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I'm going to DM a new D&D 5e campaign soon, and a player wants to play a priest that's more like how they are in World of Warcraft Priest—focused on healing and spiritual matters rather than a front-line defender of the faith. This would mean he'd be a D&D wizard, as far as equipment goes, but instead of arcane spells, he'd use divine spells.

I guess the cleric would be the closest, so I'm thinking I could use the cleric but take away heavy armor, and most weapon profiencies. But I'd need to give him something to counterbalance, like say, a bonus to AC as holy protection or something? Like maybe this could be some kind of vow, he'd give up some things and get powers.

How can I make this work?

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The DMG on page 287 "Changing Proficiencies" specifically explains how to do this. Trade your armor and weapon proficiencies (except quarterstaff proficiency) in exchange for something along the lines of the monk's Unarmored Defense feature.

There's also one other minor change you should make. Your character wants to be a caster, but many of the cleric domains assume you are a melee combatant, and give the player the Divine Strike feature, which improves their melee damage. If the player chooses a cleric domain with the Divine Strike feature, I would also let them trade that for the Potent Spellcasting feature from the Light or Knowledge domain.

It's also worth noting that the Monk's Unarmored Defense feature is significantly less powerful than medium or heavy armor + a shield. The DMG presents this alternative as a guideline, not a strict rule, so you may want to consider giving them an extra +1 or +2 AC on top of the unarmored defense, or if you think that's too much for a backline caster, throw in some other miscellaneous perk instead.

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One possibility for you is to use the existing Cleric class without changing anything. There are domains such as the Light domain and the Knowledge domain that do not give heavy armour proficiency or martial weapon proficiency. If you encourage your player to choose one of these, it may satisfy his desire to be a non-warrior priest without requiring the kind of work from you that homebrewing a new class would.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This. It would also be a relatively easy matter for the GM to remove the Weapon/Armour profs and replace them with more suitable profs (e.g. wizard?), and perhaps an appropriate feat or two to restore some balance to the class - without the headache of dealing with a whole raft of homebrew rules. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 17, 2015 at 10:01
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The Favored Soul sorcerous origin from the Unearthed Arcana articles, using the life domain, is likely the closest you can get using official or current playtest material from wizards of the coast. It's a sorcerer, so little to no armor, full spellcasting, etc, that has access to the domain spells of the life cleric, which is mostly healing and buffs.

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As far as focusing on spiritual matters, they could choose the Acolyte background. A character with the acolyte background in trained the mysteries of their faith, and is seen as a religious authority. They have the ability to "officially" perform their religion's rituals, as well as some other benefits.

They wouldn't even need to be a cleric at that point. An acolyte/wizard would be a full-caster, lacking the problematic armor and weapon proficiencies, and could select thematically appropriate spells.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like the turn undead though... But yeah I'll talk to the player and see what she wants. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – GM Rod
    Sep 17, 2015 at 18:18
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An off-the-wall suggestion: Play a Lore Bard.

The spell-list won't be the same as the Cleric but the class would be great for a proselytizing, charismatic, scholarly preacher who uses words instead of force of arms.

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