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D&D 5E What if clerics cast like warlocks?

I just had an idle thought. I assume you've read the title of this thread and already know what it was. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. The way warlocks cast, on a short-rest basis with flat slot levels, really fits with the notion that the magic isn't coming from them, but channeled from some other greater source. And, of course, they're not the only class that does that. Clerics, druids, rangers, and paladins all derive their power from what may be called patrons.

So the question is: are the traditional and the warlock casting systems balanced against each other? Is it really as simple as pulling one out and plugging in the other, or would we have to make some further adaptations? (I suppose the same question could also be reversed, if you wanted to make warlocks traditional spellcasters.)
 

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Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
Thematically warlocks gain their powers by some higher agent breaking the rules, and therefore their spellcasting system "breaks the rules" of magic.
 

AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
The two casting resource variants appear to be roughly balanced if the game's default assumptions are true.

By which I mean that the balance isn't perfect, and isn't really intended to be either - it's just supposed to feel fair to the players over the course of playing the game, not be an equation.

But there is one thing that I think has to be noted: It isn't just the spell slot number, level, and when they refresh - the warlock casting system also includes their invocations, their mystic arcanum, and their intentionally more powerful, especially when enhanced by invocations, eldritch blast cantrip. So if you are going to replace the cleric class spellcasting feature with a warlock-like system, it would need to include an analog to those features.
 

But there is one thing that I think has to be noted: It isn't just the spell slot number, level, and when they refresh - the warlock casting system also includes their invocations, their mystic arcanum, and their intentionally more powerful, especially when enhanced by invocations, eldritch blast cantrip. So if you are going to replace the cleric class spellcasting feature with a warlock-like system, it would need to include an analog to those features.
I suppose I should have been more clear. Mystic Arcanum I view as an integral part of the warlock spellcasting system. Obviously any full caster using that system would need an equivalent if they want to cast spells higher than 5th level. (Wouldn't be an issue for the half-casters.)

Invocations I don't view as an integral part of the warlock spellcasting system. They're more like additional class features. And I don't see a burning need for divine casters to get an invocation-like system beyond the class features they already have.

Eldritch blast is a good discussion point. I don't think it would be appropriate to simply clone the spell or create a near-duplicate -- a major reason that warlocks get it is that blasting is a large part of their schtick, and it isn't for clerics. Functionally, what eldritch blast does is give warlocks something powerful to do when they don't want to use one of of their very limited spell slots. And here's my thinking: aren't clerics kind of built like that already? They get basic attack enhancements and powerful self-buff spells that last for multiple rounds. Could the cleric equivalent of eldritch blast be simply hitting the bad guy with a mace? Or do you think there needs to be more?
 

the warlock casting system also includes their invocations, their mystic arcanum, and their intentionally more powerful, especially when enhanced by invocations, eldritch blast cantrip.
Nod, mostly agreed. Though eldritch blast is just a way of doing decent damage and contributing in combat without using slots and clerics have traditionally just waded into melee when it came to it.

Another issue is that the cleric's traditional 'healer' or support role can sometimes require dusting off a little used spell on their list to solve some problem the party has run up against. (Rest, memorize a bunch of lesser restorations, that kinda thing.) The limited spells known of the Warlock casting mechanics would get in the way of that - they might have to be 'prepped Warlocks' or something.

Could the cleric equivalent of eldritch blast be simply hitting the bad guy with a mace? Or do you think there needs to be more?
Prettymuch. A War Cleric'll be better at it. But, pumping out the DPR has never been the Cleric's primary thing, while it has often been the Warlock's.
 

The limited spells known of the Warlock casting mechanics would get in the way of that - they might have to be 'prepped Warlocks' or something.
They can pretty much just use the system they already have. Might need some clarification on how prepping interacts with Mystic Arcanum slots.

But, pumping out the DPR has never been the Cleric's primary thing, while it has often been the Warlock's.
Exactly.
 

This is a terrible idea for one reason: the cleric can no longer provide decent healing for the party with such limited spell slots. Yes, each spell will grant more HP, but you can't heal more than 2 characters between Short Rests until you have Mass Cure Wounds at level 9.
 

To contrast, I would say that this is a terrible idea because it enables the cleric to heal the entire party on short-rest resources. One of the guiding principles of this edition, with its attrition model, is that you're eventually supposed to run out of HP near the end of the day. With this change, the entire party has a strong incentive to chain short rests until everyone is at full (where previously only the fighter would benefit).
 

AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
This is a terrible idea for one reason: the cleric can no longer provide decent healing for the party with such limited spell slots. Yes, each spell will grant more HP, but you can't heal more than 2 characters between Short Rests until you have Mass Cure Wounds at level 9.
This touches on why I mentioned that you would need to include an invocation-like set of additional spell powers, and keep in mind not that eldritch blast does good DPR, but that warlocks are given eldritch blast and it's enhancement invocations for a reason - that reason being that you need to do something so that the class getting only 2 "big" effects per short rest can still do what is expected of the class to a meaningful degree besides that.

Even just a 1/rest ability to provide healing to the party without spending a spell slot would go a long way to making the cleric still feel like a capable healer despite limited spell slots.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
Curiously in my most recent campaign I did just that, or almost. Well kind of -clerics are banned because they don't fit the Gottdammerung theme I was looking for, and wizards weren't touched because, well I don't like wizards- but basically switched all other casters to per short rest casting -and a few other abilities from the other classes-. Healing is indeed a problem whit it. How I solved it is basically a trade secret so sent me $5 to find it out... (no? ok I will do it if you give me enough xp then)
 


mellored

Explorer
Not without invocations. (renamed blessings).

Warlocks spell slots are closer to 3/4 caster, and they need some extra to make up the difference. Eldrich blast by itself is only marginally better than firebolt. It's the invocation that makes it good. It's also the invocations that fill in the "low level" utility spell slots that other casters have. Like dark vision, or spider climb.
That said, no reason why clerics need DPS invocations. Give them a support one instead, like THP, or "as a reaction, you can reduce damage one ally takes by half" or something. Whispers of the grave fits just fine. Maybe one that gives allies a bonus to death saves. Or let them cast bless at-will.

Perhaps some domain specific ones.
Trickster might have mask of many faces.
Light cleric can't be blinded.
Knowlge can get eyes of the rune keeper.
War could have thirsting blade and lifedrinker.
Nature could get beast speech.
etc...
 

Ahrimon

Bourbon and Dice
Thematically warlocks gain their powers by some higher agent breaking the rules, and therefore their spellcasting system "breaks the rules" of magic.

I'd argue that this is one of many ways of looking at it. Another is that the higher agent shows the warlock a secret to learning power and the warlock gains the rest of it on their own. I favor this viewpoint since nothing about a warlock compels them to obey their patron and there is nothing in the PHB or DMG about striping a warlock of their powers because they don't obey.

On topic, whitewashing the warlock class and using it as a frame for clerics could be a fun and interesting way of doing things. If I get the time I may pursue it.
 

aco175

Legend
In the downloads section on this site there is a class called The Hierophant which looks pretty good at first look and it is just what is being discussed. I would like to see a few more options to choose at each level, but it looks like a good start.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
To contrast, I would say that this is a terrible idea because it enables the cleric to heal the entire party on short-rest resources. One of the guiding principles of this edition, with its attrition model, is that you're eventually supposed to run out of HP near the end of the day. With this change, the entire party has a strong incentive to chain short rests until everyone is at full (where previously only the fighter would benefit).
Any party built around short-rest oriented characters already has strong incentives to chain short rests, though, and I haven't heard a ton of pushback from players that this is a major issue. It isn't like this behavior wasn't already enabled for Cleric 1/Warlock X or Paladin 2/Warlock X, which are already pretty strong multiclass options. And even long rest oriented classes can become short rest oriented with various feat choices, such as a caster with Healer and Inspiring Leader.
 

MechaTarrasque

Adventurer
I think you could make a system where every spell the cleric casts at X cleric level is a Y level spell. The hard part would be revamping the cleric's spell list (pretty much everything below 4th level spells need to scale) and figure out how many spells the cleric should be casting per short rest. I think the latter is pretty hard. My perception is that the warlock is set up to spam a cantrip, get utility abilities from invocations, and has a couple of offensive spells for emergencies [and then when Mystic Arcanum kicks in to have some more ritualistic {but not actually ritual} spells]. The first and last parts are okay, but without invocations, figuring out how to balance utility abilities (a bigger thing for clerics then warlocks) and offensive spells is tricky. If the cleric can spam off a bunch of 5th level offensive spells because you wanted to make sure the cleric had enough slots for a bunch of healing, then I think the wizard/sorcerer/warlock have a legit gripe
 

Xeviat

Hero
Supporter
Warlocks can already pick up Magic Initiate (Bard) for Cure Wounds and ruin the healing structure. The Healer feat offers a lot of healing too.

