Revising Cleric Domains

For some time now I’ve been dissatisfied with how some cleric domains are implemented.  Overall there are things I like, and places where I find them lacking.  I think domains can use a general tuneup.

Things I like about D&D 3.x domains:

  • They provide a set of related spells that (ideally) support the concept and portfolios of the gods with the domains;
  • They provide a power or ability to clerics who choose those domains;
  • Clerics get one bonus spell slot per level that can only be filled with a domain spell, so clerics always have at least some of their power associated with their chosen domains.

Things I don’t like about D&D 3.x domains:

  • The spell choices sometimes aren’t a good fit for how I picture the gods;
  • The spell choices sometimes overlap (same spell appears in multiple domains at the same level), made worse by the overlapping domains being conceptually a good choice to take together;
  • The powers can be lackluster (“+1 caster level”?  Eww);
  • Powers inconsistently grow with cleric level — some do (Strength domain), some don’t and are good choices for dipping (Luck) — or are of dubious value (added class skills for a class with bugger all skill points);
  • The spells or powers can be direct opposites (spells from the Good and Evil domains are sometimes simply the same power with different polarity, so they affect the other team), I’d rather see more qualitative differences.

Pathfinder addresses some of these to make them better:

  • Subdomains modify the spell lists and powers of the major domains, giving more variety while still sticking to the major theme;
  • This also helps with spell overlap;
  • Clerics gain powers at two different levels, at first level when they first take the domains, then again later, allowing for better scaling of power within the domain.

I have not examined the spell choices enough to say whether they now have more qualitative differences between opposing domains or stick to polarity differences.

I’ll be changing cleric domains to better suit my vision.  Among the changes I expect to make:

  • More subdomains.  They’re just a good idea.
  • Review spell choices, try to make them more in line with how I view each domain.  The way I do clerics in my campaign means that overlapping domain spells aren’t as much of an issue.
  • Domains should each have at least one skill.  Cleric skill points are increased to four per level (all classes with two skill points per level are increased to four; no class deserves to have only two), all skills associated with a god’s domains are added to the class list for clerics of that god, and the cleric is treated as fully-trained (to the limits of his class level) in the skills associated with his chosen domains.  For instance, a cleric with the Healing domain has a number of ranks in Heal equal to his class level +3.  If a cleric’s chosen domains both have the same skill, the character gets a +3 bonus to checks made with that skill.
  • Domain powers reviewed and revised (kill the “+1 caster level” lameness), allow expanded domain powers via feats (see Agents of Faith from… Paradigm, I think).
  • Raid The Complete Priests Handbook from AD&D 2e for ‘domain weapons’, weapons associated with each portfolio.  Consider them for association with the domains.  A cleric gains proficiency with all weapons associated with the domains of his god, rather than just simple weapons.

There may be more, but this is roughly where I expect to start.

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