Introduction

Clerics are among the most diverse and interesting classes in 5e DnD. Because your choice of Divine Domain so greatly affects your capabilities, Clerics can fit a variety of roles and play styles. More generally, Clerics are the best healers in the game, and have among the best support, utility, and divination options in the game. However, they are by no means limited to healing and support roles. Clerics have abundant offensive options, and can even be effective with weapons.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read our Cleric Races Breakdown, Cleric Subclasses Breakdown, and Cleric Spells Breakdown.

Table of Contents

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational. Nearly never useful.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances. Useful sometimes.
  • Green: Good options. Useful often.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character. Useful very frequently.

We will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, in handbooks for official content because we can’t assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. We also won’t cover Unearthed Arcana content because it’s not finalized, and we can’t guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Cleric Class Features

Optional Class Features are detailed below under Optional Class Features.

Hit Points: d8 hit points is good for a full caster, but it can be problematic since many Clerics fight on the front lines. Fortunately, Clerics have the best healing abilities in the game, so they can easily compensate for a small pool of hit points.

Saves: Wisdom and Charisma saves cover some of the most debilitating effects in the game.

Proficiencies: Medium armor and shields will give you a decent AC, especially if you’re not building for melee combat. Simple weapons will be fine, especially once your spells eclipse your damage output with weapons. Clerics don’t get any tools, and get two skills from a very short list of options.

Spellcasting: The Cleric is a Wisdom-based full caster. With the ability to prepare any Cleric spell at the beginning of the day, the Cleric’s spell list is even more open than the Wizard’s. Your choice of Divine Domain also grants 2 to 10 free prepared spells, allowing you to play to your domain’s theme without cutting into your normal prepared spells. Clerics have some of the best divination options in the game, all of the best healing options, and many of the best buffs and debuffs.

For help selecting spells, see my Cleric Spell List Breakdown.

Divine Domain: Cleric subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Cleric Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.

  • Arcana Domain: Borrow spellcasting and utility options from the Wizard.
  • Death Domain: Highly offensive, and focused primarily on dealing necrotic damage.
  • Forge Domain: A front-line, heavily armored cleric with a good mix of offensive fire options and utility spells.
  • Grave Domain: Straddling the line between life and death, the Grave domain adds a mix of offensive, defensive, and healing options.
  • Knowledge Domain: Blessed with both magical and mundane knowledge, the Knowledge Domain grants Expertise in two knowledge skills, a number of excellent divination options, and the ability to temporarily gain proficiency in a set of tools.
  • Life Domain: The iconic healer, but also a strong heavily-armored Defender.
  • Light Domain: Praise the sun, then blast your foes with fire and radiant damage.
  • Nature Domain: Heavy armor, numerous spellcasting options from the Druid spell list, and powerful abilities to deal and resist elemental damage.
  • Order Domain: A heavily-armored commander, the Order Domain adds great options to lead their allies and enchant their foes in battle.
  • Peace Domain: Nominally themed around a peaceful approach to problems, the Peace Domain offers powerful options to heal and defend your allies, turning them into efficient, resilient, nearly-unstoppable combat monsters.
  • Tempest Domain: Heavily armored and ready to command thunder and lightning to destroy your foes.
  • Trickery Domain: Skilled in stealth and illusion, the Trickery Domain is welcome among a party or rogues, sneaks, and ne’er-do-wells.
  • Twilight Domain: Use the mystical power of twilight to empower and defend both yourself and your allies to overcome any challenge.
  • War Domain: Direct and simple, the War Domain brings heavy armor, martial weapons, and spells and abilities which allow you to thrive on the front lines of combat.

Channel Divinity: While Turn Undead is situational, Channel Divinity itself is a great ability. Your domain will provide one or more additional uses, many of which can and should be used once per short rest because their effects are both potent and extremely useful. As you gain levels you’ll gain additional uses per Short or Long Rest which makes Channel Divinity and easy go-to tactical option which you might consider using before resorting to spells.

Destroy Undead: Enemies weak enough to be destroyed by this will be easy to kill with any number of AOE spells.

Divine Intervention: This won’t be reliable until 20th level (10%-19% of the time, works every time), but when it works it should be extremely potent. You’ll need to work with your DM to determine the exact effect of the ability, but if your DM is open-minded you can get away with something very exciting.

Optional Class Features

Introduced in Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything, Optional Class Features offer ways to add additional features or replace existing ones. These rules are optional, and you should not assume that your DM will allow these features without consulting them first.

Assessments and suggestions for specific Optional Class Features are presented here, but for more information on handling Optional Class Features in general, see my Practical Guide to Optional Class Features.

Additional Cleric Spells (Addition): Everything added by this optional feature makes sense on the Cleric’s spell list, And some spells like Aura of Vitality and Aura of Life make more sense on the Cleric’s spell list than on the spell lists where they were previously.

I recommend allowing the expanded spell list on all clerics. The new spells are mostly situational options which won’t be go-to spells for the vast majority of clerics, so nothing here is going to unbalance the game.

Harness Divine Power (Addition): For divine domains with poor or situational Channel Divinity options, this offers a great way to make use of a resource which might otherwise be ignored for several sessions at a time.

I recommend allowing this on all clerics who take divine domains which I have rated orange or red. The cleric won’t get anything bigger than a 3rd-level spell slot, and since Proficiency Bonus improves so slowly that this won’t cause any huge problems. But the Cleric is also one of the stronger classes in the game, and they don’t need any improvements to keep the class interesting and effective. Consider allowing this on clerics who take divine domains that I’ve rated green on a case-by-case basis, especially if the domain has particularly poor Channel Divinity options.

