In this month's exclusive interview, designer David Noonan and the development team behind Complete Divine discuss what's holier than thou, what it means to keep the faith, and what's simply divine.
Wizards of the Coast: What's the key selling point of Complete Divine for players who already have the Player's Handbook to inspire their devout PCs?
David Noonan:Complete Divine is chock-full of ways to enrich the relationship between a character and his or her deity -- whether the character is a cleric or not. The deity is more than just a conduit for spells (although the book has a lot of spells, too). For the character, a deity can provide guidance, a code of conduct, and a way of relating to the game world. For the DM, a deity and its worshipers can help the PCs, send them off on adventures -- and sometimes try to thwart their plans.
Wizards: Though the credits indicate that some of the content came from Dragon magazine, Defenders of the Faith, and Faiths and Pantheons, much of it is brand-new. What material has even the most die-hard D&D player has never seen before?
David: Relics are new. They're a set of faith-powered magic items that fall somewhere between standard magic items and full-on artifacts. Steadfast allegiance to your deity gives you access to relics -- you can't just find them in a treasure chest somewhere.
Mike Donais: The spirit shaman is a new druidlike base class with a whole new way of choosing spells -- the shaman's spells come off of the druid list, and every morning he or she contacts the spirits that the shaman will need during the day. After that, the character can spontaneously cast the spells that he or she chose during that daily contact.
Rich Baker: Yes, the biggest new piece might, indeed, be the spirit shaman class. It's an interesting D&D spin on the traditional concept of the shaman. To the shaman, spirits aren't just incorporeal undead -- many monsters such as elementals and fey fall within the shaman's concept of nature spirits, and therefore can be affected by his powers.
Wizards: With seven distinctive parts to the book -- The Devoted, Prestige Classes, Supplemental Rules, Magic Items, Deities, The Divine World, and Domains and Spells -- it seems like the work might be easily divided among designers and developers. What was your approach to preparing this material and bringing it up to the current high standards of D&D 3.5?
David: In each section, we first decided what we wanted to pick up from previous D&D sources such as Defenders of the Faith and Faiths and Pantheons. That meant a lot of meetings and a lot of feedback from the fans. Then, especially for the spells, we looked for niches we hadn't filled yet. For example, there's a lot of design space left for high-level druid and cleric spells, so we tilted the balance of the spell list a little toward the upper levels.
Wizards: Prestige classes are a favorite element of many players. Of the numerous options included in The Complete Divine, which prestige classes do you find the most intriguing?
Rich: It's a little narcissistic, but I like the black flame zealot. I designed it for the Unapproachable East, a Forgotten Realms sourcebook, and it's great to see it picked up and adapted for core D&D. It's a fun prestige class for fanatic evil cultists, and everybody can use some more of those, can't they?
David: I'm also fond of the black flame zealot. It's also a good prestige class for players who want to play the formerly evil guy looking for redemption. I also like the mechanical changes made to the sacred fist -- the class functions much more smoothly now.
Andy Collins: I really like the holy liberator, and have since its first appearance in Defenders of the Faith. The temple raider of Olidammara is a fun class for Indiana-Jones-style play.
Wizards: When introducing new deities, did you find it difficult to update and incorporate the gods from the World of Greyhawk campaign setting? That setting has been around for a long time -- does it lend itself to such updates?
David: There's such a wealth of Greyhawk deities -- dozens and dozens of them -- that we still haven't revisited them all. I think that's one of the reasons that Greyhawk has aged so well: It's so broad and all-encompassing.
Andy: To me, the key to updating older material is boiling it down to its essence, then reworking it mechanically for a new system. Sometimes, a tweak is necessary to fit an older deity into a clear niche, but that's usually a pretty minor change.
Wizards: Once upon a time, D&D received fairly steady scrutiny for its 'religious' inclusions. Do you feel that this scrutiny has passed? When working on Complete Divine, did you ever find yourself wondering, 'Hmmm, what kind of reaction is this going to get?'
David: I don't think there'll be a reaction from non-gamers. We stay away from major real-world religions for obvious reasons, and we do offer more options for PCs who don't want to worship a god. You can be a cleric of an entire pantheon or a cleric devoted to abstract principles rather than a specific supernatural entity.
Rich: I think we're past that now. As Dave said, we're avoiding major living religions these days, so I think we've moved religion in D&D well into the realm of imagination. There's nothing in Complete Divine that is any more sensitive than the existence of the cleric class or the Greyhawk pantheon in the Player's Handbook.
Wizards: What did you have to leave out of Complete Divine? Are there areas you'd intended to explore but couldn't, for space, time, or complexity reasons?
Dave: I'm fond of the relics, and of the new 'worshiper-focused' write-ups for the core D&D deities. If you gave me another 100 pages, I'd probably split it equally among prestige classes, spells, magic items, and all-new deities.
Wizards: Each of you contributes quite a bit to D&D in general -- do you ever get your lines crossed while working on a project, given how many you obviouslyhave in design or under development at one time? And what are you working on now?
Andy: I find the ability to work on multiple projects exciting -- it keeps me from getting too bogged down in any one topic. And as a member of the development team, I work on most core D&D projects in some capacity. I served as lead developer on Planar Handbook and Races of Stone, both due out this summer.
David: The next thing people will see with my name on it is Races of Stone, a sourcebook for dwarves, gnomes, and an all-new character race.
Rich: I'm working on a product for 2005 that I can't discuss yet.
Mike: Just as I finished working on Complete Divine, I began my next project: CompleteArcane. As I'm a big fan of arcane spellcasters, this was my favorite Complete book so far. I also continue my work on D&DMiniatures.