DnD 5e Life Domain Cleric Handbook

What do you do when your party’s full health?

What do you do when your party’s full health?

Or even halfway up and standing?


A Crap Guide to FFXIV: Healers – JoCat


The Life Domain is a powerful tool in D&D 5e, but it can be easy to misunderstand the strengths of its abilities. Having bonuses to healing magic as well as a Channel Divinity on top of that can easily trap a player into wanting to always heal all the time, but Clerics are far more than just healbots. Healing in combat is usually highly inefficient unless your action saves an ally’s action, which we don’t have to be a Life Cleric to do.

So then, why are we a Life Cleric? Because the Disciple of Life domain power allows some of the most efficient out of combat healing in the game and the Channel Divinity: Preserve Life is one of the few ways to perform some efficient in-combat healing. I’ve seen parties that struggle to stay on their feet after just one or two fights, but the Life Cleric has ways to get everyone back to full after nearly every fight.

The example build, Lifeberry the Tank Engine, shows off a little dwarven flavor but sticks pretty close to what a Cleric should be doing in the party. By that I mean mopping the floor with your foes by subjecting them to a hurricane of pain. Oh don’t worry there will be plenty of time to heal your friends when you’re off initiative. Additionally the build shows off a synergy with the Goodberry spell. 

Table of Contents


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 the article will be updated accordingly as time allows.

Life Domain Features

  1. 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.
    1. 1st Level: Bless is nearly a win condition at low levels where adding 1d4 to a roll can exceed your proficiency bonus, and it remains a staple buff at basically any level so long as you don’t need your Concentration for something else. Cure Wounds is a fine healing spell, but in combat you want to rely on Healing Word and spend your Action on offense.
    2. 3rd Level: Lesser Restoration is nice to have handy, but much of the time the effects which it removes can wait until you can rest and prepare spells to fix them. Spiritual Weapon is among the Cleric’s most efficient uses of both spell slots and Bonus Actions.
    3. 5th Level: Beacon of Hope is situational, but can be nice to cast before a rest to maximize the effectiveness of your healing spells when Hit Dice are running short. Revivify is the “Cleric Tax”, so getting it for free is really nice.
    4. 7th Level: Two interesting options with 8-hour durations, but Death Ward is definitely the better of the two.
    5. 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.
  2. 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, especially when supplemented by spells like Shield of Faith and Sanctuary.
  3. Disciple of Life: This isn’t a ton of healing all at once, but it will be especially useful with Healing Word, which is a good combination because it uses a Bonus Action, but normally doesn’t heal for a particularly large amount. Over the course of your career, the total amount of additional healing will be significant, so I encourage you to keep a running score if for no other reason than to remind your party members how badly they need you to survive.
  4. 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 points 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.
  5. 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 not happen frequently during combat, so this may not trigger as frequently as you would like.
  6. Divine Strike: Radiant damage is among the most reliable damage types available. See also: Divine Strike vs. Cantrips.
  7. 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 and thereby making your spell slots spent on healing much more efficient, allowing you to reserve high-level spell slots for more interesting things. However, since in-combat healing is generally not a good idea, there are few situations where this will be significantly impactful. In a fight, if you need healing you should cast Heal or Mass Heal, neither of which involve dice.

    Knowing how best to apply this requires a little bit of math. For single-target healing, anything of 6th level or above should still be Heal or a 9th-level spell like Mass Heal. The Cure Wounds spell cast at 6th level heals just 48+Wis hit points compared to Heal’s 70 (without considering Disciple of Life which applies the same bonus to either). For multi-target healing, Prayer of Healing is your best option, but with a 10-minute casting time you’re more likely to use Mass Healing Word.

Life Domain Ability Scores

We are a Cleric and we have Heavy Armor. We don’t want to take hits, but we don’t crumple like a piece of paper either.

Str: Unless we’re a Dwarf and can ignore this requirement, Strength is needed for Heavy Armor to not slow us down.

Dex: Dexterity saves and Initiative Checks are still a thing.