Cantrip Versatility (Addition): Retrain one cantrip every few levels. Sometimes a cantrip doesn’t work out how you hope it would, or maybe as you gain levels you’ve found that your leveled spells can fill needs which previously required cantrips (attack options, etc.).

I recommend allowing Cantrip Versatility on all clerics. You can’t get anything which you couldn’t already have, so it doesn’t make your character more powerful. Hopefully it will make your character more satisfying to play.

Blessed Strikes (Replacement): Blessed Strikes makes cantrips more appealing for domains which which get the Divine Strike feature at level 8. The math on Divine Strike is disappointing, so taking Blessed Strikes and using cantrips in favor of weapons makes domains designed to use weapons roughly comparable to cantrips for domains designed to focus on spellcasting. I go into more detail on my Cleric Subclasses Breakdown.

I recommend allowing Blessed Strikes on any cleric who takes a divine domain with the Divine Strike feature which is rated orange or red. Consider allowing this on clerics who take divine domains that I’ve rated green on a case-by-case basis. You might also choose to mandate it for all clerics. The 4.5 bonus damage isn’t far from the expected +5 for Potent Cantrips, so it doesn’t weaken anyone significantly, but it might encourage caster clerics to grab a mace from time to time.

Ability Scores

Cleric’s abilities all center around Wisdom, but depending on your build you may need to shuffle your other abilities around to accomodate whatever type of armor you’re using and your role in the party. Martial clerics will want more Dexterity and Constitution, but caster clerics might make some room for Intelligence or Charisma in order to expand into skill-based roles within the party.

Str: Lightly-armored and medium-armored Clerics can dump Strength. Heavily-armored Clerics can afford more Strength since they can dump Dexterity, but it’s only strictly necessary if you want to avoid the speed penalty from heavy armor. Weapon attacks are mathematically a poor choice compared to cantrips, so there is very little reason to invest heavily in Strength and Strength-based weaponry.

Dex: Lightly-armored Clerics need Dexterity for AC and for their weapons. Medium-armored Clerics should try to have 14 to boost their AC. Heavily-armored Clerics can dump Dexterity.

Con: Hit points are always important, and if the Cleric goes down the rest of the party typically follows.

Int: Dump stat. Keep a bit if you’re a Knowledge Cleric, or if you need to use Knowledge skills.

Wis: The Cleric’s spells depend on Wisdom.

Cha: Persuasion is the Cleric’s only Face skill, so you can probably dump Charisma unless you need to serve as a Face. If you decide to be a Face, be sure to pick up a Background which gets you other Face skills like Deception and Intimidation.

Light Armor Medium Armor Heavy Armor 
Point BuyStandard ArrayPoint BuyStandard ArrayPoint BuyStandard Array
Str888121413
Dex1514141388
Con141314141414
Int812810812
Wis151515151515
Cha10101281210

Cleric Races

Wisdom is crucial. Constitution is similarly useful regardless of build, but easy access to healing spells means that you can mitigate damage by healing yourself so Constitution isn’t as crucial as it is for martial classes. The diversity of divine domains and cleric builds means that beyond those core requirements, your race options are decently flexible. Look for traits that you can’t replicate with cleric spells like Darkvision, damage resistances, and flight.

For a durable front-line cleric with a classic feel, consider the hill dwarf. For cleric who insists on using weapons, the high elf can get you Booming Blade. For an extra durable cleric, consider the Warforged. For a long-range support build, consider a flying race like Fairy or the Winged Tiefling.

For help selecting a race, see our Cleric Races Breakdown.

Cleric Skills

  • History (Int): Situationally useful depending on the style of your campaign and your DM’s play style.
  • Insight (Wis): Helpful for a Face, and you have the Wisdom to back it up. Since many Faces tend to have low Wisdom, it’s a very good idea for you to pick this up.
  • Medicine (Wis): This skill is useless. Medicine is best done magically.
  • Persuasion (Cha): Crucial for a Face, but you can skip it if someone in the party has more Charisma than you.
  • Religion (Int): The Cleric’s best Knowledge skill, and important to the theme of the class.

Cleric Backgrounds

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

Clerics have high Wisdom, so skills like Insight and Perception are helpful, but other skills will be of varying usefulness depending on your ability scores.

If you’re having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • AcolytePHB: The default Cleric background, and it’s a solid choice. Insight is great for Clerics and Religion is an obvious choice (though not particularly great since many Clerics dump Intelligence). Bonus languages are nice at low levels since Clerics don’t get Comprehend Languages, but they do get Tongues as a 3rd-level spell.
  • City WatchSCAG: Insight is great, but Athletics is hard for Clerics.
  • Cloistered ScholarSCAG: Knowledge skills are hard for most Clerics, but if you put some resources into Intelligence you have the ability to get 4 knowledge skills.
  • CourtierSCAG: Insight and Persuasion are great if you get stuck playing the Face, and the bonus languages will be great until you can use Tongues.
  • CriminalPHB: A Trickery Cleric with decent Dexterity could use this to partially replace a Rogue in the party.
  • Faction AgentSCAG: Insight is great, and the free mental skill will let you pick up Perception or whatever other skill you decide you need. The bonus languages will be great until you can use Tongues.
  • Far TravelerSCAG: Perfect skills and a free language, but gaming sets and instruments aren’t terribly useful.
  • Guild ArtisanPHB: Not a bad choice, but Artisan’s tools aren’t particularly useful so Acolyte is better.
  • HermitPHB: Medicine isn’t a terribly useful skill, but Medicine and Insight both capitalize on your Wisdom and the Herablism Kit allows you to make healing potions.
  • NoblePHB: Persuasion and a Language are fine, but half of the background is wasted.
  • SagePHB: Knowledge skills are hard for most Clerics, but if you put some resources into Intelligence you have the ability to get 4 knowledge skills.
  • Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: A Trickery Cleric with decent Dexterity could use this to partially replace a Rogue in the party. Criminal and Urchin are probably better.
  • UrchinPHB: A Trickery Cleric with decent Dexterity could use this to partially replace a Rogue in the party.

