Starting a Priest: Levels 1-4

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Priests command some of the greatest moral authority and community organization available on Earth. However, priests are not good at hand-to-hand combat, cannot use military grade weapons, and must wear the cloth to access their greatest class abilities.

You should play a priest if you want to stand at the front of mighty congregations exhorting them to spiritually correct behavior, baptize catechumen into the faith, creatively interpret the Bible, and turn ordinary crackers into the flesh of Christ. You should not play a priest if you’re looking for a heavy hitter who can wade into fields of enemies without the direct intervention of the Lord or somebody who can top the damage per second charts— that’s not the priest’s job. You should also think about whether you want to be a part of an established authority structure, willing to settle down and play in one location for level after level. Free roaming spirits who want to minister without license should consider being druids or monks instead.

Interested in a Priest? Then let’s get started!

It is not possible to concentrate wholly on priest for the first four levels. Priests can start almost anywhere in the world, from ghettoes and back alleys to the mansions of the rich. In order to prepare adequately for the challenges of the seminary you will want to do a fair number of local quests— putting away abandoned shopping carts, winning NASCAR races, giving a rival gang what for, sex and parenthood, or military intervention in a foreign country— before you take up the full mantle of your calling.

That said, every priest will find a divine messenger carrying their Calling somewhere near them in the starting zone.

The messenger’s spiel goes something like this: the world is out of order, there is a source of transcendent light, could you find your place in society disseminating that light into an emanation of order and virtue? Afterwards, answer, “Yes,” “Three,” “One,” “Three,” and either “Faith” or “Works” depending on your desired faction and build. (Faith is ideal for priests who want to command moral authority and chastise the unbelievers, but Works is better for a community-organization-focused priest. You’ll have a chance to revisit this choice later at a modest cost in moral currency, so it’s not absolutely important to get it right. I recommend, for early leveling, that you pick Faith, but plenty of high-end priests disagree.)

This opens up a series of quests that focus on the recognition that ignoring your calling in favor of material advancement cannot effectively facilitate the dissemination of the transcendent experience into ordinary social order. At second level you will need to collect tokens of social esteem and virtue and then cast them away into the wind while standing on a gothic knoll. I like to do this in combination with one of the other local quests, but if there isn’t an obvious collection quest, it is probably easiest to collect wealth. Do work in exchange for small bits of paper and coinage until you reach the target. If you’re having trouble getting the small bits of paper and coinage, it’s efficient to steal it (re-rolling a new character if you get caught) or shift to acquiring compliance. When you’re done selling your soul for money or crushing it in the name of compliance, start looking in nearby parks and parking structures for a gothic knoll. These form randomly in nature and also appear anywhere a gnoll has been killed. Stand on the knoll and dramatically release the paper or click on your accumulated compliance. This should get you quest completion for recognizing the legitimacy of your calling. Return to your divine messenger and have a short conversation; this time, answer, “Why me, Lord?” and “But I wanted an exciting career as a medical and dental assistant!”

Enjoy the short cutscene and return to NASCAR races, gang fights, moon landings, sexual encounters, or teaching chickens to fly as appropriate to your starting area and interests.

As you start to run out of ordinary local quests the spiritual pressure on you will probably increase; to wit, you’re not a high enough level for nearby zones but you’re running out of things to do in this one. Also there will be a pervasive sense of something wrong in the world matched by a growing fire in your heart to be of service to it. When the fire is about halfway up the heart (just before the second aorta), return to the messenger for your final pre-seminary quest.

This is the challenge of humility. Are you really good enough to be a priest? Are you just trying to make yourself feel important or do you actually have a calling to serve?

In this quest you will have to venture into an abandoned cemetery where servants of Self-Justification and Virtue are at war. (See graphic.) The goal is to claim twelve tombstones, after which the cemetery will become “owned” by the winning faction and the curs of Self-Justification or the brilliant angels of Virtue will be chased away howling with their tails between their legs.

First off, don’t panic should this struggle go against you. The cemetery is “instanced” off from the rest of the world, so that nobody will ever believe you were really there. (Like Narnia.) This means that there will be little in the way of tangible reward for your struggle against temptation, but it also means that if you lose, you’ll be able to go right back in and find things the way they were before. Spiritual struggles are mostly like this, allowing for a “soft reset” and a return to the enlightened path.

Second, don’t try to take the servants of Self-Justification on head on. You’re not built for hand-to-hand combat and shouldn’t try to play that way. Plus, they’re not actually demonic: they’re people just like yourself who lost their way and now haunt abandoned cemeteries nobody believes in arguing on behalf of Self-Justification until they lose or suffer a reset. They’re not able to admit their suffering, but that’s no reason to compound it by beating their head in with a holy water sprinkler. Instead, your goal should be to stealth past them to strategic tombstones and claim them on behalf of Virtue. The exception is if you’ve taken a quest that requires some number of Self-Justifying mouths, tongues, hearts, or ears. These quests are common in the NASCAR and moon landing sequences and might force you to bend your class role a bit in the name of sweet, sweet xps.

The way I like to do it is this.

First, stop at the entry gate to talk to the leader of Self-Justification. He’ll explain that God has chosen you as someone who can know what is right, and that therefore the elimination of self-doubt is a holy work. Tell him that you will consider his argument. This will make the curs peaceful until you actually claim a tombstone for Virtue.

At this point you can look around for a few minutes—get a sense of the layout of the place, identify the features that I’m going to talk about, and generally brace yourself for the struggle that is to come. Then go to Auntie Guinness’ gravestone and listen to the ramblings of her spirit.