Con: It’s our job to stay alive so that everyone else can also come back in one piece.

Int: This doesn’t really help us in any way.

Wis: Casting stat meet full caster.

Cha: Not the most important thing, but Persuasion is a choice Clerics can make.

Point BuyStandard Array

Life Domain Races

Anything not listed here is already ranked in the Cleric Races Breakdown.

  • CentaurMMoM: You know what I said about Strength above? Well the only penalty for not being strong enough to wear Heavy Armor is losing 10 feet of walking speed. That would make a centaur as fast as normal 30 feet speed races, but without having to get Strength we could invest in Dexterity for Initiative and a more common saving throw.
  • DwarfPHB: Just as above, dropping Strength and still getting Heavy Armor is a great option when you need different stats, such as when trying to Multiclass.
  • Mark of Hospitality HalflingERftLW: Mentioned above under Disciple of Life, getting access to Goodberry is a fantastic way to stretch those low level spell slots and this Dragonmark grants that spell.

Life Domain Feats

For the most part, the Cleric Handbook covers these options well.

  • Magic Initiate (Druid)PHB: This wont let us do the goodberry trick. Magic Initiate only lets you re-cast the spell if you have levels in the class from which you took the spell.

Life Domain Weapons

Consult the Handbook for Weaponry. Unless you’re looking to be gimmicky. Then by all means, grab a weapon. Just put it down once you’re fifth level when cantrips scale.

Life Domain Armor

The Cleric Handbook is so comprehensive it already recommends that Life Clerics wear full plate.

Life Domain Multiclassing

The Cleric Handbook will work for most classes.

  • Druid: Remember that getting goodberry is great with the Life Domain and this is the most straightforward way to get it. Remember that the alleged prohibition against metal is a conspiracy made up by jealous non-Druids and not an actual rule.
  • Ranger: The less straightforward way to get goodberry. This takes two levels, but it’s fine if you want some martial weapons and a fighting style for some reason.

Example Life Cleric Build – Lifeberry the Tank Engine

They want you to be a healer, eh? Well, they can wait till the fighting is over to lick those wounds, we’re busy mitigating their future damage through Spirit Guardians Tanking.

Because we multiclass into Druid to get the Goodberry spell, the additional healing from Disciple of Life applies to every individual berry. Also, even though Goodberry has no upcasting benefits natively, Disciple of Life will still apply to the higher slot, adding 10 HP per cast (+1 to each berry) per spell level. If your first thought is “That is a waste of a high level slot”, Goodberries last 24 hours and you’re going to burn every remaining slot immediately before a long rest making these for the next day.


We’re choosing Mountain Dwarf as our race, giving us +2 Constitution and +2 Wisdom.

BaseIncreasedLevel 20

We don’t necessarily need Strength. As a Dwarf, we can ignore the Strength requirements for Heavy Armor, but we might have to deal with carrying capacity issues from wearing that Heavy Armor, so we take that 14. We also put a 10 in Dexterity just so that we don’t have a -1 to Initiative checks or Dex saves. The rest should make sense: high Con to not die, high Wisdom for Cleric DCs, dumped Int and Cha.


Custom Origin Mountain Dwarf is our race of choice because of all the proficiencies we can trade out as well as having two +2 stat increases. Additionally, we’re using Dwarf as a reason to reflavor a dumb elf sword into a cool dwarf axe. For fun. Because fun is optimal.

What’s a Dwarven Urgosh?

History lesson. In 3.5 D&D there was a class of weapons above Martial called Exotic weapons. These weapons usually had weird properties, one of which was the Dwarven Urgosh, an axe with a spear on the other end. In 5e, Exotic weapons don’t exist anymore, but the Double-Bladed Scimitar is a martial weapon with a special property that emulates the old double weapons of 3.5.

As a wise Kobold once said, Flavor is Free. We can just take a Double-Bladed Scimitar and call it a Dwarven Urgosh. It’s not 100% accurate because the back end of a real Urgosh would be piercing damage, but hey if you ask your DM nicely I don’t think they would really mind letting it be piercing if a Cleric wanted to occasionally make the suboptimal choice to swing a weapon for fun.