Cleric Feats

This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don’t cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.

  • AlertPHB: Going first can be helpful for setting up area control spells or buffs like Bless.
  • AthletePHB: Awful.
  • ActorPHB: Trickery Clerics might enjoy this.
  • ChargerPHB: If you’re too far away to get into melee in one turn, cast a spell.
  • ChefTCoE: With the choice of a Constitution or Wisdom increase, it’s easy for many clerics to fit this into their build. The temporary hit points are easy to share, especially with allies who don’t rely heavily on their Bonus Actions, and the hit point mitigatiokn added by the treats means that you can spend fewer spells healing your allies. However, clerics frequently commit their Bonus Action to spellcasting (Spiritual Weapon, etc.) so you may find that Chef provides little direct benefit to you. And if you plan to share the treats, you’ll likely find that Inspiring Leader is more effective.
  • Crossbow ExpertPHB: Use spells.
  • Defensive DuelistPHB: Most Clerics won’t use Finesse weapons, and the ones who do have plenty of options to boost their AC.
  • Dual WielderPHB: You won’t use the Attack action enough to justify two-weapon fighting, and you need a shield for the AC bonus and to hold your holy symbol, and Divine Strike only works once on each of your turns.
  • Dungeon DelverPHB: Traps should be handled by someone with Thieve’s Tools proficiency.
  • DurablePHB: Use magical healing.
  • Elemental AdeptPHB: Most Cleric spells that deal damage deal either Necrotic or Radiant damage, both of which are very rarely resisted. However, some domains like the Light domain offer access to damage types which can take advantage of Elemental Adept.
  • Fey TouchedTCoE: Misty Step is a fantastic spell that’s not on the Clerics’s spell list, so getting it once per day and the ability to cast it again using your spell slots is a huge benefit. The additional 1st-level spell known is good, but there aren’t many great options for the Cleric since the best spells which Fey Touched can get you are mostly cleric spells. Compelled Duel may be worthwhile for clerics build for melee.

    For more advice on Fey Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • Fighting InitiateTCoE: Clerics simply don’t get enough attacks to make the offensive options viable, and if you’re looking at Defense you should just cast Shield of Faith. Protection/Interception may be interesting, but those are unusual choices.
  • Gift of the Chromatic DragonFToD: Share Chromatic Infusion with an ally. Reactive Resistance is great for clerics because you can’t cast Absorb Elements, and reducing damage is nearly always better than trying to heal it later.
  • Gift of the Gem DragonFToD: Front-line clerics are likely the best candidate for this feat. Clerics don’t have many things that use their Reaction and increasing your Wisdom makes sense even if you’re on the front lines because cantrips are consistently better than weapons for nearly every cleric.
  • Gift of the Metallic DragonFToD: Protective Wings is very tempting since the Druid’s AC is typically worse than that of a comparable cleric. It even works while using Wild Shape. But personally, I think it makes more sense to take Fighting Initiate to get Fighting Style (Defense) for the persistent bonus to AC, or you can cast spells like Shield of Faith.
  • Great Weapon MasterPHB: Very few Clerics can manage a two-handed weapon successfully, and it’s unlikely that your attack bonus will be good enough to suffer the 05 penalty.
  • HealerPHB: Use magical healing.
  • Heavily ArmoredPHB: If you want heavy armor, pick a domain which gives it to you.
  • Heavy Armor MasterPHB: Heavily-armored Clerics might enjoy this, but you probably donm’t have enough Constitution to max it out.
  • Inspiring LeaderPHB: This can be a great way to supplement your healing abilties and reduce the need for you to heal your allies in combat, but few clerics have enough Charisma that this feels like a good idea. Remember that while you do add your Charisma modifier to the temporary hit points granted, you also add your level so as you gain levels your Charisma modifier will be less important.
  • Keen MindPHB: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
  • LinguistPHB: Use magic.
  • LuckyPHB: Good on anyone.
  • Mage SlayerPHB: Too situational.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: Clerics get all of the spells they need, including Cantrips. If you want Cantrips from other spellcasting classes, several domains provide them. If you’re considering War Caster, options like Booming Blade combine well. Shillelagh and Shape Water from the Druid spell list also have a lot going for them.

