A bit of fun historical trivia for your Dungeons & Dragons cleric – both gaming history and history history:
In earlier editions of D&D, clerics were typically proficient only with bludgeoning weapons, with the rationale being that clerics aren’t supposed to shed blood. Further, this rule was often claimed to be inspired actual, historical dicta issued by the medieval Catholic Church governing the conduct of their clergy.
Historically, it’s true that the medieval Church did, at various times, issue rules against members of the clergy owning and wielding weapons of war. These rules were issued because many priests and bishops were also wealthy landowners, and often became involved in military entanglements with other landowners – and at least some of those priests and bishops weren’t satisfied with leading from the rear. Many were apparently very keen on getting their hands dirty in person, and had to be firmly reminded that it’s not great optics for a bishop to be out there lopping people’s heads off.
However, there’s no historical evidence that any priests ever tried to work around those rules by restricting themselves to blunt weapons in order to avoid shedding blood. This is not surprising; for one, Church dicta against priests getting involved in combat weren’t always phrased in terms of bloodshed, and even when they were, nobody could reasonably claim that bashing someone’s head in with a mace doesn’t shed blood! Even so, the idea of priests wielding blunt weapons in order to avoid violating rules against shedding blood is not a modern invention; it’s basically a thousand-year-old urban legend.
Now here’s the twist: some martially inclined priests did make a point of carrying staves or rods in battle, but not for that reason. The preponderance of evidence suggests that it wasn’t about avoiding bloodshed, but about plausible deniability: a staff or rod could reasonably be claimed to be a symbol of office rather than a weapon, and rules against participating in battle typically didn’t rule out simply being present at a battle in order to rally the troops.
So, you know, if you were a priest or a bishop who preferred the personal touch, and somebody was like “we literally caught you on an active battlefield carrying what is clearly a weapon”, you could be all hey, this isn’t a mace, it’s a rod, and it’s a symbol of your ecclesiastic authority. You were present at that battle purely to lend moral support to your side’s troops – and if you just happened to be approached by hostile soldiers, and consequently were obliged to bash their heads in with this heavy metal rod that you just happened to have on your person, well, that’s unfortunate, but self-defence is self-defence, right?
From this,we can take away two things:
1. The tradition of rules-lawyering is embedded in the game’s historical inspirations just as much as its own history.
2. The fact that you’re playing a respectable cleric doesn’t mean you can’t be just awful.