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So, my D&D group is pretty set in stone and has been for a while. One player almost always plays Clerics. Its his favorite class. I'm going to be the DM for a new campaign, this is my second time DMing and my first time DMing a homebrew campaign.

However, there's one problem: the type of cleric he wants to be doesn't exist in my setting.

There is no deity who matches up to the type of doctrine/ domain he wants. (He wants to play a type of nature worshipping cleric, but my setting's nature god doesn't work for multiple reasons).

I've asked him to play a different type of cleric/ a different class, but he doesn't want to. I don't want to have to add gods or change up my lore. What do I do?

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A non-deity Cleric (Nature Domain) can solve your problem

I do that in my Salt Marsh campaign - which is ostensibly set in the World of Greyhawk. What I have chosen to do as DM is use the Forces and Philosophies approach. You can find a summary of that in the DMG, pages 10-13.

You will also find mentions of "Nature" as a power source in the class write up for the Druid class

p.64 PHB (Power of Nature)
Druids revere nature above all, getting their spells and other magical powers either from the force of nature itself or from a nature deity.

The "divine forces of nature" is referred to in the descriptions, in Chapter 10, of how The Weave is accessed by various spell casters.

All magic depends on the Weave, though different kinds of magic access it in a variety of ways. The spells of wizards, warlocks, sorcerers, and bards are commonly called arcane magic. These spells rely on an understanding - learned or intuitive - of the workings of the Weave. {snip} The spells of clerics, druids, paladins and rangers are called divine magic. The spell casters' access to the Weave is mediated by a divine power - gods, the divine forces of nature, or the sacred weight of a paladin's oath. (p. 205 PHB)

"Nature" need not be personified by your setting deity any more than "The Tempest" needs to be personified as Umberlee in the Forgotten Realms. If your player wants to be a Nature domain cleric and your nature deity is a bad fit, "Nature" itself can be the source of their divine power.

And maybe this cleric will, over the course of your campaign, set up a few shrines and springs where Nature is worshipped or revered. Play and find out.

But what if he wants another deity?

You mentioned in a comment "I'm pretty sure he wants do use a deity"

You, as the DM, have two choices here.

  1. Simply say "no" since you are the world builder.

(PHB, p 6) Ultimately, the Dungeon Master is the authority on the campaign and its setting, even if the setting is a published world.

  1. He has to invent the deity, write it up in detail, and provide it to you for final approval. I did this in my brother's campaign, he approved it with just a few tweaks, and we now have an added deity in the campaign named Stahnuld: the god of beer, wine and whisky.

An added advantage of using option 2 is that it likely adds to the "buy-in" that this player has for your game world.


Opportunities abound

You mentioned in a comment this about your setting's nature deity:

There is a nature god, but it's currently sorta dead/ doesn't have religions worshipping it.

This has the potential to turn into a great character arc for this PC to develop over the course of the campaign. Perhaps, over time, the PC slowly reinvigorates the worship of that deity and revives interest in it. Or, per your other comment,

By not worshipped, I mean all non fae species dislike that deity due to causing a genocide/ massive problems to the modern day.

Your PC's cleric can lead the way in establishing a new Nature based faith, which could in time result in a new deity arising or being recognized and revered. This PC can make an impact on the game world, which in turn can augment your own world building. While that will depend on how long the campaigns lasts, and how your player responds, there are some great opportunities for something new to grow organically over the course of their adventures.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'll try Option 2. Thanks for the advice! \$\endgroup\$
    – NielIGuess
    Oct 19, 2022 at 13:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ A mix. There is a nature god, but its currently sorta dead/ doesn't have religions worshipping it. \$\endgroup\$
    – NielIGuess
    Oct 19, 2022 at 13:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NielIGuess Oh, man, you have the chance for a great character arc to develop over the course of the campaign ... your PC, over time, slowly reinvigorates the worship of that deity and revives interest in it ... or not. See how it goes. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2022 at 13:19
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    \$\begingroup\$ By not worshipped, I mean all non fae species dislike that deity due to causing a genocide/ massive problems to the modern day. \$\endgroup\$
    – NielIGuess
    Oct 19, 2022 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @NielIGuess keep in mind deity list are usually just major deities, lesser deities often outnumber major ones but collectively have fewer worshippers. maybe they are their deities only cleric or one of only a handful. with no nature deity maybe you have a slew of local nature deities with only a trickle of worship, filling a power vacuum and all that. sounds like a great plot builder. \$\endgroup\$
    – John
    Oct 19, 2022 at 21:01
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Even if you don't want the player to be associated with the big-G Nature God of your setting, there are other options that don't require going the "no god, just philosophy" route.