    For more advice on Magic Initiate, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • Metamagic AdeptTCoE: Excellent on any spellcaster. The Cleric has some great options for Extended Spell like Aid. For advice on Metamagic Adept, see my Sorcerer Metamagic Breakdown.
  • Martial AdeptPHB: Not useful enough with only one superiority die.
  • Medium Armor MasterPHB: Trickery Clerics who can’t afford to bump their Dexterity past 16 may prefer to stick to Medium armor instead of dropping to light, so this will help with both Stealth and your AC.
  • MobilePHB: Most clerics aren’t terribly mobile in combat.
  • Mounted CombatPHB: It’s hard to play a mounted character without a special mount ability of some kind.
  • ObservantPHB: Clerics already have high Wisdom, so Perception is a really great option.
  • Polearm MasterPHB: You should be saving your Bonus Actions for spells, and your attacks won’t be dangerous enough to make this very effective unless you’re handicapping your spellcasting.
  • ResilientPHB: Proficiency in Constitution saves really helps with Concentration, not to mention how common Consitution saves are. If you care primarily about Concentration it’s easy to compare this to War Caster. Advantage works out to a little more than +3, so once your Proficiency Bonus hits +4 Resilient becomes the more effective option of the rwo.
  • Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn.
  • SentinelPHB: Melee Clerics can be very effective, especially once you get abilities like Divine Strike, so your opportunity attacks can be very lethal. However, you’ll probably do better with War Caster.
  • Shadow TouchedTCoE: Invisibility isn’t available to most clerics, and the 1st-level spells are mostly new options, too. Even the Trickery Domain can’t cast Invisibility or Silent Image, so adding those options can make for a very interesting trickery cleric.

    For more advice on Shadow Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • SharpshooterPHB: Clerics generally don’t need ranged weapons.
  • Shield MasterPHB: You should be saving your Bonus Actions for spells, and you’ll use the Attack action very rarely as you grow in level.
  • Skill ExpertTCoE: With your high Wisdom, Expertise in Perception is a massive asset for your party. Spend the skill proficiency on Perception if you don’t already have it, get Expertise in Perception, and increase your Wisdom by 1. If you have an odd-numbered Wisdom score, this is an easy, reliable feat choice.
  • SkilledPHB: Some Clerics already get a lot of skills, and if your abilities are set up to support a wide set of skills, you can benefit a lot from gaining extra skill proficiencies.
  • Spell SniperPHB: Very few Cleric spells require attack rolls, and the only viable spells that you can get are from the Druid’s spell list and there is nothing that you want from the Druid that qualifies for Spell Sniper.

    For more advice on Spell Sniper, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • Tavern BrawlerPHB: You should be saving your Bonus Actions for spells.
  • TelekineticTCoE: This is objectively great, but if your Bonus Action is idle it should be spent on Spiritual Weapon in almost every case.
  • ToughPHB: Considering that you can heal yourself magically whenever you need to, there’s very little reason to invest so heavily in an enormous pool of hit points.
  • War CasterPHB: Many Clerics, especially heavily-armored Clerics who like to wade into melee, can get a lot of use out of this. Advantage on your Constitution save to maintain Concentration goes a long way since many great spells require Concentration, though I would consider Resilient first if that’s all that you care about. The Reaction mechanic works fine with the Cleric’s existing cantrips (Toll the Dead is a great go-to), but if you pick up Magic Initiate for Booming Blade it’s a very effective option. The ability to perform somatic components with your hands full of weapons/shields is nice, but easy to overemphasize. If your spell requires inexpensive material components, you can use your shield as a focus (assuming that it’s emblazoned with a holy symbol, which it should be). Otherwise, you can just put away your weapon for a round. You might hesitate to put away your weapon, but unless you’ve picked up Booming Blade or something, there’s very little need to hold a weapon between turns since you’re going to be using cantrips for Opportunity Attacks anyway.
  • Weapon MasterPHB: Weapons are not a good choice for the Cleric, and upgrading to martial weapons doesn’t solve that problem.

Cleric Weapons

  • Crossbow, Light: This may do more damage than your Cantrips at low levels because weapons add your ability bonus to damage. If you have good Dexterity, consider a crossbow until your cantrips scale at 5th level.
  • Javelin: Same logic as the Light Crossbow, but Strength-based.
  • Mace: The iconic Cleric weapon. It’s not great, but it gets the job done. Carry one for when you need to wade into melee.

Cleric Armor

  • Leather: If you start with 18 Dexterity, this will match Scale Mail. Otherwise Scale Mail is strictly better.
  • Scale Mail: Starting gear for most Clerics.
  • Chain Mail: Starting armor for Clerics who get heavy armor proficiency from their domain.
  • Half plate: Most Clerics will max out at Half plate.
  • Shield: You can put your holy symbol on your shield, so there is almost no reason not to have one.
  • Full Plate: Life Clerics should absolutely upgrade to Full Plate as soon as they can afford it.

Multiclassing

This section briefly details some obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn’t fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.

  • Barbarian: Rage won’t be particularly useful since Clerics don’t get Extra Attack, and Unarmored Defense will only work if you have a third high ability score, which is hard to do.
  • Bard: The Bard’s low-level abilities scale with class level, so they don’t work particularly well for a class dip.
  • Druid: The Cleric and the Druid share Wisdom-based spellcasting, so a few levels to get low-level class features and some low-level spell options like Shilleagh and Faerie Fire can be very effective. However, Magic Initiate will typically suffice if you just want spelcasting, and the prohibition on metal armor can be a problem.
  • Fighter: A level or two of fighter might be a good choice, depending on your build. Fighting Style is always great, and Second Wind allows you to heal yourself a bit without cutting into your spell slots. Action Surge is especially tempting, as it opens up the possibility of casting two spells in the same turn. Remember that if you cast a bonus action spell you can only cast cantrips with your remaining actions, so in a turn when you plan to use Action Surge be sure to cast two spells with a 1 action casting time.
  • Monk: The Monk’s Unarmored Defense works well for Clerics since they need so much Wisdom. 20 Wisdom with Unarmored Defense will match Half plate, but remember that Unarmored Defense doesn’t work with shields, so you’ll need 18 Dexterity to match the AC of a normal Cleric with a shield.
  • Rogue: Expertise and skills are tempting, but the Rogue doesn’t really offer anything that the Cleric needs.
  • Wizard: Clerics and Wizards have access to some of the best spells in the game, but multiclassing between primary caster classes delays how soon your get higher level spells.

