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I am currently DMing Curse of Strahd for a group of 4 players, including a dwarven life cleric, a circle of the land elf druid, a dwarf fighter, and a half-elf barbarian. After rescuing a few children from some hags, they tried to return them to their parents. After realizing that one of the children happened to be from the village of Barovia, instead of back tracking to the town they have already passed through and returning her, they decided to take her with them on their adventure.

They bought light leather armor for her and gave her a dagger to defend herself, and seem to be really intent on bringing her with them. They are hoping to be able to train her to either be a cleric or a druid or teach her some sort of divine magic.

I know that a six year old is unlikely to be able to be much help for them. Usually a child of her age would just be a noncombatant, they plan to try to have her avoid any dangerous situations but she will undoubtedly be in danger at some point.

How long would it take her to be able to learn some divine based magic, and is it within reason for her to be able to learn it at all?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by Miniman, KorvinStarmast, okeefe, inthemanual, LegendaryDude Feb 24 '17 at 21:44

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Note to other posters: the subject of children in dangerous fictional situations can be a sensitive topic; we are confident that our community will handle it with care, grace, and maturity. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 23 '17 at 17:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ kids can be wizards, there's statistics in VGTM \$\endgroup\$ – blade Aug 11 '17 at 17:27
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You are quite firmly in homebrew territory at this point, but I can perhaps give you some guidelines to work within.

5E does not have this, but 3.5E lists the minimum age for a character to be functionally capable of being a PC Class.

For a human Cleric or Druid, this would be 15+2d6 years old. This reflects the character having reached physical maturity, as well as the time required for them to gain the skills necessary to serve as a cleric or druid. The easiest to be would be a Rogue, Barbarian, or Sorcerer...which is 15+1d4 years old.

From this, we can derive that it takes at least 2d6 years to train a physically mature individual into being a First Level Cleric or Druid. And, at the bare minimum, it takes 1d4 years to reach 'First Level' in any class. And this assumes the physical and mental maturity of someone who is at least 15 years old. Given that apprenticeships in the middle ages tended to start very young....the actual numbers may be higher than that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While this does provide guidance toward an answer, it doesn't actually answer the question. The OP didn't ask how long it took to get to 1st level, just how long and if it was reasonable for a child to gain SOME divine-based magic. IMO a full answer would go farther by using other D&D or real-world references to try to figure out how such training would be deconstructed. (Note: I'm not saying it's a bad answer. Just suggesting how it could be a better one.) \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain Feb 23 '17 at 18:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can try to put something more together, but it will get rapidly more and more speculative. \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Feb 23 '17 at 18:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ Having looked around some more, there is no further factual information I can offer. D&D assumes you go from 'no spells' to 'first level spellcaster' in one step. Just like it assumes you abruptly learn all of your new spells the moment you level up. The only advice I could offer is take the information listed above, and then as the DM, draw your own conclusions about at what point in your training you started to gain class features. Any further answer I could provide would be opinion-based \$\endgroup\$ – guildsbounty Feb 23 '17 at 18:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I see a difference between opinion and derived speculation (aka inference; as long as you provide the sources) but fair enough. \$\endgroup\$ – Wesley Obenshain Feb 23 '17 at 18:34
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I agree with guildsbounty that this is firmly in house rule territory. Allowing partial training in a class is a slippery slope toward player abuse. A player could make the argument that other party members are training them in their class in order to gain some minor abilities from that class, such as cantrips, extra skills, etc. without having to take an entire level in that class.

That said, you could extrapolate the likely progression of training from a raw recruit to a 1st level character. Start by taking a look at everything the class grants at 1st level and lay it all out in individual pieces. For the cleric, it looks like this (yes, there are duplicates for a reason):

  • 1 hit die (d8, 8 HP + Con mod)
  • Armor: Light Armor
  • Armor: Medium Armor
  • Armor: Shields
  • Weapons: Simple Weapons
  • Skills: One of History, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion
  • Skills: One of History, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion
  • Proficiency Bonus +1
  • Proficiency Bonus +1
  • Spellcasting
  • Divine Domain
  • 1 Cantrip
  • 1 Cantrip
  • 1 Cantrip
  • 1 1st-Level Spell
  • 1 1st-Level Spell

These tend to organize themselves into three separate chunks: arms and armor, skills, and spellcasting. Each has a fairly clear progression of abilities that would need to be learned in a particular order. Proficiency doesn't have a solid home, so I'd put the first point at the end in the first group trained and the second at the end of the last. The hit die would be gained upon full completion.

Now, we just need to establish how long each piece takes to learn. Going by the 3.5e/Pathfinder age chart, it takes 2-12 (avg 7) years to fully become a 1st level cleric. Assuming some sort of scholastic/monastic center for training, each of the three groups could be trained roughly simultaneously. Taking the average time to completion, it follows that it would take 1 year to learn spellcasting at all and another year to master the first cantrip.

Learning in the field during downtime should limit training to a single group at a time and yield the longest training time (12 years). Using this guideline, each of the 13 parts would still take roughly a year, so our earlier estimate still looks accurate.

The sticky question left unanswered revolves around age. The game assumes that characters start at 15-years-old, mostly because putting children in likely-lethal situations isn't terribly palatable. Leaving that aside, the balance of attention span versus knowledge sponge could arguably even out training times. We're deep enough into special circumstances that I'd argue for just handwaving the age of the character.

