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I am running a campaign soon with a player who has a very interesting PC concept for a cleric whose religion is animism. Story details aside, I came up with this homebrew class based on consultation with the player about the concept and am now trying to determine if it is balanced and whether it contains red flags I should consider. (FWIW, the player has expressed interest in playing a character whose religion/magic enforces a level of pacifism.)

My concerns and analysis of the class are below.

Domain of the Choir

Since you were young you have heard—felt, really—the souls of all things, great and small. The presence of the voices of the world's souls throughout your life has gradually led you to a spiritual awakening: a realization that the souls of all things cry out constantly and together blend into an entity that you sometimes think of as "the Choir," a meta-god whose will is expressed in the harmony of souls. This Choir is with you always, and you are one of its members. By modulating the voice of your own soul, you are able to communicate with it and to negotiate with its will.

Domain Spells

1st-level Choir Domain feature

You gain domain spells at the cleric levels listed in the Choir Domain Spells table. See the Divine Domain class feature for how domain spells work.

Choir Domain Spells

Harmonic Attunement

1st-level Choir Domain feature

You gain proficiency in Insight, Survival, and the Herbalism Kit.

Additionally, you cannot be immune to Psychic damage, and whenever a spell you cast deals damage, you take Psychic damage equal to half the damage rolled.

Hedge Witchcraft

1st-level Choir Domain feature

Your connection to the souls of the world have given you a knack for crafting charms and amulets out of natural materials such as flowers, stones, and feathers.

During a long rest, you may craft a number of hedge charms equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1) and imbue them with protective magic (all previously crafted charms lose their magic when you craft new charms). Any creature, yourself included, who is wearing one of these charms gains the effect of the sanctuary spell and resistance to all damage from spells and magical effects. Each hedge charm breaks and loses its magic either once its wearer's sanctuary effect ends (as specified by the sanctuary spell) or immediately after the wearer takes any damage to which the hedge charm grants resistance. If a creature removes a hedge charm before it breaks, the effect of the sanctuary spell and the resistance granted by the hedge charm end on the creature, but the charm remains unbroken and can be worn by another creature. The sanctuary effect uses your spell save DC.

During a short rest, you may repair one broken hedge charm, restoring its protective magic.

Channel Divinity: Soul Whispers

2nd-level Choir Domain feature

You can use your Channel Divinity as an action to open yourself to the Choir of Souls. For one minute or until you lose concentration (as if you were concentrating on a spell), whenever you make a skill checks that would reveal information about your current surroundings or about any object or creature that you touch, you have advantage on the check, and you perceive psychometric flashes of information about the target's history. This information is always true, but its relevance to your intended query depends on the result of the skill check.

Persuasive Wards

6th-level Choir Domain feature

When you compel harmony between souls, the Choir of Souls lends you its strength. When you cast the sanctuary spell, the spell save DC of the effect is increased by half the level of the spell slot used to cast the spell.

Choral Blessings

8th-level Choir Domain feature

You may cast the bless spell as a cantrip. When you cast it in this way, you may target only one creature, and the effect lasts only until the end of your next turn.

Potent Witchcraft

17th-level Choir Domain feature

The hedge charms created by your Hedge Witchcraft feature no longer break when their wearer takes damage from spells.