Cleric Magic Items

Common Magic Items

  • Clockwork AmuletXGtE: Only works once per day, but in many encounters a guaranteed 10 on attack roll will guarantee a hit (Players will hit an average CR-appropriate enemy’s AC on an 8 or better. See my article on The Fundamental Math of Character Optimization.) For high-value attacks like an attack with a leveled spell like Guiding Bolt or Inflict Wounds, that can be great insurance. Even better: you don’t need to attune this, so you can rotate through a stack of them if your DM is somehow crazy enough to let you get away with it.
  • Ruby of the War MageXGtE: Clerics can emblazon a holy symbol on a shield to solve the same problem that Ruby of the War Mage solves.

Uncommon Magic Items

  • Adamantine ArmorDMG: Curiously, due to the insanely high price of full plate and the inconsistent price of magic items, adamantine full plate can often be less expensive than regular full plate. Based on the expected gold awarded per level, most characters can’t afford full plate until around level 5 without borrowing from their party, while Uncommon magic items may be available several levels earlier. This mechanical oddity is a popular trick in Adventurer’s League. For heavily-armored clerics this is a great item, but for medium-armored clerics it’s much less important.
  • Amulet of the Devout: +1 to spell attacks and save DC’s, and you get an extra use of Channel Divinity per day. If you’re using the Harness Divine Power Optional Class Feature, this effectively serves double duty as a spellcasting focus and as a Pearl of Power.
  • Cloak of ProtectionDMG: Good on any character, but it requires Attunement and it’s not very interesting.
  • Eyes of the EagleDMG: A Sentinel Shield is a better option for the Cleric.
  • Gloves of Missile SnaringDMG: Similar to the Monk’s Deflect Missiles feature, this is an interesting defensive option for melee characters. However, ranged missile attacks are relatively rare since so many monsters can’t fight at range and many ranged enemies will be spellcasters, so this is situational by nature.
  • Guardian Emblem: This can prevent a ton of damage to your party. Three times per day may not sound like much, but it’s still enough to make a huge impact.
  • Pearl of PowerDMG: Useful on any spellcaster.
  • Sentinel ShieldDMG: Perception is the most frequently rolled skill in the game, and you are likely the person in the party who is best at it (provided that you got proficiency from your race or your background). Advantage provides a great deal of insurance and protection against ambushes and other surprises. Advantage on Initiative rolls is really nice so you can get a buff or and are control effect running before everyone else starts moving. This is a great item on any character using a shield, but the Cleric and the Druid are probably the two characters best-suited to using it.
  • Shield, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Slippers of Spider ClimbingDMG: The next-best thing to flight. Walking up a wall has all the benefits of flying out of reach, making this an excellent option for ranged builds.
  • Staff of the AdderDMG: Very easy to overlook, but a fantastic weapon for melee clerics. Activating the staff as a Bonus Action is somewhat annoying and I don’t think you can use Shillelagh in conjunction with the snake attack, but if your Strength is good enough to make Strength-based weapon viable, the possibility of 3d6 poison damage is a huge boost. The attack doesn’t specify that it’s a weapon attack, but it’s not a spell attack and being a weapon attack is the only other option, so it appears that Divine Strike works with the snake attack. You need to be cautious about the snake’s 20 hit points if your enemies figure out that they can attack the snake, but deanimating then reanimating the snake (which takes two Bonus Actions) restores it to full hit points so you can quickly repair your snake whenever it’s hit.
  • Staff of the PythonDMG: A decent low-level summon. At CR 2, the Giant Constrictor Snake is excellent at incapacitating single targets, especially if they have poor bonuses to Athletics and Acrobatics. With blindsight, the snake can even function is area of magical darkness or other sight-blocking conditions like fog or smoke, allowing the snake to be useful well above what its CR would suggest. Keep in mind that the snake’s 12 AC and 60 hit points won’t stand up to repeated attacks, so plan to revert the snake to its staff form quickly or risk losing the item permanently.
  • Stone of Good LuckDMG: Excellent on literally any character, but if you just want better defense a Cloak of Protection may be more effective. Stone of Good Luck shines if you’re heavily reliant on skills and ability checks.
  • Wand of the War MageDMG: Amulet of the Devout is strictly better.
  • Weapon, +1DMG: Potentially helpful for clerics who insist on using weapons, but it’s not enough to make weapons more effective than your cantrips.
  • Winged BootsDMG: Excellent on its own, but Winged Boots are more limited in use than a broom of flying, and they require Attunement. If you’re wearing heavy armor you might prefer Winged Boots because they don’t care about weight.

