DnD 5e - The Cleric Handbook
Last Updated: November 28th, 2019
I will use 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.
- Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances
- Green: Good options.
- Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.
I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.
Clerics are among the most diverse and interest 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.
Cleric 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.
Divine Domain: See "Subclasses - Divine Domains", below.
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.
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.
Subclasses - Divine Domains
The Arcana Cleric steals some options from the Wizard, giving the Cleric a lot of really great utilities and support options, as well as some decent offensive options.
- Domain Spells: Some very good options, including some great utilities, but also a few options which you will almost never need.
- 1st-Level: Detect Magic is one of the most useful and important Divinations in the game. Magic Missile is a fantastic, reliable damage option.
- 3rd-Level: Both situationally useful at best.
- 5th-Level: Dispel Magic is an extremely important tool, but Magic Circle is very situational.
- 7th-Level: Arcane Eye is a fantastic way to scout areas which may be difficult or dangerous to explore in person. Secret Chest is a weird option that many people don't use a lot, but it's a great way to store sensitive or dangerous items like quest items.
- 9th-Level: Both are very situational.
- Arcane Initiate: A free skill and two cantrips! Wizards have a very diverse set of options with some excellent effects. Don't feel like you need to run straight to the damage options.
- Channel Divinity: Arcane Abjuration: Situational, but outsiders (Celestials, Elementals, Fey, and Fiends) are very common enemies which make up a huge chunk of the monster manual. This only affects one target, so you generally want to use it on the biggest thing in the room, even if you can't banish it. The banishment effect is terrible considering how easy it should be to kill the creatures which it affects.
- Spell Breaker: If you have Healing Word prepared (and you should), you can raise its level to whatever you need to remove whatever debuff you like as a Bonus Action.
- Potent Spellcasting: This is already great for most Clerics, but it's especially good for the Arcane Cleric because your free Wizard cantrips are treated as Cleric Cantrips, so they get the bonus damage too!
- Arcane Mastery: This is absurdly versatile. The number of potential options is huge.
A highly offensive domain, Death adds martial weapon proficiency and a lot of options for dealing single-target damage. However, the domain lacks almost any support or utility options, so if your party wants buffs they may need to look elsewhere.
- Domain Spells: A lot of very good options, some of which aren't on the Cleric spell list. The 3rd-level options are the worst part of the domain, but the rest of the spell list is great.
- 1st-Level: False Life is a fantastic buff at any level. The hit points aren't big, but with an hour duration you can afford to spend a level 1 spell slot several times a day to reduce your need to heal your allies. Ray of Sickness is nice damage at low levels, but your cantrips will outpace it at by 10.
- 3rd-Level: Both of the effects last only a minute, and allow repeated saves. Unless you can almost gurantee that the target will fail their save, these arent reliable debuffs.
- 5th-Level: Animate Dead requires frequent re-casting in 5e, so having it prepared every day for free is nice. Vampiric Touch is a great way to combine healing and damage output, and isn't normally available to Clerics.
- 7th-Level: Blight deals decent damage, especially against plants, but doesn't scale particularly well and doesn't have a fun secondary effect. Death Ward seems horribly out of place on the Death domain, but it's a great buff.
- 9th-Level: Antilife Shell is a great way to protect yourself, but Cloudkill is very hard to use since you can't redirect its path, and the damage isn't justifiable if it only hits enemies once.
- Bonus Proficiency: Martial weapons are nice, but the difference between a mace and a longsword isn't significant since Clerics never get Extra Attack. You probably don't want to use reach weapons, either, since you don't have heavy armor to keep your AC high when you forgo a shield.
- Reaper: Currently the only choices are Chill Touch and Spare the Dying. Spare the Dying is already a Cleric cantrip, so Chill Touch seems like the obvious choice. Of course, Chill touch does decent damage, so it's a reasonable choice anyway.
- Channel Divinity: Touch of Death: This really isn't a lot of damage.
- Inescapable Destruction: Consider you probably took Chill Touch, and many of your spells will deal Necrotic damage, resistance to Necrotic damage is a huge problem which this completely removes. Immunity is still and issue, but complete immunity to necrotic damage is rare, and generally limited to very high level creatures, many of which you will probably be friends with (Liches, etc.).
- Divine Strike: This will help keep your melee damage on par with your cantrips, and since you ignore resistance to Necrotic damage, you almost never need to worry about damage types.
- Improved Reaper: Many powerful Necromancy spells like Blight and Finger of Death are single-target. The ability to affect two targets with one casting doubles their effectiveness.
A great spell list, a clear role on the front lines in combat, and unique utility and support options. The Force Domain is excellent in every aspect. Forge Domain Clerics make good Defenders, and have enough damage output to be a threat in combat even without relying on spellcasting.
- Domain Spells: Absolutely stellar. The Forge Domain's spell list is almost entirely composed of spells not normally available to clerics, including a couple excellent offensive options from the Paladin spell list and some great utility options from the Wizard spell list.
