And this doesn't really feel satisfying to me. I feel it needs something more distinct.
I think what can best define Clerics is that they are a go-between, a middle man. They are a medium between People and that which is inaccessible to them. This can encompass everything from history to the divine to the un-explainable to science.
The Cleric, more so than other classes, is defined by how they interact with other people. This is also what differentiates them from other magical ilk - say, an ascetic, or a wizard, who don't need (or want) to mediate their knowledge for the advancement of others.
After all, what's the difference between a Cleric who doesn't share their talents, and a Wizard? Spell selection? Armor and weapons? How they acquire their magic? The first two are subjective on the game system, and usually there's enough overlap to muddy the waters. The third one happens "off screen" and has virtually no impact on play.
My point is that there should be a more concrete distinction.
To that end...
Divine Domains are how the gods of the campaign interface with the world. Clerical Domains are how the Cleric interfaces society with the unknowable, the complex, or the divine.
Clerical Domains should be more important for play than Divine Domains, because Clerical Domains describe how the Cleric interacts with NPCs and the other Players.
Divine Domains are great and all, but they don't really tell you what your cleric does, only what their god lords over. So here's a table for what your cleric does.
I wanted to make this a d12 or d20 table, but failed. Some of these domains can be endlessly split or combined, but I said 'fuck it' and stopped worrying halfway through making it.
What Is Your Cleric All About?
The Cleric Mediates Between People And...
The Not-Present, Not-Here.
Augury, scrying, foresight
The Virtues of Orthodoxy
Being clean and making others so
Their Logical Lack of Trust
Upholding and remembering oaths and oathbreakers
Other People Across Space and Time
Record keeping, cataloging, library diving
Knowing and utilizing rituals
Secret Society Leader
Talking to ghosts, animals, rocks.
Speaks With Literally Everything Cleric
Knowing the way and the journey
Interment of corpses, cremations, funerals
Initiation rituals, education
The Endless Machinations of Man
Record keeping, loophole engineering
Divine Tax Man
To facilitate this role of the Cleric as a medium between the unknowable and the layfolk (all non-Clerics, essentially), I think the best procedure is to subtly encourage in-character dialogue between the Cleric and everyone else. Some ideas to do this without being heavy-handed:
Secret DM Communication
This is why I think secret communication between the DM and the Cleric player is critical. When everyone at the table has access to what the Cleric knows (usually by the DM telling the results of the Cleric's doings in front of the whole table) it shortcuts the interaction between the Cleric and the other players. This translation of information is valuable to the Cleric's role as medium.
This can be applied to all classes, of course, but I feel it's more important for clerics than others.
More than the other domains, I feel like this is where the Cleric shines best, especially in OSR games with a high PC drop rate. Taking care of the recently dead is a responsibility best done with a focused light at the table. It can have a functional impact on play, too. Like:
- Character who had a proper funeral don't rise as undead the next full moon.
- Those who witnessed a death are physically stained until they reconcile with it by purification.
- Funerals are great for networking with NPCs.