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18 April 2022

How to Make Holier D&D Monsters with the Cleric Class

Monsters invigorated with religious fervor are formidable foes to behold and battle in Dungeons & Dragons. A kobold imbued with the avaricious nature of Tiamat, Queen of Dragons? How about a minotaur infused with a belief not in gods, planar beings, or primordials, but his own inner strength and resolve? Dueling a fire giant in D&D who fuels her inner fire with the War Domain of the Cleric class might burn the characters, but a red dragon blessed with the divine strength of a Nature goddess? That's an entirely different story and encounter.

Each of these unique D&D monsters inspired by elements of the Cleric class from D&D 5e's Player's Handbook flourish further within this article. Let's make some holier monsters, one piece of scripture at a time.

This cleric by John Stanko cleanses an ally's wounds and prepares them for terrible purpose.

This RJD20 article is a continuation of a series called Crossing Classes and Monsters. Thus far, we've explored the Barbarian and the Bard. This article, all about the Cleric, is the third in the series. If you've missed the others, be sure to check them out and leave a comment with your thoughts!

Monsters Crossed with D&D Classes

While this isn't a new phenomenon entirely, mixing monsters and classes isn't present in any official D&D 5e rulebook. In past editions, it was commonplace to give monsters character classes. In this series of articles, we're doing something similar: we're using the character classes and subclasses of the 5e PHB to inspire various abilities, actions, and story beats for the monsters we pit against the players.

In particular, we're defining three aspects:

  1. Base: What is our base monster? Our base class?
  2. Class Abilities: Which abilities of our base class inspire us? What are the new actions and abilities of the custom monster?
  3. Ripples: What are the ramifications of the class-inspired monster? How does its story change? How about the lore of the world?

With these three blocks as our foundation, we're prepared to explore four monsters crossed with the Cleric class: the kobold, the minotaur, the fire giant, and the adult red dragon. Remember, we're finicking with the fabric of D&D 5e in this article. The monsters are inspired from their Monster Manual counterparts, character classes from the Player's Handbook, and a healthy dose of homebrew imagination from our own minds. Each base monster stat block is provided via a link to D&D Beyond.

The custom monsters may require balancing in the moment, but the musings below should inspire us to use them in our games and insert them into our worlds. Let's begin!

Kobold Scion of Tiamat

All things great come in fives! Mushrooms! Tunnels! Victories! She grants them to us as fuel, as weapons, and as inspiration to continue our quest, for we will not rest until her chains are broken. We are her most determined children, her greatest numbers, and her deadliest arms against the people who would see her imprisoned or slaughtered. We are the kobolds of Tiamat! I am her scion! Hear me ROAR!

Usually, the kobold works well as a monster thrown at the characters in a large group of other kobolds. They get D&D 5e's Pack Tactics after all! However, let's try something different with this Cleric-based creation: let's create a kobold that can stand alone as a boss monster to fight and/or interact with the party. Allow me to introduce the kobold scion of Tiamat.

This threatening kobold scion by Bryan Syme yips its way to power and wealth.

As a boss monster in fifth edition D&D, our kobold needs formidability, mobility, and volatility. Warning, this is a substantial foe for a low-level party, meant to be a threatening boss fight to a well-oiled party.

Five-Headed Fervor (Ability): The kobold scion of Tiamat may switch its outgoing damage type between fire, cold, acid, poison, and lightning at-will.

Tiamat's Flight (Action): The kobold scion of Tiamat levitates 10 feet up, avoiding attacks of opportunity, and unleashes 1d4+1 elemental rays at targets it chooses within 60 feet. Each ray deals 1d6 points of elemental damage, chosen by the kobold scion of Tiamat.

Dragon Quake (Action): The kobold scion of Tiamat stomps the ground with godly power, cracking tiny fissures in the ground in a 20-foot radius around it. The affected ground is difficult terrain.