- 1st-Level: Identify is only occasionally necessary, and can generally wait for you to take a full rest to prepare it. But Searing Smite is good enough to carry both spells. It's normally a paladin-exclusive spell, and your spell save DCs will be higher than most paladin's. Even at high levels, it remains a cheap and reliable damage boost for your weapon attacks.
- 3rd-Level: Decent ongoing damage, and access to a crucial buff which is normally only available to paladins and wizards.
- 5th-Level: Another excellent paladin-exclusive spell and a crucial defensive option.
- 7th-Level: Neither spell is on the Cleric spell list, and both are excellent, though somewhat situational.
- 9th-Level: Again, neither spell is on the Cleric spell list. Both spells are fantastic.
- Bonus Proficiencies: Heavy armor is always welcome on a cleric, regardless of their role, but it's especially important on a front-line cleric like a Forge Domain Cleric.
- Blessing of the Forge: Put a free +1 weapon into the party on a functionally permanent basis. Absolutely crucial if your game doesn't use magic items, but even if it does this is a wonderful and flexible buff.
- Channel Divinity: Artisan’s Blessing: Possibly situational, but extremely versatile. Trapped in a pit? Make a ladder. Stuck door? Make a portable ram. Block tunnel? Make pick axe.
- Soul of the Forge: The damage resistance is welcome, but a fixed bonus to AC like this is extremely rare in 5e.
- Divine Strike: No action required, free bonus damage. Nice and simple. Combines very well with Searing Smite.
- Saint of Forge and Fire: This is arguably too good, even at this level.
A spellcasting-focused domain with a little bit of healing and a little bit of damage, the Grave Domain strikes an interesting balance between offensive and healing options. Most of the abilities are good, but there are a handful of very weak abilities thrown into the mix.
- Domain Spells: Excellent, with a handful of spells that won't be especially useful on a regular basis.
- 1st-Level: False Life provides temporary hit points for an hour. As a 1st-level spell it will eventually become a trivial expenditure of your daily spellcasting. When you get to high levels, casting this before and after every fight is a great use of a spell slot. Oh, and you get some other spell that's already on your spell list that I don't care for.
- 3rd-Level: Both spells are situational, and neither is particularly good.
- 5th-Level: Revivify is a cleric tax, and every cleric should take it because it's too good to not do so. Vampiric Touch is a great option if you get dragged into melee, but try to avoid needing it.
- 7th-Level: A decent damage option that's not on the Cleric spell list, and a crucial buff with a nice, long duration.
- 9th-Level: Antilife Shell is a fantastic defensive option which will keep melee enemies at bay while you kill them with ranged spells. Saddling you with Raise Dead every day is pointless.
- Circle of Mortality: This makes Cure Wounds considerably more appealing when an ally hits 0 hit points. It can be abused by taking allies who are at very few hit points and beating them unconscious to get extra free healing.
- Eyes of the Grave: Detect Evil is on the Cleric spell list, and does the same thing, but detects more creatures. Sure, the area is smaller, but that doesn't seem like enough to make this meaningful.
- Channel Divinity: Path to the Grave: Use this with a rogue, or with a spellcaster with a high-damage spell that requires an attack, like Harm.
- Sentinel at Death's Door: Critical hits on your allies can turn a tough fight into a crushing defeat in a single roll. Abilities which mitigate critical hits are few and far between, making this a rare and potent defensive option.
- Potent Spellcasting: Not a ton of damage, but a welcome boost for your go-to combat options.
- Keeper of Souls: This probably won't provide a significant amount of healing, but it's a fun passive ability and it might even allow you to rescue an ally at 0 hit points without cutting into your actions on your turn.
Knowledge provides some very good abilities, and a lot of great options for gathering information by mundane, magical, and potentially metagame means. Unfortunately, the spell list is disappointing, and doesn't provide many options which will see frequent use.
- Domain Spells: A handful of good divinations, but the majority of the spells are very situational, and can typically wait for a long rest for you to prepare them.
- 1st-Level: Command can be very helpful if you use the right command, but Identify is very situational, and you can generally wait to identify things until you can take a long rest.
- 3rd-Level: Suggestion is a great way to handle a lot of problems if you use it well. Augury is easily on of my favorite divinations, though it takes a bit of practice and familiarity with your DM to really make it work. If your group is ever stuck arguing about how to proceed, Augury and be used to quickly narrow your possibilities by eliminating options which yield "woe" results.
- 5th-Level: Both options are very situational.
- 7th-Level: Arcane eye is a very effective way to scout nearby areas which might be dangerous or difficult to access normally. Confusion is a difficult spell to use, but if your targets will reliably fail the Wisdom saving throw, they lose 80% of their turns for the duration.
- 9th-Level: Legend Lore and Scrying are very situational options which see infrequent use, and can nearly always wait for you to take a long rest to prepare them on the rare occasions that you need them.
- Blessings of Knowledge: Two languages are nice, but quickly stop mattering when you gain access to Tongues. The two free Knowledge skills are much more important, especially since you get to add twice your proficiency bonus.
- Channel Divinity: Knowledge of the Ages: This is a fantastic utility ability. Forgot to bring a Rogue? Grab some thieves tools.
- Channel Divinity: Read Thoughts: Reading minds is situationally useful, but Suggestion can be very effective.
