  43. @mundi king

    Good points. It's one thing to say that ones home campagin (lets call it supplement X: home rules) has a variant cleric, just as arneson created his variant cleric in sup. II: blackmoor.

    I don't have a problem with someones, "sup. X". I balk at rewriting 0d&d. I hope James M. Book is more supplement rather than a rewrite (honestly who needs a paragraph explaining dice? We're all writing for our fellow aging male d&ders, nobody's really doing what holmes or mentzer did, which was bringing 1 million 13 year old boys into the fold)

    It's off topic, but why do all the osr guys (with the noticable exception of carcosa) model basic instead of supplements?

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  44. I hope James M. Book is more supplement rather than a rewrite

    It's explicitly written as a supplement to Labyrinth Lord rather than as a complete game in its own right.

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  45. Wordmonger wrote: "I never got the "spill no blood aspect" of the ban on edged weapons. By the time you've caved in some poor so-and-so's skull with four pounds of iron on a yard-long handle, There Will, to quote the movie, Be Blood. Also brain matter, bone fragments and a wide range of other icky human detritus spattered around the locale."

    True, but if you don't aim for the head, the poor recipient of the blow is much less likely to bleed. Or lose a limb. A mace seems more amenable to the controlled use of force than a sword or an axe or an arrow. You can kill, but you can also disable without causing damage that is permanently crippling (barring the use of magical healing).

    Think of maces, quarterstaves, and the like as the "less-lethal" weapons of the D&D setting.

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  46. Jumpin' Jahosaphat! A hot topic for something posted this morning!

    Sorry, tl;dr.

    The "blunt only" makes perfect sense for me for the original Lawful Cleric trope. For Neutral and Chaotic Clerics, who technically can't turn Undead, why not allow all weapons? Clerics don't get multiple attacks, or even the DEX bonus (if using Supp.IV) of Fighters. Shouldn't that be the balance?

    My only beef that I've ever had with the Cleric has been the easier XP:Level progression. If anything, I would say swap the Fighting Man and Cleric experience progression tables... and that's coming from someone who likes to play Clerics!

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  47. "For Neutral and Chaotic Clerics, who technically can't turn Undead, why not allow all weapons? "

    I suppose it depends on whether, in theory at least, in the game clerics are interested in conversion and/or redemption of the people whose asses they kick. The benighted evil-worshipping villagers might be persuaded of the benefits of your deity, rather than being put to death or run off to the next county.

    This could be easier if their menfolk haven't been chopped up with sword and axe blows, and instead have more tractable fractures and blunt force trauma wounds.

    I guess you could put it as: the difference between a fighter and a cleric is that the cleric is also something of a *salesman* with a quota to fill, and even opponents in combat are potential 'buyers'.

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  48. The weapon limitation was the major source of background information about my clerics in my original campaigns. They were just the most important of the three martial orders that served as the soldiers of the Church.* They were named after their hero-saint Mitra, and their maces were always cast in the image of his (reputedly) enormous clenched fist (although variants did exist with finger or thumb extended for hammers and picks). They were the Righteous Fists of the Church, and their maces were also their holy symbols. Paladins were a different religious order. The third were the Justicars. Neither of the other two orders had weapon limitations.

    Most priests had no magical powers at all. If they did, then they usually entered one of the magical orders of the Church.

    Even in later games were priests had no limitations as to the weapons they chose they were at a disadvantage to fighters when it came to matters of battle and war, because I used the idea that skills were implicit in the character class. For example the fighting man was the only class that could engage in mounted, shock, and close-order combat. They could repair and maintain armour in the field, knew seigecraft and engineering, as well as battle and tactics and leading troops. Clerics, in these matters, tended to trust to the righteousness of their cause. Thieves are even less capable than clerics in the art of warfare. They can use swords, but they are more used to fighting duels than in a actual battle. And generally prefer a shortsword (really a big dagger rather than a proper short- or smallsword). It's not just an attack bonus and the armopur that you can wear that matters, it's what you can do with it.

    [* The Church was notoriously ill-defined (with a deity that was intentionally "absent"), although it did have many similarities to the medieval church. Even the Order of Mitra had no fixed mythology and was mostly created from the parables and sermons of the player clerics. It was very much involved with Law and Civilization and Light though. However the Order of Mitra did end up being the tail that wagged the church because of the power it acquired (and because most members of the order "retired" to high level "pastoral" duties.]

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  49. It's around issue 145 where AD&D 2nd edition comes out.

    There must be a couple of articles in the 100-145 issue range that had something novel to say about D&D.

