So another update from Wizards of the Coast for their Unearthed Arcana column has revealed that between Jeremy Crawford and Mike Mearls, there was a great need for playtest material to be churned and processed by the community. The implications could suggest that Wizards is pushing forward to release possibly another Player’s Handbook. It was suggested back in the previous Ranger Revision 2.0 earlier in September that the proposed revision could be implemented in a future product.
In a small intro for the new Cleric domains, the duo emphasize a greater need for community feedback which seems logical if there will indeed be a future product with new class options. The demand for more class options is rabid to say the least within the community, with demand for more monster stats and spells trailing closely behind. Along with the new Cleric playtest materials, they even implemented a new survey for the new Bard archetypes presented recently. Again, all of this is pure speculation but not without reasonable impressions brought on by recent behaviors from Wizards. Let’s break into the review first, shall we?
What Comes Inside
Well the new Cleric material (which can be found here) offers 3 new Domains for the Cleric. All three Domains focused on particular themes that players have been clamoring for since the initial release of the Cleric. The Forge domain focuses on crafting, forging, metallurgy, and art which fits for various deities from the Forgotten Realms, especially Gond and Moradin. The Grave domain was the Death domain but more focused on the process of death and combating against undeath, which fits Kelemvor and Jergal. The Protection domain was a main stay domain choice during the heyday of 3.5 Edition and through Pathfinder.
The Forge Domain – The Tinkerer’s true domain
In most cosmologies, there are often deities of invention or crafting, or even for art. While in the early days of the 5th Edition ruleset, it was necessary for the mechanics to simply play along with flavor and flavor to take a partial backseat between form and functionality. Many deities who fell under the portfolio of invention, metalcraft, or crafting in general were previously shoved off to the Knowledge or Light domain Cleric options from the Player’s Handbook. At 1st level, a Forge Cleric gains heavy armor proficiency and between long rests can imbue a nonmagical weapon or piece of armor to be a +1 armor or weapon. It’s a powerful boost especially when magic items normally do not come into play that early during an adventure, but it can make a world of difference during those early levels.
The Artisan’s Blessing is quite unique and offers a variety of options outside of combat, since it does utilize a short rest to complete the ritual. Need to copy that master-key and have your rogue return it without anyone noticing? Channel Divinity it. Need to create a lock on a door before the party commits to a long rest? Channel Divinity it. Need a new weapon because your previous one broke? Channel Divinity it. Need parts for a wagon? Why not, Channel Divinity it? There are some really interesting potential and keeping it to a specific monetary limit allows the DM to moderate what can and cannot be made through this feature.
By 6th and 8th level, the Forge Cleric becomes a force to be reckoned with, gaining a bonus to AC while wearing medium or heavy armor, becoming resistant to fire damage (the most abundant damage type in spells), and having a special affinity to breaking constructs.
The capstone at 17th level grants immunity to fire damage and resistance to nonmagical bludgeoning, slashing, and piercing damage while wearing heavy armor. All of this is quite powerful, especially since immunity to any damage grants this particular cleric a greater survivability than compared to others.
Overall the domain fits the flavor better than compared to other suggested domains for such deities and portfolios. There is great potential that this domain cleric might do well as a tank character, and having access to spells like elemental weapon will make this cleric quite potent against creatures with elemental resistances.
The Grave Domain – the good guy’s version of the Death Domain
Clerics of this particular domain act as wardens between life and death, through most of D&D’s history with death and clerics that serve deities of this particular portfolio there was always a need to distinguish between death and the dead. Death is the process itself while the dead were the result of the process, and undeath was the force and mechanism that violated the process of death. This particular domain focuses on the process and making sure to keep the dead where they belong, six feet under. While the Dungeon Master’s Guide did provide a Death domain for villain NPCs, players felt that it was truly closer of a fit for villains and less so for PCs.
Starting at 1st level, this particular can maximize their healing spells on targets with 0 hit points, cast spare the dying as a bonus action, and can spend time to feel for the presence of undead (like a ranger). Talk about powerful abilities out of the gate, it forces the cleric to focus less on healing and remedying the party of their wounds during combat and focus more on the aftermath instead. There are times when clerics have to judge whether to heal the party or do something proactive like damage. So while the cleric still needs to make that choice with this domain, the knowledge that they can efficiency gain the most out of their spells when a player reaches 0 changes the playstyle and group interactions. The undead tracking is very similar to the rangers albeit slight different since it gives more precise information while focusing only one particular type of enemy. These features fit well for a party heading to an undead infested campaign, but even without too much undead encounters, the utilization with spare the dying as a bonus action is quite handy along with the healing.
