Review of Unearthed Arcana: Cleric Domains
The Unearthed Arcana is a source both strange and untested. While many great ideas pour from its pages, it should always be considered carefully.
Accessed here: https://media.wizards.com/2016/dnd/downloads/UA_Cleric.pdf
Unearthed Arcana really shines when it adds race and class features. Not adding new rules, but building off of the great foundation that is 5th edition. This article adds 3 new domains for clerics in addition to the ones found in the PHB.
First is Forge Domain. This cleric focuses on the deities of the forge and creation of metallic objects. There are several benefits given to a forge cleric, mostly dealing with metal weapons and armor. At first level the cleric gets heavy armor proficiency as well as the feat “blessing of the forge” which allows the cleric to imbue a weapon or armor with +1 bonus. Coupled with the clerics 1st level domain spells searing smite and shield this makes for quite a strong beginning character.
As a starting cleric you would probably have chainmail armor with an AC of 18. Add your +1 from “blessing of the forge” and then cast a shield spell on yourself after you get attacked and your AC for a level 1 character jumps to 24. That is very strong. I would argue that this is too strong and should probably be limited by the DM. Other features of this domain include a channel divinity ability to craft metal items and at level 6 you get “soul of the forge” which, once again, gives you +1 to AC, resistance to fire damage, and an ability to do some more damage to constructs. At later levels you can add 1d8 fire damage to your attacks once per turn and at 17th level you become immune to fire and while wearing heavy armor you are resistant to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing. This is a very strong cleric domain and especially helpful to players who want to make a cleric tank, but I would advise players consult with their DM first before choosing this option.
Next is the grave domain for clerics who really don’t like the undead and the desecration of life. At level 1 they get heavy armor proficiency, “circle of mortality” which grants max heals to creatures at 0 hp, and “eyes of the grave” allowing the cleric to detect undead up to 1 mile away. These are good solid abilities, I really like them. Things get interesting at level 2 with the channel divinity ability “path to the grave” where after a touch action your target becomes vulnerable to next type of damage it receives. The wording is a little confusing, but if I am reading it right this lasts only until the first time it receives damage of that type and then the spell ends. Essentially making this a one time “double damage” ability.
At 6th level you get “Sentinel at Death’s Door” where you can turn a critical hit against an ally into a regular hit as well divine strike at level 8, but this time dealing 1d8 necrotic. The best feature of this domain comes at level 17 where the cleric draws life force from the party’s dead enemies. When an enemy dies within 30 ft of the caster he can transfer HP to himself or an ally equal to the enemy’s number of hit dice. That’s a pretty strong ability and I am glad to see it at a high level for balance reasons. Overall I really like this option, but I think it will live in the shadow of the life domain however, because it is such a classic choice for the typical DnD “healer” that focuses on strong healing magics.
The last domain is “Protection”. Made for the typical justice deities of the paladins such as Helm and Tyr this domain is geared toward protecting your allies and buffing your AC. Their domain spells are pretty much the whole collection of ones with “protection” in the title aimed toward preventing harm like protection from evil/poison/energy, Otiluke’s resilient sphere and wall of force. At 1st level you get proficiency in heavy armor along with “shield of the faithful” an ability that lets the cleric impose disadvantage on attacks on an ally within 5 feet. At 2nd level the cleric can use their channel divinity to cause an attacker of an ally to take 2d10+level radiant damage and at 6th they get the “blessed healer” ability that grants the cleric the ability to gain HP themselves after a successful heal on an ally. Later levels receive the typical Divine Strike ability as well as “indomitable defense” which gives you resistance to two damage types capable of being switched out after a long rest.
This is a well-balanced domain and feels the most natural of the 3 listed in this article and honestly there isn’t much to say about it because it is easy to see something like this appearing in the PHB. While some may argue this makes the cleric closer to a paladin I think it gives players a novel new way to play clerics.