- Potent Spellcasting: By this level you can easily have 20 Wisdom, giving an impressive boost to your damage output. Note that this only applies to Cleric cantrips, so you can't use it in conjunction with Magic Initiate.
- Visions of the Past: This is very hard to analyze. If your DM is creative and open-minded, this could grant you profound insight into the plot of the game, and can provide a very potent story-telling tool. If your DM is tight-lipped, and doesn't like giving up secrets, you may find this ability to be difficult to use effectively.
Magical healing is one of the Cleric's most important functions, and no Cleric can compete with the Life Cleric's capacity for healing. The Life Cleric also doubles as a solid melee character due to their access to heavy armor.
- Domain Spells: The low level options are absolutely fantastic, and many of the Life domain spells are essentially required for a Cleric to take. Unfortunately, the high level options are less useful.
- 1st-Level: Nearly every Cleric will take these spells. Cure Wounds is basically required to survive any game of DnD, and Bless is nearly a win condition at low levels where adding 1d4 to a roll can exceed your proficiency bonus.
- 3rd-Level: Lesser Restoration is nice to have handy, but much of the time the effecs which it removes can wait until you can rest and prepare spells to fix them. Spiritual Weapon is a great way to handle things like ghosts, and to use your Bonus Action. Of course, Life Clerics will typically take Word of Healing, so much of the time your Bonus Action will be dedicated to healing.
- 5th-Level: Beacon of Hope is situational, but can be nice to cast before a rest to maximize the effectiveness of your healing spells. Revivify is the "Cleric Tax", so getting it for free is really nice.
- 7th-Level: Two interesting options with 8 hour durations.
- 9th-Level: Mass Cure is redundant with Preserve Life, and if you need Raise Dead prepared every day you are either in a terrible game or in a game with a Zealot Barbarian.
- Bonus Proficiency: With heavy armor and a shield, you can work on the front lines as well as any Fighter. The improved AC will also help to reduce the need to heal yourself instead of healing or supporting your allies.
- Disciple of Life: This isn't a ton of healing, but it will be especially useful with Word of Healing, which is a good choice because it uses a Bonus Action, but normally doesn't heal for a particularly large amount.
- Channel Divinity: Preserve Life: Fantastic when you're looking at a possible TPK. Since you're healing so much, most characters of your level will go from 0 to half hit points, unless you're looking at someone like a Barbarian with d12 hit dice and 20 Constitution or if you're splitting the point between multiple allies. Even so, the scaling is excellent as you gain additional uses of Channel Divinity this will quickly become your go-to option for large amounts of hit point recovery while in combat.
- Blessed Healer: Coupled with your excellent AC, there is now almost never a reason to cast a healing spell on yourself instead of helping your allies. However, casting a healing spell to restore hit points should generally be an option of last resort, so this may not trigger as frequently as you would like.
- Divine Strike: Clerics don't get Extra Attack, so your weapon damage will start falling behind somewhere around level 5. Divine Strike does a little bit to help, but you may still find that your cantrips do more damage, and you certainly can't expect to keep pace with more martial classes like Fighters or Paladins.
- Supreme Healing: As you add more and more dice, your rolls will skew toward the statistical average, meaning that each d8 from Cure Wounds is effectively 4.5 points of healing. Maximizing the die improves this to 8 points of healing, almost doubling the effects of your healing spells.
The Light Cleric is a Controller and a Striker, specializing in dealing damage both to single targets and to areas. Clerics already have the best Radiant damage spells in the game, and the Light domain supplements those spells with some of the best Fire damage spells. If your party doesn't have room for both a Cleric and a Wizard, the Light domain is a good choice because you can so easily replace the Wizard's ability to quickly handle groups of weak enemies.
- Domain Spells: A fantastic set of offensive spells which close the gap between Clerics and Wizards.
- 1st-Level: Faerie Fire is a great way to handle invisible creatures, but it's hard to justify preparing it every day. Fortunately, you get it prepared for free. Burning Hands is also a great low-level AOE damage spell, but resist the urge to burn all of your spell slots casting it or you won't have any slots to heal with.
- 3rd-Level: Both spells are extremely efficienct ways to use your spell slots for damage, but they don't work well against multiple targets.
- 5th-Level: Daylight is situational, but Fireball is the sledgehammer of offensive spells: sometimes you just need to hit your problems until they fall down.
- 7th-Level: Excellent area control options.
- 9th-Level: Flame Strike is considerably less important since you get Fireball, and Scrying is situational.
- Bonus Cantrip: Not spectacular, but a Light Cleric really should have light, and someone in every party should be able to cast it.
- Warding Flare: You won't get a ton of uses, so save this for enemies which can do a lot of damage.
- Channel Divinity: Radiance of the Dawn: The damage isn't great, but magical darkness can really cause problems, and a guranteed way to remove it is very convenient.
- Improved Flare: Fantastic if you have allies who are squishier than you like a Wizard, or if you need to buy time until you can heal someone.
- Potent Spellcasting: By this level you can easily have 20 Wisdom, giving an impressive boost to your damage output. Note that this only applies to Cleric cantrips, so you can't use it in conjunction with Magic Initiate.
