I Need A Miracle

I mentioned in my prior post that I had replaced the D&D Clerical spell lists and spells per day for the old-school D&D game I was running for the kids with a system that involved saving rolls to get miracles, and the Recursion King asked for a bit more detail, so here it is:

Basically, clerics get to pray for Boons, Blessings, Smiting and Miracles.  Boons are subtle aid to the Priest personally, Blessings are subtle aid to others, Smiting is subtle (and not-so-subtle) hindrance of enemies and Miracles are overt, even spectacular, interventions by the God.  Subtle effects are ones where the players can’t actually tell whether they worked or at least whether there was magic involved, so things like pluses to saving rolls, or a second wind (restoration of some stamina).  Overt effects are ones where there’s no doubt that it wasn’t just luck, something supernatural happened–so for instance, Cure Light Wounds would count as a miracle since the wound closes up and the character is restored to health.

The cleric announces what he’s praying for (“Grant me a boon, oh mighty one!”  or “I bless you in the name of my lord!”, etc.) and I secretly roll a saving roll.  Boons are the easiest, with other effects getting progressively harder to achieve, though since I still want low-level clerics to be able to heal even miracles aren’t that hard (I use 15, 16, 17, and 18 as the target numbers, with the roll getting bonuses for high Wisdom and for increasing level).  Clerics also have a secret stock of Faith, which starts each day equal to Wisdom.   If the saving roll is missed, then the effect still occurs, but Faith is reduced by enough to make up the difference; if there isn’t enough Faith remaining then the Prayer fails.  Every time the cleric makes the save without needing to draw on Faith, then the secret Faith score increases by 1, even if this would take it higher than the initial number.

This pretty much guarantees that the cleric will be able to do something each day, with higher level clerics being able to succeed more often.  It also makes it a bit wiser to not try for an outright miracle every time.  Because I don’t share the Faith score with them or tell them whether the Boons or Blessings had any effect (just figuring it into the subsequent rolls), they can’t calculate for sure what the odds are or even if they’ve definitely got some more divine help coming to them.

If the cleric succeeds, then I roll for the impressiveness of the effect.  This is still a little hand-wavey at the moment, but what I do is roll a d6, with high being good.  The roll is open-ended, so every time I roll a 6, I add and reroll.  The final score divided by 3 is the approximate level of power of the effect, judged against the usual D&D spell list.  That is, 1-3 is roughly equivalent to a 1st level spell, 4-6 a second level, 7-9 a third level, etc.   I try not to just pick a spell directly, but pick an effect that I feel is about right for that level of power.  This isn’t modified in any way for the level of the Cleric; I figure that the god is more likely to listen to the prayers of the High Priest multiple times a day than a rank novice, thanks to the High Priest’s long record of service but that once the god has directed his attention to the matter it’s entirely up to the god’s inscrutable assessment of how much to intervene so that first level Cleric is just as likely to get a truly astonishing intervention as the High Priest.

It’s true that under this system 1/6 of the time any priest at all will get at least the equivalent of a 3rd level spell, and 1/36th of the time even more, but at low levels they’ll likely only get one or two prayers answered per day before they’re tapped out.  A high level priest isn’t guaranteed a high level result, but stands a much better chance just from more attempts.  It would be easy enough to adjust it by including a level bonus for the effect as well, if high level priests weren’t getting their fair share of truly impressive interventions, but I figure it’ll be a while before I need to worry about that.  It would also be easy to flesh out what happens in terms of the prayer’s effect according to some kind of table, or even just picking exactly from the cleric spell lists, but for now I’m really digging the aspect that when a Mage casts a spell they get what they want, but if a Cleric tries sometimes they just might find they get what they need.

6 thoughts on “I Need A Miracle

  1. Karizma says:

    This is something I really like to see, and is something as a young gamer I have completely missed out on.

    From the way I see things, Advanced D&D and previous editions covered basic grounds, but were simple enough to get a grasp of, then the GM could modify it to his liking to make a system that fits his style.

    Modern games assume a specific playstyle. I’m currently running High Adventure Role Playing by Iron Crown Enterprises, and I like it over Rolemaster (which I played before HARP). One thing I’ve never done is a good old-fashioned Dungeon Crawl. I’ve never really worried about death. I’ve never really had to improvise as a player (GMs always improvise).

    I like reading about these games like yours because they’re so different than the ones I’m used to. One day I’ll rope together a group for a game like this.

  2. Andreas Davour says:

    Very cool rules! Can we get a writeup for Knockspell or Fight On! magazines, please?

  3. Joshua says:

    @Andreas – Sure. I’m about to leave for vacation, but when I get back in a week I’ll touch base and see about writing something up.

  4. dr. checkmate says:

    This is excellent. What would you do differently if you were to adapt this to Savage Worlds?

  5. Joshua says:

    I think it would be pretty easy to adapt to Savage Worlds. Something like:

    Make Prayer a skill, standard TN 4 to have the prayer answered, with mods to the roll for the type of prayer (-1 for Blessings, -2 for Smiting, -3 for Miracles).

    Have the secret Faith score be a track just like Wounds: Wild Cards get 3 boxes, Extras 1. If you miss the roll, you get an effect but you take a hit on your Faith; like Wounds, “damage” on the Faith track is a -1, -2, or -3 on subsequent Prayers (this replaces keeping track of exactly how much you miss by in the D&D version). When you reach “Incapacitated” on Faith you’re done for the day. If you get a Raise on the Prayer roll, one level is restored. If you botch (1 on both the prayer and wild die) you’re tapped out for the day, regardless of the state of your Faith track.

    For effect, roll a d6, exploding for the level of effect as described in the post with the results being interpreted along the lines of Power Rank instead of “Level”

  6. Dr. Checkmate says:

    Cool. I might have to give this a try the next time I run a D&Dish fantasy game with SW.

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