Tiamat's Judgement (Bonus Action): The kobold scion of Tiamat focuses on an allied creature within 30 feet. Roll a d20. If the result is a 10 or higher, that creature gains advantage on its next roll, but must shout out a prayer to the Dragon Queen. The kobold scion of Tiamat may focus on itself.

Tiamat's Snap (Bonus Action): The kobold scion of Tiamat attacks a creature within 10 feet, conjuring an image of the Dragon Queen. If the attack hits, target creature must make a DC 12 Strength saving throw or be knocked prone by the colorful image.

Storm of the Scion (Villain Action): On the first turn of combat, the kobold scion of Tiamat wails a prayer to the Dragon Queen and creatures an elemental tempest around the battlefield. The tempest skirts the battle's edge. At the end of every round, a flash of elemental magic strikes a random creature in the combat, dealing 1d4 points of elemental damage chosen by the kobold scion of Tiamat. The tempest ends when its creator is knocked unconscious or dies.

Five-Headed Finality (Villain Action): When the kobold scion of Tiamat drops to zero hit points, it loses all other abilities but sprouts four more heads, each scaled like one of the chromatic true dragons. It gains a bite "Multiattack" action (+4 to hit, 1d4+2 piercing damage, 2 attacks) and 1/4 of its hit points.

The abilities of our kobold scion of Tiamat complete, let's explore a few ways it might impact the rest of the game and/or world.

  1. Kobold scions of Tiamat who survive their "Five-Headed Finality" action slowly transform into hydras.
  2. A kobold scion of Tiamat unites five different kobold clans beneath a single banner, though their endgame puzzles many. They seek the domination of a close-by gold dragon, who the kobold scion of Tiamat claims may be controlled with the Dragon Queen's will.
  3. Exiled from her clan, a kobold scion of Tiamat joins a thieves' guild in the slums of a big city. Slowly, she's converting its members to worship of the Dragon Queen when the guild master grabs one of Tiamat's legendary wyrmspeaker masks. The scion turns half the guild against the guild master in a power grab for control of the guild and possession of the mask, thrusting the slums into bloody conflict.
  4. If Tiamat doesn't exist in the world, the scion may draw power from a flight of chromatic dragons, a different deity of destruction and greed, or perhaps an archdevil or archfiend.

Minotaur Mindpriest

Do not fret if the gods ignore you, little one. All that empowers you is inside you. Sit in silence and retreat within. Allow darkness to overcome you, your deepest fears to mount, every doubt and horrible dream consume your being. Then fight all of them back. Show yourself your strength. True divinity lurks not outside us, but within. Sit, think, and see.

Opposite our goal with the kobold scion of Tiamat, let's craft a minotaur, a foe typically fought alone, as a monster that functions well in a mob of creatures. Specifically, our inspiration derives from the Life Domain of the Cleric class. Say hello to the minotaur mindpriest, a bastion of inner power.

Proudly, this minotaur by mas-r1980 leads a group of vagabonds, hoping to evoke true emotional growth in them all.

Strength of the Herd (Ability): The minotaur mindpriest emits an aura in a 30 feet radius that causes its allies to regain 10 HP at the start of its turn as long as they are above 0 hit points.

Mind Growth (Action): The minotaur mindpriest picks an ally within 30 feet, protecting its mind. It gains advantage on all Charisma, Intelligence, and Wisdom saving throws for the rest of the combat or until the minotaur mindpriest drops to 0 hit points.

Might Growth (Action): The minotaur mindpriest picks an ally within 30 feet, bolstering its strength. It gains an extra 1d6 radiant damage on all its attacks for the rest of the combat or until the minotaur mindpriest drops to 0 hit points.

Mobility Growth (Action): The minotaur mindpriest picks an ally within 30 feet, quickening its movement. Its movement speed is doubled for the rest of the combat or until the minotaur mindpriest drops to 0 hit points.

Spur On (Reaction): If an ally within 30 feet drops to 0 hit points, the minotaur mindpriest may cause it to make a DC 13 Constitution saving throw. If it succeeds, it stays up at 1 hit point. If it fails, it drops to 0 hit points. Either way, the targeted ally may not be affected by this action until the next dawn.