Rare Magic Items

  • Amulet of HealthDMG: Setting your Constitution to 19 means that you don’t need to put Ability Score Increases into it unless you’re really certain that you want 20 Constitution. Less ASI’s into Constitution means more room for feats.
  • Amulet of the Devout: +2 to your spell attacks and spell DC’s. See Amulet of the Devout under Uncommon Magic Items for more.
  • Armor of ResistanceDMG: Excellent, but unpredictable in most games since you can’t perfectly predict what sort of damage you’ll face. Fire and poison are safe choices.
  • Armor, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Barrier Tattoo (Rare)TCoE: +1 breastplate will provide the same without requiring attunement and still doesn’t impose Disadvantage on Stealth checks, so even lightly-armored clerics will do better in actual medium armor.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Hill)DMG: An excellent way to keep melee weapons viable without investing in Strength, which for many clerics means not investing in Wisdom. If you have a strength-based martial character in the party this will usually be more effective if you give it to them, but if they’re already at 20 Strength they won’t benefit so you may decide to keep this for yourself.
  • Cloak of DisplacementDMG: Among the best defensive items in the game. Taking damage from any source (spells, etc.) suppresses the effect temporarily, so make a point to kill anything that can damage you without an attack roll.
  • Devotee’s CenserTCoE: The damage boost stacks with Divine Strike, making this an interesting option for weapon-using clerics. However, a +2 weapon is the same rarity and will be considerably more effective. Even without Divine Strike, a +2 weapon will yield comparable improvements to damage output, but since clerics get just one attack per turn, you really want the reliability that a +2 weapon provides. The healing effect is neat, but it’s not going to change your tactics much. Your best bet is either to use it when you might otherwise use Healing Word, or to use it outside of combat when the party can crowd around and everyone can enjoy the 10d4 healing.
  • Mace of DistruptionDMG: Slightly better at killing undead and fiends than your average weapon. The 25 hp cap will br a long-term source of frustration because enemies will often go from too healthy to dead between your turns, leaving no opportunity for you to attack them and hopefully destroy them outright. This is also no better than a general magical mace against creatures other than fiends and undead, so unless you face those foes exclusively a +1 weapon will be considerably more effective.
  • Necklace of Prayer BeadsDMG: Unpredictable, but potentially very powerful. You’ll get an average of 4.5 beads, and the effectivenss of the item varies wildly depending on what you get. You can notably cast every spell from the beads as a Bonus Action (yes, including Planar Ally which normally has a 10-minute casting time), allowing you to quickly heal allies or get Bless running while leaving your Action for attacks or cantrips.
  • Periapt of Proof Against PoisonDMG: Poison damage is very common across the full level range, so immunity to it is a significant improvement in your durability.
  • Ring of EvasionDMG: A great way to mitigate damage from AOE spells and things like breath weapons which can often be problems from front-line characters.
  • Ring of ProtectionDMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
  • Ring of ResistanceDMG: A fine item in a vaccuum, but a Ring of Spell Storing full of Absorb Elements will be much more effective.
  • Ring of Spell StoringDMG: Fill it with Absorb Elements and Shield and recharge it whenever possible, and this is a spectacular defensive asset.
  • Shield, +2DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Weapon, +2DMG: Potentially helpful for clerics who insist on using weapons, but it’s not enough to make weapons more effective than your cantrips.

Very Rare Magic Items

  • Amulet of the Devout: +3 to your spell attacks and spell DC’s. See Amulet of the Devout under Uncommon Magic Items for more.
  • Animated ShieldDMG: Tempting for anyone not fighting with a one-handed weapon, but a Cloak of Protection is two rarities lower, works persistently, and arguably provides a better numeric bonus.
  • Armor, +2DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Barrier Tattoo (Very Rare)TCoE: The fixed AC matches full plate, so you don’t need to worry about Dexterity to boost your AC and you don’t even suffer Disadvantage on Dexterity (Stealth) checks. However, a suit of +2 medium armor will likely yield better total AC.
  • Belt of Giant Strength (Frost, Stone, Fire)DMG: A great item, but definitely overkill for the Cleric. You shouldn’t be making enough weapon attacks for this to make sense.
  • Manual of Bodily HealthDMG: Permanent Constitution bonus and raises your cap by 2. Unless you’re using a magic item that fixes your Constitution as a specific score, this is excellent.
  • Shield, +3DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Tome of UnderstandingDMG: Permanent Wisdom bonus and raises your cap by 2.
  • Weapon, +3DMG: Potentially helpful for clerics who insist on using weapons, but it’s not enough to make weapons more effective than your cantrips.

Legendary Magic Items

  • Armor of InvulnerabilityDMG: Resistance (immunity sometimes) to non-magical damage may protect you from most weapon attacks. At high enough level that you might have this item there will definitely be enemies with access to magic attacks (spellcasters, magic weapons, natural weapons which count as magical, etc.), but in many encounters this will still provide a great deal of protection.
  • Cloak of InvisibilityDMG: Invisibility is extremely powerful in 5e. Note that this is just the invisible condition, not the spell spell Invisibility, so you can still attack or whatever while invisible. Unless you’re playing a Defender and actively trying to draw attacks away from your allies, this is absolutely amazing.
  • Ioun Stone (Mastery)DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. Attacks, saves, skills, etc. all benefit. However, most clerics rely mostly on spells which require saving throws so it’s not as beneficial as it would be for other characters. A Stone of Good Luck may be just as useful.
  • Ring of Spell TurningDMG: Given the choice, I would much rather haqve a Mantle of Spell Resistance simply because the Ring of Spell Turning doesn’t provide any protection against area effect spells. Otherwise, this is a really fun item, and if it provided Advantage on saves against area of effect spells it would shoot straight up to blue.
  • Ring of Three WishesDMG: Use this to do one of the things that risks permanently removing the ability to cast Wish, such as granting 10 creatures permanent resistance to once damage type. If you lose the ability to cast Wish, pass this off to another ally who will never be able to cast Wish by any other means. Repeat until the last charge is used.

