Tuesday, November 8, 2011
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.