- Corona of Light: If you're anything like me, you want to make a joke about light beer whenever you see this ability. But unlike light beer, this is fun. It's essentially an overdrive button for your fire and radiant damage spells, which is especially nice with the Light domain's Domain Spells.
Nature provides a lackluster spell list, and a Channel Divinity ability which only functions against a small sliver of the monster manual. The domains other abilities are fantastic, but since spells and Channel Divinity are such major parts of how the Cleric operates, it's hard to recommend this domain.
- Domain Spells: The nature spell list includes no truly fantastic options, and most of the options are either situational or outright bad.
- 1st-Level: Both spells are very situational.
- 3rd-Level: Barksin isn't worth your Concentration, but dropping Spike Growth on or in front of a troublesome enemy can be an excellent deterrent.
- 5th-Level: Plant Growth is an interesting area control spell, and a great way to make hedge mazes or befriend farmers. Wind wall is situational.
- 7th-Level: Both are very situational. Grasping Vine seems like it should be a great single-target crowd control effect, but it doesn't actually prevent the target from moving out of the vine's 30 foot range, so it quickly loses effectiveness.
- 9th-Level: Insect Plague is a good crowd control option, and Tree Stride is a fun long-range travel option for Clerics, who typically last options like Teleport.
- Acolyte of Nature: Druids have some fantastic cantrips, including some great utility options which are usually exlcusive to Druids. The bonus skill is nice, too.
- Bonus Proficiency: With heavy armor and a shield, you can work on the front lines as well as any Fighter. The improved AC will also help to reduce the need to heal yourself instead of healing or supporting your allies.
- Channel Divinity: Charm Animals and Plants: Very situational.
- Dampen Elements: This is insanely useful.
- Divine Strike: Considerably better than the Life Cleric's version. Note that you get to choose the damage type every time you hit, so you can easily switch energy types as the need arises.
- Master of Nature: Very situational.
Easiorder-domainly one of the most powerful options, the Order Domain an excellent option for a cleric looking to lead or support their party. In heavy armor you're fine on the front lines, and Voice of Authority provides a significant force multiplier for anyone in your party who deals big piles of damage on a single attack. At mid and high levels Divine Strike and Order's Wrath provides ways to deal more damage with a weapon, but they're not so central to the domain that you should feel bad ignoring them in favor of spellcasting.
- Domain Spells: The spell list oscilates between pairs of fantastic options and pairs of situational options. Overally it's fairly good, and you'll get a lot of use out of many of the spells, especially the enchantments.
- 1st-Level: Both excellent options with a wide variety of uses, and they remain useful well into high levels.
- 3rd-Level: Hold Person is situational, but can be very handy in a campaign with a lot of humanoid enemies. Zone of Truth is rarely important in any campaign.
- 5th-Level: A staple cleric spell, and a good crowd control option.
- 7th-Level: Both spells are situational at best.
- 9th-Level: Commune is one of my absolute favorite divinations because it's so versatile and reliable. Dominate Person is technically situational, but if there's a humanoid in an encounter it's hard to think of a better spell to cast.
- Bonus Proficiencies: Heavy armor is always a fantastic option for clerics, and an additional skill is always welcome.
- Voice of Authority: Despite many valiant attempts, clerics are nearly never as good at weapon attacks as thier more martially-minded allies. Use this to give your rogue a chance to deliver a Sneak Attack during your turn (Sneak Attack is once per turn, not once per round), or if there isn't a rogue in the party give it to whoever will deal the most damage. The spell you cast only needs to be a leveled spell, so when you're high enough level that your low-level spells won't make a big impact in combat, you can use bonus action spells like Healing word to trigger this effect and spend your action casting a cantrip. Once you get Embodiment of Law you can cast enchantment spells as bonus actions a few times per day, which gives you even more ways to do this.
- Channel Divinity: Order's Demand: Disarm every target within 30 feet on failed will saves. Excellent against humanoid enemies, but less useful against monsters.
- Embodiment of Law: 3-5 times per day doesn't seem like a lot, but even with the Order domain's emphasis on enchantment spells that's probably enough to cover most situations where you want to cast and enchantment and do some other action on the same turn.
- Divine Strike: Because of the weird levels at which this scales, this will go back and forth with your cantrips over which will deal the most damage. If you choose to ignore this an focus more on spellcasting, I don't think you'll miss it until you pick up Order's Wrath at 17th level.
- Order's Wrath: Your ideal use case for this is to hit an enemy with your weapon and deal Divine Strike damage, then cast a leveled spell as a bonus action to trigger Voice of Authority and have your ally hit the same target to trigger the bonus damage. That means you're dealing 4d8 psychic damage plus whatever your weapon does plus whatever your ally's weapon does. That's pretty good, but by this level you're also dealing 4d8 damage with Sacred Flame, and your spellcasting DC will be probably be more reliable than your attack bonus.
Tempest is very offensive, falling somewhere between Life's durability and Light's damage output. Tempest's abilities and spells provide several fun crowd control and area control options.
