I am a major Grung appreciator, so I'd like to play one. My idea is for a Grung cleric, but I have worries about how this would work. Mainly because most healing spells are contact-based. Because of the Grung's poison skin ability, how could my Grung contact heal without poisoning? My first idea was gloves, but I'm not sure about cloth-poison relations, what kind of poison the Grung secretes, etc. Help appreciated!
Just don't use Cure Wounds in combat
Seriously, that's about it. A grung's poison doesn't actually do damage. All it does is make attack rolls and ability checks harder, and it lasts at most a minute (in practice, no more than 3 rounds). That doesn't matter even a little if you're not in a fight right now. If you want to use Lesser Restoration after a fight, just make sure nobody will ambush you immediately, and that your ally doesn't want to make any ability checks this turn. The only time that the poison really matters is when you use a touch-range buff or Cure Wounds in combat - and you should probably use Healing Word in combat anyway. Maybe don't be a Life Domain cleric, sure, but even that could work with Mass Healing Word.
What does your team think?
Even though being a grung isn't crippling by any means, you should probably check with your team. Some players might get mad at the idea of a healer poisoning them when he helps them, and think that's a dumb betrayal of cleric-kind. So, maybe check that everyone's fine with a poison-skinned frog cleric? It depends on the party, with most it will likely not be a problem.
Which spells are affected?
In short, any touch-range spell that you can't cast before/after combat, or you want to cast while someone is making an ability check.
- Guidance: You could maybe pull it off, but that sounds like a bad idea, even if there's only a 1/4 chance someone fails the saving throw.
- Resistance: Even worse.
- Spare the Dying: Oddly, this is fine, since someone unconscious doesn't need to make attack rolls... but just use a healer's kit.
- Ceremony: Probably fine?
- Cure Wounds: You can still use it out of combat, but you should probably just prepare Healing Word, especially if you have the Life domain.
- Inflict Wounds: Actually.... this becomes vaguely decent at level 1, letting you deal 16 damage and inflict Poisoned on a failed save. It's touch range, but that's about as good as Guiding Bolt, which deals 14 damage and makes it easier to hit the target once. After level 3 it's probably useless, though, as monsters often have too high a constitution save bonus.
- Protection from Evil and Good: Maybe? I don't know how often people use it in a fight, and how often people use it before a fight. It's a stellar buff against the right enemies, well worth casting before a fight and waiting until the poison fades.
- Enhance Ability: Probably avoid this, sometimes you cast it right before an ally makes a check, and if the ally gets the Poisoned condition from you that will cancel out most of the benefit.
- Lesser Restoration: It's just fine! You don't usually cast this during a fight, so there's no difference.
- Protection from Poison: Heh. That's pretty funny. If you cast it before a fight with a poison monster, you can cancel your poison and then give the longer boost. But still, usually not worth it unless you fight a lot of poison monsters.
- Warding Bond: You can still use this just fine! It's not a spell you cast in combat anyway.
- Bestow Curse: It's actually better now! I could imagine a grung curse cleric, who prepares Bestow Curse every day.... but by level 5, when you get the curse, monsters will often have large bonuses to Constitution saving throws, making them easily resist your poison.
- Remove Curse, Revivify, Tongues, Protection from Energy, Contagion, Death Ward, Freedom of Movement, Greater Restoration, Raise Dead, True Seeing, Plane Shift, Regenerate, etc etc: Pretty much everything with Touch range above level 3 is an out-of-combat spell, or a combat attack (e.g. Plane Shift). Even when used in-combat, if you use it on your Fighter or Barbarian at those levels there's an 80% chance they'll resist the poison and it won't be a problem.
In summary, there's no particular problem with playing as a Grung cleric, you just have to skip on Guidance and Cure Wounds, and maybe not cast Protection from Evil and Good in combat. Your poison doesn't hurt people, so it's not an issue outside of combat, and it actually makes a few touch-range attacks better, like Inflict Wounds and Bestow Curse. Probably not quite worth using, but fun enough that you might want to use them anyway.
