I am about to start a campaign of D&D 5th edition. I have a character in mind, a blacksmith with a thing for swords, who became a cleric worshiping a sword god. Mechanically this translates to a Forge Domain Cleric. This leaves me one small problem: my sword-obsessed, sword-worshiping cleric... can't use swords.

What can I do to allow this character use of swords, RAW with least sacrifice of utility on a level one character?

To clarify, I am looking for proficiency in at least one kind of sword, ideally all.

  • 3
    Why not start as a Fighter, at level 1, and switch to Cleric from 2 onward. Bake the whole becoming obsessed with and worshiping a sword god into your ongoing story instead of your backstory? You get the additional bonus of a fighting style and Second Wind (which you can reflavor to be a holy boon instead of you just being tough. – Doc Oct 17 at 0:18
  • I want to avoid multiclassing for a couple of reasons: I'm trying to start at level one as a cleric (a bit arbitrary), the campeign is probably going to be so low level that the cleric stuff would really suffer, and the Second Wind seems a bit pointless with cure wounds available. So a level of fighter gets me basically martial weapons and a fighting style: good but not necessarily worth multi-classing for. – MegaCrow Oct 17 at 6:52
  • Technically, you don't have to be proficient with a weapon to use it. If you plan on doing something that will give you proficiency at later levels, then for now, just have your cleric love swords, but be better at making them than using them. – Barker Oct 19 at 16:14
up vote 40 down vote accepted

Through your race, or possibly background

The easiest way to get the proficiency would be through a race that gives you proficiences, or through a background which might, with DM permission, grant you proficiency.

Play an elf

Most Elves have proficiency with at least two swords thanks to their Weapon Training.

Play a human variant

You can take the Weapon Master Feat as a variant human to get access to any four weapons.

Play a half-elf variant

In the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guides, there are variant rules for half-elves. You can swap your skill versatility for Elf Weapon Training if you are of wood or high elf descent.

Play a Hobgoblin

Hobgoblins get Martial Training, which gives them proficiency in two martial weapons of your choice.

Play a Githyanki

Their Martial Prodigy gives them proficiency with shortswords, longswords and greatswords.

Possibly RAI: Play a gladiator

The gladiator background (entertainer) has the option of getting 'one unusual weapon'. Convince your DM that your specific sword, such as a scimitar, is unusual and that the background should reasonably give you proficiency. See this question for more on that background.

Not RAW: Favoured Weapons

Previous editions of D&D had a concept of 'favoured weapons' for clerics, which no longer exists in 5e. You might be able to convince your DM to give you a proficiency in your god's favoured weapon, which, while not supported anywhere in the rules, shouldn't really break anything either. Some commonly worshipped gods with swords as their favoured weapons are:

  • Helm (Bastard Sword *)
  • Kelemvor (Bastard Sword *)
  • Torm (Greatsword)
  • Tyr (Longsword)

Bastard swords are not existent in 5e because they are considered a type of longsword.

  • RAW, the gladiator background allows you to add an unusual weapon to your starting equipment, but does not give you any weapon proficiencies. "You can replace the musical instrument in your equipment package with an inexpensive but unusual weapon, such as a trident or net." – user48255 Oct 16 at 14:08
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    Though it's quite insightful, I don't think that the gladiator option is entirely applicable, given the background stated. It also feels somewhat less RAW unless I insist on a really ridiculous sword. – MegaCrow Oct 16 at 14:09
  • Read the linked question, strictly RAW seems like gladiator does not grant proficiency but would make convincing easier. – MegaCrow Oct 16 at 14:21
  • 1
    May want to add githyanki from Mordenkainens Tonm of Foes. They get proficiency in greatswords. The hobgoblin from Volos Guide to Monsters can also choose two swords – David Coffron Oct 16 at 14:38
  • 2
    I suggest changing the phrasing from "Dubiously RAW" to "Perhaps RAI". There is nothing in the text saying you get proficiency in the unusual weapon, so even saying it is "dubiously" RAW is wrong. However, the arguments from the linked post make a strong reasoning for it being intended. – Captain Man Oct 16 at 19:16

You have already decided on your class and subclass. Backgrounds do not provide weapon proficiencies. The only source where you could get it is your race. You have two options:

1. Be a high or wood elf

Both get Elf Weapon Training, which gives proficiency in short- and longswords.

2. Be a variant human

This way you get a feat at first level and you can pick Weapon Master, which gives proficiency in 4 weapons of your choice and a stat boost too.