- Domain Spells:
- 1st-Level: Fog cloud is a great escape or crowd control mechanism, and Thunderwave is great for when you get in over your head in melee and need to buy yourself some space.
- 3rd-Level: Both spells are very situational.
- 5th-Level: Sleet storm is a mediocre crowd control spell, but Call Lightning is really great. You can start your cloud at the beginning of a fight, and spend the next 10 minutes killing things with a single spell slot. Since the damage scales at 1d10 per spell level, it remains viable into high levels.
- 7th-Level: Ice storm combines decent damage with a small crowd-control effect, but Control Water is only useful on those rare days when you have a large body of water handy.
- 9th-Level: Destructive Wave does excellent damage of types which are very rarely resisted, and Insect Plague is a fantastic area control option.
- Bonus Proficiencies: Heavy armor is great on a Cleric, and Martial Weapons add a few more combat options. With heavy armor and coupled with Wrath of the Storm, you might even consider pickup up a 2-handed weapon.
- Wrath of the Storm: At low level this will outright kill enemies. At high levels it's a mild deterrent, but hopefully won't get used much because you should have excellent AC.
- Channel Divinity: Destructive Wrath: Great for when you absolutely, positively need to Thunderwave every enemy in the room. Don't be tempted to use this with Wrath of the Storm; that's a tragic waste of a great ability.
- Thunderbolt Strike: This combines well with Wrath of the Storm when you need to get out of melee for whatever reason, and as far as I can tell it stacks with Thunderwave's push effect.
- Divine Strike: Thunder is one of those handful of energy types that almost nothing is resistant or immune to, so it's a great option. However, you can't shift energy types to gain bonus damage like a Nature Cleric, and you won't get bonus damage against undead like a Life Cleric.
- Stormborn: Near-permanent flight! Flight is absolutely crucial at high levels, and getting it this easily can free up resources for more exciting things.
Trickery offers a great spell list, but the class abilities aren't very good.
- Domain Spells: Lots of really fun options, many of which aren't normally available to Clerics.
- 1st-Level: Disguise Self and Charm Person can diffuse quite a few social situations, but Charm Person can't completely replace a real Face.
- 3rd-Level: Mirror Image is arguably better than having a decent AC, and Pass Without a Trace turns a party of stompy Fighters into a roaming ball of quiet murder.
- 5th-Level: Blink gives you a 50% chance to be untargetable between turns, which is great since you're probably your parties healer, so it costs you very little be untargetable by allies. Dispel Magic is situational, but its so useful that not preparing it can often be a lethal mistake.
- 7th-Level: Dimension Door is situational, but very effective. Polymorph is one of the most versatile effects in the game, and call allow you to solve a wide variety of problems with the right beast form.
- 9th-Level: Modify Memory is situational, but Dominate Person is a great way to turn a powerful enemy into a fun pet for up to a minute.
- Blessing of the Trickster: You can't use this on yourself, so use it on whoever in your party is making a ton of noise stomping around in heavy armor.
- Channel Divinity: Invoke Duplicity: This can be difficult to use effectively, but once you get your head around it, it's very potent.
- Channel Divinity: Cloak of Shadows: Invisibility is great, but one round just isn't enough.
- Divine Strike: A lot of things have resistance to poison, but nothing has weakness to poison. Still, much of the time the damage poison will be very helpful.
- Improved Duplicity: This allows you to keep duplicates near all of your allies to buff or heal them with touch range spells, or to keep your enemies very confused.
The War Cleric reduces the gap between the Cleric and the Paladin, emphasizing front-line martial prowess a bit more than spellcasting. While this is a fun concept with several great options, it's often difficult to use the War domains options in conjunction because so many of them depend on Concentration and/or Bonus Actions.
- Domain Spells: Many really fantastic options, but more than half of the domain spells require Concentration, which makes it hard to use more then one or two in a fight.
- 1st-Level: Divine Favor won't remain useful beyond low levels, but at low level it's a nice bit of extra damage with a decent duration that costs a swift action to cast. Shield of Faith will remain useful at every level. +2 AC is big in 5e, and 10 minutes is a fantastic duration for a spell slot. However, it requires Concentration, which means that you can't combine it with other great low-level buffs like Bless.
- 3rd-Level: Since Magic Weapon requires Concentration, you generally only want to use it if you lack permanent magical weapons, and only against enemies that resist non-magical weapons. Spiritual Weapon is a great way to convert your Bonus Action into damage output.
- 5th-Level: Crusader's Mantle is Divine Favor for the whole party. The damage is still small, but if you have someone using Two-Weapon Fighting, or someone with Extra Attacks, it gets a bit better. Spirit Guardians is a great way to either keep enemies away from you, or to wear down enemies who aren't able to move away from you fast enough to stay out of the aura. If you're facing something that likes to grapple, turn this on and go get friendly.
- 7th-Level: Stoneskin is a fantastic buff, especially since gold isn't particularly useful in 5e, but won't help you once you get Avatar of Battle. Freedom of movement is very situationally useful.
- 9th-Level: Flame Strike is a fantastic damage spell, and Hold Monster is a great way to remove an enemy from a fight.