We’re taking the Marine background for Athletics, Survival, and both Land and Sea Vehicles.

Skills and Tools

Dwarves have a lot of weapon proficiencies and Mountain Dwarves add to that pile with Light and Medium Armor. We can trade all of these for tools. For this example, because we’re taking Marine for a background, we’re taking some related tools: Carpenter’s, Cartographer’s, Mason’s, Navigator’s, Smith’s, and Thieves’ Tools (maybe trade these for something else if your party already has this covered). That’s all but one of the proficiencies, which we will trade for Double-Bladed Scimitar, for flavor reasons. The aforementioned Marine Background will give us Land and Sea Vehicles.

For skills, we’re picking Insight and Religion from Cleric and are granted Athletics and Survival from Marine.

At eighth level, the Skill Expert feat gives us both Perception Proficiency and Expertise.


We’re going to dip Stars Druid into this build to get goodberry and to pick up the Starry Forms. We’ll take the first Druid level at second character level because getting Goodberry early is very useful. We’ll delay the second Druid level until sixth character level so that we don’t push our first ASI too far off. Alternatively we could put this off until the tenth character level to put it right after our second ASI.

But I don’t want to Multiclass?

Overall, the two big things we lose from removing the Circle of Stars dip are the interaction of goodberry and Life Domain and the Starry Form: Dragon giving us such a powerful boost to maintaining Concentration. Because of this, War Caster becomes more attractive than Resilient (Constitution) this early. We still want to take Resilient, but later around 12th or 16th level, and we’ll be able to simply shift the rest of our choices because we’ll get the ASI from 19th-level Cleric.


At fourth Cleric, fifth overall, we take Resilient (Constitution) unless we’ve decided to take Skill Expert early for the Wisdom. We take this instead of pushing Wisdom because it improves the floor of our Dragon Starry Form when we pick that up. This in turn will make it almost impossible for us to drop Spirit Guardians early.

Mentioned above, we’re taking Skill Expert at eighth Cleric level (tenth character level), choosing Perception for both Proficiency and Expertise. Alternatively, if the party already has plenty of Perception, Chef is a good choice and goes well thematically with our choice to make far too many goodberries.

At twelfth Cleric, fourteenth overall, we take an ASI for +2 Wisdom.

At sixteenth Cleric, eighteenth overall, Tough shores up our hit points. As you’ll see below, the +1 to Con saves from a +2 Constitution increase won’t matter much.


LevelsFeats and FeaturesNotes and Tactics
1-Cleric 1Divine Domain: Life
–Disciple of Life
–Heavy Armor


-Carpenter’s Tools
-Cartographer’s Tools
-Mason’s Tools
-Navigator’s Tools
-Smith’s Tools
-Thieves’ Tools
-Vehicles (Land)
-Vehicles (Water)

–Toll the Dead
–Word of Radiance

-1st-level Cleric Spells
–Bless–Cure Wounds
–Healing Word
A 1st-level Cleric walks out with chain mail, a shield, and a mace, which is good because we need that AC to survive at this point.

Typically in combat this early we want to put up Bless on the attack roll-dependent party members so we can beat math.

Other than that, avoid dying and use your healing magic whenever it would save an ally’s turn.

Our very wide assortment of tools gives us plenty of additional utility options. In particular, we have Thieves’ tools so we can disarm traps if we need to. Because that’s just healing future boo-boos out of existence.
2-Druid 1Spellcasting
–Shape Water

-1st-level Druid Spells
–Absorb Elements
–Faerie Fire–Goodberry
Ah yes and now we’re a druid. A dwarf rock druid. Yes. Druids typically won’t wear metal armor, but there’s no actual mechanical reason not to do so, so we’ll simply ignore that issue.

We’re here to pick up Goodberry. We want to cast Goodberry at the end of every day with whatever slots we have left over because they last 24 hours.

Combined with Disciple of Life, each Berry heals 4 HP for a total of 40 hit points from a 1st-level spell slot.

