D&D 5E 5E Specialty Priests

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
So one of the elements of 2E I loved the most and grandfathered/adapted to 3E was the notion of the "specialty priest." In my Aquerra homebrew there were no "generic" clerics or druids. Instead, every order of priesthood dedicated to a specific god had its own class built on the basic principle of the druid (which was the 2E example specialty priest). Thus a priest of Thor (called Marshals in that world) were more focused on battle, killing giants, and casting thunder and lightning spells, and using hammers. Each priesthood also had their own spell list and I had a ton of homebrewed domains. In fact, the 3E cleric ability to trade out prepared spells for healing spells was replaced with trading out spells from a chosen domain. Each priesthood had a limit on which classes it could multi-class with and how, and was limited in alignment somehow (must be "good" or must be "lawful," and so on).

Anyway, my current homebrew setting "The Republic of Makrinos" - which I developed to run 5E - has the opposite approach. Every priest is a "generic" priest and who or what they worship is totally separate from their powers. It is up to the individual player to determine how a Life Cleric (for example) serves a God of Pestilence and why they think the god grants those powers. Furthermore, a cleric of any alignment can worship and get powers from any god. Yes, a chaotic evil cleric can serve the god of law and justice. The details of doctrine are for mortals to work out and there is little to no direct contact with the gods (or saints or ancestors).

However, I was wondering, if I were ever to try to update my old homebrew for 5E would it make sense to create distinct sub-classes of cleric (or druid) for every available god? Basically, most clerics are the same for the first two levels and then dedicate themselves for good to one god and get further specific powers based on that god. Put aside the amount of work that would be (I am not against doing the work, I find it fun), does it seem like a workable approach to cleric/druid subclasses? Does anyone know of any settings or site for homebrew stuff that take this approach? Anyone try to do this themselves for their own homebrew or even for an established setting with a legacy of specialty priests (like Forgotten Realms - Faiths & Avatars and Monster Mythology were both big influences on me).

Thoughts welcome.
 

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Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Hello

I'm not sure it's necessary - the existing domains should be sufficient to cover most religions, although if you want to tweak them of course you can go ahead. Another thing to consider are other classes - a fire priest could be made with a divine sorcerer for example, and a warlock could be a type of priest too.

If you step away from 5e, it can become easier: Yoon Suin: Of Gods and Priests - the Vulture Priest
 

cbwjm

Legend
I posted something a while back where I customised the light domain to represent Purphoros from the Theros setting, I may have also done the same for a Greek god. I think it can be worthwhile but you may not want to do it for every god of your setting at once as that would be a lot of work, but set up the main ones to provide some choice I think could be a good idea.
 

NotAYakk

Legend
Just strip most of the spell list out, and add more domain spells.

For 1-5 add 2 spells/spell level, and 6+ add maybe 1. But don't make all domain spells automatically known (you get the same number as before known).

That, plus existing subclasses, should be enough.

If you want to make it god specific, you could tie subclasses to gods, or make god spell lists orthogonal, or a combination of the two.
 
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Redwizard007

Adventurer
So one of the elements of 2E I loved the most and grandfathered/adapted to 3E was the notion of the "specialty priest." In my Aquerra homebrew there were no "generic" clerics or druids. Instead, every order of priesthood dedicated to a specific god had its own class built on the basic principle of the druid (which was the 2E example specialty priest). Thus a priest of Thor (called Marshals in that world) were more focused on battle, killing giants, and casting thunder and lightning spells, and using hammers. Each priesthood also had their own spell list and I had a ton of homebrewed domains. In fact, the 3E cleric ability to trade out prepared spells for healing spells was replaced with trading out spells from a chosen domain. Each priesthood had a limit on which classes it could multi-class with and how, and was limited in alignment somehow (must be "good" or must be "lawful," and so on).

