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The class description says that:

"the cloistered cleric class skill list includes decipher script, speak language, and all knowledge skills(from the Knowledge domain)"

Does that mean that he has access to the knowledge skills only and only from the Knowledge domain? Or does he also inherits the ones from the og cleric class skill list(so he has a "double access")?

What happens if he then loses access to the knowledge domain?

Does he lose every knowledge skill?

Does he keep the ones inherited from the og cleric class skill list?

Does he keep the ones gained from other domains?

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2 Answers 2

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What’s clear

The first clear thing here is that most of this is unclearUnearthed Arcana doesn’t fully define every rules interaction that its variants might have, and other sources don’t consider Unearthed Arcana. This is a general theme with Unearthed Arcana: the book is a bunch of variant ideas and suggestions for a DM to implement in their game. Some of the ideas are more fully fleshed out than others, but in all cases, they aren’t comprehensively detailed and expect a certain amount of DM massaging into place. Meanwhile, nothing else considers Unearthed Arcana material because it’s not an official part of the game by default.

So we have to tolerate the fact that there just isn’t a good answer to most of this.

That said, there is one other clear thing:

the cloistered cleric’s class skill list includes […] all Knowledge skills (from the Knowledge domain, see below).

(Unearthed Arcana, Cleric Variant: Cloistered Cleric, pg. 50)

The word “includes” indicates a non-exhaustive list: that is, these skills are on the class skill list, but they aren’t the full class skill list. The class skill list still includes every class skill that the cleric already had—including Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (religion), and Knowledge (the planes). Even if something happens to the above feature of the cloistered cleric variant, you would just fall back on the original cleric skill list and still have those Knowledge skills.

So no matter what happens to the Knowledge domain, the cloistered cleric’s class skill list always includes the standard cleric’s Knowledge class skills. The only way that could change is if something—perhaps another variant—actively removed them from the cloistered cleric’s cleric class skill list.

What’s unclear

One of the rules interactions that Unearthed Arcana doesn’t consider is what happens if a cloistered cleric loses the Knowledge domain. At the time it was written, such a circumstance would be extremely rare: it would only apply to ex-clerics, a status that players are generally going to avoid at all costs.

Since Unearthed Arcana was published, however, the situation went from extremely rare to extremely common, since Complete Champion included rules that allow a cleric to swap one of their domains for a domain¹ feat from the same book:

you can choose to give up access to a domain in exchange for the corresponding domain feat. Doing so allows you to select up to three domain feats, but you cannot prepare domain spells or use the granted power of the sacrificed domain. In essence, you trade in a domain for an extra feat slot that you can spend only on a specific domain feat.

(Complete Champion, Clerics and Domain Feats, pg. 53)

Because cloistered cleric is a very popular 1-level dip, the Knowledge domain only improves your actual cleric class levels, and Knowledge Devotion is a very good feat, taking this trade is very popular. Whether or not you keep all the Knowledge class skills is ultimately unimportant here for many builds, since often it’s only for that one level anyway.

But there is still a question of whether or not you do. And that’s where we run into the fact that the rules simply do not account for this situation.

Unearthed Arcana just assumes that because it gave you the Knowledge domain, you’ll definitely have it. That wasn’t strictly true even then, but the corner case of an ex-cleric isn’t terribly important. When Complete Champion came along, it didn’t address the text in Unearthed Arcana that just assumes you’ll keep the Knowledge domain it gave you.

So we’re left with just

the cloistered cleric’s class skill list includes […] all Knowledge skills (from the Knowledge domain, see below).

where you no longer have the Knowledge domain.

There are basically two ways to look at this:

  1. It says “the cloistered cleric’s class skill list includes […] all Knowledge skills,” so it does. The parenthetical suggesting why the class skill list includes those skills is irrelevant: the primary statement is that it does.

  2. It specifically notes that the Knowledge skills are coming from the Knowledge domain. No Knowledge domain, no extra Knowledge class skills—you’re left with just the standard cleric’s Knowledge class skills (arcana, history, religion, the planes).

Of these, 2. is vastly more likely to be the intent—that the mention of Knowledge skills in the class skills line was merely as a reminder, or to avoid any ambiguity wherein someone might suspect that the cloistered cleric’s variant class skill list supersedes the effect of the Knowledge domain. It is possible to imagine, in the hypothetical where the Knowledge skills weren’t mentioned, someone arguing that a cloistered cleric doesn’t get those, and the authors wanted to nip that in the bud.