I'm playing around with using a modified warlock casting system for everybody. I don't think warlock invocations factor in to their casting. Those are class abilities. They're nice. They aren't major. They could be added to a short rest cleric as utility stuff. But the warlock casting, converted to spell points, gets as much spell points as the base system at most of the levels. Way more than a half caster.

If everyone recovered on a short rest, the classes would be easier to balance. But I think the mystic arcanum should start earlier, and the spell level progresssion should be slowed, so that "dailies" are gained earlier.


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It isn't like this behavior wasn't already enabled for Cleric 1/Warlock X or Paladin 2/Warlock X, which are already pretty strong multiclass options. And even long rest oriented classes can become short rest oriented with various feat choices, such as a caster with Healer and Inspiring Leader.
Are you sure about that? I was under the impression that you couldn't use non-warlock spells in your warlock pact slots. And I was pretty sure that those feats worked off of your hit dice, which meant they only extended your existing long-rest resources, though I don't recall their exact mechanics.

In any case, multiclassing and feats will obviously unbalance any game. Cleric spells aren't balanced for use in the warlock pact system, as a baseline, which is what this thread is about. If you're comfortable with the degree to which multiclassing and feats will already unbalance a game, and it's already possible to gain unrestricted healing through short-rest resources by doing so, then you probably don't care about the degree to which a cleric using the pact system would be unbalanced.
 

TwoSix

Unserious gamer
Supporter
Are you sure about that? I was under the impression that you couldn't use non-warlock spells in your warlock pact slots. And I was pretty sure that those feats worked off of your hit dice, which meant they only extended your existing long-rest resources, though I don't recall their exact mechanics.
PHB, pg 164 states that if you have pact magic and spellcasting, you can use your pact magic slots to cast your known or prepared spells, and your spellcasting slots to cast your warlock known spells.

Healer allows a character to expend one use of a healer's kit as an action to heal someone for 1d6+4+target's level, one per short rest of the target. No Hit Dice expenditure. Likewise, inspiring leader grants your level + Cha modifier of temporary hit points to 6 targets (including yourself).

Fundamentally, the game is already "balanced" on the assumption that the attrition model is going to be adhered to under some sort of honor system. Tthe players won't try to camp after every fight, and the DM will provide some rationale or apply some penalty (such as wandering monsters or campaign complications) to parties that attempt to rest too often. The relative ease of healing up after a rest, whether it be a short or long rest, only affects what sort of rationale will be applied, not whether a rationale is needed.
 
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Are you sure about that? I was under the impression that you couldn't use non-warlock spells in your warlock pact slots.
"If you have both the Spellcasting class feature and the Pact Magic class feature from the warlock class, you can use the spell slots you gain from the Pact Magic feature to cast spells you know or have prepared from classes with the Spellcasting class feature..." (PHB p. 164)

Magic Initiate doesn't work, though.

And I was pretty sure that those feats worked off of your hit dice, which meant they only extended your existing long-rest resources, though I don't recall their exact mechanics.
Healer uses healer's kits, but you can buy as many of those as you can carry, and the fact remains that it incentivizes chaining short rests. Inspiring Leader grants temporary hit points, so you don't benefit from chaining.

In any case, multiclassing and feats will obviously unbalance any game.
No, not "obviously". They're not supposed to. It's not as if they're presented as "Here are some options to unbalance your game!" If you're one of those people who is generally against multiclassing and feats, please set aside that opinion as irrelevant to this discussion. Here we're interested in 5E's design philosophy and whether that allows short-rest healing. WotC obviously didn't write the multiclassing and feat rules with the intention of breaking their own game. So whether or not you like those rules, they still stand as evidence of what the game designers thought was within the limits of balance. And these are not obscure, unanticipated combos we're talking about. Casting cleric spells with Pact Magic is explicitly allowed; if they were worried about the balance consequences of that, it would have been just as easy to explicitly forbid it. And the short-rest cooldown on Healer is right there in the feat text; again, if they were worried, it would have been just as easy to write it as a long-rest cooldown.

Furthermore, as you yourself noted, even without multiclassing and feats, the base fighter already gets "unrestricted healing" on short rests. It's not even off in a subclass -- it's a core ability. And further still, a Life cleric can Channel Divinity to keep the party at half maximum hit points for as long as they can short rest. It's not as good as topping them off, of course, but it's still a big thumb of the nose to the concept of attrition.

So taking all this evidence into account, please consider the possibility that short-rest healing is not as much of a balance taboo as you think. It's hard to claim daily hit point attrition is a sacred cow when there is already hamburger lying all over the place.
 
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