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Basic Information

An intermediary between the human and divine - the Romans used the word Pontifex for this office, meaning a "builder of bridges". The priest is considered to be an individual who, through some form of power investiture, has a special link to the culture's deity or deities and is, in many ways, only a short step from the more "primitive" role of the shaman.

Dependant on the religion that they follow a priest will normally preside over religious ceremonies, provide lifestyle advice (and/or governance) for the community and have custody of the worship space. Priesthood may be a full time job, or a priest may be a part timer who has an additional profession to support himself - and this may vary not by the religion but by the ability of the host community to support a priest.

In a pantheistic religion a given priest may serve only one of the deities or may be a sort of general ambassador to the divine and venerate all members of the pantheon on behalf of his community - and there may be a mix of the two kinds: dedicated priests for the popular deities and one or more priests of the pantheon to handle business for those less often venerated.

Again, dependant on the religion priesthood may be restricted to one gender (or none in some cases) and subject to a variety of priviledges and taboos. At the very least their special status is normally indicated by distinctive clothing. A priesthood may contain various ranks upto and including a primate or it may be completely flat.

The doctrinisation of a priesthood in a religion is known as clericalism and is by no means common to all faiths - many reject the notion that any particular caste has a special connection to the divine. This can vary even between different sects of the same religion.



Game and Story Use

  • Because of their duties, Priests tend to be settled in a specific location and tend to make better NPCs than PCs.
  • That said, PC priests are not impossible. A campaign based in a large city could easily have a priest in that city be a member of the group. And some orders of priests are required to travel as part of their duties.
    • a priest PC is likely to be a lower-level priest with fewer administrative responsibilities to get in the way of adventuring.
    • He might be a priest with unconventional ideas who clashes with his ecclesiastical superiors; or perhaps even a heretical priest, expelled from the priesthood for his unorthodox views.
    • Given a suitable religion, priesthood might not necessarily entail a congregation and/or a posting. For example a Celtic Druid, once attested as a Druid, was not bound to stay anywhere or do anything in particular - his role was simply to serve their gods as he felt best. Thus a fantasy religion might well ordain priests and then turn them loose in the world with limited (or no) direction (or support).
    • Medieval Roman Christianity had all sorts of people ordained as priests who did not have a congregation to administer to, these could be found in a variety of sacred and secular jobs, including putting their (far from common) skills of literacy and numeracy to work as administrators (hence "clerical" work and the idea of an "clerk" - although many of these might be in minor orders rather than fully ordained).
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