The minotaur mindpriest is a mighty support monster for the characters to battle, but we must use its actions intelligently for it to work wonders and challenge them in combat. Consider positioning it in a strategical vantage point, ensuring other monsters guard it, and calling out its support abilities to the characters if they don't catch on to the massive effect it has on the encounter. Sometimes, the players need to be spurred a tad, especially if encounters don't usually contain supportive foes.

If the minotaur mindpriest is too complex for our liking, we can instead use the Cleric class as inspiration for it in the fiction of our game and the lore of our world.

  1. In the dark corner of the town's tavern, a minotaur mindpriest inspires cowardly adventurers to greatness.
  2. Acting as a motivational speaker, a minotaur mindpriest blesses certain gladiators before their battles in a coliseum. Is the minotaur playing favorites? Someone believes so...
  3. A minotaur mindpriest leads a band of highly successful bandits, thought the minotaur believes it might drive them from the path of villainy in good time.

Fire Giant Axediviner

By flame and steel, we conquered these lands! Their people we enslaved, their treasures we took to greaten. By flame and steel, we shall keep them!

This fire giant by Orangus readies to annihilate her meager foes.

Our other Cleric-inspired monsters specialize in spells and support, but this creature, using the fire giant as a base, focuses on an entirely different tactic in combat: raw melee damage and control. Of course, we use the War and Tempest Domains as our primary Cleric inspiration to build the powerful fire giant axediviner.

Blood for the Fire God (Ability): Every time a creature dies during a combat, the fire giant axediviner gains +1 fire damage to all melee hits, to a maximum of +10. This resets at the end of the combat.

Divine Bellow (Action): The fire giant axediviner lets out a thundering bellow. All enemies within 300 feet who can hear it must make a DC 12 Wisdom saving throw or fall prone.

March of the Divine Legion (Action): The fire giant axediviner commands its allies to march, attack, and die for their deity. All allies within 300' who can hear it may move up to 30 feet and make a single melee attack.

Earthshatter (Bonus Action): The fire giant axediviner strikes the ground, creating a 5-foot-wide, 10-foot-deep fissure in the ground that spreads up to 30 feet away from the fire giant axediviner. Any creature in its path must make a DC 12 Dexterity saving throw or fall into the fissure. The fissure counts as difficult terrain.

Invoke Fervor (Bonus Action): The fire giant axediviner picks an ally within 60 feet, invoking them with divine fervor. The ally gains advantage on its next attack roll.

There we are: a battle-ready fire giant Cleric, but we're not finished. How can we connect this creature to our world?

  1. The usually quiet fire giant stronghold nearby experienced a sudden uprising led by a fire giant axediviner. She demands not only tribute from the surrounding dwarven holds, but the immediate conversion to her deity's worship. To forsake her is to invoke her deity's wrath and the dwarven holds' doom.
  2. A fire giant axediviner promises divine power to whoever can bring her a fiery relic stolen from her people by a feisty frost giant jarl decades ago. The primary issue? The jarl lives atop a glacier on the Elemental Plane of Ice, a realm no fire giant can go.
  3. Two fire giant axediviners of rival deities contest for supremacy over a mixed-race giant citadel. One enlists the party to eliminate the other, but the incoming victory might spur the victor into a campaign of fire and destruction.
  4. A lone fire giant axediviner roams the nearby desert, claiming the heads of travelers it encounters to gift its god of war. If beaten in combat, it becomes a machine of war for whoever dominated it, willing to carry out any violent act against any supposed foe.

Adult Red Dragon Summerbringer

Beauty is best captured not in gold, but in the natural world around us. And it's most spectacular state? The fullness of summer. Wondrous animals frolicking about. Flowers in full bloom. The sky a brilliant blue during day and a speckled starscape at night. Why allow the bitterness of autumn, the grimness of winter, and the dreariness of spring assault the perfect heat of summer? Like others of my kind lash out at those who touch their beloved treasures, I destroy any who would change my pristine land; I wage war on the primal beings of creation, and it is a war I will win.