    For more help with Wish, see my Practical Guide to Wish.

  • Scarab of ProtectionDMG: An upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Scarab of Protection adds a limited benefit against necromancy and undead creatures, and doesn’t take up your cloak slot, leaving you free to take items like a Cloak of Protection or Cloak of Invisibility instead.
  • Talisman of Pure Good / Talisman of Ultimate EvilDMG: An Amulet of the Devout will be more broadly useful, but the unique ability to save-or-suck an evil is a great way to instantly defeat major enemies. You may also be able to weaponize the on-touch damage, but I think the intent is that the creature needs to willingly touch or try to pick up the talisman rather than being struck with it.

Example Cleric Build – Hill Dwarf Cleric (Life)

Sorilae the Hill Dwarf Life Domain Cleric

The dwarf rests a fist on a warhammer holstered at her hip, head bowed and eyes shut in prayer. With her other hand she wields a shield emblazoned with the hammer-and-anvil symbol ubiquitous among dwarven iconography, but in this case no doubt meant to honor Moradin, lord of the dwarf pantheon. Such devotion is common among dwarves of all stripes, but something about this dwarf’s presence hints at power behind that prayer.

— Boxed text provided by dScryb (affiliate link)

This is a “Staple Build”. This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.

A life cleric is equal parts tank and divine artillery piece, but they’re mostly a mountain of healing. While being a healbot is a curse I would never wish on a friend at the table, the utility of a reliable source of large amounts of healing is undeniable, and in a party with injury-prone members or members with big pools of hit points but terrible AC (looking at you, barbarians) a life cleric is an astonishingly useful asset. The Life domain’s capabilities dramatically improve the Cleric’s already excellent healing capabilities, raising them to the point that you’re often free to focus your prepared spells on other concerns while still being a better healer than other clerics.

For a more optimized example, see our Life Domain Cleric Handbook.

Abilities

We will assume the point buy abilities suggested above for clerics in heavy armor. If you want to emphasize knowledge skills like History and Religion rather than Face skills like Persuasion, consider switching Intelligence and Charisma. You might also choose to reduce your Strength to put those points into other ability scores. Cantrips work fine in place of a weapon, so physical ability scores are largely unimportant. However, low Strength means that most races will suffer a speed penalty in heavy armor, though our hill dwarf is conveniently not affected.

 BaseIncreased
Str1414
Dex88
Con1416
Int88
Wis1516
Cha1212

Race

Hill Dwarf. Half of the reason to play a life cleric is that they’re extremely durable, and while heavy armor and a shield go a long way, the Cleric still has d8 hit die and padding your defensive options will help keep you alive to heal and protect your allies. You also get the crucial Wisdom increase needed to keep pace with your spellcasting.

Skills and Tools

  1. We’ll take Insight and Persuasion. That positions us well to serve as a Face if no one else in the party has those capabilities. You might drop one of those skills in favor of Medicine, but Medicine is extremely limited and your healing capabilities come from your magic rather than your skills.

Background

Acolyte is tailor-made for clerics. Two skills from the Cleric’s skill list, a free holy symbol, and some other stuff. Unfortunately, Religion is Intelligence-based so you’ll be bad at it despite proficiency unless you switch Intelligence and Charisma.

If you’re happy emphasizing Face skills, you might consider the Noble background instead, but all of the skills granted by both Acolyte and Noble are one the Cleric skill list so neither has a significant mechanical advantage over the other.

Feats

The Life Cleric needs high Wisdom, but little else. More Constitution is nice, but you may get more benefit from feats like Tough. Once you have 20 Wisdom, consider introducing feats once you’re more confident in your understanding of the game.

Levels

LevelFeat(s) and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1
  • Spellcasting
  • Domain Spells
  • Cantrips Known:
    • Guidance
    • Sacred Flame
    • Thaumaturgy
  • Life Domain
  • Bonus Proficiency: Heavy Armor
  • Disciple of Life

For your starting equipment, select a warhammer, chain mail, a
dagger
or a light crossbow and bolts, either pack, and a shield and holy
symbol. If you took the Acolyte background you may end up with two
holy symbols, but it’s nice to have a spare.

 

 

At level 1 you have 18 AC while you’re holding a shield. You can
walk
around with your hammer and shield out, but you’ll need to stow
your
hammer to perform somatic components. Personally I would stick
Sacred
Flame and only draw your hammer if you might need to make an
opportunity attack, but if you’re going to cast Bless on the party
you’ll be accurate enough that your hammer will be a better source
of
damage.

 

 

You want to do most of your magical healing using Healing Word
while
you’re in combat. With Disciple of Life you’re healing 1d4+5, which
is
enough to get an unconscious ally back into a fight and maybe even
enough for them to get hit again without going down. Using your
action
to deal damage will end encounters faster, which will lead to a
smaller total strain on your party’s healing resources for the day.
Remember: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

2
  • Channel Divinity (1/day)
  • Channel Divinity: Preserve Life

Preserve Life is a great way to revive multiple dying allies. Even
one hit point is enough to get them back into a fight, and even if
they go back down they’ll at least start fresh before they face
death
saving throws while they wait for another rescue attempt. This is a
large pool of hit points, and it scales nicely, so even at high
levels
you can rescue multiple downed allies and still have enough points
left to heal your front-line allies significantly.