- Bonus Proficiencies: Heavy armor is great on a Cleric, and Martial Weapons add a few more combat options.
- War Priest: As many as five extra attacks per day! This is terribly disappointing. The fact that it takes your bonus action is absurd on top of the tragically low number of times you get to use it. Fortunately, Divine Strike adds to the damage so your attacks will at least feel impactful.
- Channel Divinity: Guided Strike: It's pretty rare that your attacks are crucial enough to justify using this, but sometimes you just really need to hit something once.
- Channel Divinity: War God's Blessing: While Clerics don't typically deal a huge amount of damage on their attacks, allies like Rogues certainly do, and when they miss their one attack for the round a +10 can really change the outcome of a fight.
- Divine Strike: While not as flashy as the Nature Cleric's version of Divine Strike, the ability to deal the same damage type as your weapon allows you to change damage types with relative ease by changing weapons.
- Avatar of Battle: Most damage of those types comes from non-magical weapons or from monsters with non-magical bodyparts.
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.
Str: Lightly-armored Clerics can dump Strength. Heavily-armored Clerics can afford more Strength since they dump Dexterity, and they are better-equipped to survive in melee. Medium-armored Clerics may want to dump Strength and stick to spellcasting unless they also get proficiency with Rapiers.
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 Buy||Standard Array||Point Buy||Standard Array||Point Buy||Standard Array|
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Wisdom is crucial, but other abilities depend on your build and your choice of Divine Domain. Unfortunately, no published race has a +2 to Wisdom, so you'll need to survive with a +1 bonus.
AarakocraEEPC: Dexterity and a bit of Wisdom are great for a lightly-armored Cleric, and flight is always fantastic.
AasimarVGTM: Charisma doesn't do much for a cleric, but the flavor works very well, and the Aasimar's other racial traits and their subraces work for a variety of cleric builds.
- Fallen: A more direct option for offensive clerics that prefer to use weapons.
- Protector: Wisdom and a temporary ability which turns you into a flying death machine.
- Scourge: A decent option for a cleric in heavy armor, but the short range on Radiant Consumption makes it hard to rely on spells offensively. As a cleric you have plenty of healing to offset the self-inflicted damage.
BugbearVGTM: Without a Wisdom increase your spellcasting will lag, but if you're built to swing a weapon and consider spellcasting a secondary concern you can make the Bugbear work.
Dwarf: Dwarfs are very durable, which is a good thing when you're the party's healer.
- DuergarSCAG: x Similar to the Mountain Dwarf.
- HillPHB: A bit of Wisdom and additional hit points further improve the Dwarf's durability.
- MountainPHB: While the bonus Strength isn't particularly useful for the Cleric's spellcasting, a heavily-armored Cleric may welcome the extra help with weapon attacks.
DragonbornPHB: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
ElfPHB: High Dexterity is nice for lightly armored Clerics, and Perception is a great skill for Clerics due to their high Wisdom.
- Drow: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- EladrinMToF: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- High Elf: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- Sea ElfMToF: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- Shadar-KaiMToF: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- Wood Elf: A bit of Wisdom, plus access to Shortswords means you have a Finesse weapon to make use of your high Dexterity. Mask of the Wild looks like a great option for Trickery Clerics.
FirbolgVGTM: Strong, wise, and with a small pile of active abilities and innate spellcasting.
GenasiEEPC: The Constitution bonus matches that of the Dwarf, but Genasi don't get any other base racial abilities.
- Air: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- Earth: Nothing sspecifically useful for the Cleric.
- Fire: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- Water: A bit of Wisdom, and access to Shape Water, which is one of my absolute favorite Cantrips.
Gith: Both good options for different builds.
- GithyankiMToF: Strength is nice for melee clerics, and the new weapon proficiencies offer you some better options than most clerics get.
- GithzeraiMToF: An excellent option for back-line clerics, the Wisdom increase is great and Mental Discipline will help keep you from being incapacitated when your allies need you most.
Gnome: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- ForestPHB: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- RockPHB: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
GoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
GoliathVGTM/EEPC: Nothing specifically useful for the Cleric.
Half-Elf: Abilities similar to the Human, but much of the vanilla Half-Elf's abilities are wasted unless you're a Face.
- AquaticSCAG: Only if you're in an aquatic campaign.
- DrowSCAG: Faerie Fire provides an excellent way to handle invisible creatures which isn't normally available to clerics, and Darkness can be very useful if you're clever.
- High/Moon/SunSCAG: Several wizard cantrips are very good, but cleric cantrips do just as much damage and the utility options likely aren't as useful as two skills.
- Keen SensesSCAG: The sidebar describing half-elf variants specifices that you can take Keen Senses in place of Skill Versatility, or a trait based on your elf parentage. Keen Senses give you a single fixed skill, and you're giving up proficiency in any two skills. It should be immediately apparent that this is a terrible trade.
- WoodSCAG: Weapon training is tempting since Clerics are generally limited to simple weapons, but most melee clerics will do fine without them, and ranged clerics will deal better damage by relying on cantrips than they would do with weapons. The other options are wasted on most clerics.
