I'm a returning player that's new to D&D 5th edition, but I have played AD&D and 3.5e. I've read the core material for 5th. I'm wondering if it's against the class / sub-class make up to use these spells.

Is it okay for a cleric of life to use spells like animate dead and/or contagion?

  • 3
  • \$\begingroup\$ For those answering, please remember that this is not for idea generation. Answers should be supported by actual table experience on what things worked/didn't work/etc. Idea generation answers should be down voted. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 13:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site! This is an interesting question, but could you clarify what you mean by "okay"? Are you asking if this is something the rules of the game forbid, or if this is something other characters would react poorly to, or if this is something other players would dislike, or what? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 25, 2019 at 19:18

4 Answers 4


If it's on your spell list you can cast it

Unlike previous editions, 5e has no alignment restrictions on spells or classes. If you wanted to you could play a Life Domain cleric who solely focused on casting Inflict Wounds.

From a roleplaying perspective you may choose to avoid spells that don't align with your character. However there are no rules that force you to do so.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'd like to add, that it also depends on table, if you are expected to "role-play" and can trust the GM to support that, or if you are expected to power-game and can expect to have your character die if you don't. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 19, 2019 at 8:56

There is nothing in the rules that prevents it

Whether its "okay" is an ethical and moral decision for each table/player - the rules leave those up to you. If your deity wants to restrict the spells that you cast, that restriction will come to your PC from the DM.


Nothing in the rules stops you, but your god might.

As a Cleric you have access to the full Cleric spell list to choose from whenever you prepare spells. A cleric receives power from a particular god, and this power allows them to cast any spell on the list. You or your god don't need to have a certain alignment or leaning in order to cast any given spell.

However, if you follow a god who hates the undead or imposes restrictions on your casting, you might not be allowed to cast some spells. Some gods put high value on respecting the dead and letting them rest unless you're going for a proper resurrection. An evil god might only let you cast healing magic on his followers or people who are explicitly your allies. The thing you risk should you cast such a forbidden spell is the ire of your god, which can take many forms.

Work with your DM to figure out what restrictions your god may impose. Ultimately, the DM is the arbiter of your game, and they will have to play your god. Make sure to choose a god who will be alright with the spells you want to cast. Your choice of god is generally much more important to this issue than your choice of domain, though the former will probably influence the latter.

Of course, you could end up with a laissez-faire god who doesn't care at all what spells you cast so long as you achieve their goals. If that's the case, you could cast Cure Wounds and Inflict Wounds with the same breath.

For example, I once played in a game as a Celestial Warlock who my DM treated like a Cleric. He played my god as a bit demanding, and even something as small as casting one of my racial spells (I was a Tiefling) or roleplaying being angry could end up with getting my magic taken away. This DM was used to older editions of D&D where following the rules your god set out was mechanically tied to your Cleric powers, but in 5e there's not an actual rule that says transgressions mean you get your powers taken away.

I really didn't enjoy the way my DM handled this, and if you think you would prefer it differently, you should let yours know so you can work on what's most fun for the both of you.

Either way, as I see it, you need to ask your DM this question, as their word will be final on the matter.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I've actually only read about it, never played a Cleric or DM'd. But there are some gods who won't let you create undead, and a lot of DMs will reflect that by taking away your Cleric powers if you do,.especially people who have played older editions. \$\endgroup\$
    – London
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 10:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ Actually, I was at a table once with a Celestial Warlock whose patron was beholden to a god, and the DM was pretty harsh with respect to the god's wishes. He didn't even like my character using racial spells, and did take away my powers once. So that's probably where my idea comes from. \$\endgroup\$
    – London
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 15:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll edit it in. Given it wasn't actually a Cleric, I didn't consciously think about it when making my answer, but that DM definitely treated me like I was a Cleric, so it makes no difference really. \$\endgroup\$
    – London
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let us continue this discussion in chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Mar 21, 2019 at 15:35

5e has simplified things since the early ages of D&D and allows for very open play in order to have the most fun. The Lost Mine of Phandelver and the Dragon of Icespire Peak hits that very clearly in their introductions on Page 2.

The most important thing to remember about being a good DM is that the rules are a tool to help you have a good time. The Rules aren't in charge. You're the DM - you're in charge of the game. Guide the play experience and use the rules so everybody has fun.

That being said, couldn't a Life Cleric cast the Animate Dead spell simply to develop their skills in defeating the Undead?

If that's not enough reason and you are trying to keep the story line realistic then develop an acceptable argument, or rationale, for example...

I am currently creating a campaign that takes place in a new settlement many weeks travel from the close city / town / village. The village is run by three Druids (siblings) and will grow as the campaign continues. The village is populated by people looking to escape civilization for whatever reason; many have social difficulties that result in their being considered outcasts. In this town, (among other establishments) is an Arena which provides entertainment as well as a suitable place to settle disputes. There is also an outdoor "chapel" shared by multiple faiths.

  • One of the Clerics who provides service for the town is a Life Cleric. He earns some extra money using Animate Dead to create Skeletons and Zombies to ensure there is a constant supply of combatants for the Arena. I have created a backstory for this Cleric so the ends justify the means.
  • The Cleric follows the goddess Selune, who is also known as the Moonmaiden and is recommended by the PHB as part of the Life Domain. Selune as it happens is also worshipped by Lycanthropes; which can work well in a village run by shapechanging Druids.

  • Being that Selune is worshipped by Lycanthropes, it's not a far step to say that Selune would turn a blind eye to a Cleric in the middle of nowhere creating zombies to raise the funds necessary to help others in need, sometimes sharing the coin from such ventures directly with the families who have lost their loved ones. Not to mention the practice the villagers get learning how to protect themselves from the Undead.

  • ... and finally the added humor of these outcasts taking notice of their friends "competing" in the Arena. "Hey Look Cora! Isn't that Uncle Lindal? I think he still has some of that Mystery Gravy still on his shirt from Friday's Dinner!"

In any case, HAVE FUN with it!

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to RPGSE. I made an edit for ease of readability. Please review and revise to make sure you message still comes across as intended. Also, thanks for including an example. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 21, 2020 at 17:33

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