Do 5e clerics of an evil bent have many options regarding undead? Are there other abilities said cleric could gain to have a more favorable relationship with undead (that they may have themselves made), say if they serve Velsharoon, Kiaranselee, or another God of Undeath? Perhaps they have another option for Domains that is not in the PHB? Are they expected to do this with spells, instead?

I see that "negative energy" is different, now, and that it, and undead, seem to have a new, different relationship, so how do evil clerics now associate with the undead? Can they bolster their minions, and defend them from the turning powers of their holy counterparts?


2 Answers 2


The DMG has a "Death Domain" for clerics.

See pp.96-97. It includes expanded targeting for necromancy cantrips, and added necrotic damage onto melee attacks.

It does not particularly tie into undead thralls, aside from granting some undead-centric spells through domain spells. It's more geared toward the cleric infusing their own interactions with necrotic energy than becoming some sort of undead commander.

It should be noted that the Death Domain is in a section devoted to the crafting of new player options: this may be a good prompt for you and your GM to work on an "Undeath Domain" that more-closely hews to your concept of a servant of death.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I did see the Death Domain, and initially thought it might cover that, but yes, it was more "you do more necrotic damage". I saw more of what I'd want under the Oathbreaker Paladin, and their CD: Control Undead, but that's a different class, of course. Uncertain if it would be a huge imbalance to grant it to a cleric of Death, or another Domain, in place of one of their other CDs, or if this isn't what evil clerics are about, this edition. I've only gotten the PHB, DMG, MM, and SCAG, so I wanted to make sure it wasn't just in another book, which I hadn't purchased. \$\endgroup\$
    – Venkelos
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 19:57
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    \$\begingroup\$ Aren't the Death Domain and Oathbreaker options in the Villainous NPCs section, as options completely at DM Discretion? I mean to say this because the "Dungeon Master's Workshop" stuff is in the back, and of course basically everything is up for modification or being a model for new things. \$\endgroup\$
    – Javelin
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 20:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Javelin it's a little complicated... it's in the NPC chapter, under "Villainous Class Options." But the beginning of this section talks about how these methods are used "the same way you create player characters," opening the door to this being a two-way thing. And the later sidebar on oathbreaker atonement is completely predicated upon the notion that a PC had one of these villianous options. So I certainly see it as a template for things that a PC could use at GM discretion, but there's certainly room to say "no, that's only for NPCs." \$\endgroup\$
    – nitsua60
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 21:16
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    \$\begingroup\$ FWIW, in the DCI Adventurer's league, players can create a death domain cleric, but only if they have received a Certificate from an official source allowing it. So the officially sanctioned and sponsored game league considers being able to have a Death Domain Cleric roughly on par with getting a Permanent Magic Item. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 22:16

Alignment is not the relevant consideration here: there is nothing in the rules to stop a good or neutral character from having an undead cohort. Taking someone's body without permission is probably not on but I can imagine a society where everyone lives a life of luxury and, when they die, their bodies are bequeathed to society to be raised to do the menial tasks that keep society running.

Creation and control of undead is through the Animate Dead (p.212) or Create Undead (p.219) spells and, compared to earlier editions, is much more limited. These are available to both Wizards and Clerics. Clerics of any alignment can only turn or destroy undead - they can no longer rebuke or control them.

In D&D 5e, undeath "mastery" (such as it is) is the province of the Wizard, specifically the Necromancy school (PHB p.118); not of the Cleric. The boons it gives are actually pretty good.

The Death domain from the DMG is more about making things dead, not so much about undead. The only thing that is of any use is the 17th level boon. You could create an Undeath domain I suppose but this is really treading on the Necromancer's toes so its not happening at my table.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Finger of Death is the only spell that grants permanent control over a zombie when created by the spell, albeit you essentially commit murder to do so, maybe self-defense but the intrigue in that court case would be fun to watch. Keep in mind that D&D alignments only work as intended with at least a nod toward a moral absolutist point of view. Also the books tend to indicate alignment plays some role. rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/45965/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Slagmoth
    Commented Aug 4, 2016 at 13:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ It seems weird to me, in this edition, that the cleric maintains an ability to turn/destroy undead, now regardless of alignment, but not the other way, nor can they "turn" anything else, like the Outsider servants of other deities (demons, devils, angels; whatever your alignment.) A bit odd that, as a servant of a Deity of Undeath, you gain no power to practice that theme, as the other Domains seem to grant. Oh well, plenty of other cool things to do, right? I can see "not wanting to step on the Necromancer's toes", except a whole specialty of Fighter, and Rogue, sort of do, with Wizards toes. \$\endgroup\$
    – Venkelos
    Commented Aug 5, 2016 at 14:16

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