Anyway, my current homebrew setting "The Republic of Makrinos" - which I developed to run 5E - has the opposite approach. Every priest is a "generic" priest and who or what they worship is totally separate from their powers. It is up to the individual player to determine how a Life Cleric (for example) serves a God of Pestilence and why they think the god grants those powers. Furthermore, a cleric of any alignment can worship and get powers from any god. Yes, a chaotic evil cleric can serve the god of law and justice. The details of doctrine are for mortals to work out and there is little to no direct contact with the gods (or saints or ancestors).

However, I was wondering, if I were ever to try to update my old homebrew for 5E would it make sense to create distinct sub-classes of cleric (or druid) for every available god? Basically, most clerics are the same for the first two levels and then dedicate themselves for good to one god and get further specific powers based on that god. Put aside the amount of work that would be (I am not against doing the work, I find it fun), does it seem like a workable approach to cleric/druid subclasses? Does anyone know of any settings or site for homebrew stuff that take this approach? Anyone try to do this themselves for their own homebrew or even for an established setting with a legacy of specialty priests (like Forgotten Realms - Faiths & Avatars and Monster Mythology were both big influences on me).

Thoughts welcome.
Would it be awesome? Yeah. Is it necessary? He'll to the no.

The domains already do a pretty good job of representing different faiths. Further, would you even call the druid a priest anymore? Sure, it's losely based on one, but once we get to shape changing the focus seems to move to a more primal power than gods.

Advantages:
Super cool customized priests for each God.
Excuse to balance cleric subclasses.
Excellent opportunity for a lore dump.

Disadvantages:
...
...
Some players preferto run an official class, I guess.
 

If it's just to change spells - it seems like overkill.

But if you ant to swap out their weapon and armor options - ie martial arts priests who don't wear armor or carry weapons but can throw a punch and cast spells - that's almost a new class by itself. (Druids just need an unarmed shillelagh cantrip, maybe for claws, but clerics would need some work).

I could also see bard-like preacher clerics with more skills and less armor, and of course more wizard-looking clerics with no real weapon or armor training but maybe some extra spells.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
If it's just to change spells - it seems like overkill.

But if you ant to swap out their weapon and armor options - ie martial arts priests who don't wear armor or carry weapons but can throw a punch and cast spells - that's almost a new class by itself. (Druids just need an unarmed shillelagh cantrip, maybe for claws, but clerics would need some work).

I could also see bard-like preacher clerics with more skills and less armor, and of course more wizard-looking clerics with no real weapon or armor training but maybe some extra spells.
That's essentially how we did it for 2E and 3E.
 

fba827

Adventurer
If you’re talking customizing from scratch each faith then that might be more effort than it’s worth (how often are priests brought up in your world, if religion a major component of not the world but PC level adventuring and context?). The exception being if it’ll bring you(the DM) JOY and you have the time that it won’t cause you stress then it’s definitely worth it

Otherwise you’d be equally fair to just say all priests of X use the Y domain, all priests of Z using the B domain. This also helps simply for the players who might be considering making a priest as they wil be able to reference prepublished stuff that they may already know rather than reading new stuff that might be overwhelming in context of other stuff related to lore for the new campaign


With all that said, I’m totally right there with you that I love individualized priesthood’s from scratch and if I were a player in your game (mind you I’m usually dm, so maybe it’s a small thing to like this?) then I’d appreciate the effort.
 

Rune

Once A Fool
If I were to do something like this, I would do it primarily through spells.

Each deity would get a subclass and the abilities for each would be pilfered from the already-existing domain subclasses.

Additionally, the base cleric class would no longer prepare spells beyond 1st level. Nor would there be a standardized cleric spell list beyond 1st level (which matters for purposes of using scrolls).

Instead, the new subclasses would have vastly expanded (but deity-specific) domain spell lists of always-prepared spells pulled from across all spell lists. These domain spell lists would, of course, be unique to the deity (although some spells might be on all such lists – ceremony, for instance).

In the case where a cleric gets converted from the service of one deity to another, they just switch subclasses – and their spells along with it.

In the end, clerics would lose some flexibility, but gain a great deal of identity (and utility within that identity).
 

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