Notes Toward a Van Helsing/Doctor Who Class for D&D 5e

The original cleric didn't cast spells.
In case you didn’t know, EN World has an open call going on for Halloween-themed submissions for EN5ider. I’ve submitted a proposal for the adventure article (“’Manos:’ The Hands of Fate as a D&D adventure”) but I sincerely doubt it will be chosen. I’ve also been kicking around ideas for one of the 2,000 word articles and I keep coming back to the concept of a non-spellcasting, Van Helsing-like “cleric.”

The natural reaction for most of you readers is probably “Why would you want a cleric who can’t cast spells?” but I’ve got this theory that D&D 5e could very easily be used to run a low- or no-magic quasi-historical game. Doing so, though, would limit player classes to almost exclusively fighters and rogues, and I’d like to have something more intellectually-based, hence my need for some kind of non-caster cleric.

We all know that the cleric class was invented as a “vampire hunter” class to nerf a player’s vampire PC, and that Peter Cushing’s particular incarnation of Van Helsing was a direct inspiration. While Van Helsing has the “turn undead” ability that’s defined the cleric for so long, he can only be said to have spellcasting if you stretch the definition well beyond D&D’s usual parameters. On the other hand, he is a medical doctor and so has some kind of healing ability. An “occult doctor” or “scholar” class should incorporate those aspects.

You know who else has a “turn undead”-like ability? The Doctor. As in Doctor Who. As in the dude who frequently scares off invading aliens by reminding them that he’s the scary badass who keeps defeating them, by saying things like this:
Could you all just stay still a minute because I AM TALKING.
Now, the question for the hour is: "Who's got the Pandorica?" Answer: I do. Next question: "Who's coming to take it from me?" Come on, look at me! No plan, no backup, no weapons worth a damn, oh, and something else I don't have: anything to lose. So, if you're sitting up there in your silly little space ships with all your silly little guns, and you've got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who's standing in your way. Remember every black day I ever stopped you, and then, and THEN do the smart thing:
Let somebody else try first.
Despite starting with Peter Davison, the 11th Doctor is my Doctor.
Ok, I admit that could easily be modeled with a really awesome Charisma (Intimidation) check, but what if it was a class ability? What if this hypothetical class could select chosen enemies like a ranger but turn them like a cleric? It’s not that far off from the 5e paladin subclasses, and Daleks are obviously aberrations.
Admittedly, a hypothetical “scholar” or “doctor” or “stern lecturer” class that had an occult detective subclass and a Time Lord subclass would be a little unbalanced, but Doctor Who is directly inspired by the Victorian adventure fiction that gave us H. G. Wells’ Time Traveler and Doyle’s Professor Challenger. A logical extension of this – and something that would allow such a character to grow to become a Time Lord – would be an “inventor” subclass. This might even help find a way to tie the class into normal D&D worlds as artificers of steampunk fantasy weapons.
Bullet Points
  • I really wish “sage” wasn’t already a character background. That would have made a great class name.
  • I’m thinking d8s for hit dice. Anybody who has watched Cushing and Lee’s fight scene from Dracula (1958) knows that a Van Helsing needs to be at least as tough as a cleric or monk.
  • Non-magical healing is definitely a core class feature. Van Helsing and the Doctor both know a thing or two about medicine.
  • Gnomes would like this class.
  • Intelligence would be the primary ability for class features...


  1. rogue archetype...look to and expand the Healer feat for non-magical healing. Allow for the possession of Channel Divinity Turn/Destroy undead.


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