When you get a chance, interrupt her with, “I cannot accept that ghosts exist.”

She will continue talking for a bit.

Offer, “Given that all of that is true, it is my certain belief that a spirit like yourself is peaceably in Heaven, eternally embraced by rapture, joy, love, and so forth.”

She will protest.

Say, “Not like an amoeba, ma’am. Simply disconnected from the concerns of life as we understand them. The amoeba thing is a canard promulgated by the unicellular Devil, sinisterly bulging the cilia of amoebic pride.”

This will give you the opportunity to claim the stone.

Now the battle begins in earnest. If you claim the stone for Virtue, then you are now at war with the faction of Self-Justification. If you claim it for Self-Justification, then you shall be hounded fiercely by the bright angels of Virtue until they scourge you from the graves. (Don’t do this; it’s harder to make up the faction loss for fighting the bright angels of Virtue than it is to replace their various cool drops. You’ll have the opportunity to pick up a proper halo at level 20 and don’t need to scavenge one from the severed head of an angel and have it forever drip with blood. Plus, the swords are not actually fiery when you wield them, which is ridiculous but, well, how it works.)

There’s generally a clear path across the sward to Lassie’s tombstone. (This is probably named after the famous dog—if you go down the nearby well you’ll find the bones of somebody that she couldn’t save.) Claim it quickly for Virtue and move on to the main mausoleum before you get caught.

At the main mausoleum you’ll hit your first real spiritual challenge since you came to the abandoned graveyard. This is the confrontation with the renegade subcommander of Virtue. He’s arguing with one of the curs, and theoretically your job here is to step up to the plate and explain that the Calling is something you strive to be worthy of instead of something that generates worth. At this point you’ll be attacked by three of the curs in a battle royale.

Let’s not do that.

Instead, while they’re talking and before they bring you into the matter, sneak around behind the cur of Self-Justification and shove him into the renegade subcommander of Virtue. PUSH! This should entangle them in an embarrassing tete-a-tete and allow you to claim the mausoleum before they can work out how to explain it to their respective overlords. Head southeast, sneaking from grave to grave and converting them as fast as you can, and if all goes well the angels will get seven or eight gravestones to the curs’ four or five.

If you need parts, like I’ve said, this might get a little more complicated. You’ll have to learn how to pull.

Pulling is often a priest’s job in the late game because priests are extremely good at calling out individual monsters and making them uncomfortable. The Crypts of Rome are dominated by priest pullers and really any time you can’t get a U.S. Army Ranger and you’re not facing sociopaths or social activists a priest is going to be your best bet.

Stop behind a tombstone. Look in all directions to make sure that you are not about to be surprised by self-justification. (A lot of people can’t do this part right and then they complain about the guide. No. People, it’s not me. It’s you.) (Like that.) Wait for a patrol of curs to come past and identify a straggler—one whose self-justifications are not adequately affirmed by the others in the pack. This is generally someone at the bottom of the social ranking and therefore most vulnerable to the assaults of virtue.

When the straggler is closer to you than to the pack, step out and Disseminate Legitimacy. The holy light that passes down from God through various higher-level authorities to you will shine out and aggravate the cur, causing it to charge. Quickly fall back behind the tombstone and break the line of argument between you and self-justification and prepare for the fight of your life.

Fights in the real world are based on the assumption that every priest will have a magnate of some sort to serve as the corresponding temporal authority and a number of unruly associates such as commandoes, grocers, and ladies of the evening to gloriously serve as the base of their heavenly hierarchy. In practice, since this is a starter instance, you can make do with a single grocer or even your baby nephew Steve, but if you’re on your own, you’re facing a snarling ball of hair, teeth, and grace-because-I-damn-well-say-so with nothing more than a crucifix and a fragile sense of moral legitimacy. So you’re probably asking yourself: what can I do? What would Jesus do?

Well, as a priest, ultimately, you’re going to have to decide that for yourself, unless you get it wrong and they beat it out of you in seminary. You could just fight it out: the curs aren’t all that tough. Or you could try to cast the demon out of them: you’re not an accredited priest yet, but many starting quests offer you the legal authority to perform exorcisms. But what I do in a case like this is “kite.”

Curs are slow—slower than you are, slower than treaclists, slower than the Vatican deciding somebody not John Paul is a saint. Engage, hit them a couple of times with your Bible, fists, or special abilities, and back away around the gravestone before their self-justification bar fills. With luck, their attack will fail and you’ll have done some damage. You’re that much closer to victory! Rinse and repeat for a few rounds round the gravestone and you’ll be the proud owner of a few pennies or nickels and a self-justifying mouth, tongue, lips, or heart. You’ve also killed the first of the thousands of morally significant creatures you’ll be slaughtering on your road to become a priest.

Is it murder or spiritual advancement to kill a creature representing sin? The traditional answer is that it is two substantive realities in one ousia, a moral crucible born of the sin of Adam, a thematically relevant element of the leveling process that ensures that no one may do good without sinning and that only grace redeems.

Another answer is that it’s a broken mechanic; a lot of players prefer to skip all murderous quests entirely when playing priest and eat that, ye sin of Adam.

In any case, completing the spiritual journey should make it possible to reach fourth level without significantly venturing out of your starting zone. Congratulations on your Transubstantiation Skill and it’s off to the seminary for you! Female Catholic priests, make sure to stop at the statue of Pope Joan before you enter—she’ll give you the disguise you’ll need in order to get in!

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