Maybe an unpopular opinion… but the cleric is the BEST character class in D&D 5e.
That’s right… the past-maligned support class is better than any of the classes it is there to support!
It has diversity (FOURTEEN subclasses), survivability (a d8 hit die, and good AC with medium armor and shields), versatility (combat AND spell casting), and clear guidelines for creative role playing to thrive (religion).
It's no wonder that, after a party is assembled and there is no cleric in sight, everyone swallows a big nervous gulp.
Well, maybe YOU can be the hero among heroes that chooses to play a cleric and save your friends from almost certain disintegration at the hands of a Beholder.
Here are 4 types of people that need to give the Cleric a try when making some of their first D&D 5e characters.
Players Who Want To Explore The Gods
I’ll cut right to the chase: you can’t play a cleric unless your cleric worships a god or goddess. They are literally “an intermediary between the mortal planes and the distant planes of the gods”. Like mechanics and cars… gods come with the cleric job.
That said, you don’t have to pray to a foreboding “Monty Python cloud god”...
Like the diverse ancient Greek pantheon, there are LOTS of gods in the Forgotten Realms.
Do you cherish all things bright and beautiful? Then please consider Eldath or Lliira.
Does your heart crave misery and chaos? Might I suggest Besheba or Tempus.
And of course, you can go with all-time classics like Mystra (goddess of magic), Savras (divination god), or The Raven Queen (goddess of death).
No matter what kind of cleric you create… no matter their personality or appearance… or how they function in and out of combat… you can find a deity that both fits and challenges their faith!
To check out a list of the major D&D 5e gods and goddesses, click here.
Players That Want to Heal and Support
As mentioned above, the stereotype surrounding D&D 5e Cleric’s is that they are stuck supporting others. And while they can do SO MUCH more than that (more on that in a second)... yeah… they do a lot of support…
But that’s not a bad thing! Sometimes it feels REALLY GOOD knowing your party member was only able to crit because YOU gave them advantage, or that spell could only be cast because YOU kept them alive with healing!
And that’s how a cleric supports… they HEAL.
They are also one of the few classes that has access to the legendary Revivify, which allows you to cheaply resurrect someone who died within the past minute. It's so good and essential that it is often considered the “cleric tax”; something clerics HAVE to take no matter what.
And if you ever get tired of healing, you can always wade into combat and bash some brains with your mace or war hammer!
Players Who Hate the Undead
Paladins may gain their abilities from the “strength of their conviction”, but clerics are the true religious characters in the game… their power comes directly from their prayers of faith.
Case and point: their signature class ability is “Channel Divinity”, where they serve as a conduit by aligning their heart and mind and will with their god. Every subclass (see below) can use this ability for something specific… but there is one use they ALL share…
They absolutely ANNIHILATE anything undead.
Unless you are of the death domain or worship Orcus (2/10 recommend), your cleric has a visceral, zealous, and unrelenting hatred of anything undead. Zombies, skeletons, wights, mummies, vampires…
Every cleric can “turn undead”. This forces the undead to make a Wisdom saving throw. If they fail they have to move in the opposite direction of the caster. Or… if they are low enough CR… well… BOOM!… no more undead.
That’s because undead have a weakness for radiant damage; some of them even take an extra die, or max, or double damage. And no one deals radiant damage like a cleric!
And when radiant fails (if, for some crazy reason, it fails), then clerics can always turn to fire damage… and they have a whole lot of fire spells too. Kill it with heavenly light or kill it with fire… regardless of what you choose, if its undead, you’ll be able to KIIIIIILL IIIIIIT.
Players Who Want to Perform the Miraculous
Each of the different D&D 5e Clerics perform their own unique form of ‘divine miracles’.
Arcana Domain: The Wizard/Cleric hybrid… get some wizard defensive options and cantrips while maintaining your healing abilities.
Death Domain: Not only would your (evil) character delight in death… but also undeath. Emphasis on necrotic damage and necromancy.
Forge Domain: Blacksmith artisans who serve their gods with the work of their hands. Smiths tools, wear heavy armor, and create magical items. A menace in the front lines of combat as well.
Grave Domain: At first sight, this seems similar to death, but it is more about preventing unnecessary death and ushering the dying into everlasting glory. Stop death saving throws right in their tracks and prevent critical hits from obliterating a beloved ally.
Knowledge Domain: The mantra of these clerics is “seek and ye shall find…” for to know is to pray, and to teach is to preach. Utility abilities that let you read thoughts and have visions.
Life Domain: The most stereotypical cleric there is… you take the cleric's healing and SUPERCHARGE it. You get heavy armor as you rush into the fury of war as a combat medic, all your healing is more effective, and your Channel Divinity is a beacon of life for all.
Light Domain: Fire balls…Wall of Fire … oh and how about some more fire? The long ranged blaster of the cleric class. Kinda like a sorcerer/cleric mix.
Nature Domain: Find your god Silvanus in the trees, rivers, and soil. Gain access to druid spells and dampen damage from elemental attacks.
Order Domain: Promote justice via virtues so that life may flourish. Stay protected on the front lines as you command and control the battlefield for your allies advantage.
Peace Domain: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall receive a totally broken class that should definitely be banned at every table (check this out for more).
Tempest Domain: Descend upon your enemies like a thundering storm… like the surging tide! Another “storm based class” with lots of lightning and thunder damage, plus some battlefield control stuff as well.
Trickery Domain: Straddle the line of good and evil by worshiping a deity of mischief! Provides access to a slew of illusion and enchantment magic normally unavailable to religious characters.
Twilight Domain: “The gods of twilight guard against the horrors of the night…”. Never fear dark places, go last in initiative, or be surprised… for the dark shall become light to you.
War Domain: For the cleric that prefers to go on crusade rather than pilgrimage. Added damage to weapon attacks, gain extra attacks per long rest, and bonuses so your attack DEFINITELY hits.
“Should I Play a 5e Cleric?”
Imo… yes… you should.
If you want to explore fantasy religion, heal the good and blast the undead, and perform any number of miraculous wonders, the cleric class if for you.
In fact, your entire party should only be clerics, each with a different domain.
As JoCat states… they’d be damn near invincible.
Like this post, but don’t wanna spend all day in church?
Check out some of our other posts on the D&D character classes:
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Based out of Spokane, Riley is a freelance copywriter that combines his love of reading, writing, and people into something useful! He is thankful to be applying his passion for imaginative role-playing to help DnD related businesses communicate their value in the best way possible. He's kinda like a bard giving inspiration, except without the annoying pop covers!