In summary, roughly 2 years to master the basics of casting a single cleric cantrip. Naturally, you're free to declare the child a prodigy touched by whatever god the cleric worships and shorten that time to anything you like.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I actually really like that your calculations have the child reaching full Cleric 1 potential at age 18. That feels like a really good example of the narrative lining up with rules, which is what I tend to prefer in my homebrew rulings. The idea of this kid getting raised by an adventuring group until 18, then setting off on their own as a divine caster speaks to me on more than a rules level. \$\endgroup\$ – D.Spetz Feb 24 '17 at 21:06
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How long do you want it to take?

DnD is about experiencing heroic fantasy stories. Real-world rules do not apply. There are plenty of fantasy stories where very young characters accomplish feats which should be far above their physical and mental maturity. But that's what makes these stories so inspiring.

So you can just roll up a standard Level 1 Cleric or Druid and be done with it (maybe put her down a size category for flavor). If you find that implausible considering that others train for decades before they can even be considered a Level 1, you can find some explanation why she is so unusually competent despite her young age.

Clerics often get their powers from a god, so it might be due to divine intervention. Maybe she is "the chosen one" or is the reincarnation of a prophet. Or maybe she is possessed, fell into a magic spring, got hit by someone's poorly phrased Wish spell, drank some strange potion, picked up some magic artifact or got bitten by a radioactive spider. It's your world. You make the rules, so anything is possible. If you want to have a little six year old girl who kicks ass with divine magic, go for it.

And if you represent her mechanically with a character which is completely within the normal game rules (except looking like a six year old girl), then you don't even need to worry about it being unbalanced.

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Maybe she already can.

Assuming the six year old is a human, and assuming your campaign starts with feats, she might have started with the following traits:

Ability Score Increase. Two different ability scores of your choice increase by 1.

Skills. You gain Proficiency in one skill of your choice.

Feat. You gain one feat of your choice

It doesn't mention a minimum age for humans to have this starting feat, so she probably already has it. However, assuming she hasn't trained it yet*, the feat slot might be empty.

From there, the PCs just have to train her into the Magic Initiate feat:

Choose a class: bard, cleric, druid, sorcerer, warlock, or wizard. You learn two cantrips of your choice from that class’s spell list. In addition, choose one 1st-level spell from that same list. You learn that spell and can cast it at its lowest level. Once you cast it, you must finish a long rest before you can cast it again. Your spellcasting ability for these spells depends on the class you chose: Charisma for bard, sorcerer, or warlock; Wisdom for cleric or druid: or Intelligence for wizard.

It takes between one downtime and 250 days to train a feat, so you could use it as a basis for how long it would take for the six year old to learn her spells.

Alternatively, she might already have the feat. In both cases, it's probably a good way to hold on until her Level 1, at which point she can train into another feat if she wants to.

*Not a lot of six years old have the time and dedication to train into becoming Great Weapon Masters, unfortunately.

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Previous editions of D&D had rules specifying bounds on the valid starting age of player characters, generally preventing players from playing an extremely young character without some effort. 5e has no such rule, instead explicitly stating:

Age: The age entry notes the age when a member of the race is considered an adult, as well as the race’s expected lifespan. This information can help you decide how old your character is at the start of the game. You can choose any age for your character, which could provide an explanation for some of your ability scores. For example, if you play a young or very old character, your age could explain a particularly low Strength or Constitution score, while advanced age could account for a high Intelligence or Wisdom .

This indicates it is entirely acceptable for a player to make a character with the full benefits of their first level and stats who also happens to be six years of age or even younger.

However, NPCs don't use the same rules as players in 5e. Generally, one chooses a character 'template' for and NPC and then uses that as the base for the creature. The NPC divine caster template is the Acolyte, who casts spells as a 1st level Cleric. 5e does not appear to have any template extant to cover any sort of hominoid child; presumably they just use the same template as for the adult they will grow into. As the party adventures with the child, the child should probably advance in some fashion but the mechanisms by which that happens are up to you and the rules don't give guidance on that count.

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You don't learn divine magic from study, so Cleric works.

The description for cleric states

Harnessing divine magic doesn’t rely on study or training. A cleric might learn formulaic prayers and ancient rites, but the ability to cast cleric spells relies on devotion and an intuitive sense of a deity’s wishes.

A six-year-old on an adventure might attract the pity of some deity, who might grant her some cleric spellcasting ability to defend herself. It's also possible for the party's cleric to teach her some cleric rituals, in order to spur this development.

At any rate, gaining cleric abilities is not dependent on study or training, and so people of any age can acquire them.

Sorcerer might be a better option, in my opinion

Sorcerers carry a magical birthright conferred upon them by an exotic bloodline, some otherworldly influence, or exposure to unknown cosmic forces. One can’t study sorcery as one learns a language, any more than one can learn to live a legendary life. No one chooses sorcery; the power chooses the sorcerer.

Some sorcerers can’t name the origin of their power, while others trace it to strange events in their own lives. The touch of a demon, the blessing of a dryad at a baby’s birth, or a taste of the water from a mysterious spring might spark the gift of sorcery.

I think these passages are pretty self-explanatory--no training is necessary to become a sorcerer. You could rule that being put in peril spurred the development of her sorcerous abilities. Moreover, I'd suggest giving her the Wild Magic socerous origin, as it dovetails nicely with a young child who can't control her magic well.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I like the sorcerer option if only because of attention spans - very few children of that age can keep concentration long enough to do very much, and the random effect tables... Well - he might have been a bit younger, but anyone remember the baby from The Incredibles? \$\endgroup\$ – Rycochet Feb 24 '17 at 10:20

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