Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Druids as Anti-Clerics

James over at Grognardia is doing something very interesting with Druids for his Dwimmermount campaign — something similar to what I've been contemplating for my own campaign. Using the obscure note from the LBBs that Clerics can only be Lawful or Chaotic at 7th level or higher, James is equating Druids with Clerics who apostasize from their original faith and turn into nature cultists. For my own part, I am beginning to like the idea of equating Druids with Anti-Clerics.

During this past season of Christmas and Epiphany (which doesn't wrap up until this Friday) I have been struck by the abundance of anthropomorphic language used by the Orthodox Church when describing the reaction of nature to these two great events. I realize that the following quote is quite long, but, not only is the imagery really beautiful, but I also want to demonstrate that this is a major theme that runs through the hymnody of the Orthodox Church:

What shall we offer You, O Christ? for You have appeared on earth as man for our sakes. Of all creatures made by You, each offers You thanksgiving. The Angles offer you the hymn; the Heavens the star . . . the earth her cave; the wilderness the manger — Vespers of the Nativity of Christ

The rivers have lifted up, O Lord, the rivers have lifted up their voices. — from the Second Troparion of the Prophecies, Vespers of the Nativity of Christ; Vespers of Epiphany

River Jordan, what have you beheld that you are sore amazed? "He whom none can see, I saw Him naked, and I feared. How should I not be afraid before Him and turn back?" The Angels, seeing Him, trembled with fear and awe; Heaven was amazed; the earth with quaking shook; the sea drew back in dread with all things both visible and invisible. Christ has appeared in the Jordan River, to sanctify the waters. — Matins of Epiphany

Today the waters of the Jordan are transformed into healing waters by the presence of the Lord.

Today the bitter water, which was in the time of Moses, is changed into sweetness for the people by the presence of the Lord.

Today all creation is made bright from on high.

Today earth and sea share between them the joy of the world, and the world is filled with gladness.

Jordan turned back and the mountains skipped, looking upon God in the flesh; and the clouds gave forth their voice, marveling at Him Who is come, Light of Light, true God of true God, seeing the festival of the Master today in the Jordan, and Him Who Himself plunged into the depths of the Jordan the death of disobedience, and the sting of error, and the bonds of Hades, and has granted the Baptism of salvation unto the world. — from the Prayer of St. Sophronius during the Great Blessing of the Waters at Epiphany

There are two ideas being demonstrated here. First and foremost, Christ came in order to save all of creation, not just human beings. Nature is saved by being properly oriented to God. The second is that this orientation happens through human beings. The Jordan River cannot speak. The earth cannot offer a cave. Mountains cannot skip. We can. It is through us that creation is able to have a voice, is able to worship God and be properly oriented towards Him. This is made manifest by the Great Blessing of the Waters at Epiphany.

Given the pseudo-Christian flavor of the Cleric class in OD&D, the nature loving divine spell caster ought to be the Cleric, not the Druid. So what, exactly, does that leave the Druid to do/be? The answer lies in the idea of the Anti-Cleric.

If we were to diagram the means by which creation is saved (as suggested by the hymns above) it might look like this:
God --> Humanity --> Creation
God saves by restoring humanity to its proper role as the royal priesthood. In turn, fulfilling its role, humanity sanctifies creation through proper use of creation.

If we carry out the mechanical logic of the Anti-Cleric (where Cure Light Wounds turns into Cause Light Wounds; Bless turns into Curse; Raise Dead turns into Finger of Death, etc.) and apply it to the diagram above we would get this:
Creation --> Humanity --> (no)God
In other words, Druids become the Chaotic monster who is perfectly willing to sacrifice humanity and civilization in order to save a worm because nature is more important and has more value than any human being. Since God has been taken out of the equation it is possible to see humanity and civilization as being outside of creation and antithetical to it.

The result is a wonderfully frightening (and seductive) version of the Anti-Cleric which puts a whole new spin on the Temple of Elemental Evil. I am looking forward to finding a way to place them in my own campaign.


scottsz said...


I was hoping to surprise people with this in my own T2 'remix'. It's a great concept/observation and fits perfectly for 'elemental evil'.

velaran said...

As you might have noticed(I need to go through the archives to see what D&D materials you might possess!), Druids are MONSTERS in the Greyhawk Supplement!(I always joke that they're for killing[not the real world ones, of course:-)]). I am looking forward to your thoughts on Elemental Evil(It's confusing at best, I'd say!) and to see how you decide to utilize your version of the Druid.
Excellent post.

FrDave said...

I've got them placed in my current campaign and have planted seeds for how they affect my campaign world. Unfortunately, that means I have to wait (and wait, and wait, and wait) until my players decide to go chase those seeds down ;).