While we’re here, we also can now prepare Absorb Elements and Faerie Fire, which are useful spells not on the Cleric list. Shillelagh is notably omitted from the cantrips because even with Shillelagh, weapons are still worse than your cleric cantrips.
3-Cleric 2Channel Divinity
-Preserve Life
-Turn Undead

Harness Divine Power
Channel Divinity is great. As a Life Cleric we gain Preserve Life which allows us to put a large pool of healing into allies, divided however we want, but can’t heal allies beyond half maximum HP. This is fine. We can use goodberries to heal up the other half.

The Optional Class Feature Harness Divine Power allows us to turn a Channel Divinity into a spell slot. We should use this if we have a free use at the end of the day to get an extra pile of goodberries for the next day.
4-Cleric 3Spellcasting
-2nd-level Cleric Spells
–Lesser Restoration
–Spiritual Weapon
Second level cleric spells. Time to cast Spiritual Weapon for bonus action attacks in most fights. This spell is almost too strong because it doesn’t require Concentration.

Be a proud dwarf and say it’s shaped like a Dwarven Urgosh.
5-Cleric 4Feat: Resilient (Constitution)
Boost those Concentration saves up.

When we get Starry Form: Dragon next level we can activate it to put a floor on our Concentration Saves.
6-Druid 2Druid Circle
-Circle of Stars
–Starry Form
–Star Map
—Guiding Bolt
Stars are just really hot rocks. We’re here because Starry Form is really strong.

Archer- Bonus action Lasers are nice and instead of conflicting with Spiritual Weapon, we can just use these in alternating combats to save on resources.

Chalice- Yo dawg I heard you like healing, so I put more healing in your healing that is already full of healing so you can heal when you heal when you heal. But really, this is not a bad choice if there’s a lot of damage spread around. The 1d8+Wis from this doesn’t have to go on the target of the healing spell.

Dragon- This is the real reason we’re here. We’re going to be running very important concentration spells that we don’t want to drop and this form makes any roll of 9 or less on the die for a Concentration save into a 10 on the die. At this level that gives us a floor of 17, which is good enough to protect us from any damage lower than 34.

Additionally, the Star Map feature gives us the Guidance cantrip and the Guiding Bolt spell. On top of that, we can cast Guiding Bolt for free a number of times equal to our Proficiency Bonus every day.
7-Cleric 5Destroy Undead (CR 1)

-3rd-level Cleric Spells
–Beacon of Hope
–Spirit Guardians
Third-level spells two levels late. Still good though.
Thanks to our Domain we always have the Revivify tax on hand.

More importantly, it’s Spirit Guardians time. Casting this spell will put our foes into the hurricane of pain. More specifically, in the area foes’ speeds are halved and they will start to take 3d8 radiant damage, half on a Wisdom save. Except we have a 4th-level slot because of the multiclassing and no 4th-level spells to cast yet, so we can upcast this to 4d8 damage.

We will make sure to protect our concentration on this spell with the Dragon Starry Form. For example:

Round 1: Cast Spirit Guardians. Activate Dragon Stars.
Round 2: Cast Spiritual Weapon. Cast Cantrips or Dodge.
Round 3+: Spiritual Weapon Attack. Cantrips or Dodge.
8-Cleric 6Blessed Healer

Channel Divinity 2/rest
Blessed Healer is pretty nice. It lets us get a bit of self-healing when we heal someone else. If you combine that with Starry Form (Chalice) you can cast a spell to heal one target, use Chalice to heal another, and heal yourself with Blessed Healer.

Also we can Channel Divinity twice per rest, which is great. With Preserve Life, that’s 30 HP twice per short rest.
9-Cleric 7Spellcasting
-4th-level Cleric Spells
–Death Ward
–Freedom of Movement
–Guardian of Faith
Fourth level spells. We have some decent spells here with niche utility, but again, we have a 5th-level slot and no 5th-level spells.

