Contained in the D&D 5e Dungeon Master's Guide are two more character options. The Death domain cleric and Oathbreaker paladin are intended for use with villainous characters that are designed to oppose the party, but I have seen them used for PCs as well, at the DM's discretion. Given that these are sometimes available, but rarely talked about in this context, I thought I'd touch on the topic somewhat to give an introduction to the capabilities of these character options. We'll tackle them one at a time, so let's start with the Death domain cleric.
Death Domain Cleric
The domain spells here are good, but not particularly stunning. As expected, there's a lot of necrotic damage being tossed around, and some general control spells featuring undead. Unsurprisingly, it works well for a necromancer build. It is worth noting that some of these domain spells would be effected by the Reaper feature that allows for conditionally twinned spellcasting of necromantic spells, though you won't get to benefit from that until you reach the highest perks of this path. However, I would wholeheartedly recommend using the level one variant of Reaper's free cantrip on Toll The Dead (from the Xanathar's Guide) as the damage output from this is potentially astounding. Toll The Dead already clocks in on a 2d12 damage assuming the target has been damaged prior (1d12 if not), so stacking that onto two people (assuming two failed saves with both enemies already damaged- a not impossible get) means you could be doing a total of 4d12 damage a turn. With a cantrip. Not always going to happen, but the potential for that is impressive. The Touch of Death feature strikes me as being helpful if you really want to push out that extra damage, and honestly, why not? Your character is probably going to be the one animating dead in the first place. There's not a lot of call to turn undead on your own minions. Inescapable Destruction is likewise good, though necrotic resistance isn't terribly common. I imagine it'll be useful at higher levels, so getting it at 6th level might be a bit early in my opinion. I wouldn't expect to see it pay out until you start going up against enemies with more resistances. Now, Divine Strike is really awesome. Each turn one of your weapon attacks deals an extra 1d8 necrotic damage. Every turn. Not limited to an amount that replenishes on a rest. Just every turn. granted, your actions are probably better spent casting spells (even cantrips if you do some fun stuff like that Toll The Dead combo I mentioned earlier.) But it's certainly makes melee Death clerics viable. Especially when you tie this in with the fact that they get martial weapon proficiency by default as a feature. Pick yourself a big heavy weapon like a greatsword and this can be really good for extra damage output, especially if you stack that with feats like Great Weapon Master. This is especially abusive considering you can use your features like Touch Of Death and Divine Strike to make sure that you knock enemies to zero for that extra attack. For example, assuming you take the tradeoff with great weapon master for -5 accuracy to get +10 damage, with a greatsword you could do 2d6+ str mod+ 10+ 1d8 necrotic +21 necrotic damage. (by the minimum level to use Divine Strike, you'd be getting a +21) Assuming no crits or further buffs and a strength mod of +5 (at 8th level, that's probably fair) you could do 56 damage max on a standard hit by stacking all of those things. Oh, and 29 of that is immune to resistances because of Inescapable Destruction. Even an enemy resistant to the normal portion of that attack would take 42 damage on a max strike. Granted, this all assumes you're pumping the attack hard (though without outside help), landing the hit, and rolling max, but it's still impressive from a Cleric.