- VanillaPHB: Two skills allows you to pick up any Face skills you didn't get from your class/background or some knowledge skills if your party needs them.
Half-OrcPHB: Nothing specifically useful for the Cleric.
HalflingPHB: Ghostwise halfling puts the halfling on par with the wood elf, making it a viable option for trickery clerics.
- GhostwiseSCAG: An interesting choice for trickery clerics, but I wouldn't consider it for other builds.
- LightfootPHB Nothing useful for the Cleric.
- StoutPHB Nothing useful for the Cleric.
HobgoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.
- Vanilla: Clerics have a weird skill set which demands a broad range of abilities. If you don't need a feat, the Vanilla Human can get you bonuses to several skills if you buy your ability scores carefully.
- Variant: You still get crucial bonus to your Wisdom and something else, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1.
KenkuVGTM: Potentially a good trickery cleric, but Dexterity can be hard for a cleric to use.
KoboldVGTM: Nothing helpful for Cleric.
LizardfolkVGTM: Durable, extra skills, and some other useful traits. Excellent for any kind of cleric.
LocathahLR: The only useful parts are the Dexterity increase and the free skills.
OrcVGTM: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
TabaxiVGTM: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
Tiefling: With the exception of the Fierna Tiefling, Tiefling's don't work well as clerics due to their lack of a Wisdom increase.
- AsmodeusMToF: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- BaalzebulMToF: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- DispaterMToF: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- FiernaMToF: Good for a cleric that wants to be the party's Face.
- GlasyaMToF: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- LevistusMToF: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- MammonMToF: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- MephistophelesMToF: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- ZarielMToF: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- Variant: FeralSCAG: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- Variant: HellfireSCAG: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- Variant: VanillaPHB: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
- Variant: WingedSCAG: Nothing helpful for the Cleric.
TortleTP: Fantastic for a melee cleric, the Tortle's ability increases are perfect, and their natural armor means that you don't need to get heavy armor to get a high AC.
TritonVGTM: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
VerdanAcInc: Bad ability spread.
Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.
Races of Eberron
BugbearERLW: See above.
ChangelingERLW: The Flexible increase can go into Wisdom, and with a Charisma increase and two Face skills, the Changeling can be a fantastic party Face. Unfortunately, there's little here that contibutes directly to your primary function as a cleric.
GoblinERLW: See above.
HobgoblinERLW: See above.
OrcERLW: See above.
KalashtarERLW: A Wisdom increase is a great start, and the resistances are nice, but the Kalashtar isn't actually good at doing anything. They're great at not having stuff happen to their minds, but that's about it.
ShifterERLW: Darkvision is a great start, but there's little that we want from the Shifter's subraces.
- Beasthide: Workable for a melee cleric, but lacks a crucial Wisdom increase.
- Longtooth: If you want melee, go for Beasthide. If you want to attack with your Bonus Action, cast Spiritual Weapon.
- Swiftstride: Bad ability spread.
- Wildhunt: Dexterity and Wisdom can work, though they're not ideal. The shifting feature is easy to overlook, but Wisdom checks will include ability checks with Counterspell and Dispel Magic.
WarforgedERLW: Put the flexible increase into Wisdom and you've got an extremely durable cleric. Pick a Divine Domain which provides heavy armor proficiency (or use a feat), and you can outdo the AC of most other characters. Combined with the Warforged's other resistances and immunities, you're very well-suited to standing between your allies and danger.
While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you're not playing a spellcaster you're giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can't cast spells.
Dragonmarked DwarfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Shadow: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW: Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.
- Mark of Detection: The ability increases are perfect for any cleric, and the remaining traits add a lot of interesting options to the Cleric's existing capabilities. See Invisibility isn't on the Cleric's spell list, and several of the dragonmark's spells are new additions, too.
- Mark of Storm: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW: Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.
- Mark of Finding: Perfect ability score increases, Darkvision, bonuses to some skills, and a bunch of new additions to your spell list. Hunter's Mark adds a nice damage boost at very low levels, but expect to forget about it the second your can cast Spiritual Weapon.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW: Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.
- Mark of Healing: Thematically it makes sense, and an extra free use of both Cure Wounds and Lesser Restoration are nice, but with the exception of the three aura spells everything is taken from the Cleric's spell list. If you just want a healbot this is a fine option, but it doesn't actually expand your capabilities beyond what you could already do.
- Mark of Hospitality: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW: Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.
- Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
- Mark of Handling: Great ability score increases and a great thematic combination for nature clerics, Mark of Handling improves your ability to work with animals, and adds some more spells from the Druid spell list to your spell list. Unfortunately, many of the dragonmark spells are already on the Cleric spell list.
- Mark of Making: The ability score increases aren't great, but the spellcasting offers several new ways to buff your allies. Thematically this is a great combination with the Forge Domain.
- Mark of Passage: Dexterity and Wisdom can be a difficult combination for clerics, but if you're building a Dexterity-based cleric Mark of Passage has a lot to offer. Nearly every one of the dragonmark spells is new to the Cleric's spell list, and the spells are mostly teleportation and movement spells which will help you address challenges which most clerics can't solve with magic.