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  50. The solution that I'm in favor of is to split up the weapons into usable groups by the damage dealt. Fighters can use them all, including the d8 and d10 bad boys. Clerics and thieves top out at the d6 weapons. Magic-users are restricted to the d4's. The justification for class-based limits can just be that more training is needed to use the more powerful weapons.

    My draft chart for the system is in this post (scroll down to the Joesky tax). I tried to mix up the damage dice a bit, to avoid the outcome that all weapons in a given group would be mechanically identical.

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  51. I would never have thought of class-based damage but I love it.

    The best thing: it opens up the weapon list. Your dwarf wants to use a hammer? Sure no problem. You want to play a Martial Arts speedy fighter who carries a staff? Sure. No problem, no penalty. Far fewer magic swords.

    Now I'm wondering about true class-based AC, and not just special exceptions for the monk and barbarian. If a full shield can be a paltry -1, why do leather, scale, chain and plate all need their own entries on a hierarchical chart?

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  52. Thinking a blunt weapon is less dangerous than an edge based one is a foolish thing. It's true a sword will pierce your flesh and make you bleed, but a mace will break your bones and create an internal wound, which can seem a mere swelling after all is over, but kill you in a few hours. Maces were made to kill, not to limite damage.

    Jon Hendry: Do you really think you can control the wounds you do in a fight? I suppouse you have never been in a fight then, because one important lesson of police training is staying calm in dangerous situations and restricting your force. In a real fight, people is shouting, pushing and trying to harm you, and your instincts are telling you to harm them in some way to end the menace. It is hard to not hurt people who are trying to harm you. And even using non lethal weapons sometimes accidents happen.

    I find the idea of maces being less dangerous than swords ridiculous.Even using a punch can make people bleed. You don't want to spill blood? Then don't fight. If you are going to define your Cleric class, please don't use that idea because it is really stupid.

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  53. "So far as I ever heard, the idea that priests in the Middle Ages only used blunt instruments was a 19th-century myth"

    Myth might be too strong a word. Oversimplification. And it's generally not said that priests did anything one way or another. They weren't part of the warrior class (those who fight). The Church did attempt to put controls and limits on warfare. How widespread or common that was, and just what the limits were, is probably worth a good term paper. But while it is probably way off course to say 'priests could only use maces in the Middle Ages', it was based on real limits that were attempted in the day.

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  54. I think one problem of the "no" argument here, and one which seems to me quite frequent especially in 2nd ed., is trying to explain AD&D with AD&D (as if it was the bible!). D&D classes are not generic but are explicitly modelled after a known source (Ranger lords can use palantìrs... ehm, crystal balls).

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  55. @Jano:

    Yeah, people tend to think blunt weapons are less dangerous.
    In reality, hammers and maces tended to be more effective against heavily armored knights than swords, mainly because plate armor doesn't really protect against raw kinetic impact.

    Oh, and first time poster here XD !

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  56. Matthew David Surridge: Check out http://books.google.ca/books?id=Ct6xktCkgUQC&pg=PT21&lpg=PT21&dq=priests+%22spill+blood%22&source=bl&ots=1ZoRGTILmh&sig=hUjizLETfy46cUmFWlxZukEHbHA&hl=en&ei=BIi6Tp7rMqPc2AW356W_Bw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=9&ved=0CFUQ6AEwCDgU#v=onepage&q&f=false -- not sure what his source is, but the book is fairly recent. At any rate, whether that story is true or not is not really relevant to my point -- what matters is that wargamers (such as Gygax and Arneson) believed it was true, and fightin' bishop Odo was part of the archetype of the cleric.

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  57. A couple more recent sources on maces and clerics: Bates, David R. “The Character and Career of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux (1049/50-
    1097).” Speculum, Vol. 50, No. 1. (Jan., 1975).

    "People in the Bayeux Tapestry," the Museum of Reading. (No author given.) http://www.bayeuxtapestry.org.uk/BayeuxPeople.htm

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  58. One big elephant that I haven't seen discussed is the question of whether it matters who your opponent is. There's no conceivable ethical argument against a cleric using edged weapons on e.g. ghouls, ghasts, ghouls, green dragons, green slime, or gelatinous cubes. In D&D, these are not incidental opponents. Rather, the reason why D&D clerics should take up weapons in the first place would be to slay unnatural monsters, rather than to engage in anything resembling historical human warfare.

    The one explanation for weapon restrictions is that you want your clerics to be easily recognizable as a cleric. (As if you were watching a movie. Or playing a miniatures game. Or looking at a tapestry). There's a way that I find that really compelling and another that I find really limiting.