Concerns and Initial Analysis

  • We use a table rule that any damage roll made by a PC ends the effects of a sanctuary spell; this avoids the loophole in which a spell like spirit guardians, cast before the sanctuary spell, can continue to do damage without breaking the sanctuary.
  • Domain Spells. This is a fairly lackluster spell list that adds very little that is not already on the cleric spell list. However, the spells are thematic for the class and provide general support utility.
  • Harmonic Attunement. At level 1, this subclass is immediately and strongly punished for doing any damage through spells. This seems to me like a substantial (unprecedented, even) disadvantage for a subclass, so I have given it what I perceive to be some substantially powerful abilities that help make up for this. Simultaneously, I worry that because clerics are so adaptable and needn't prepare damaging spells to be effective, I may be overcorrecting for a disadvantage that will have less mechanical impact than I'm anticipating.
  • Hedge Witchcraft. The effects of the charms are quite powerful, but because they break after one use, they do not seem overly powerful or abusable.
  • Channel Divinity: Soul Whispers. This is a powerful non-combat effect that the DM has a lot of control over. While this puts some extra work on the DM in general, as long as the DM is cooperative, I don't see this feature as likely to be game-breaking.
  • Persuasive Wards. Notably does not affect the Hedge Witchcraft charms. At high levels, this has the potential to raise the sanctuary spell save DC from 19 to 23 if cast with an 8th or 9th level spell. Given that this is still just a sanctuary spell, this does not seem overly extreme to me, but I'm more concerned about the balance of this feature than the others (I don't have good intuition about the mid-levels here).
  • Choral Blessings. This feature is intended to grant the character a support cantrip whose usefulness in typical combat is on par with the usefulness of a cantrip like sacred flame. This feels substantially better to me than the typical 1d8 damage added to an attack per turn, but since a bless cantrip still requires concentration in addition to one's action, this seems unlikely to be game-breaking.
  • Potent Witchcraft. While this effect is powerful, it still requires that its targets refrain from violence (and these high level abilities are unlikely to come into play often anyway).
  • Meta-commentary. This class probably relies on the sanctuary spell and its effect too much, making it a bit of a one-trick pony whose power-level is fairly reliant on the composition of the party and the campaign. I'm interested in hearing others' take on this critique and other overall critiques of the class, but I'd also appreciate some commentary on levels 1-3 alone in this case, just because the first campaign this character will participate in will be at these levels.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Just have Harmonic Attunement do untyped damage. Much simpler. \$\endgroup\$
    – Daron
    Mar 14, 2023 at 18:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ For Harmonic Attunement, you could go with the wording in the Life Transference spell: "psychic damage, which can't be reduced in any way" \$\endgroup\$
    – Jorn
    Mar 16, 2023 at 7:59

1 Answer 1

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Pacifism is fairly problematic in D&D.

I like KRyan's answer here:

There are a lot of different ways you could define pacifism. In your question, it seems to be very personal, to the point that it seems almost pointless. “I won’t hurt you— but I will empower my friend here to hurt you really, really badly.” You seem to OK “offensive” buffs, that don’t protect anyone, they just make someone more able to hurt others. That’s an extremely narrow definition of pacifism that doesn’t seem, well, honest – more like you’re deluding yourself into thinking you’re better, more moral, than those who actually get their hands dirty.

A step below this is “I won’t help my friends hurt you, but I will make sure they suffer no injuries while they do so, that nothing you do can stop them from hurting you.” [...] The problem is, this is ultimately not all that different to me, morally. You are actively enabling violence; avoiding personally striking a blow is really just semantics.

[...]

And not only is Pathfinder bad at the sort of game where you are well and truly a pacifist, but everything about it is telling the other players that this is not the sort of game where pacifism is a thing. Violence is an effective, accepted, and often morally-sanctioned solution to problems in Pathfinder. People show up to a Pathfinder game with this as an expectation. Trying to turn this on its head, eliminate the majority of the game, and sideline the other players’ characters, who are focused on combat because, hey, they’re Pathfinder characters and that’s what Pathfinder’s largely about, is simply rude.

or Brian's comment here:

To my great regret, I've had experience playing a pacifist. The problem with the pacifist is that it explicitly declines to engage meaningfully in the focal point of the game. D&D, fundamentally, is about interesting combats. While there are certainly groups that provide increased out of combat conflict, the empashsi of design and the rules is on combat.

A pacifist, to be true to character, must seek to decline combat. While in combat, they must not contribute. Therefore, they're kinda sitting around going "well, why am I here?" It is not particularly fun, in my experience. Acting as a negating influence also increases the irritation of other players: when a pacifist successfully negates the need for combat, the rest of the party is sitting around bored.

If you, as the DM, are explicitly planning to run a D&D campaign where all combat is optional, and you've told your whole party about that and they're on board with it -- then a pacifist character could be fine.

If, instead, you've got a character who's decided they're going to spend the campaign trying to force everyone else to avoid combat -- then things will not be fine.


I will assume, for a moment, that your cleric wants to be the sort of pacifist that KRyan was talking about: "I won’t hurt you— but I will empower my friend here to hurt you really, really badly."

Under that assumption, you should just have your player be a Peace Domain cleric. It's a whole domain from the Tasha's book which is playtested and is intended for "pacifist" clerics. You can just use that. Most reviews say that it's overpowered (because the static 1d4 bonus makes everything too easy), but it won't break your game.

