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Ban 5e’s Peace Domain

This article was originally posted as a post on Patreon before the site upgrade, so at the time I didn’t have a regular blog to put this on. I’m re-posting this to make it more accessible to a broader audience of people.

Introduction

I’ve gotten some responses in various channels challenging my response to the Peace Domain introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything. I wanted to share my thoughts in a longer form than I can justify squeezing into my Cleric Subclasses Breakdown, so here we are.

To paraphrase several similar responses which I received: 

“It seems a bit overboard to ban Order of Peace when Emboldening Bond is only an extra once per turn d4 that has limited uses per day. Compare that to all the other powerful stuff in the game and it is insignificant.”

The 1d4 is a problem with the subclass, but it’s not the only problem. I agree that one d4 on one roll per turn may not be enough to justify banning a subclass. But if you check my subclass assessment, fixing the d4 thing is one of several changes that I suggest to address a series of abuse cases.

Peace Domain’s d4 Issue

The d4 stacks with other similar buffs like Bless, which is a great example because the Cleric can cast it without multiclassing or help. In fact, Bless is among the best 1st-level buffs, and I frequently recommend it across the full level spectrum. Adding a d4 to one roll once per turn from levels 1 to 4 is a massive mathematical advantage because in that window your attack bonus is typically +5 or +6. Adding +2.5 on average is a 50% increase to your attack bonus at level 1.

The fundamental math of the game expects you to have that +5 bonus to hit the expected 65% chance of success on attacks/checks (8+ on a d20). There’s some nuance to that number, of course. I go into the fundamental math stuff in our article on the fundamental math of dnd.

So let’s say that hitting on 8 or higher is the expectation. Then we add a d4, and if we round the bonus down to 2 we’re hitting on a 6 or higher. If we add a second d4, the average total bonus is +5, so we’re hitting on 3 or higher. That’s a 90% chance of hitting with an attack.

You might reasonably say “oh, but that’s only level 1 and that’s a tiny window where that applies.” But 5e’s math progresses linearly, and the Attack Bonus vs. AC progression keeps the expected success rate at 65% (8+ on a d20). So those 2d4 give you a 90% hit chance for your entire career. Throw that behind high-damage single attacks like Sneak Attack or spells like Chromatic Orb and combat gets pretty simple.

Sure, Emboldening Bond only applies once per turn. But the vast majority of classes never make more than two attacks per turn, so even at once per turn that’s still a huge bonus. Emboldening Bold also lasts 10 minutes and doesn’t require Concentration like Bless does and doesn’t require actions from the players in combat like Bardic Inspiration or other effects which add dice to checks. 

Defensively, the “once per turn” limitation is essentially a non-factor. Much like Sneak Attack, you can use it once for each creatures turn. If you’re affected by Emboldening Bond and you’re targeted by 10 breath weapons from separate creatures on those creatures’ turns, you get to apply the d4 on every one of those saves provided you don’t use it for something else on that creature’s turn. That means that in the vast majority of cases, you get the d4 on every save that you’re going to attempt.

Other creatures can’t do anything to make Emboldening Bond go away except wait for the duration to expire. You set it up, you walk through a fight or two, you take a short rest, and ideally you set it up again right before you go into another fight.

Too Much, Too Often, and for Too Long

The number of uses equals your Proficiency Bonus, so players will have 2 to 6 uses per day depending on their level. With a 10-minute duration that’s enough to cover most fights in a day, if not all of them, so the DM needs to expect that players will go into every fight with Emboldening Bond running and that becomes a defining consideration for every encounter for the whole campaign. 

The DM can mitigate this to some degree by adding stuff between fights which consumes a lot of in-game time, but if the players have big blocks of time between encounters they’re going to start trying to abuse Short Rests and it becomes an arms race between the players and the DM to see who is willing to work the system harder.

That’s not a situation you want your game to be in. No one enjoys that.

What if Position Just Didn’t Matter?

After breaking the math of attacks, Peace Domain also breaks tactical positioning thanks to Protective Bond. Teleportation both in and out of combat becomes essentially free, with some restrictions. Grapples, area control effects, ongoing AOE damage, traps, and Opportunity Attacks all stop being a threat to the party because you can rescue an ally by punching yourself and having them spend a Reaction to intercept the attack.

That means that enemies lose most tactical options in combat beyond status conditions and hit point attrition. Players will nearly always win a game of hit point attrition, so get ready to have your DM hit your party with nothing but save-or-suck effects.

But even then, Emboldening Bond adds a d4 to saving throws, too. Again: it’s “once per turn” like sneak attack is, not “once on each of their turns”. Bless also adds a d4, so we’re right back to adding +5 to stuff. You can’t use area damage effects reliably because with those big saving throw bonuses everyone is going to pass saving throws way more than they should.

The problem gets worse as you add additional defenses like Absorb Elements and the Paladin’s Aura of Protection. Things which previously had a reasonable opportunity cost (spell slots, a bunch of levels, a feat, etc.) now pile on top of an already problematic defense so your players are mathematically unassailable.

Round Robin Damage Absorption

The teleportation from Protective Bond also allows them to distribute damage throughout the party based on who can safely endure the damage. If there are fewer hits directed at the party in a single round than there are party members, they can evenly distribute the damage throughout the party, then rapidly heal using bulk healing options like Mass Cure Wounds.

So you as the DM need to do massive amounts of single-target damage from multiple sources faster than the party can heal using more sources than they have Reactions within the set of creatures affected by Emboldening Bond.

Again: the game becomes an arms race.

You Can’t Even Kill Them

One other consideration: Emboldening Bond and Bless both apply to death saves (which are still saving throws, and therefore the bonus dice still apply), so even at first level players are looking at a near certainty that they won’t die due to failing death saves.

Conclusion

To summarize: right from level 1, a Cleric of Peace can use Emboldening Bond in conjunction with Bless to trivialize both attacks and saving throws, limiting the DM’s options to threaten the party to things that rely on attack rolls. As the Cleric gains levels, their subclass features further trivialize combat by trivializing any tactical option except direct hit point damage. That option is then trivialized by the ability to use a “round robin” method of distributing damage throughout the party, thereby preventing the DM from focusing damage on a single character and making it nearly impossible to drop a single character unless the DM drops the entire party at once.

All of these abilities are online by level 6.

Ban Peace Domain.

12 Comments

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