- Mark of Sentinel: Great ability scores, and some really great abilities for a protective, tanky cleric. Unfortunately you don't get an increase to Strength or Dexterity, so expect to rely on cantrips in combat even if you're in melee, but with options like Compelled Duel you can draw a lot of attention away from your allies. Unfortunately, many of the dragonmark spells are already on the Cleric's spell list, so you don't gain as much from Mark of Sentinel as other spellcasters do.
Races of Ravnica
CentaurGGTR: Strength and Wisdom are a great combination for the Cleric, and the Centaur's other racial traits offer some helpful options for melee clerics. However, they don't work well for cleric builds which don't emphasize melee combat.
GoblinGGTR: See above.
LoxodonGGTR: Excellent ability score increases for a cleric, and a handful of other passive benefits which make it easy to capitalize on a high Wisdom score.
MinotaurGGTR: Nothing useful for the Cleric.
Simic HybridGGTR: Fantastic and versatile.
VedalkenGGTR: The ability scores work fine, but the Vedalken doesn't bring anything else useful to the Cleric.
- 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): You can do this much better with magic.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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 the backgrounds recommended in the "Quick Build" section of the class description, as well as other backgrounds which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. The possibility of custom backgrounds also means that it is literally impossible for me to provide comprehensive analysis of every potential background in existence.
- AlertPHB: Going first isn't terribly important for anyone but Rogues.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- GrapplerPHB: Grappling isn't a great option for Clerics.
- 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: If you have decent Charisma, this can be a great way to supplement your healing abilties and reduce the need for you to heal your allies in combat.
- 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.
- 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: 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: If you were going to be good at a save, your class would have given it to you. If you depend heavily on Concentration spells, you might consider Resiliant (Constitution) to improve your saves to maintain Concentration, but you might get more mileage from War Caster.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- SkulkerPHB: Sniping is for Rogues.
- Spell SniperPHB: Very few Cleric spells require attack rolls.
- Tavern BrawlerPHB: You should be saving your Bonus Actions for spells.
- 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 buffs require Concentration. The reaction mechanic works fine with the Cleric's existing cantrips, but if you pick up Magic Initiate for Booming Blade it's a very solid option.
- Weapon MasterPHB: You get all of the weapon proficiencies that you need to function.
- 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.
- 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.
This is not a comprehensive guide to every available spell, as that would be an exercise in madness. The following is a brief compilation of the most notable spells available to the class. Spells available via Magic Initiate are also excluded; for suggestions for Magic Initiate, see the "Feats" section, above.
- GuidancePHB: As long as you're not conentrating on something with a long duration between fights, you should be constantly throwing this on your allies. Your Rogue should have Guidance for every skill check they make while searching, sneaking, handling traps, etc.
- Sacred FlamePHB: Probably the best source of radiant damage in the game. It's a reliable way to kill zombies, and since it requires a saving throw rather than an attack you can use it against adjacent enemies without issue. As the damage scales, it will easily outpace your damage with a weapon, so by 11th level there is usually no reason to keep a weapon in your hand.
- Spare the DyingPHB: Tempting, but once you're got a reasonable number of spell slots, you can just use Healing Word.
- BlessPHB: At low levels, Bless can decide if you win or lose a fight.
- Cure WoundsPHB: Crucial for healing, and a great way to spend your remaining spell slots at the end of the day.
- Healing WordPHB: Because death is so gentle in 5e, Healing Word is extremely powerful. You can save it for when your allies drop to 0, get them back on their feat, then wait to heal them again until they get dropped back to 0. Sincet his is a bonus action, you can still use your action to hit something with a mace or cast a cantrip.
- Revivify: The "Cleric Tax". This spell is just too good to not prepare every day. Raise Dead costs considerably more, and with a full minute to use this after your ally dies, Revivify is extremely easy to use.
- Raise Dead: Don't bother preparing this unless someone is already dead. If your ally dies, they'll still be dead the next day when you prepare Raise Dead.
- 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.
- 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.
Example Build - Hill Dwarf Cleric (Life)
If you make your sibling/significant other/child play a healbot for their first character, you are doing them a disservice. But if they play a master healer who shoots divine lasers and smites the wicked, that's totally fine.
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.
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 you will suffer a speed penalty in heavy armor.
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
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.
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.
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.
|Level||Feat(s) and Features||Notes and Tactics|
|1|| || |
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|| || |
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|| || |
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|| || |
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|| || |
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|| || |
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|| || |
Nothing at this level except 4th-level spells. The big shiny spell you get at this level is Guardian of Faith.
|8|| || |
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 60%. Short of opportunity attacks, Sacred Flame will be considerably more reliable and will deal comparable damage (2d8 vs. 2d8+2).
|9|| || |
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 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|| || |
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|| || |
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.
Nothing at this level except 7th-level spells.
|14|| || |
Destroy even more undead.
Nothing at this level except 8th-level spells.
|16|| || |
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|| || |
7th-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|| || |
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|| || |
This last ability score increase is largely pointless. Consider a feat instead.
|20|| || |
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.