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  59. @Brian:

    Actually, it DOES matter: Clerics are known for their ability to fight the undead, and blunt weapons are perfect for bashing some undead skulls.

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  60. A fighter's ability to hit more often than other classes is indicative of his focus as a fighter. Other classes have to split their attention and training. Instead of focusing solely on combat, a cleric is also learning and unraveling the mysteries of their faith. As far as HP, hit points are not only a measure of a character's raw damage absorption, but also a measure of how well that character can take a hit. A warrior with 10 HP shrugs off 2 damage points because he has studied and had plenty of experience in being wounded. A magic user by contrast has no such experience and this is reflected in his HP. When the same 2 damage comes to the magic user, it's a lot more serious. The blow is likely to catch him flat footed, or he may lean into it. Imagine the difference between a professional boxer taking a hit versus a soccer mom or a philosophy professor.
    Class-based damage, to me, seems to make damage dice a function of the class, not the weapon. Suddenly the weapon is just flavor text, and a warrior with a pointed stick will always out perform the cleric with the chainsaw.

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  61. I always hated class based damage, but I think a more complex way of banning weapons might be in order. For example, some sort of "set" choice for clerics based on deities, or a ban based on others.

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  62. I would also really dislike class-based weapon damage. For me, if the choice of weapon has no in-game effect, then I just don't want to hear about it at all (might as well just strike them from the game). IMO, it's the same urge to over-abstract that leads to calls for "purely abstract spell that does X damage" or "purely abstract monster template M".

    I prefer to go in the other direction and give some simple tactical details in addition to raw weapon damage, to make those weapon choices even more concrete and important.

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  63. PCB said: "As for the oft repeated saw 'what about priests of Odin or Ares?', you shouldn't confuse the deity's priesthood with their worshippers... I think that people wanting to give their clerics swords is a sign that we aren't doing enough to reflect that religious aspect in our own games."

    Agree with about everything in your post, and I'll add one more point of texture -- As soon as you present clerics as wearing heavy armor by default, then the presumption that they're full-on warriors is going to be immediate and widespread (swords being just a corollary of that). For the image that you & I have in mind, you'd likely need to have holy men who are unarmored as a baseline.

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  64. @Delta: I like your weapons tactical details! Right now I am using the full weapon type vs. AC modifiers (IMO they even make more sense than variable weapon damage), but your ideas remind me of pendragon, where the damage with a sword is an attribute of the character (after all, every character uses a sword) and other weapons are differentiated with such details as, say axes do +1d6 damage vs shields (and since shields absorb 6 damage points this means that axes partially offset shields' protection).

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  65. Jano wrote: "Do you really think you can control the wounds you do in a fight? "

    Not always, but the degree to which wounding is controllable *at all* is determined by the weapon. An oaken staff is unlikely to glance off a breastplate and run through the opponent's neck. A small, lightly-thrown stone is unlikely to stick in an eye socket, whereas a lightly-thrown dagger of the same weight certainly could.

    If you were walking past a track & field competition, and there were a mishap, would you prefer to be struck in the chest by a blunt discuss, or a javelin?

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  66. @Jon:

    I don't think you can compare "Getting hit by a discus vs. getting hit by a javelin" with "Getting hit by a sword vs. getting hit by a javelin"

    Your breastplate example is a bit lacking: A sword can surely glance off it (that's what most plate armor was designed for). A mace however will most likely NOT glance off, but create a nice dent that will inhibit the wearer - who already has to deal with some internal damage.

    As for these sources about mace-wielding clerics: maces were a pretty normal weapon for all kinds of knights - because they can deal damage without having to penetrate armor.

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  67. @Doresh wrote: "I don't think you can compare "Getting hit by a discus vs. getting hit by a javelin" with "Getting hit by a sword vs. getting hit by a javelin""

    Er, no, the analogy is blunt vs piercing/cutting, so the discus is akin to a mace hit, and a javelin wound is like a sword slash or stab. You may disagree, but in the scenario described I'd rather get hit in the chest by an errant discus, than an errant javelin, and I'd rather get hit in the chest with a mace, than with a sword or axe. A mace in the chest is likely to hurt, might hurt badly, might well be fatal, but a stab in the chest has a narrower range of outcomes, skewing towards the bad.

    "Your breastplate example is a bit lacking: A sword can surely glance off it (that's what most plate armor was designed for). A mace however will most likely NOT glance off, but create a nice dent that will inhibit the wearer - who already has to deal with some internal damage."

