I'm in the planning stages of a campaign where the gods have fallen (for various history related reasons) and so clerics, druids, rangers and paladins do not have access to their source of power. While I know this means removing clerics and paladins as playable classes, I also want to make sure that my PCs will have as many of the resources the game assumes they will as possible.

I know healing can be done by way of rally, short rests, bardic magic and the like. Buffing can be done by wizards and the paladin style DPS can be done by other fighter classes. What other resources should I plan to provide by mundane/arcane means for my players after I remove divine magic from the game? I plan on the campaign running from first level up to as high as 16th, depending on player interest. Answers should include information about as much of the range as possible


4 Answers 4


Considering Spell Lists in Particular

In the places where the divine and arcane spell lists don't overlap, one can usually find a functional equivalent in the other classes' spells, somebody's class feature, or maybe a piece of equipment. So, in many cases, resources aren't exactly lost, but they do become a lot less convenient.

Nature-Centric Powers: This is the weakest example, because arcane casters do get plant growth and speak with plants, but they do lack commune with nature, thorn whip, entangle, spike growth, the Land's Stride ability, and the ranger's whole Natural Explorer thing. The obvious thematic lacuna is accompanied by a decrease in the number of spells that impede enemies' movement or let you drag them around.

Divine Information: In this particular setting, the augury, divination, and commune spells may not be sorely missed, but the divine casters have a monopoly on detect evil and good, and you also lose the paladin's Divine Sense. If fiends and undead are still a threat in this world, it'll be a lot easier for them to get a jump on the PCs.

Poison Control: The arcane casters don't have access to detect poison and disease, purify food and drink, or protection from poison, and even healing-focused bards can't Lay On Hands to cure poisons or diseases. Monks can stop worrying about this at level 10, but most classes will have to give antitoxins and suchlike more consideration.

Food and Water: Obviously food and water are procurable even in a world without gods, but only divine casters have create or destroy water and create food and water (and heroes' feast.) As with spells relating to poison, this might be a nonissue if the DM doesn't press it.

Convenient Resurrection: Arcane casters do get raise dead and resurrection, but only clerics get death ward and the spare the dying cantrip, and only clerics and paladins have revivify. Resurrection at low levels used to be inconvenient or situational; now it's close to impossible.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Undead control could be a big loss, depending on your campaign. \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Jun 9, 2016 at 7:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ Bards can learn lesser restoration, which removes the poisoned condition and curse diseases. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Feb 1, 2019 at 18:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ None of these are truly lost - Bards can actually learn any spell that exists in the game. They'd potentially become very powerful from a socioeconomic point of view, because they can still do things the gods have denied. \$\endgroup\$
    – T.J.L.
    Oct 29, 2019 at 13:37

It's not about what you lose, it's about how you lose it.

5th Edition provides a lot of ways to get things that you want from character builds; healing is one of these things that you've already mentioned, and most features from the divine classes can be produced in some way by another character, or at the very least replaced with a passable substitute.

However, you're losing some things nonetheless if you remove divine spellcasters. Assuming you remove any class which would never have suffered spell failure from armor in 3.5 as a definition for "divine" casters, you have eliminated the Cleric, Paladin, Druid, and Ranger entirely.

None of these classes have any one feature that cannot be replaced: the Cleric's healing can be replaced by a bard, even features like Resurrection that were previously unavailable to arcane casters. Druids are probably one of the hardest classes to replace, simply because they get Wild Shape, but even that can be replaced with Polymorph if you've got a Sorcerer, Wizard, or Bard handy.

However, you don't have any spellcaster class left that uses heavy armor without relying on feats, multi-classing, or other ways to gain proficiency. The Eldritch Knight might fill that category if you are willing to accept a partial spellcaster. This leaves you with mostly squishy arcane casters, who can't block for their allies in combat. Despite this, many of the alternatives to things like Wild Shape will come at a later point in character development, at least depending on how you're using them, and may allow an arcane caster to do a little close quarters combat happily.

The fact that you miss out on limited use abilities like Lay on Hands or Wild Shape that provide utilities without requiring the consumption of a spell slot is also worth noting. You also miss out on any spells which only appear on the spell lists that you have not made available, like Reincarnate and a lot of Druid spells relating to nature. While it may be possible to gain some of these spells back with class features that enable access to particular spells, I don't think that there's any way to necessarily undo that without playing around with giving these spells to other casters or making them available as wondrous/magical items in some other manner.

TL;DR: You don't miss much, but you will miss a few things.

Playing a game without divine casters is possible and won't leave you feeling like you have absolutely no ability to do certain things, but it will leave you with a different theme for the game.

Huh, different theme?

Yes. By sacrificing divine casting classes, you've gotten rid of the dedicated healers (barring perhaps the bard, but that's not what bard is best known for), nature-themed characters, and most members of religious orders. You can replace the ranger with, say, the nonmagic ranger from Unearthed Arcana, but even that isn't thematically a replacement for the niche druids and rangers fill in some of D&D's fantasy settings.