This domain’s channel divinity is probably the most impactful feature that rivals the other domain options, by using an action and touching the target, the next source of damage is virtually doubled. That is quite powerful, especially if the cleric is right before a wizard or sorcerer ready to unleash a fireball or lightning bolt. Impressively this feature can remove resistances or immunities for the one instance. Granted it still requires the cleric to touch the target which makes it challenging to affect creatures that can fly or evade close range but it’s still quite a potent ability. Thankfully it only works for the next source of damage, so while its powerful for this domain cleric to burn through all their Channel Divinity charges it can be problematic down the road if there happens to be a horde undead to contend with as well.
Sentinel at Death’s Door is a useful combat feature, the feature may sometimes feel wasteful if your DM does not score a critical hit often. My playgroup would love this feature since my average dice roll defies math. Changing a critical hit to a normal hit also matters when dealing with creatures with added effects on crits.
Keeper of Souls is a thematically appealing as well as provide the Cleric a bit of utility when the party already does one thing: kill creatures. Thankfully this feature can only used while the Cleric is conscious and only once per round. I really enjoy this feature, it does not use any actions or reactions and simply gives hit points based on enemy hit dice, which at this point in the game is rather marginal. Here’s why: by the time the cleric gains this feature, most enemies range from 15-20 hit dice on average, which means at most a player character would get that much hit points healed. Granted it can make a difference but around this tier of encounters, the damage dealt on average is somewhere between 20 to 40 damage depending on the creature and whether or not multiattack is applicable. Spellcasting enemies are the largest variance, including them, the damage range increases to 40 to 60 damage per hit.
Overall, this has a very “reaper” theme that seems to emanate from this design. I love it. The features seem powerful out of the gate but are toned down enough to fit the theme of the domain very eloquently. The idea from this domain is really that the cleric has a final say and control to when their allies meet death if anything else.
Protection Domain – “I’ll Protect you!”
The Protection domain has had a weird issue with usefulness and purpose, but this particular domain has one of the largest in variety of interpretation. Many deities of good that seek to protect the weak and demand such behaviors from their followers are numerous from Helm, Tyr, and Torm from the Forgotten Realms, to St. Cuthbert in Greyhawk, or Paladine in Krynn. The domain has embodied the concept of a champion of the strong that protects their allies and the weak, unlike some other iterations of the domain, this one felt the least optimized but I think that comes with the territory of where this domain wants to go. Protecting allies does not mean you’re always going to have to sacrifice consistent damage potential.
The spell choices seem reasonable with the domain, especially with things like guardian of faith and wall of force, the domain’s Shield of the Faithful feature grants them the benefits similar to the Protection fighting style but without the need of a shield. This is honestly better than the fighting style altogether.
The Radiant Defense for Channel Divinity is quite useful but does little to really emphasize the “protection” feel. You already take an action to “bless” your ally and then the first time they are hit by an attack within the next minute, the attack takes 2d10+your cleric level in radiant damage. So at 20th level, the defense deals 2d10+20 damage which averages to 30 damage for an instance of damage. This feature feels a little underwhelming since it does little to actually protect an ally and really just incentivizes being struck instead. I believe that it would work better as a reaction instead OR that the damage be smaller and consistent for that 1 minute. This allows the Protection Cleric to spread their Channel Divinity around to tanks and even more vulnerable characters.
The Blessed Healer feature is really just something copied from the Life domain and while it does fit from a combat perspective it feels more tacked on than anything else.
For the capstone, the Indomitable Defense is quite unique with the ability to select from a small list of damage types. The cleric has resistance to the damage types until the cleric finishes a short or long rest, But added bonus comes with the ability to grant an ally these resistances temporarily but the cleric loses the benefits. The cleric can transfer the benefits back to themselves with a bonus action, so there are some usefulness of this feature though it still feels underwhelming at times. I would preferred something grander, thinking back to 3.5 edition, this same domain was able to cast prismatic wall as a spell. I feel that this feature needs a bit more push, I would even say that transferring the benefits of this feature should be within the space of a bonus action either way.
While it’s a welcome site to see this domain finally get some written form, there are still some need to incentivize entry into this particular option. The capstone seems underwhelming, and the Channel Divinity also feels clunky due to its need to be an action and the damage output. I want to see this option return with some modifications and eventually in a future product.
The first two of the three new cleric domains seem very thematically attuned, the capstones are not overtly powerful and truly embody the domains they represent. The protection domain seems clunky at best and underwhelming at worse, there something to be said about sacrificing efficiency for protection but it feels too great of a sacrifice. The first feature seemed great and after that it felt less and less impactful of a payoff. I’m hoping that we get the opportunity to respond to these domains in a future survey whenever the next Unearthed Arcana is released. I’m enjoying this focus of class and player options that the R&D team at Wizards is now focused with and hope to see more ideas pop up before the possibly inevitable Player’s Handbook 2.
You can download the Cleric Unearthed Arcana here.
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