The Complete Priest’s Handbook is a weird one. It is much more interested in roleplaying than you might expect, for one. There is much discussion of theology and how manifest religion works in a fantasy world. The divine spheres, introduced in the Player’s Handbook, are here fleshed out into generic, archetypal priesthoods. There is much noise about community responsibilities and the social function of priests. Even the kits feel more like expressions of theology than trade, and come equipped with logical restrictions in exchange for small power increases.

Back when this first came out, I though all of this was a drag, kind of dull and amounted to making priests less fun to play. I am not sure I have changed my mind on that, really. Partly because D&D rarely makes room for the sort of roleplaying that underpins the design here. Partly because the generic approach is…generic. A lot of the theology is probably sound, but without specificity it feels unmoored and weightless. Compare to the extremely specific religious societies in RuneQuest. I LOVE that stuff, but a lot of that love comes from the same place as my love of mythology in general — it’s a love of storytelling. PHBR3 is a framework FOR storytelling, which probably makes it a powerful tool. Just one I am not particularly interested in.

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