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I have a player who is playing a complete pacifist cleric (please, no comments about how that's a terrible awful horrible idea that ruins D&D; I know it's unpopular, but I find it to be a fun challenge for me as a DM). So, I've made some changes to the Life Domain cleric to ensure she isn't left with a ton of useless (and nonsensical) spells and proficiencies.

The Class

Some clerics are so dedicated to the preservation and development of life that they refuse to bring any harm against another creature. These pacifists may insist that their traveling compatriots also refrain from killing, or they may simply refuse to do damage themselves. With their impressive repertoire of healing abilities, shields, and buffs, these clerics should nevertheless not be underestimated by those who stand against them.

Unless specified here, all features of this domain are the same as in the PHB.

At level 1: Do not take any weapon proficiencies. Instead, you take two other skill proficiencies from the Cleric list, for a total of four. You will also gain one additional proficiency with a tool or instrument.

Your starting gear, if you choose to take the default packs, does not include any weaponry.

At level 3: instead of automatically learning the spell Spiritual Weapon, you learn the spell Spiritual Shield, detailed below:


Spiritual Shield

2nd-level evocation

Casting Time: 1 bonus action

Range: 60 feet

Components: V, S

Duration: 1 minute

You create a floating, spectral shield within range that lasts for the duration or until you cast this spell again. The caster must specify a target when first casting the spell. It can target any creature, hostile or not, and does not require a saving throw. If the shielded creature moves on its turn, the shield moves with it.

As a bonus action on your turn, you can move the shield to another creature within 20 feet of the first creature. The shield can appear however you wish, and its stats do not change based on its appearance.

The shield can have one (1) of the following effects:

  • The target’s AC is boosted by +2, as if they were using a shield, but without the requirement of actually holding one. If the target is already using a shield, this has no effect.
  • The target gains resistance to one of the following forms of damage: necrotic, poison, or psychic.

At level 7: instead of automatically learning the spell Guardian of Faith, you learn the spell Aura of Life.

At level 8: instead of gaining the Divine Strike feature, you gain the Dual-Focused feat, from the Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting book.


For reference, the Dual-Focused feat description (Tal’Dorei Campaign Setting v1.1, p. 108-109) says:

  • If you attempt to cast a spell that requires concentration while already concentrating on an existing spell, you can maintain concentration on both spells simultaneously. You must spend a standard action each subsequent round on maintaining this concentration, or lose concentration for both spells.

  • At the end of each turn where you have two spells you are concentrating on, you must make a Constitution saving throw (DC equals 10 + the number of complete rounds you’ve been concentrating on two spells). On a failure, you lose concentration for both spells. You can drop concentration on one of your spells during your turn as a free action to avoid this saving throw.

  • Any time you would be forced to make a Constitution saving throw to maintain concentration due to taking damage, the DC equals 10 + both spells’ levels combined, or half the damage you take, whichever number is higher. On a failure, you lose concentration on both spells.

Notes

I have already asked about the balance of the spell spiritual shield here. Please direct comments about it to the appropriate question. (In general, however, I'm not looking for more feedback on the spell at this point.)

The player in question has purchased the Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting, so she has access to the full text of the feat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ One thing I was uncertain of: does this class still gain the Life Cleric's usual proficiencies with heavy armor? You spelled out the differences very clearly everywhere else, but I wanted to double check on this one. \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Jan 18 at 19:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Gandalfmeansme Yes, since it doesn't conflict with the concept of pacifism. However, the character I was making these changes for doesn't have the strength to wear the heavier armor classes (and can abuse sanctuary to absurd ends anyway). \$\endgroup\$ – L.S. Cooper Jan 18 at 20:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good to know. Keep in mind, using heavy armor without sufficient strength does nothing other than decrease your mobility. As an example, a wood elf using Splint Armor with a strength of 10 (but with proficiency) will have the same speed as a dwarf (25 feet). \$\endgroup\$ – Gandalfmeansme Jan 18 at 20:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think it's fine to quote just the single feat from the book here, as it's sort of essential in order for those who haven't bought it to determine whether it's balanced with the rest of the subclass. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Jan 19 at 5:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ @András This sounds like less of an issue with these modifications and more an issue with the nature of pacifism in games like this. Do you have any solutions? \$\endgroup\$ – L.S. Cooper Jan 19 at 17:46
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(Almost) nothing that allows for double concentration is balanced

Given the chance to take Dual-Focused, I would always do so on all casters, even if my casting stat was not yet at 20. This is generally an indicator of a balance problem. The feat tries to balance the situation by increasing the save DC and forcing you to save at the end of each of your turns, but this is easily mitigated by a Paladin and Resilient (CON) (or War Caster by itself). It also requires your action, but a pacifist character won't be casting a damage cantrip on subsequent rounds anyway.

