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For an upcoming campaign revolving around bringing dragons back to the homebrew world my DM runs in, I am considering building a Tiamat cleric. Unfortunately, the suggested domains for Tiamat, War and Trickery, don't interest me very much, and while it might be possible to bend Light or Tempest domains for this, the idea of sticking to a single "head", so to speak, feels wrong. Most publicly available homebrew Dragon domains similarly wanted you to pick one kind of dragon, which I am specifically trying to avoid.

What I want is a domain that leans into Tiamat's unique nature, namely her five different heads and the resulting ability to encompass all of the different types of chromatic dragons. My attempt at creating something to fit this is below. How does it compare, power-wise, to published domains?

Campaign details: we're still early days of planning, so not many details have been discussed insofar as common enemies. The campaign will likely begin at roughly level 10, and revolve around bringing back the dragons and dragon gods. (This character has effectively been sequestered or similar for millennia, hence why there's a Tiamat cleric in a world where there is no longer a Tiamat.) We homebrew extensively; daemons instead of fiends, necrotic damage heals undead, and more. Immunities are something I know I will need to discuss with my DM.

Design goals/rules:

  1. Any damaging domain spell or ability needs to be one of the five chromatic damage types
  2. Any damaging domain spell or ability should ideally be able to freely swap out any of the chromatic damage types--per casting for the spells, and in a given interval for the features.
  3. Domain control abilities should rely on fear and the frightened condition, or on direct control of enemies, where possible
  4. No combination of features equivalent to the Elemental Adept feat (ignore resistance passively/always)--would quickly be OP in combination with point 2.

1st level:

Domain spells:

Cleric Level Spell
1st cause fear, chromatic orb
3rd dragon's breath, see invisibility
5th fear, chromatic weapon1
7th chromatic bane1, compulsion
9th dominate person, summon draconic spirit

1 These are effectively elemental weapon and elemental bane with poison swapped in for thunder damage, as per a previous question.

Domain spells are heavy on combat options and light on utility, so I am open to options. Some may have been considered and discarded already (locate object), some may still be on the fence for swapping in (fly), but I am willing to at least consider alternate options for the final build.

Bonus Proficiencies

When you choose this domain at 1st level, you gain proficiency in the Intimidate skill. You also gain proficiency with martial weapons.

Queen of Five Crowns

Also starting at 1st level, you choose one damage type of Tiamat’s heads when you finish a long rest: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or poison. When you deal damage of the chosen type, you may choose to roll one additional damage die for that instance of damage. If the spell or ability deals multiple types of damage simultaneously, as in flame strike, only the damage and die type corresponding to your currently selected damage type for this ability may benefit. If you deal this damage with a combination of features that use different sizes of damage die for the same damage type, you may choose which ability benefits.

You can use this ability a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier (minimum of 1), and you regain all uses on finishing a long rest.

The bonus proficiencies are there for flavor, and to lean a bit more martial in class function--and because in at least some editions Tiamat has had the war pick as a favored weapon, which I like. No heavy armor proficiency, mostly because it felt right to not do that and at a passing thought to balance to not get too many proficiencies at level 1.

Queen of Five Crowns is a keystone ability and will factor in other features later in the subclass. I wanted to be able to swap which "head" got benefits on a given day, without violating goal 4. This effectively equates to a few free one-slot upcasts over the course of the day--it specifically works off of the existing damage dice in an attempt to not get overwhelming while still being useful at higher levels. No action cost to use, similar to a paladin's Divine Smite; you just announce you're spending a use of the ability when you meet the trigger.

Currently, this is written so certain spells (dragon's breath, chromatic weapon, chromatic bane) could only benefit from this feature if it's the cleric who is triggering the damage, and I think it's fine to leave it that way for simplicity. Wording along the lines of "when you cast a spell doing X damage" has been discarded due to the nature of the spells in question--most would have very awkward synergy due to the casting of the spell not occurring simultaneously with the damaging effect (dragon's breath, chromatic bane, summon draconic spirit).

2nd level:

Channel Divinity: Draconic Presence

You can use your Channel Divinity to exude a terrifying presence. As an action, you force each creature of your choice that you can see within 30 feet of you to make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, a creature becomes frightened of you for 1 minute. The frightened creature can repeat this saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.

This is straight up from the Conquest Paladin, I think the flavor fits well here with crowd-control-by-fear.

6th level:

Acolyte of the Dragon Queen

Your devotion to the five heads of Tiamat increases your mastery over the myriad types of damage they provide. You are resistant to your current Queen of Five Crowns damage type. Additionally, when you take damage of that type, you can use your reaction to absorb that instance of the damage, instead healing the amount you would have taken.

This is borrowed, with tweaks, from the third-party Elements domain in the Solasta: Crown of the Magister CRPG. In the original, you're locked to one damage type but can use it without limits as long as you have a reaction available. Here, you can swap on long rest, which gives incentive to know what you're going up against, as befits Tiamat's increasing paranoia in recent lore. Resistance is static even if you don't/can't use the special reaction, and also limits the healing you receive from a given instance.

I'm worried about balance on this one in particular. It can be situationally very powerful if you manage the correct match-up (though only on the correct match-up, as you can still guess wrong), and I'm considering putting a per-rest limit on it like with Queen of Five Crowns--likely also WIS-per-long rest. Is that recommended?

8th level:

Divine Strike

Once on each of your turns when you hit a creature with a weapon attack, you can cause the attack to deal an extra 1d8 damage to the target. This extra damage is your current Queen of Five Crowns type. When you reach 14th level, the extra damage increases to 2d8.

