Cleric Spells, How do they get them?

There was an interesting quesiton brought up in the forums about Cleric spells. The question asked was

Do they (Clerics) automatically know all spells for the level they are, but only can cast what the memorize? Or are they like magic users and have to copy from scrolls or the like?

Interesting question. Now, we all know from playing any edition of D&D that Magic Users, study a book, or research a spell. Then they memorize the spell for the day to use it, and once they do, it is cleared of their mind and the process starts over again.

But what about Clerics?

They pray for their spells is the answer everyone gives.

But how do they actually know what spell is what? How do they know what to say and when to say it?

I have always thought that a Cleric, would pray for that spell, and it would just “pop” into their mind.

That was good enough reason for me, up until I saw the post. Then it had me thinking, how does it really get there, and how does a Cleric know the words.


Plain and simple, the cleric prays for the “will” to change things and in return their god grants them a small amount of power to change the world or the things around them in the world.

So with that said, I’d like to hear what everyone else thinks.

7 thoughts on “Cleric Spells, How do they get them?

  1. Every God has common teachings (and ye did Correlon smacketh Lolth, verily right in her spidery cunt), I assume the cleric draws inspiration for their spells from these tales. It's why a cleric of the god of drinkin' and whorin' knows the Charm Person spell but probably not the withering touch spell.

  2. I redid the cleric system completely. Clerics earn piety through deeds, then spend it on miracles. They never "don't have the right spell memorized", they either have curried enough favour with their patron or they have not.

  3. My thoughts…

    1. Praying for spells = a cleric supplicates his god for a blessing of divine power (power to heal, power to create a plague of insects, etc) using standard prayers, litanies, chants.

    2. Casting spells = accessing that divine power by inwardly focusing with the aid of prayers, litanies, chants. The actual "casting" of the spell is akin to "speaking in tongues" – the divine power flows through the cleric and the magical words come unbidden to the cleric's tongue.

    3. Reading scrolls. A scroll is a specially blessed religious tract containing a prayer (in common, in alignment language, in a secret religious language – it may vary). Reading that prayer has the same effect as daily supplication except due to the blessing it is immediately heard and granted. The divine power may not be retained by the cleric: casting is immediate. It is not necessarily the cleric's god's power that is speaking through the cleric! The cleric merely knows how to accept an influx of divine power. Beware the good cleric who uses an evil scroll! The "speaking in tongues" may sound radically different if the scroll has been written by a cleric of a different faith because the power has a different source.

    This interpretation is similar to Vancian magic: just as a magic-user forces a particular spell into her mind, a cleric accepts a particular divine power into his spirit.

  4. You know I like the "faith" answer it was originally my question, something I had taken for granted throughout the years but I think Faith is a great answer. That's why I love osrgaming forums.

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