Storytelling, Tabletop and Pop Culture
For our next installment in Classy we’re talking about the Blood Domain Cleric. This class originated for a Halloween one shot when I needed a flavorful support NPC to back up my reckless all melee Monster Mash party. Mechanically I wanted something that really leaned into the Cleric’s various necrotic touch spells and could also provide support through damage. MMO players will see a touch of both WoW’s Shadow Priest and Secret World’s Blood magic, a healer who supports their party through dealing some vicious up close necrotic damage..
The spell list makes sure the Blood Cleric has some important spells memorized and also dips a bit into other classes to grab a few more excellent necrotic powered spells and some handy utility. Heavy armor proficiency sets up the Blood Cleric to be a sturdy participant of the melee encounter, getting close enough to drop powerful touch spells and support the martials. The Channel Divinity: Hematophage allows the Cleric to ramp up more quickly, providing temp hp to the whole party at once.
The subclass really turns on the level 2 feature “Crimson Vitality.” This allows the Blood Cleric to pass on half the damage they deal with necrotic spells as temporary hit points for themselves or their party members. This encourages the Blood Cleric to stay in the mix, taking advantage of their heavy armor proficiency to get right up into the melee to deal out Inflict Wounds, Vampiric Touch and Blight. Level 6’s Bloody Healer circles back to the theme, allowing the Blood Cleric to burn temporary hit points to improve healing spells.The final ability, Life for Life, mixes up the damage + resurrection ability by granting the Cleric a shield of temporary hit points, making them feel simultaneously sturdy and fragile.
Themes and Reskinning
The blood imagery is obviously woven pretty thickly into the Blood Domain but the significance of the imagery is flexible and it isn’t the only option for reskinning. A blood Cleric could be a former Cleric turned during their adventures. They could be an adherent of a vampiric deity religion or even of a more life/death deity of nature, fertility or human civilization. If you wanted to be very goofy you could make them a Cleric of a capitalistic market or trade deity, siphoning life out of others as wealth and hoarding temporary hit points as red glimmering coins.
If you wanted to move away from blood entirely (it’s a good CW to check in with your party about in Session 0), there are several options as well. You could make the abilities a function of science or alchemy, rendering them a medically minded Faux-Artificer. You could remove the touches of blood and visualize it as magical life essence, instead of crimson blood they draw out shimmering sparks of magical light that they use to craft shields for their allies.
Hopefully this subclass has given you a fun new option to tuck into your pocket for future Clerics and maybe even a flavorful framework for a villain or NPC organization. Let us know how you put the Blood Domain to work in your campaign or anything you think might need tweaking!
Hi! I'm Colby. DM, Nerd, IRL Cleric and Writer.