Priests are different from their wizard counterparts, not only in how they are balanced as a class, but also in how their magic is themed. This comes from the Priest’s role as a defender and spiritual guide for the party and for non-player characters (NPCs) in the game. As a result, a lot of their spells are designed to aid other characters or to provide some sort of service to their community. This emphasis on a service role results in a decided lack of offensive spells that could decimate an opponent but creates a significant opportunity for clever players looking to challenge themselves.
As with the Wizard the Priest must select their spells ahead of time; but in doing so they have a unique opportunity to prepare for their party’s needs, as the Priest is often the only character standing between their party succeeding in their latest adventure and death. This means that potential Priest players must be clever in choosing their spells and have the far-sightedness to pick the right grouping that will mean the difference between life and death.
Unlike their counterparts Priests aren’t required to lug around a spell book, however, they are required to pray for their spells. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Second Edition (AD&D 2e) takes care to note how important this is for the Priest:
. . . To obtain his spells, a priest must be faithful to the cause of his deity. If the priest feels confident in this (and most do), he can pray for his spells. Through prayer, the priest humbly and politely requests those spells he wishes to memorize. Under normal circumstances, these spells are then granted . . . Priests must pray to obtain spells, as they are requesting their abilities from some greater power, be it their deity or some intermediary agent of this power . . . Clearly then, it behooves the priest to maintain himself in good standing with this power, through word and deed. Priests who slip in their duties, harbor indiscreet thoughts, or neglect their beliefs, find that their deity has an immediate method of redress . . .Cook, 111
This emphasis on the conduct of the Priest and their relationship with their faith is an aspect of the game that I have never focused on as a Game Master (GM) and after reading this description of the Priest I find myself wishing that I had. While focusing on the religious and moral actions of the player adds a layer of complexity to the game it also creates a dynamic and vibrant world where the Priest character helps bring the world into focus through their interactions with it. They create a moral focal point for the group and help steer the group towards “good” or “bad” acts based on the faith they have chosen to play.
There’s an additional wrinkle to choosing a god that AD&D 2e has thrown in:
. . . [Your] DM may rule that not all deities are equal, so that those of lesser power are unable to grant certain spells. If this optional rule is used, powers of demi-god status can only grant spells up to the 5th spell level. Lesser deities can grant 6th-level spells, while the greater deities have all spell levels available to them . . .Cook, 111
That’s an optional rule that I really like because it forces the players to think even more deeply about whom their characters will worship. It also means that choosing to worship a god other than a greater god can be a role-playing motivation for the player (for example, a demi-god Cleric may choose to advance their religion on the world in an effort to help their god rise a level by popularizing their faith across the globe).
Both casting groups use the same rules for casting a spell:
1. The character must have the spell prepared.
2. They must be able to speak and move both arms freely
3. If casting on a person, place, or thing it must be seen by the caster.
4. Once the casting is begun the character must stand still (cannot be done wile riding a roughly moving beast or vehicle unless special efforts at stabilization are made).
5. No AC benefit from Dexterity is gained while casting.
6. If struck the caster or fails a saving throw before the spell is cast the spell fails to cast and is lost from the caster’s memory.
You can make up your own spells with the help of your GM. Fucking do it you cowards.
Cook, David “Zeb,” et al. Player’s Handbook for the AD&D Game. USA: TSR Inc, 1996. pg 111 PRINT