3
  • Domain Spells

3rd level brings Spiritual Weapon as a domain spell, which is
great because it’s a significant boost in your damage output. Casting the spell and attacking with it are both bonus actions, which means that you’re still free to cast spells and attack on your turns while your spiritual weapon flies around hitting things. Even at much higher levels, Spiritual Weapon remains a consistent, reliable offensive option in nearly every fight.

4
  • Ability Score Improvement (Wisdom 16 -> 18)
  • New Cantrip Known:
    • Spare the Dying

More Wisdom does a lot for the cleric. More spells prepared, more healing from Cure Wounds and from Healing Word, more damage from Spiritual Weapon, and of course higher DCs for our spells.

5
  • Domain Spells
  • Destroy Undead (CR 1/2)

5th level brings some important milestones. Cantrip damage
increases,
putting Sacred Flame consistently ahead of your weapon damage.
Since
Sacred Flame doesn’t require you to make an attack roll, it works
against adjacent targets. Unless you’re making opportunity attacks,
there’s very little reason to hold a weapon.

6
  • Channel Divinity (2/rest)
  • Blessed Healer

A second use of Channel Divinity means that you can use Preserve
Life
twice between short rests, dramatically increasing the amount of
healing which you can provide in a day. The Dungeon Master’s
Guide’s
rules for planning an adventuring day suggests two short rests in a
full day of adventuring, so you can expect to use Channel Divinity:
Preserve Life up to 6 times in a single day, healing a total number
of
hit points equal to 30 times your cleric level (180 at 6th level).

 

 

With that dizzying number, you also get Blessed Healer. If you
were
going to spend a bunch of turns casting healing spells, this would
be
better because it would reduce your need to spend healing resources
on
yourself. But the majority of the hit-point restoration you’ll be
doing via spells is either going to be Healing Word to get allies
back
on their feat in a hurry, Heal, or Channel Divinity: Preserve Life
which isn’t a spell. So you’re probably not going to see much
healing
from this ability.

7
  • Domain Spells

Nothing at this level except 4th-level spells. The big shiny spell
you get at this level is Guardian of Faith.

8
  • Ability Score Improvement (Wisdom 18 -> 20)
  • Destroy Undead (CR 1)
  • Divine Strike

We’re now at maximum Wisdom, which is great.

Divine Strike is tempting, but not especially helpful. By this
level
you’re 3 full points behind the Attack vs. AC progression, so you
have
just a 45% chance to hit a generic CR-appropriate foe compared to
the
expected 65%. Short of opportunity attacks, Sacred Flame will be
considerably more reliable and will deal comparable damage (2d8 vs.
2d8+2).

9
  • Domain Spells

Nothing at this level except 5th-level spells. Your domain spells
are
largely worthless at this level, but you notably gain the ability
to
case Raise Dead at this level.

10
  • Divine Intervention
  • New Cantrip Known:
    • Mending

Divine Intervention is really cool, but also totally unreliable.
At
this level you have just a 10% chance to receive Divine
Intervention.
Use this frequently, if only so that you’ll have a chance to
actually
trigger the effects.

 

 

Unfortunately, this is also the last level at which we get an
exciting and wholly new class feature. From here on it’s all
incremental improvements and new spell levels.

11
  • Destroy Undead (CR 2)

6th-level spells, and you can destroy undead of CR 2. Cantrip
damage
increases, so Sacred Flame again exceeds your weapon damage (3d8
avg.
13.5 vs. 2d8+2 avg. 11).

12
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 16 -> 18)

Your first ability score increase that doesn’t need to go into
Wisdom. Constitution will improve your hit points, but if you’re
brave
enough to consider feats, I encourage you to look at Tough.

13 

Nothing at this level except 7th-level spells.

14
  • Destroy Undead (CR 3)

Destroy even more undead.

15 

Nothing at this level except 8th-level spells.

16
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 18 -> 20)

Bringing you Constitution to 20 means that you now get 11 hit
points
per level. For comparison: a barbarian with 20 Constitution gets
just
12 hit points per level.

17
  • Destroy Undead (CR 4)
  • Supreme Healing

9th-level spells, and you no longer roll for healing spells! Of
course, you don’t do a lot of rolling for healing spells anyway. By
this level, if you’re healing in combat you’re casting Healing Word
or
Heal, or you’re using Channel Divinity: Preserve Life. Except for
Healing Word, none of those options require rolling.

18
  • Channel Divinity (3/rest)

Your total amount of healing provided by Channel Divinity:
Preserve
Life is already immense, and a third use of Channel Divinity
further
expands that massive pool. You can now use Channel Divinity as many
times per day as there are encounters in a full day of adventuring
as
recommended in the “Adventuring Day” rules in the DMG, allowing
your
party to recieve ample quantities of healing after every encounter.

19
  • Ability Score Improvement (Strength 14 -> 16)

This last ability score increase is largely pointless. Consider a
feat instead.

20
  • Improved Divine Intervention

Divine Intervention jumps from 19% effective to 100% effective. At
this level you’re close enough to your deity that you can always
request and recieve direct aid. This is an intentionally vague
ability, so expect to do some amount of negotiating with your DM to
determine what sort of aid you recieve.