Clerics represent how the desire to limit change to the existing settings and/or establish a distinctive setting identity limited roleplay possibilities.
The settings that SJ connected to have dozens, and in some cases, hundreds of gods. They limited clerics ability to get spells if the sphere they were visiting didn’t contain a following of that god. There are workarounds —You could store spell levels in a portable alter, worship a pantheon or the gods of a plane to increase your chances of finding a god belonging to it in that sphere, or worship Celestian or Ptah, both of which allow clerics to get spells as long as they are not on a planet. Therefore you are going to get lots of clerics of pantheons, planes and Celestian and Ptah, but not much else.
I think this is a great missed opportunity. First off, it makes it much harder to bring groundling clerics into SJ. This makes it harder for players to scoop up groundling NPCs they encounter on the way, or to transition from groundling games to SJ. Secondly it limits the number of religions present in SJ, which I don’t think is a good thing.
You have a culture made from the bits and pieces of a thousand other cultures from a hundred worlds. I think of Lankmar’s Street of Gods, with a selection of constantly changing temples from all over the world, many with only a few followers. Another model would be Lin Carter’s Gondwane Epic with its innumerable religions, cults and heresies from 900 millennia of civilization. Both have the feeling of a mishmash of different things, which I think is what Spelljammer should feel like. Also this would open up religions to more abstract things like the Church of the Silver flame or the Ancestor Worship of the elves in Eberron.
The easiest way to encourage this would be to take a page from Eberron and remove the gods as anthropomorphic entities. None of the faiths can be proven to be correct, so a multitude of conflicting religions exist, coexisting, clashing, getting spells no matter what. This matches the riot of colour I see in my head, which would be more similar to what we see in the first episode of Firefly, the Star Wars cantina scene. Luke, a groundling walks into a wild space bar and is just stunned by the riot of different people and colours. There are many ways to do this, but I think the easiest starting point is religion.
THIS is the Spelljammer I want to play in.
Until Next Time: Stay Geeky.