In a world where the gods grant fantastic powers to their worshippers, faith takes on a different meaning. Believing in the gods is no great difficulty. Faith in this setting is not belief, but fidelity. Votaries don’t believe in their god’s existence more deeply than their neighbors, but they do dedicate their lives to following the strictures of their order.
Although Christianity dominates Victorian London, votaries are far from uniform, either in their approach to their faith or in the powers they emphasize. See the chapter on religion for detailed information about the religious climate of the day and how it affects the votary class.
Adventures: Votaries who choose the adventuring life theoretically do so because they are inspired by their faith to combat immorality and spread their gospel. Of course, some end up adventuring only when their previous means of making a living are lost, but even they usually prefer to focus on the possibilities for improving the world, and are not inclined to be dragged from one money-making dungeon crawl to the next. Some votaries dream of traveling to distant lands to convert heathens, while others prefer to combat the iniquity in their own back yards.
Characteristics: Votaries are masters of divine magic. Divine magic is especially good at healing. Even an inexperienced cleric can bring people back from the brink of death, and an experienced cleric can even bring people back who have crossed over that brink.
As channelers of divine energy, votaries can turn away or even destroy undead creatures. An evil votary, on the other hand, can bring the undead under her control.
Votaries are not well trained in combat in Victorian times, though many who feel the call of the missionary learn how to defend themselves among savages. They can use small firearms and simple weapons, as well as the chosen weapon of their god. Although divine spells can be cast while wearing armor, votaries are not generally practiced with anything more than light armor.
Alignment: Votaries can be of any alignment, so long as it is no more than one step away from the alignment of their god. Since Christians can align with either God the Father who is lawful neutral or God the Son who is neutral good, the religion of most people in England allows for votaries of many alignments.
Religion: Most votaries in London are Christian, about half being Anglican of one flavor or another. Legal sanctions exist against practitioners of other religions, but these are minor compared with centuries past, so non-Christian votaries needn’t fear for their safety. Some votaries align themselves with a cause rather than a specific religion, though such charitable organizations in London are generally based on Christianity. It is possible, for example, to be a votary aligned with the Ladies of the Lamp without being a Christian, but such individuals are rare and will get further by nodding respectfully and keeping quiet when a fellow member is waxing poetic about doing the work of Christ.
Sex: Although only men are officially ordained in most religions, plenty of women devote themselves to their god, and receive divine assistance in return for their faith. In fact, extreme piety is considered a feminine virtue in Victorian Britain, and a high-level male votary might be looked down on as a bit unworldly, unless his position requires it, as with a bishop. There are some exceptions to this rule, such as the Classicists, who are almost entirely male.
Background: More than most adventurers, votaries are likely to come from the middle class. The working classes of Victorian London are largely irreligious, and the aristocracy prefers to balance piety with more worldly pursuits. Although most members of the middle class are too comfortable to take up an adventurous lifestyle, sometimes circumstances make it necessary. Ordained clergy often come from the lower echelon of the upper class, but few of them take up adventuring or advance far in the votary path.
Races: Although British votaries travel as missionaries all over the world, votaries of other religions come to preach in England far less often. Not all votaries are out to convert, though, and some foreign travelers happen to be highly pious. With London being such a cosmopolitan city, non-human votaries of various world religions are not uncommon. Dwarven Jews and Muslims are perhaps the most often-seen non-Christian votaries. Gnomes may either be Christian converts or adhere to their polytheistic religions. Elvish religions are so far removed from English expectations that often Victorians don’t even recognize elvish votaries as religious devotees. Halflings, with their disrespectful attitude toward the gods, are rarely taken seriously as votaries, even when they do dedicate themselves to a god who is willing to put up with them.
Other Classes: Everybody wants a votary around when bullets are flying. The rest of the time, reactions are more mixed. Some votaries are eager to serve their fellow man with quiet fortitude, while others have a way of making religious people feel inadequate and irreligious people irritated.
GAME RULE INFORMATION
Votaries have the following game statistics.
Abilities: Wisdom determines how powerful a spell a votary can cast, how many spells she can cast per day, and how hard those spells are to resist. A high Constitution score improves a votary’s hit points, and a high Charisma score improves her ability to turn undead.
Alignment: A votary’s alignment must be within one step of her deity’s.
Hit Die: d10
The votary’s class skills are Concentration, Craft, Diplomacy, Heal, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (religion), Knowledge (the planes), Profession, and Spellcraft.
Domains and Class Skills: Some domains offer additional skills to be included in the class skill list. See the domain descriptions for details.
Skill Points at 1st Level: (2 + Int modifier) x 4.
Skill Points at Each Additional Level: 2 + Int modifier.
See the class features for the cleric in the Player’s Handbook, with the following changes and additions:
Weapon and Armor Proficiency:
Votaries no longer wade headlong into battle, though most of them will not shy away from danger. They are proficient with all simple weapons, small firearms, and light armor. Victorian votaries no longer lay as much emphasis on the chosen weapons of their gods, though a few appreciate such weapons as symbols of their devotion. A cleric who chooses the War domain receives the Weapon Focus feat related to that weapon.
Deities, Domains, and Domain Spells: Choose a deity for your votary. If you are Christian, you will also choose a denomination or organization. Options are listed in the chapter on religion. Every votary must choose some religious affiliation. Otherwise, domains work exactly as with traditional clerics.
Bonus Languages: A votary’s bonus language options include Latin as well as Celestial, Abyssal, and Infernal (the languages of good, chaotic evil, and lawful evil outsiders, respectively.) These languages are in addition to the bonus languages available to her because of her nationality.
Divine Protection: Picking a fight with one of God’s chosen favorites is a difficult undertaking. When an adversary targets a votary, a sense of foreboding involuntarily stays his hand, at least for a few moments. The adversary’s initiative is reduced by his opponent’s votary level, to a minimum of one. He may not change his target in order to avoid the delay, but once his turn comes around again, he may change his action. However, if he already took other actions on his original initiative, such as a five-foot step before attempting the blow, he may only take as many actions as are left to him.
Divine Vengeance: Whoever gets the killing blow in against a votary might get more trouble than he bargained for. The killer must roll a d20. If he rolls higher than his victim’s votary level, her god either wasn’t paying attention or decided to turn the other cheek. If the roll is lower than or equal to her votary level, the killer has just brought the wrath of God upon himself. What form this wrath will take depends upon the god and, perhaps, the circumstances. Some lawful gods have precise and unvarying punishments laid out for votary-killers. For example, any killer of a 2nd level votary of Deus ex Mechanus will inevitably shoot himself in the foot the next time he handles a gun. Gods of chaos are, naturally, far less predictable. Aphrodite might turn one killer into a rabbit, make the next one impotent, and give the third an allergy to feathers. Fortunately, chaotic gods are fickle, and their curses tend not to last. The exact nature of a curse is entirely up to the DM, though they tend to have some resonance with the god in question. Killers of Christian votaries tend to find themselves in poverty, covered in boils, wrongfully imprisoned, or the like.
Divine Vengeance can be evaded. The only common method is to bring the votary back to life, before her god uncorks. The next-most common method is to repent and immediately convert to her religion, denomination, and alignment. The bards describe various stories in which this occurs, always with the penitent converting to the religion of the bard’s audience. Most such stories are probably apocryphal, but the technique does work. The final option for evasion is to kill the offended god. This has happened twice in history.
A votary who grossly violates the code of conduct required by her god (generally by acting in ways opposed to the god’s alignment or purposes) loses all spells and class features, except for weapon and armor proficiencies unrelated to the War domain. She cannot thereafter gain levels as a votary of her god until she atones.