Nothing else seems overpowered

I won't comment much on the balance of spiritual shield, which may have bounded accuracy issues when stacked with shield of faith. Aura of life is occasionally excellent (like when fighting a vampire), but is usually mediocre. Life Clerics heal downed allies to 7 HP instead of 1 HP using aura of life, which is interesting, but probably won't make a difference at that level. It would probably be a good idea to give a mechanical penalty for harming another creature, in case your PC has a convenient (power-gaming) change of heart.

Pacifism may make even a Life Cleric underpowered

I currently have a Tempest Cleric 9 who is decidedly not pacifistic. In my experience, the best in-combat 1st through 5th level spells are probably: bless, spiritual weapon, spirit guardians, banishment, and holy weapon. At early levels, the pacifist Cleric will be able to use bless to great effect, but missing out on spiritual weapon and spirit guardians (and, depending on how pacifistic, holy weapon) is a big deal. Characters who can't deal (good) damage typically focus on control or buffs in a combat situation. Clerics don't get the big 3rd-level control spells, like fear and hypnotic pattern. Their buffs are typically out-of-combat (aid and death ward) or non-scaling low-level spells (protection from evil/good, sanctuary, and shield of faith).

Spells of 3rd level are an important power spike for full casters; which one is the pacifist character going to cast on round 1, when no one needs healing? The only universally-useful one that doesn't deal damage is bestow curse, a mediocre single-target save-or-suck. It would probably be better to upcast blindness/deafness or hold person.

Suggestion: Replace the Level 8 feature with Sorcerer's Twinned Spell

When you cast a spell that targets only one creature and doesn’t have a range of self, you can spend a number of sorcery points equal to the spell’s level to target a second creature in range with the same spell (1 sorcery point if the spell is a cantrip).

To be eligible, a spell must be incapable of targeting more than one creature at the spell’s current level. For example, magic missile and scorching ray aren’t eligible, but ray of frost is.

I don't have experience with grafting Twinned Spell onto Cleric, but I have played a Divine Soul Sorcerer up to level 7; he could have easily been a pacifist while maintaining effectiveness. Twinned Spell gives you the closest official way to be concentrating on two things at once, and it lets the Cleric run single-target buffs/debuffs on two targets. The big decision is how often you want to allow the Cleric to twin spells. About half as often as a Sorcerer seems like a good start. Perhaps you limit twinning to 1st through 5th level spells and have it use the Cleric's Channel Divinity.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not horribly worried about a change of heart-- this player is VERY roleplay focused, and the pacifistic nature of the character is integral, but I'll definitely keep it in mind. I think in my attempt to avoid exposing copyrighted material, I may have made dual-focused sound too overpowered. Does it change your opinion on it with knowing that it requires a constitution save every turn that the player is concentrating on two spells, with an increasing save DC each round? \$\endgroup\$ – L.S. Cooper Jan 18 at 18:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @L.S.Cooper I added an alternate Level 8 suggestion. I was able to take a look at Dual-focused and saw that it also forces you to make a save every turn. That doesn't tip the scales enough in my mind. Consider a Cleric 6 with 14 CON and Resilient (CON) standing next to a Paladin 6 with 16 CHA. That Cleric has a 95% chance to pass a DC 10 CON save, allowing them to almost always concentrate on a second spell. Their chances only decrease by 5% per round! \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Starnes Jan 18 at 20:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ if he can't spend his actions on concentration, he has no good way of spending them. There are no good combat relevant cantrips, that don't do damage. \$\endgroup\$ – András Jan 19 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András That's a good point, but I don't think that Dual-Focused is a balanced answer to that. I wouldn't call a Help or Dodge optimal in most cases, but it's probably what the pacifist is stuck with. If they're okay with hold person, then they might also be okay with shoving a target prone. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Starnes Jan 20 at 5:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ @András Also, the editor makes it look like your edit just added a space at the end of the first header, but I assume I'm missing or misreading something. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris Starnes Jan 20 at 5:06
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This is fine

Concentration is very valuable, second only to your actions. So I think Dual-Focused is more on the weak side, you have to pay an ASI to be able to pay your action. And you have a chance to lose concentration every round, and you have a higher chance to lose it if you are damaged.
You give it for free (not costing an ASI), so the cost is not a problem.

The rest is fairly minor, cannot upset the balance.

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