Unfortunately, the wording they used wasn’t as explicitly just that as it might have been—and maybe if losing a domain were more than a rare corner case, they would have been more careful. Something like

The cloistered cleric’s class skill list includes Decipher Script and Speak Language. The cloistered cleric’s Knowledge domain (see below) also adds all Knowledge skills to the cloistered cleric’s class skill list.

(Hypothetical clearer wording)

would have resolved the issue—but it’s much wordier. And since they didn’t do that, the fact that the statement is that the class skill list includes all Knowledge skills is still a part of the rules, as written. That’s not easily discounted, from a RAW perspective.

Conclusion

Ultimately, this analysis shows more about the limitations of RAW than it helps us answer the question. The real answer is “there is no official rule, because they never considered this scenario to write a rule about it.” But the ruling that is most consistent with what they did write is that a cloistered cleric who swaps their Knowledge domain has only arcana, history, religion, and the planes as Knowledge skills.

  1. What Complete Champion calls “domain feats” are more popularly known as “devotion feats,” since they’re all named “X Devotion,” where X is some domain. For this answer I’ll use the official term in order to match what’s used in the quotation from Complete Champion.
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  • \$\begingroup\$ Should this answer mention whether or not the Knowledge Devotion feat's prerequisite is ignored when trading the Knowledge domain for it? \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9, 2023 at 14:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I don’t think so. It’s orthogonal to the question (even if you have to meet the prerequisite, you can do that), and anyway, there isn’t an answer to that either, so to bring it up just to say “and we can’t answer that either” doesn’t seem worthwhile. (In reality, my money’s on Knowledge Devotions prerequisite being a mistake, since none of the other domain feats have one, the table doesn’t mention any even for Knowledge Devotion, and the cleric swap rules for them don’t handle prerequisites at all even though they need to if there are going to be any.) \$\endgroup\$
    – KRyan
    Commented May 9, 2023 at 15:05
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Does the cloistered Cleric class have access to the knowledge skills only and only from the knowledge domain?

No. The cloistered cleric's class description states:

All starting gold, skill points, class skills, hit dice, and class features are retained from base class, Cleric, unless noted otherwise.

Thus, a cloistered cleric has all Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (history), Knowledge (religion), and Knowledge(the planes) on his or her class skill list because those skills are on the cleric skills list, and also adds all knowledge skills on his or her class skill list by virtue of having the knowledge domain. This is the same as any cleric with the knowledge domain.

What happens if a cloistered cleric loses access to the knowledge domain?

As mentioned above, the cloistered cleric inherits most of its rules from the vanilla cleric - and, when a vanilla cleric loses to a domain, they lose access to the spells and granted power of that domain. Since the granted power for the knowledge domain is "Add all Knowledge skills to your list of cleric class skills," they would lose the extra knowledge skills from their list of class skills.

They would, however, keep the class skills that they had from the standard cleric skill list, since they'd have those even without the knowledge domain's granted power.

Does a cloistered cleric who loses access to the knowledge domain lose the class skills added to their class skill list by other domains?

To the best of my knowledge, the only thing in the rules that can cause a cleric to lose access to their domains is grossly violating the code of conduct required by their god. As described on page 33 of the Player's Handbook, this results in the cleric losing all spells and class features - and, since domains are a class feature, they'd lose all three at once.

If a cloistered cleric loses access to the knowledge domain due to some other effect, you'll have to consult the rules for that effect to find out what happens.

Real talk time

The "correct" answer to this question is unlikely to be important. Players who choose to play clerics have no incentive to grossly violate their deities' codes of conduct unless the dungeon master deliberately makes that code of conduct hard to follow, and there are no rules for losing access to a domain for any other reason. In practice, therefore, clerics only lose access to their domains if a dungeon master deliberately decides to take domain access away - and if a dungeon master does that, they'll almost certainly have their own ideas for how to handle it in play.

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    \$\begingroup\$ There's actually at least one other way for a cleric to lose their domains. Complete Champion (should) have rules for swapping a domain for the corresponding Devotion feat. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 9, 2023 at 12:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JackTimmons Huh, I didn't know that... But it doesn't change the substance of my answer: To know how an effect that removes a domain works, you'd have to read the rules relevant to that effect. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Commented May 10, 2023 at 3:09

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