A red dragon hisses at a cold foe, drawn by an unknown artist, found in the 5e DMG.

As a near-pinnacle foe, this next creature with roots in the adult red dragon monster is meant to be fought as a boss, capable of conducting itself on all the fronts our former creations do. High-level player characters shall tremble when battling it in combat, facing off against it in a social encounter, or exploring its flower-rich lair. 

Meet the adult red dragon summerbringer.

Eversummer Heat (Ability): Any enemy within 60 feet of the adult red dragon summerbringer takes 5 fire damage at the start of their turn. If they begin their turn within 5 feet of the adult red dragon summerbringer, they must make a DC 6 Constitution saving throw or gain a level of exhaustion.

Incineration (Action): The adult red dragon summerbringer targets a single creature within 120 feet, threatening them with the power of blistering heat. The targeted creature must make a DC 17 Constitution saving throw or take 8d10 fire damage. If the creature fails the save by 5 or more, it also gains a level of exhaustion.

Rejuvenating Strength (Bonus Action): The adult red dragon summerbringer draws in the essence of summer and picks an unconscious ally or an ally who dropped to 0 hit points during the current combat. That ally rises at 1 hit point but may not use any spells or special abilities until it takes a long rest.

Wings of Hope (Bonus Action): If the adult red dragon summerbringer is flying, it may use a bonus action to imbue the wind of its wings with healing magic, granting all allies within 120 feet 2d10 hit points.

Fiery Fury (Reaction): When the adult red dragon summerbringer is hit by an attack, it may use a reaction to let out a snort of fatiguing heat, targeting the creature who hit it. The targeted creature must make a DC 17 Dexterity saving throw. On a failure, they become Paralyzed until the beginning of their next turn. 

Even without a villain action or two, our version of a red dragon Cleric is a formidable threat to any experienced adventuring party. However, how might this party interact with the dragon, and how might the dragon impact our world?

  1. Immersed in the beauty of the Feywild for many years, a red dragon emerges from the plane and attempts to wrap the mortal world in the same sort of flora and fauna of the mystical realm.
  2. Destined to bring eternal summer to its northern home, a red dragon touched by the god of the sun and raised by a fiery druid rallies an army of fanatical kobolds, Circle of Wildfire druids, and passionate fey beasts to turn the northern snow to steam and bask the frontier in unending sunlight.
  3. A vengeful nature deity whose demigod child was killed by a patron of ice and snow imbues a red dragon with the power of divine flame and summer, commanding it to enact revenge upon the followers of the child-god slaying cold creature.
  4. In a land "cursed" by eternal summer, the red dragon causing this phenomenon is slain and winter threatens the realm. Somehow, eversummer or the dragon who brought it must be returned before the ghouls and aberrations of everwinter strike the unprepared land. 

The Scripture to Holier D&D Monsters

The Player's Handbook provides Dungeon Masters with a shimmering fountain of inspiration. Our holy creations above are but a sample of the true treasures hiding on its pages and the pages of all the other books usually meant for the players to enjoy. Dive in. Let these D&D books inspire your creations and help your game flourish.

This is but the beginning. With the Cleric class crossed with D&D monsters explored, we will investigate the Druid class next and the Fighter class afterward. Of course, this current set of articles merely connects these monsters to the base subclasses of each core D&D 5e character class; Xanathar's Guide to Everything and Tasha's Cauldron of Everything hold many more possibilities to inspire our D&D beasties. And books of the past? They are fair game as well. Lords of Madness, we'll look at you soon enough.

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4 comments:

  1. Great read, creativity off the charts really enjoy your content keep it coming!

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    1. Thanks for the support. I truly appreciate it!

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  2. Fantastic read! Will definitely put some of these traits into my campaign~

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    1. Good to hear, hope it works out for you :)

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