    Inhibit? Big deal, I'd rather be "inhibited" and have some broken ribs than have a sword slice through my neck, possibly cutting a major vein or artery. Especially in a setting with magical healing. If a guy with a mace beats me into submission, but avoids head shots, I can probably be healed without major healing magic. If someone with a sword or axe fights me into submission, I may be missing limbs, and might well require a cleric to raise me from the dead.

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  68. Space Coyote said: "@Delta: I like your weapons tactical details!..."

    Thank you for saying that!

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  69. @Jon Hendry:

    I just meant that blunt and edged melee weapons have a lot more in common than a javelin and an object never meant for combat.

    It's also easier to hit the head than it is to hit a vein. Even easier is a hit against the torso. Broken ribs can also puncture your lungs, and I don't think that's any more pleasant than a sliced throat.

    Why do you believe that clerics can heal edged damage better than cutting damage? It's magic XD !

    And why do you take the best possible outcome for blunt damage (lots of bruises, no concussions), but take the worst for edged damage (dismemberment)?

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  70. I think it's also worth pointing out that maces and hammers - in the European tradition at least - were often designed specifically to penetrate armour. A C16th 'warhammer' isn't a short-handled sledgehammer; it's five feet long with a head no wider than your thumb and forged from very hard steel. Likewise, maces - even those not of the flanged variety - often had protuberances or ridges and so forth, all designed to focus that heavy weight onto a small area and puncture the steel.

    And of course if you're wearing chainmail, the links can get punched into you by even a cleanly cylindrical mace - and that will make you bleed quite profusely.

    Now, if you were going to head down the Friar Tuck route for your clerics and give them a wooden staff as the only weapon permitted, a prohibition on spilling blood might make more sense. As it is, though, any time you hit someone with a lump of metal, you're quite likely to make them bleed.

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  71. @ Matthew Johnson

    It most certainly isn't historically "true" and there are thousands of historical examples to demonstrate this. It's just a Victorian era urban myth and I feel sorry for anyone who repeats it as fact in a published work on history. It is quite a nice conceit for our game of D&D that is true.

    A nice succinct overview here:

    http://dungeonmum.blogspot.com/2010/08/my-300th-post-clerics-and-edged-weapons.html

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  72. I would also really dislike class-based weapon damage. For me, if the choice of weapon has no in-game effect, then I just don't want to hear about it at all (might as well just strike them from the game). IMO, it's the same urge to over-abstract that leads to calls for "purely abstract spell that does X damage" or "purely abstract monster template M".

    I'm not a fan of class-based damage myself, for the reasons you outline here. That said, I still think Sapienza did a better job making his case than did Humphrey, whose article seemed to be mostly double-talk and platitudes.

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  73. As soon as you present clerics as wearing heavy armor by default, then the presumption that they're full-on warriors is going to be immediate and widespread (swords being just a corollary of that). For the image that you & I have in mind, you'd likely need to have holy men who are unarmored as a baseline.

    There's a fundamental disconnect between what clerics were and what they became and that disconnect is, in my opinion, at the root of a lot of the biggest criticisms of the class as presented in D&D. I go back and forth in my own mind about the extent to which the game actually needs a proper "holy man" class distinct from the cleric, but I increasingly agree that it's problematic on a number of levels to treat the cleric as if he is or was intended to be such a class.

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  74. There must be a couple of articles in the 100-145 issue range that had something novel to say about D&D.

    You're probably right. My regular reading of Dragon stopped in the early 100s, so I tend to assume that anything after that point is just gilding the lily.

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  75. James Maliszewski said: "There's a fundamental disconnect between what clerics were and what they became and that disconnect is, in my opinion, at the root of a lot of the biggest criticisms of the class as presented in D&D..."

    Totally agreed, of course.

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  76. Also, my own AD&D campaign is set in a pseudo historical medieval quasi europe (actually in southern Italy, so I can use stops along the highways to get adventures ideas :) ) so almost christian like clerics are not a problem.

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  77. I don't pay attention to weapon restrictions on clerics in general, but I do pay attention to weapon restrictions on the clerics of particular religions. Some religions may have specific taboos or requirements. Others may not address the issue at all. Unless weapon selection is specifically proscribed or prescribed, I allow players of clerics to decide for themselves what is appropriate.

    Regarding the issue of balance vis-à-vis magic swords, that is easily resolved without resorting to all-encompassing weapon type restrictions. I would simply rule that a cleric or priest can only use those magic weapons specifically made to be used by members of their religion. This gives them a potentially wide range of nonmagical weapons to choose from, but the selection of magic weapons would be much smaller for clerics than any other class because a cleric can only use magic weapons that are consecrated, so to speak.

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