Honestly, the Oathbreaker seems less effective. The paladin spell list given is decent, mostly focusing on control by way of imposing hindrances to enemies. Good for enemies you can't tackle outright, or if you want to crowd control a bit while you focus on other things, but not going to be game changers in their own right (except Animate Dead, but we'll get there in a minute.) Control undead is likewise lackluster. Sure, you can snatch up an undead ally if one is around, but that's situational, since you probably won't always be around undead, and those you are near will likely be the ones you animate yourself, and thus you will already have control over. And note that it drops whenever your channel divinity is used again, even if that is used on Dreadful Aspect, so bear that in mind. Speaking of Dreadful Aspect, I'm going to say it's not so great. If you want that type of fear-based control, you're probably better off with a paladin of conquest (from Xanathar's Guide.) Aura of hate is...also pretty bad outright. You get it at level 7, and it adds a damage bonus to undead and fiends equal to your charisma mod. Note that's just damage, not your attack roll itself. Still, If you're stacking for charisma, you've probably got a +5 or so by this point. And that's decent, but consider that it's a ten foot radius. Not bad, but it's hard to conduct combat if your minions have to stay so close to you the whole time. Hard to play a commander role when your underlings don't really benefit from maneuvers besides a direct attack, though to be fair at 18th level the radius moves up to a more manageable thirty feet. But that's a long way off. Another issue here is that Oathbreakers don't have a way to summon fiends, just undead, and that's only with Animate Dead. So this ability will be sitting quiet for a couple of levels, and only then will you really get a benefit from it when you chain it with Animate Dead. Oh, and here's the other big issue. the wording on Aura of Hate says any fiends and undead within ten feet. That means hostile undead and fiends too. Not just allied ones. So have fun fighting demons and zombies who are stronger now. Supernatural resistance is good at 15th level, but then again, by 15th level, you've probably already got ways to get these resistances anyway if you're interested. Hell, a barbarian gets them natively at first level (albeit only when raging, though consider how much a 15th level barbarian can rage.) Dread Lord comes in at 20th level. It strikes me as being the first good ability they get, which is kind of disappointing. And that's just what it strikes me as, because upon further examination, it just isn't much good. Even then, it's not without it's flaws. Anyone within a 30 ft radius that relies on sight for attack (read: Most people, but notably excluding some powerful monsters) strikes at disadvantage against those within the radius that the paladin chooses. Good. If anyone starts their turn frightened of the paladin in this radius, they take 4d10 psychic damage. Time out. Pros and cons here. Pro: Free damage, no saving throw, psychic damage is the least resisted type of damage out there (meaning it'll stick.) Con: They have to be frightened. The only way that happens is if the paladin expends a channel divinity for Dreadful Aspect. So there goes an undead buddy if you're using your channel divinity for that. Oh, and they need to take a saving throw vs wisdom to be frightened. So much for no saving throw. Not to mention that Dread Lord and Dreadful aspect are both used as actions. So assuming you pop Dreadful Aspect, and your target fails, you still have to wait a turn to use Dread Lord. This gives them a turn to get 30ft away, with their movement at least, 60ft with a dash, which they can do as an action (assuming normal movespeed). They then end their turn out of Dreadful Aspects range, and get a chance to re-roll the Wisdom save to remove frightened. Even assuming they don't do so, you still have to move to catch them when you use Dread Lord. And if they Dashed, that just isn't possible, because you have to use your action to dash to catch up, and you also need to use your action to activate Dread Lord. Oh, and Dread Lord only lasts one minute, so good luck trying to make all of those stars align in that time frame. Not to mention you don't get a chance to try again if you screw it up. You can only use Dread Lord once per long rest. but don't worry, you can still use your bonus action to hit on target in the radius for an extra 3d10+cha mod damage. At level 20. It's not that great. And it takes up your bonus action. After using Dread Lord was your action. So there's your turn. If frightened weren't required, if it didn't take an action, or even if it could be used more often, this ability might be useful. But it's not. Oathbreaker isn't that great. I'd stick to something else, personally.
Well, there you go folks. Hopefully that breaks it down for you. If you agree or disagree with my assessment, feel free to respectfully let me know in the comments or on Twitter or Discord. If I made a mistake in the rules somewhere, Know that I'm (mostly) human and mistakes are always possible. But I'd love to know if I did. Otherwise, go forth and have fun being evil.
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- Draconick, Digital and Dice Contributor
I, Nick “Draconick” Johnson, am a writer and roleplaying enthusiast with over ten years of experience in various tabletop roleplaying games both as a player and as a GM. I am also somewhat involved in other forms of tabletop gaming such as wargaming, board games, and card games. It is my hope that by creating and maintaining this website that I can share my unique take on all things within our hobby and to foster a community of like-minded individuals.