Mostly fine as far as what you’re concerned about.
A Grung’s poison simply applies the poisoned condition (disadvantage on attack rolls and ability checks) for 1 minute (10 rounds of combat), but it’s a low DC (12) CON save, and affected creatures get a save every turn.
At low levels this is a bit of a show-stopper when it comes to Cure Wounds being used in combat and makes Guidance exponentially less useful in all situations. At high levels, it still makes those spells weaker than they would be in those situations, but it has less impact unless you’re targeting someone who is not proficient in CON saves. Having a paladin in the party at high levels can almost completely offset the issue as well.
The flip side is that it makes Inflict Wounds a significantly better low-level spell than it normally would be, albeit only for the first few levels (past that it falls off hard since the DC for the poison does not scale with anything).
Using touch spells through gloves is up to your GM.
This is a possible solution, but it’s entirely dependent on your GM, and in terms of balance I would also rule that it negates the theoretical benefits of the Poisonous Skin ability as well as the downsides. With that caveat I would probably allow it, but not all GMs will.
There are, however, other significant limitations.
In particular, Water Dependency and not having Common as a base language are pretty significant hurdles.
The language issue can be solved by picking certain backgrounds to get extra languages (Acolyte or Sage probably make the most sense for a Cleric, and give you two languages of your choice), but this in turn limits you to those backgrounds (they are not generally bad backgrounds, but it is still limiting). This is at least preferable to using the Linguist feat though, as that eats a feat slot and gives a Cleric almost nothing useful (INT matters little for a Cleric, the ciphers are almost never useful, and you only really need one extra language in most cases).
The Water Dependency, OTOH, is a pretty serious limitation, because it means you’re always at most six days away from near permanent death from exhaustion. It is extremely difficult to resurrect a character who has died from exhaustion, because RAW dying doesn’t remove exhaustion and neither do most spells that revive dead characters unless the exhaustion is a result of a disease or poison (neither of which is the case here). True Resurrection might work depending on whether you can convince your GM that the exhaustion counts as wounds or not. Reincarnation is the only other option short of Wish or Divine Intervention, but if you Reincarnate you may no longer be a Grung.
The usual workaround for Water Dependency is one of:
- Power through it until your first ASI, pick up Magic Initiate selecting Druid, grab Mold Earth and Create and Destroy Water, plus one additional cantrip of your choice. This lets you reset Water Dependency each day as long as you are somewhere you can build a small tub using Mold Earth, but it eats an ASI for a couple of otherwise mediocre spells (for a Cleric though this isn’t too bad, since the bonus to WIS is useful and Shillelagh as the other cantrip provides a nice backup for when enemies get too close and you can’t run).
- Pick up a single level of Druid at first level, grabbing Mold Earth and Create and Destroy Water. Same situation as the above solution, but eats a level instead of a feat slot, which may be better or may be worse.
- Same as above, but get two levels in Druid so you can Wild Shape. Then carry around a jar full of water and turn into a frog and sit in that for an hour each day. This avoids the above issue of needing to be able to use Mold Earth, but it eats two levels instead of one or an ASI, leaves you rather vulnerable for an hour each day, and has a nontrivial probability of getting into an argument with your GM the first time you use it (RAW it does work, because you retain racial features when Wild Shaped, but this is not exactly intuitive).
Alternatively, just play a Druid instead of a Cleric. Circle of Dreams makes an excellent healer and lets you riff off of amphibian toxins being used in some cultures to induce trances. Circle of Wildfire also makes a really good healer, and allows for some very fun RP opportunities. I’ve actually run a Grung Circle of Wildfire Druid before, named ‘Salamander’ (because crazy medieval misunderstandings of biology make for fun naming), it was remarkably fun to play and the rest of the party absolutely loved it too.