Welcome back to the Zurn blog! Today we're looking at our second new cleric domain and I confess, at first I was surprised that this domain did not exist. So naturally I latched onto it and wanted to make one and that's when I discovered why it has likely not been made yet:
D&D is a combat-centric game, and how do you do that with a love domain?
So this one, I confess, took time to work on, but by taking myself out of the normal way of thinking, I came up with a unique "battlefield control subclass" for D&D that you don't see elsewhere. And that is a domain that actively encourages you at times to not attack while still aiding your party as they fight your foes.
The Love Domain is extremely prevalent across ancient mythology. Whether this is Aphrodite/Venus in Greco-Roman mythology, Isis in Egyptian mythology, or many others, the idea of a deity that governs over love (and often childbearing) is perhaps the most common of all "domains" in a pantheon. This domain takes all of that and adds to it the idea of pursuing harmony with others, spreading a doctrine of peace and kindness across the world.
The Love Domain: Theme and Inspiration
As noted above, mythology gives us a lot of ways to pursue a Love Domain for D&D. In Greek mythology we have Aphrodite, the mother of Aeneas and the center of many stories, and as far as I can tell we never see her wield a weapon in any of them. She uses her power of suggestion and seduction to convince people to do things, and also has the ability to put people in a deep sleep, but she never wields a weapon. So as we built the subclass, we made a point to never reward a person for doing damage with a weapon, and wanted to focus instead on this idea of sleep and persuasion.
From other deities (mostly female but some male) we added the idea of harmony and peace extending to both man and beast, pursuing cooperation even across languages and cultures. But since the Nature Domain already allows you to charm beasts and plants, we didn't want to encroach on their territory by charming creatures. So we kept a course headed more toward preserving peace rather than charming animals to keep the two subclasses distinct.
And finally we wanted to insure that you have something to do in combat to aid your party (instead of just sitting around), because let's be real: combat's going to happen with relative frequency in most campaigns, and we want you to be useful to the party when that happens. So we borrowed from Freyja, as she is both a goddess of love and a goddess of battle and death (which is part of why the valkyries serve her, as a bit of context).
The result is perhaps the strangest D&D class of all time.
The Love Domain: 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. The class gains spells that aid in convincing people and taking people out of combat, thereby removing hostile actions and improving action economy because you are not a particularly good killing character.
You are not prevented from attacking (because if Freyja is your goddess we want you to be able to serve her through warfare), but none of your abilities help your combat abilities, including your 8th level bonus that typically increases your damage with a weapon. Instead you rely heavily on the Sleep spell, putting enemies to sleep that you have not charmed, allowing the party to deal with threats at their leisure and keeping your hands clean from violence (if that's your thing).
Your Channel Divinity is an exception to this: it inflicts disadvantage on those who fail a Wisdom saving throw for up to 1 minute, but during that time you are not allowed to attack anyone in any way, because you know - harmony! So what do you do during this time?
You buff the party. At lower levels you have your standard cleric spells to aid your allies or harm your enemies (Bless, Bane, Hold Person, etc.), and of course you can use your domain spells to take enemies out of the fight. At the highest levels your Bless spell will also not take concentration, so you can cast it twice and help your whole party (if you have more than three people in your party).
And if you don't want to spend a spell slot, you can always use the Help action to grant them advantage on one of their attacks (which, depending on who your ally is, could deal a lot more damage than you would even be capable of doing because you're a cleric and you don't get high-damage cantrips or the Extra Attack feature).
This also frees you up to cast healing spells (though your healing spells gain no bonuses), and you can use your action to do something that players tend to forego because they want to attack: making ability checks to learn about the enemies you are facing.
This is a particularly useful thing, as sometimes there will be a trap or puzzle that you need to solve while fighting off foes, and due to your class choice you are free to pursue this. But you can also ask your DM if you can make an appropriate ability check to learn about an NPC, perhaps learning about its weaknesses, abilities, and maybe even useful stat information.
This becomes useful - arguably more useful than attacks from a cleric - when dealing with an enemy that has immunities, resistances, or special abilities. Talk to your DM to see if they are open to this, but if you trait yourself to be good at Nature, Arcana, or other related skills that could tell you about a creature, this could be a unique and excellent way to help the party.
And the subclass encourages you to do this by its design.
I love how unique this playstyle is. We use a variant of this theme with our new monk subclass (the Path of Peace), but I love how this class aids a party in unique and asymmetric ways. But on an unrelated note, I am glad about how this subclass fixes a longstanding pet peeve of mine which is the annoying "the target knows you used magic on them" when you cast the Friends cantrip. It bugs me that this is in there, as it makes the cantrip almost useless, and this subclass is the only way I'd ever use that spell.
In the next post we will look at one more cleric before we move to the first druid subclass, as we return to the concept of blood magic, but this time used by a shaman rather than a foresworn warrior.
Until next time,