Since you're likely running in another setting, you don't have too much to worry about from that, but it is something to consider: you might want to check out content outside the PHB for some nature-themed archetypes if you want to have nature magicians in your setting, for instance.

Per-Class Breakdowns

Removing Cleric: You lose access to a character who has both healing and access to some potentially very useful spells while still wearing heavy armor. Life domain clerics are probably the best healer in the game by a solid margin, and a cleric is able to wade into combat much better than a bard is, allowing them to truly benefit from the increased power of Cure Wounds without making them a target. Undead might be tricky for a party with no clerics or paladins.

Removing Paladin: Paladins are an alternative to the fighter in terms of damage, but instead of the fighter's largely self-focused ability set they have the ability to heal and protect nearby allies with powerful undead and outsider defeating abilities.

Removing Ranger: Not a whole lot of loss in terms of spellcasting (especially versus the loss of the Druid), though you will lose out on some very mobile fighters who have a great utility in nature areas. Beast Master is interesting, but can often be replaced with a familiar gaining class (Pact of Chain warlock or anyone who can cast find familiar).

Removing Druid: Druids have a large unique spell set that will be lost, in addition to the potential utility offered by Wild Shape. They can also be incredibly powerful casters, though in this sense they're not that far off from some wizards with short-rest recovery. Most of druid's bonuses are situational or can be replaced, but not necessarily efficiently.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Can you explain what you mean by familiar-based class? IIRC the only classes that are really about having companions are beast master and chain lock. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2016 at 5:07
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    \$\begingroup\$ Squishy casters can use medium or heavy armor if proficient. Feats and multi classing are variants but being a dwarf is core. \$\endgroup\$
    – Dale M
    Jun 9, 2016 at 5:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ Dwarves only get medium armor, which can't always compete with heavy armor, and not necessarily shield proficiency. As for the comment on familiar-based class, only Beast Master and the Pact of the Chain warlock get class features regarding it, but wizards and sorcerers can still use the find familiar spell. I've rephrased the awkward wording. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2016 at 16:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ In addition, the remaining caster classes have mediocre hit dice; Clerics and Druids do too, but have those wonderful armor+shield proficiencies to make up for it, as well as the easy access to healing magic. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2016 at 16:19

I think in the small scale, at the party level, you won't miss much. Most play groups are considerably smaller than the number of character classes available, especially considering the sub-classes. The game is balanced enough that a subset of the classes without divine spellcasters should work just fine.

Mostly though, you will lose the spells which keep characters alive and going. Most of the better healing abilities are the clerical spells. Yes, other classes can learn them through various cross-class means, but I assume if you are getting rid of divine magic, you are going to disallow the spells which only appear on divine spellcaster lists. Besides plain Hit Point restoration, you are going to lose the spells which return characters from death. Most of these are limited to divine spellcasters.

Beyond that, the spells which clerics and their ilk seem to have a corner on are spells of divine guidance and a lot of the spells dealing with undead.

I would suggest a more prominent alchemical presence, with cheaper and more plentiful potions of healing for a start. Perhaps natural plants or herbs that everyone knows about that can restore small amounts of damage.

You should have a way of dealing with undead. Holy symbols and water would seem to be out, but perhaps this problem corrects itself. With no divine (or infernal?) presence, the incidence of undead could diminish as a natural consequence.

These suggestions are only if you want play to be more similar to normal D&D balance. But really, if you are going to get rid of the gods and the influence they have on the mortal world through their spellcasters, you would expect the world to be different.


It should be noted that in the 5th edition of D&D magic has changed. Divine magic does not mean their power comes from Gods, which is really weird when you think of it.

Paladins do not derive their power from the Gods at all in 5th edition. Their divine spell casting is from their devotion to their oath. Their blind and complete devotion to that oath. You can think of this as paladins are literally so pig headed that they manifest divinity in their own stupidity and that's why they're divine casters. Weird right?

Druids also get their ability from drawing from nature in the literal sense. So in your campaign druids would also be there, unless nature does not exist in the literal sense. So those should still be there. Since rangers use the same type of casting as druids, they would still exist too in terms of casters.

So with that said. Under the assumption you're playing 5th edition and going to keep the premise, you'd just lose clerics.

Clerics in 5th edition provide everything that you'd want from a caster class and then some. They have a high ac, decent health, deal decent damage, and provide healing. At early levels it could be argued that they're brokenly good. At later levels, their high ac fades because that's how 5e scales ac. So you have a decent health caster with growing damage and amazing healing on demand mid combat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ While I think this is a good answer, it introduces an unnecessary and incorrect assumption: that in prior editions of D&D divine casting ability came solely from deities. This is not the case. \$\endgroup\$
    – BESW
    Jun 9, 2016 at 5:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 This argues with the established facts of my question without going into a full on frame challenge, nor does it answer the question asked. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 9, 2016 at 5:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ Apropos of @Weaveworker89's comment, see meta.rpg.stackexchange.com/q/3318/23970 for FAQ on frame challenges. \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Jun 9, 2016 at 11:54

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