New: D&D Blood Acolyte Cleric
Welcome back to the Zurn blog! Today we're looking at a new cleric subclass: the Blood Acolyte. This is designed as an NPC subclass, but if you're okay with your players sacrificing blood to their deity, by all means let your players use it as well. It's not "overpowered" in the hands of a player character, though it could lead to interpersonal issues with the group as you have one player who is devoted to giving the blood of others to their master.
I. Blood Acolyte Cleric: Theme and Inspiration
The Blood Acolyte is exactly what it sounds like: a person who serves a deity from any domain, so long as the god/goddess accepts blood sacrifices. This could be a Chaos Warrior, "Blood for the blood god!" sort of situation, or it could be a person who believes that cattle should be given continually to their divine protector. There are so many ways this can be used, though the spell list and abilities tend toward the former in flavor.
Acolytes of this nature should embody several features. First, they should be able to deal more damage than your average cleric, as their act of devotion is shedding blood. Second, there should be an aspect of self-harm as a means of showing devotion (though, as we will note again next week when discussing the Bloodstained Sorcerer, we don't encourage these traits in real people), and you should gain a benefit from this self-harm as you sacrifice your own blood on the altar.
Third, there is something iconic about using daggers, and since daggers are not great weapons in D&D (not the worst, but not great), there should be reasons within the subclass why a dagger is being used that doesn't penalize/inhibit the player. And finally, there is an idea that such a cleric is fanatical, not easily being dissuaded or frightened as they perform their sacred rites.
So what resulted from this consideration is a subclass that has two parts to it: the bonuses you receive as the cleric of this deity, and a second part that applies to both you and any that you initiate into the blood cult as an acolyte under you. And the result is a flavorful subclass for your games.
II. Blood Acolyte Cleric: Mechanics
You can find the details of the subclass here, easily printable for your game master to consider if desired thanks to the team at Homebrewery. Starting with the domain spells, you get a range of mostly necromancy spells, as necromancy has most of the blood and life transference spells. In addition, at 1st level you gain the Chill Touch cantrip (so you can draw blood for your enemies) and proficiency (or expertise if you already have proficiency) with the Charisma (Intimidation) skill.
In addition, you gain the ability to consecrate daggers, increasing their damage to 1d6 piercing instead of 1d4 piercing damage. The damage will increase to 1d8 at 6th level and 1d10 at 17th level.
At 2nd level you gain your Channel Divinity ability which can be used in one of three ways. First, you can use it to perform a melee attack with a consecrated dagger (or two attacks if you have two consecrated daggers and are wielding both of them), dealing extra necrotic damage on top of the attack. Second, you can use it to initiate a blood acolyte, granting small bonuses from the subclass to your allies. And third, when you perform an attack that reduces a creature to 0 hit points, you can select up to six targets within range: they regain hit points as you sprinkle them with blood.
At 6th level you gain the ability to shed some of your blood for an advantage in battle. You may spend a hit die at the start of your turn, granting you advantage on 1d8 attacks within the next hour. Acolytes you initiate can gain a similar benefit to his/her next attack (not 1d8 attacks) at the expense of 1d4 hit points (instead of a hit die).
At 8th level you gain added necrotic damage on your weapon damage, much like other martial-oriented clerics. Unlike other martial-oriented clerics, this necrotic damage bypasses resistances and immunities, as it is the power of your deity being channeled through you.
And finally at 17th level, your devotion to the blood god results in a lust for battle that overcomes fear. You gain immunity to the Charmed and Frightened conditions, and when you suffer damage you gain 1d10 temporary hit points before resolving the damage. You will probably still suffer damage, but at least you won't feel it as much as you would otherwise. Your acolytes also gain the immunities, but they do not gain the temporary hit points.
The Blood Acolyte makes for a very exciting and thematic villain: a bloodthirsty sort that cackles and slashes his skin, dealing far greater damage to his foes. It can also make for an interesting player character choice, as you thrash through foes to please the gods. If you find this appealing, consider playing a Blood Acolyte.
Until next time,