But, if that doesn't work for some reason, let's talk about this homebrew class.


"Harmonic Attunement" is crippling. The cleric class gets really good spells -- spiritual weapon and spirit guardians are amazing -- but, if you take out all the attack spells, there's hardly anything left. It looks like your character is planning to just heal people during combat, but that's a terrible use of actions and spell slots.

You're trying to make up for it with "hedge charms," but the party won't use them. The Sanctuary spell does not and cannot let you avoid combat, because the enemy can just stand there trying to hit people until it succeeds. And, once the party gets into combat, they'll have to abandon the Sanctuary spell so you can fight back. Sanctuary is a useful buff spell for a pure-support spellcaster, but it's useless on anyone else.

You've commented: "Re:charms, yes, free action to don or doff (since they are like jewelry). So one can doff a charm and attack/cast on one turn then on the next turn attack/cast again then don the charm, basically keeping sanctuary on about half of a combat even if attacking each round." With this new ruling, the feature is pretty good. I personally find it irritating, because it has a theme of exploiting the rules -- but I think you were going for that theme intentionally. You should add rules to your writeup describing how this works exactly, and any other constraints such as needing a hand free.

The Soul Whispers feature is campaign dependent.

Persuasive Wards is not good because all it does is buff sanctuary, and you won't be able to keep sanctuary active on anyone except yourself.

The benefit of Choral Blessings is that the cleric gets to give someone +1d4 to their rolls as a cantrip -- but, in-combat, this is a horribly inefficient use of an action:

  • Assuming the usual 65% chance to hit on an attack, bless increases the hit chance to 77.5%, which is about a 20% increase to damage output. A caster who uses this ability feels that their action is about 20% as valuable as the target's action. (Plus benefit to saves, of course.)
  • For comparison, true strike increases a 65% hit chance to 87.75%, which is a 35% increase to damage output. The objection to true strike is not that it only applies to one attack; the objection is that you're giving up an action to gain only 35% of an action.
  • As written, this ability requires the caster to concentrate on the single-target bless, which kills their ability to concentrate on a real spell (such as a multi-target bless cast with a spell slot)
  • Unless you're planning to have a whole lot of combat, an eighth-level spellcaster should have enough spell spell slots that they can use one every round of combat, and they won't need cantrips.
  • Out of combat, the cleric can already do this using the guidance cantrip.

Potent Witchcraft is not good because all it does is buff sanctuary, and you won't be able to keep sanctuary active on anyone except yourself.

If you wanted a class that would be good for a non-combat character, then Soul Whispers is a great start! But Sanctuary is useless, because it won't keep you out of combat (the enemy can retry the attack every round), and once you get into combat you'll have to abandon the spell so you can fight back.


My advice is to not do homebrew, and just give your player the Peace Domain class.

Also, you should have a serious talk with the player about expectations -- are they expecting to prevent the rest of the party from doing combats? Do they realize this would prevent the rest of the party from having fun in your game?

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for discouraging overly specific homebrew in favor of something that already exists in the game and does the job \$\endgroup\$ Mar 14, 2023 at 14:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ I've updated my answer to be more specific about why single-target one-round bless is worse than true strike. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Mar 15, 2023 at 13:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ @nben - maybe, you should think about adding spells and effects similat to Force Wall, Otiluke's Resilent Sphere, Bigby's Hand and Silvery Barbs to the class, so instead of focusing on Sanctury with it's complicated uses, sich priest would be able to fulfill control role, stopping violent acts. \$\endgroup\$
    – Sarge
    Mar 15, 2023 at 19:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ Added this text: "With this new ruling, the [hedge charms] feature is pretty good. I personally find it irritating, because it has a theme of exploiting the rules -- but I think you were going for that theme intentionally. You should add rules to your writeup describing how this works exactly, and any other constraints such as needing a hand free." \$\endgroup\$
    – Dan B
    Mar 16, 2023 at 15:20
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    \$\begingroup\$ I mean, "a level of pacifism" can include all the Mr Miyagi-style characters that avoid combat until life-threatening rather than the "attack attack attack" style favoured by many players. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joe
    Aug 21, 2023 at 11:18

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