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DnD 5e - The Cleric Handbook

Last Updated: July 26th, 2018

Disclaimer

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.

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.

Temporary Note: I am currently waiting to include content from the Wayfarer's Guide to Eberron. According to Dragontalk (the official D&D podcast), it's in a semi-finished state and is still subject to change, which could mean that character options in the book will see major changes before final publication. Once the book is complete, physical copies will be released and I will update to address the new content.

Introduction

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

Abilities

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
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 12
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 14
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 12
  • Str: 12
  • Dex: 13
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 8
  • Str: 14
  • Dex: 8
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 12
  • Str: 13
  • Dex: 8
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 12
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 10

Races

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.

BugbearVGTM: Nothing useful for the Cleric.

Dwarf: Dwarfs are very durable, which is a good thing when you're the party's healer.

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.

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.

Gith: Both good options for different builds.

Gnome: 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.

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.

HobgoblinVGTM: Nothing useful for the Cleric.

HumanPHB: Versatile and fantastic at everything.

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.

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.

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.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGTM: Nothing useful for the Cleric.

Skills

Background

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.

Feats

Weapons

Armor

Spells

Cantrips

1st-Level Spells

3rd-Level Spells

5th-Level Spells

Multiclassing