  • This is currently my favourite answer as it fully explains why I am limited to these options. – MegaCrow Oct 16 at 14:11
  • 4
    You may wish to add Githyanki from MTF, Half-Elves of Moon, Sun, or Wood Elf descent from SCAG, and Hobgoblins from VGM. – Ruse Oct 16 at 14:47

Create the cleric as an elf.

Elves all have a racial proficiency with long swords and short swords.

Elf Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the longsword, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow. (SRD, p. 4).

I would recommend a woof elf, if you want to boost the initial wisdom score by 1, but any kind of elf will suffice. (That was supposed to be wood elf, but we'll let the error stand for humorous reasons).

  • 9
    +1 for "woof elf". PUPPIES! ;) – PixelMaster Oct 16 at 14:10

I realized a little late you were asking for RAW. However, the first option here is borderline RAW and the second is DM fiat.

Special Training

In the DMG p231 there are options for special training with your DM's permission you could simply start with proficiency, as opposed to being trained later, in a weapon proficiency, in this case swords.

The options presented in the DMG are:

  • The character gains inspiration daily at dawn for 1d4 + 6 days.
  • The character gains prificiency in a skill.
  • The character gains a feat.

Proficiency in a single weapon would be less powerful than gaining a feat obviously which is why I present it. It would not be an imbalance for a single weapon usage.

Role-Play or Reskin Solution over race choice.

Although all of the other answers are obviously and technically "correct" I dislike picking a race specifically for its stats. I realize that is a perfectly viable mode of play but I prefer role-play over mechanics.

That said.

Simply ask your DM if you can swap the proficiency in Heavy Armor for Martial weapons. To me this seems an even trade. This opens you to pick a race you actually want to play and fits the back story you want to go with. Instead of focusing on armor you focused on the aspect of weapon forging of your god thus knowing how to use them is perfectly viable. Perhaps you are the first of your order to break tradition and start your own doctrine?

The possible races you can play to gain proficiency with some kind of swords are:

Elf

  • High (longswords, shortswords)
  • Wood (longswords, shortswords)
  • Dark (rapiers, shortswords)
  • Valenar (scimitars/double scimitars)

Half elf variant (longsword, shortsword)

Githyanki (shortswords, longswords, and greatswords)

Hobgoblin (two martial weapons of your choice)

Variant Human with the weapon master feat (four simple or martial weapons of your choice)

  • The Valenar are currently not officially released. You may want to add a note that they become an option at the release of Wayfinder's Guide to Eberron – David Coffron Oct 16 at 20:59

Let me push back at your premise a bit.

It's completely okay that the Sword-obsessed blacksmith cleric isn't proficient with swords. In fact, it's potentially an interesting take.

Not having proficiency with a weapon doesn't mean that you don't know one end from the other; it means you're not effective at using it in combat against an opponent who is trying to kill you. That your smith can talk for hours about the subtleties of the tang design, the balance of different steels in the blade, or why the perfect balance point is 2 and 3/32ths of an inch from the guard, doesn't mean that they're going to be able to use that weapon effectively in a fight.

Just as you don't expect an F1 engineer to be a race driver - or vice versa it's completely reasonably for your expert on forging swords not to know how to fight with them.

Even better, this lets you build the use of the sword into your character's style and development. At 1st level they can only use the sword effectively when they takes a moment to pray for Guidance, at third level they can call upon their God to summon a sword to fight for them, and finally at fourth level their time and practice lets them master the weapon (Weapon Master feat).

The easiest way is to pick a race that has affinity with swords, like an Elf. You don't mention any race for the character you have in mind, so if you didn't have one, there you go.

You can get bonus proficiencies from your background. This - meaning having features that relate to the backstory of your character - is exactly the sort of thing backgrounds are for (aside from providing RP hooks).

There is no background in the PHB that grants weapon proficiencies, but it wouldn't really be game breaking to cook one up that does.

Simple weapons are generally worse than martial weapons in a measurable way, not because of what they're called. So work with your DM to pick the stats from a simple weapon, and re-skin it. Maybe go 1d6 slashing, versatile (1d8) so it's like a little longsword (and is mechanically equivalent to a slashing quarterstaff).

This is a great opportunity to make up a mechanic and story together. For example:

The priests of the God of Swords may only spill blood using swords. A secret of their priesthood is the ability to attune themselves to any sword and change its shape and balance. These clerics can create a 1d6 slashing, versatile (1d8) sword that is considered a simple weapon for them. Of course, those with training in martial weaponry can take a rusty old scimitar and change it into a short sword, longsword, rapier, etc. of which any craftsman would be proud.

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