D&D Did You Know’s: The God That Grants Access to All Divine Spells (AD&D 2E)

One of my favorite aspects of AD&D 2nd Edition was its introduction of specialty priests.

Specialty priests were essentially religion-specific sub-classes of clerics. While they still used the cleric XP table, and usually the same save progression, Hit Die, and THAC0 (though exceptions existed), most everything else varied depending on which god they served. Proficiencies earned, allowable weapons and armor, granted powers, and access to spells all varied for each type of specialty priest, sometimes wildly. While not always balanced, these were always flavorful, and went a long way to making each religion unique in a way that the generic cleric didn’t (though I’ll note that the religion-specific cleric kits found in FOR10 Warriors and Priests of the Realms helped make the cleric a lot less generic).

It’s the issue of spell access that’s worth further discussion here. In AD&D 2E, cleric spells were grouped into arrangements called “spheres.” Similar to wizard schools such as enchantment or necromancy (and indeed, divine spells also had those listings as well), spheres were thematic groupings of spells, such as Animal, Combat, Summoning, Weather, or quite a few others (with the Tome of Magic adding several more when it was released). Different gods granted access to different spheres, with that access denoted as being “minor” (only granting spells of levels 1-3 in that sphere) or “major” (granting access to all levels of spells in that sphere).

Naturally, this leads one to ask which gods are most generous with which spheres they offer their specialty priests; after all, while there are other salient considerations when looking at specialty priest abilities, spell access is a rather large one. And if you flip through Legends & Lore, you’ll find that the various deities there have a notable range in what spheres they grant, with one in particular being generous to an unbelievable degree.

On a brief read-through, you might think that was Ometeotl of the Aztec pantheon, whose sphere listing says “all.” However, that’s not the case. In fact, “All” is the name of a single specific sphere, one that grants a comparatively small series of spells which are considered to be universal for most divine spellcasters (“most” because it excludes rangers and paladins, who are essentially warriors with a smattering of specialized spells). Even if you look at the listing for the All sphere in the final volume of the Priest’s Spell Compendium, which collects divine spells from a wide variety of AD&D 2nd Edition resources, the number of that spells that sphere offers are few in number, meaning that specialty priests of Ometeotl actually don’t receive many spells overall.

The same cannot be said for specialty priests of Quetzalcoatl, also of the Aztec pantheon, however. That god’s entry states that his specialty priests receive access to any sphere! Unlike with All, “any” isn’t a name of a particular sphere, meaning that Quetzalcoatl’s specialty priests apparently do receive access (and major access at that, since the book’s use of an asterisk (*) to indicate minor access isn’t used there) to any sphere they want!

It’s interesting to consider why this was done. The text of Legends & Lore gives Quetzalcoatl a messianic presentation, noting that he’s preparing to return and confront the evil deity who forced him away from the land of his worshipers – so this is possibly in service to that, as it gives his specialty priests a considerable edge – though this posits something more akin to a “fantasy Earth” than the wider AD&D multiverse. Indeed, it’s notable that AD&D 2nd Edition sources that contextualize various deities as part of the Great Wheel cosmology, such as On Hallowed Ground, make no mention of the Aztec pantheon.

Still, given that the original presentation of this god mandated that his worshipers be good-aligned (the god himself is Chaotic Good), and could use any type of weapon (and a comparatively-light restriction on armor, being limited to non-metal armors only), along with use of a whispering wind-like power and modest ability to turn undead, PCs inclined to play divine spellcasters could do worse than to play a specialty priest of Quetzalcoatl!

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