Self-explanatory, and typical for more weapon-y domains. Note that this would synergize with the extra damage die from Queen of Five Crowns for paladin-lite flavor. Not initially intended, but I'm not sure it's a bad thing. Is the synergy between this ability and Queen of Five Crowns a problem?

17th level:

Avatar of Terror

At 17th level, your ability to inspire fear in your opponents literally scares them stiff. When a creature becomes frightened of you, it also becomes paralyzed until the end of its next turn.

Once a creature has suffered this effect once, they cannot suffer it again for 24 hours.

Domain capstone, and where the focus on fear as crowd control pays off without stepping on the toes of the Conquest Paladin's aura too much (hopefully). If it gets frightened, there is one automatic turn of paralysis before it unfreezes, and the frightened condition still persists until they shake it off. The last sentence is inspired by the Frightful Presence ability of dragons, and is there as a safeguard against paralysis spam via repeat-casting cause fear on a single target.

I have a possible variation of this ability, which is "if a creature fails the save to avoid being frightened by you by 5 or more, it also becomes paralyzed until the end of its next turn." It's not automatic like the current draft is, but it does allow for repeat paralysis in creatures that roll poorly, as most effects that induce frightened allow for a saving throw reroll at the end of the creature's turn. Which of these versions provides better balance?


My general concerns:

  • I tried for feature synergy, and worry that I may have overshot the mark when it comes to domain power compared to published subclasses. How does this draft of the domain compare to published domains in regards to power level?
  • (Alternatively, this build heavily relies on five types of damage and one condition only. Have I overspecialized into a weakness by doubling down on my theme, even with everything generally available to a cleric on top?)
  • The final draft is "greedy"; all of the domain features that may impact combat only benefit the cleric, unlike other domains where features may let you spread the benefits around. While that may fit the flavor of the god in question, is that cause for concern in the design?

My specific concerns, easier viewing version:

  • Does the Acolyte of the Dragon Queen reaction need a per-rest limit to limit its power, or is the possibility of guessing wrong enough of a limit on its own?
  • Is the synergy between Queen of Five Crowns and Divine Strike a problem when it comes to power level?
  • Is the alternate variation of Avatar of Terror in the explanatory notes better balanced than the quoted draft version?
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    \$\begingroup\$ Change "at the end of a long rest" to "when you finish long rest" for consistency with other long rest bonuses. Doesn't change anything in practice, but hopefully can prevent some questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mołot
    Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 7:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ We should link this question in the “how to ask a homebrew review” meta. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 15:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasMarkovwasonStrike ...hopefully for good reasons? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 15:39
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    \$\begingroup\$ “How to ask a good homebrew review: see here” \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 30, 2023 at 15:40

1 Answer 1

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I like the theme on this one.

You've asked:

Does the Acolyte of the Dragon Queen reaction need a per-rest limit to limit its power, or is the possibility of guessing wrong enough of a limit on its own?

and unfortunately I think there are power problems even with a per-rest limit.

Specifically the power problem is that you can deliberately take damage from your own spells (or from allies' spells) to heal. For example you could walk into a cluster of enemies and encourage your ally to fireball you for healing. You could get an ally to cast cloudkill and just sit in it. At higher levels you could (eg) firestorm yourself. You also could get unlimited healing by absorbing cantrips.

I don't think this is what you intended for this ability (it doesn't seem to match your intended theme very well) but this is how it is likely to be used.

(Also, as a DM, I would be uncomfortable with giving a player an ability that would let them no-sell a dragon's breath, even if it were only usable a few times per day. In some campaigns this would be fine, but in others it would be broken.)

I would probably try to fix this by adding a chance for the absorption to fail: "if you save successfully against an elemental attack (of your chosen element) that deals half damage on a save, you heal instead of taking damage." With this modification you will no longer feel tempted to use your allies' high-level damage spells as sources of healing, and there will no longer be a need for a limit per day.

Probably there are other ways to fix it too.

You've asked:

Is the synergy between [the 8th-level Divine Strike ability] and Queen of Five Crowns a problem?

No, not a problem. Queen of Five Crowns gives you a fixed pool of damage per day, and it doesn't matter for balance purposes whether that damage triggers off of your weapon attack or one of your spells. You'd probably prefer to trigger it off of an AoE spell, actually.

You've asked:

Is the alternate variation of Avatar of Terror in the explanatory notes better balanced than the quoted draft version?

I would probably leave it at "paralyzed on a failure" rather than "paralyzed on a failure by five or more". I don't have experience with seventeenth level, but my guess is that anything that gets hit by Frightened is probably going to have a pretty bad time already, and adding a turn of paralysis isn't going to make it much worse.


In terms of power relative to other cleric domains, I don't see any obvious issues other than the Acolyte of the Dragon Queen issue discussed above. It has the usual issue with homebrew where you've chosen all of your abilities to be good abilities that will synergize well with your planned character, but you have the sort of DM that allows players to homebrew things, and your DM will be used to this.

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    \$\begingroup\$ You must play with some odd players who would abuse a power by damaging themselves \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 8:54
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    \$\begingroup\$ I will say I had legitimately never considered that that ability could proc off of an ally's spell or self-injury, even though the wording leaves that gap. This was assumed to be an enemy-effect only ability, and I may further refine the wording to reflect that later down the line. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 2, 2023 at 9:42

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