I’ve always enjoyed the fact that rather than create new spells and powers for divine characters, D&D draws its inspiration from the major faiths that exist today. All of the rituals above are found in the Bible in one form or another. As it’s the day after Easter when the Christian faith celebrates the major miracle of its faith, I thought it only appropriate to take a look at the Divine Power source.
Divine characters have always been amongst my favourite. In 3e the Cleric was one of my favourite classes and in 4e the entire scope of Divine characters are interesting to play. Each approaches their relationship to their faith in a different way. From staunch defenders of the faith, to warriors that hail from secret societies, and spiritual leaders who take the fight to the enemy.
With the development of roles and power sources, Wizards of the Coast allows players to have a religious background and not be stuck with only the Cleric or Paladin as class choices. With the Avenger, Invoker and Runepriest players are given a wide variety of class choices. Each with their own particular flavour and approach to the divine power source.
What separates divine characters from others is the relationship to their deity. This is the single source of power for these classes and it defines their relationship with the world around them. Arcane characters draw power from mystic energies, studied or innate these individuals channel the forces around them. A martial character is defined by their skill with blade, their loyalties lie where they place them but a change in ruler doesn’t diminish their skill. A primal character is tied to the raw power of nature; unyielding, unforgiving and enduring. A psychic character draws power from within, harnessing their mental energy and lashing out with pinpoint accuracy. Only the divine character draws power from another being, from the raw power of the gods.
Those with arcane power can stumble upon a power they don’t understand, but through study overcome the obstacle. Characters with martial training can question their abilities, but their skill doesn’t diminish. Primal power may fade in a heavy urban environment, but a return to nature re-establishes that bond. Psionics may loose focus, but a moment of clarity brings everything together. However, if a divine character looses their connection with their deity regaining that connection isn’t as easy as other power sources.
A loss of faith isn’t a simple as doubting ones abilities. It’s a loss in the connection to power, granted directly through the relationship with a deity. A divine character who falls out of step with their deity has their connection to power removed. Even if atonement is completed, the access to power is granted by the deity. This sets divine characters apart from their counterparts of other power sources.
Another aspect of divine power that is different from other classes is the connection to life. Divine power is what healing magic is attributed to. In editions past it was the Cleric who fulfilled the role of healer, yes others could accomplish the same but not to the same extent as the Cleric. In 4e D&D any leader class can heal, but access to rituals that provide cures to disease and afflictions fall into the domain of divine characters. Yes, other characters can learn these rituals, but few bother.
Access to power through a deity and the application of life saving rituals define divine characters. There are other differences as well, religious orders of various stripes and colours. However, it is the power source itself and life granting rituals that separate divine characters from the rest.