There's potentially a place for lesser deities or something similar in almost any campaign. Call them exarchs, demigods, small gods, archangels, saints, etc. The general concept is a being weaker than a god but with the same general type of power, who may not have a specific church as such but does empower a few heroes here and there. They could be ascended mortals, new deities, or just weak deities who've never really gotten off the ground as far as public opinion goes. This could be an interesting mechanic, as their smaller focus may make such beings more directly and personally engaged with their specific chosen.

In some settings, these beings work in a sort of divine feudalism, owing fealty to some greater god that has a vague thematic connection, but they could just as easily be weak deities who want to become stronger but lack a connection to the existing major gods of the world. For example, if revering an existing nature god has become a problem for many people, it opens up a power vacuum for a new entity to try to come in and take that place, which might be an interesting personal subplot for the cleric character as they attempt to found a new religion in opposition to a deity the people can no longer respect.

Or you could go the Greek route and have gods with different Aspects that embody specific concepts related to their general portfolio, like the god of learning and civilization might have an aspect that deals with cultivation and farming and provides a different domain option.

In Greece this originated as a form of syncretism, taking local gods and folding them into the existing larger pantheon -- "Oh, you worship a goddess of victory called Nike? Well that's fine, she's actually an aspect of our Athena..."

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  • \$\begingroup\$ A good example of how to do the bit in your second paragraph was in Empire of the Petal Throne (M.A.R. Barker, 1975), where you had gods, as well as cohorts aligned with each god. Cohorts were not quite as strong as the god but were able to grant spells, divine intervention, etc. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2022 at 14:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ That's fair. On the "new god tries to build a power base to challenge old god" thing, I was rather thinking of American Gods by Neil Gaiman, only leaning more on the side of the new gods, or possibly Small Gods by Terry Pratchett (though there it's challenging a godless church that claims to honor Om but is actually just a political power structure). \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2022 at 15:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ Empire of the Petal Throne was an RPG, although Barker built his world long before he put a game together ... \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2022 at 16:46
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Consider using player's idea of the non-compliant deity as a plot hook. It could work for introducing more aspects to existing deities, or foreshadowing major events. If the player insists of being a cleric of deity that doesn't quite work like the one in your world, ask if they are game for exploring that venue way further. Should they agree, let's see what might happen.

There's a cleric who receives powers from a deity. Nothing special there, right? The funny thing is, no-one seems to know any other cleric of that faith who has similar abilities. Is the deity doing something unusual? Are they granting a special favour for favoured champion? Why and at what cost? Is it a trial, punishment or just idle curiosity on a mortal's behavior? Is the power source really that deity, or are other power(s) acting behind the curtains? What's really going on, and what is the price of such knowledge?

If you plan to have a surprise power source, you should offer a way for the cleric to retain powers even after resolving the mystery. It would be a major letdown to have an adventure arc conclusion resulting loss of cleric powers without any compensation.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ That could work. \$\endgroup\$
    – NielIGuess
    Oct 19, 2022 at 13:22
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It is completely fine to restrict character options

If there are no Clerics of a nature god in your world then it is completely fine to tell your player that this option is not available in your campaign and instead work with them to come up with a character that fits with your world.

Players who aren't willing to work with modest restrictions on their options are being selfish and you should not feel under any obligation to fit them into your game.

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I've asked him to play a different type of cleric/ a different class, but he doesn't want to. I don't want to have to add gods or change up my lore. What do I do?

It sounds like he's set on this character concept and you are set on the pantheon you have created that doesn't support that concept. If neither view is malleable, then you should probably go your separate ways. However, a little flexibility for both of you would probably present a better outcome.

I have been in several games where players wanted to focus on world-building, along with the DM. In one game, I had to carefully explain how some thing are the purview of the DM, while character choices are the purview of the player. They would suggest NPC actions, even political events that were great ideas, and I even incorporated some, but would sometimes be a bit awkward at the game table. But, I always tried to encourage the engagement. Good players that engage with the world and the story are an asset to the experience.

All that to say, it's up to you, the DM, if you want to involve the players in world-building. Players may have fantastic ideas, but using them may be limited if you are trying to maintain a sense of mystery about the world, or the incorporation of different ideas may upset a story arc.

Having a player suggest a deity is world building on a very small scale, and likely would add to their fun. You might be slighted a bit that they aren't interested in the ones you have presented, but I wouldn't take it personally, just that the player wants to be creative as well, or has a character concept not supported by what's available. Most fantasy worlds have a major pantheon, as well as minor ones. You could incorporate a minor deity that supports the player's character concept without disrupting your major pantheon or lore.

Good luck!

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