These 4th-level spells are good, but nothing we feel like upcasting, so why not 5th-level Spirit Guardians?
10-Cleric 8Feat: Skill Expert
-+1 Wisdom (17=>18)
-Perception Expertise

Blessed Strikes
Skill Expert is a great way to get our Wisdom up and also give us some better Perception through expertise.

Not much else to say here other than nothing should be getting by our notice.

We also get Blessed Strikes to put more damage onto cantrips. It’s not a lot but it’s good, and it’s certainly better than Divine Strike.
11-Cleric 9Spellcasting
-5th-level Cleric Spells
–Greater Restoration
–Holy Weapon
–Mass Cure Wounds
–Raise Dead
5th-level spells. Some good options here.

Greater Restoration can remove a variety of terrible effects.

Holy Weapon is situationally useful. Not on our weapon but on a Fighter perhaps since an 11th-level Fighter would have three attacks now.

Mass Cure Wounds comes with our domain and it’s an ok way to get some healing onto the team.
12-Cleric 10Divine InterventionIt’s ok. Random chance to get a helpful spell effect for free. Not super great, but still ok.
13-Cleric 11Destroy Undead (CR 2)

-6th-level Cleric Spells
–Heroes’ Feast
6th-level spells are nice.

We finally get Heal, which is one of the handful of ways to efficiently heal someone in combat.

Heroes’ Feast on the other hand is such a great buff to try and squeeze in when we can. Note that the increased max health applies the bonus from Disciple of Life.
14-Cleric 12ASI: +2 Wisdom (18=>20)Finally we get 20 Wisdom.
15-Cleric 13Spellcasting
-7th-level Cleric Spells
–Plane Shift
7th-level spells.

Time to Plane Shift. Now we decide where the adventure is.
16-Cleric 14Destroy Undead (CR 3)It’s alright.
17-Cleric 15Spellcasting
-8th-level Cleric Spells
–Holy Aura
8th-level spells, these are fun.

Holy Aura is really nice. Allies have Advantage on all saves and foes have Disadvantage on attacks.
18-Cleric 16Feat: ToughMore Hit Points. So many hit points.
19-Cleric 17Destroy Undead (CR 4)

-9th-level Cleric Spells
–Mass Heal
–Power Word Heal

Supreme Healing
9th-level spells, these are alright.

Mass Heal and Power Word Heal are decent, but Mass Heal is probably more useful. It’s 60ft vs touch and except for 4 conditions it does everything Power Word Heal does.

Oh and Supreme Healing kicks in, so any heals that roll dice get the maximum value now. This does not include when serving up Heroes’ Feast as that is an increase to hit point maximum that also heals for the same amount as the increase.
20-Cleric 18Channel Divinity (3/rest)Getting three of these in per rest is a decent capstone. We should just always be max health after every combat forever now.

Why did we delay Wisdom in favor of Resilient (Constitution)?

While the Cleric has a good collection of Save-or-Suck spells, this cleric is all about concentrating on Spirit Guardians, because that’s fun and does good damage. It was more important to boost the Starry Form: Dragon’s concentration floor through Resilient (Constitution) than to get enemies to take full damage from the spell 5% more often.

Pretend we rushed Wisdom, and walked up to get three guys into a 4th-level Spirit Guardians for full damage but they managed to break our Concentration after one turn. We did 4d8 to each target. What if instead, we walked up and they all saved, but they couldn’t break our Concentration before the fight ended at 4 rounds. Then we did 2d8*4=8d8 to each target.

But what about some real math? Let’s pretend at 7th level that if we’re keeping up with ASIs, the targets have a 60% chance to fail the Spirit Guardians save and 55% if we took Resilient (Con).

DPR Formula for Half on a Save is ([Dice Average]*([Chance to Fail Save]+0.5*(1-[Chance to Fail Save])))

Fail Chance (Full Damage)Upcast Fourth Level Spirit Guardians 4d8=18Total DPR

By going with better Constitution save before better Wisdom, we lose 0.45 DPR (per target) from Spirit Guardians but we can expect to keep it running longer before losing Concentration, getting more actual damage out of the spell slot.