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Pathfinder - The Cleric Handbook

Last Updated: October 15, 2018

Disclaimer

I support a limited subset of Pathfinder's rules content. If you would like help with Pathfinder player options not covered here, please email me and I am happy to provide additional assistance.

I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Paizo has recently discontinued support of their official SRD. From this point forward SRD links on RPGBOT.net will instead link to d20PFSRD.com. While Archive of Nethys is now Paizo's officially licensed partner for the purposes of serving the Pathfinder SRD, Archive of Nethys is a horribly designed website and it simply doesn't match d20PFSRD's ability to keep pace with published content and d20PFSRD's search functionality.

If you encounter any links which still point to the old SRD, please email me so that I can correct them. I also recently added a page explaining my supported content which you may find helpful. --September 15, 2018

Introduction

The Cleric is among the most powerful, versatile, and important classes in the game. When drawing a baseline for divine spellcasters, the Cleric is almost always the first example which comes to mind. With access to an excellent spell list and many of the most important skills in the game, Clerics are welcome in any party. On top of their formidable spellcaster, Clerics are also capable melee combatants, and with some magical enhancement can easily hold their own against the very best martial characters. The Cleric can fill nearly any role in the party, but their most important roles are as the parties Healer, Support Caster, and Utility Caster, with a secondary role as a backup Defender.

Because the Cleric is so versatile, it can be easy to become very MAD. Be sure to consider what roles you intend to fulfill before building your Cleric. If you plan to be heavily combat-focused, consider playing a Warpriest so that you can reduce your need for ridiculously high Charisma. If you plan to play a Face, you consider playing a Paladin instead. The Cleric can do almost everything well, but it is very hard to do everything well at the same time.

Cleric Class Features

Hit Points: d8 hit points is hard for any melee class, but with so much healing available the Cleric does just fine in combat.

Base Attack Bonus: 2/3 BAB, but magical enhancement can easily overcome the BAB deficit.

Saves: Good Fortitude and Will saves, but with heavy armor most Clerics will have problems with Reflex saves.

Proficiencies: Heavy armor and shields give the Cleric impressive AC, simple weapons offer plenty of offensive options, and most Clerics get martial weapon proficiency with their deity's favored weapon.

Skills: 2+ skill ranks and no dependence on Intelligence, Clerics have terrible skills. Their skill list includes a lot of excellent options including Diplomacy and some excellent Knowledge skills. If you need skills to fill your role in the party, consider playing a Human, boosting your Intelligence, or using your favored class bonus to gain extra skill ranks.

Aura (Ex): Hardly ever matters.

Spells: One of the best spell lists in the game, and plenty of spells per day due to bonus domain spells.

Channel Energy (Su): Channel energy is a mediocre ability, and is rightly ignored by many builds. At best it is a splash of damage against undead, and at worst it's a mediocre mass-healing ability for your party. That said, with some focus it can become a useful asset. For help with Channel Energy, see my Practical Guide to Channel Energy.

Domains: Domains grant the Cleric a nice level of diversity, and offer a lot of fantastic options, including new spells not available on the Cleric spell list. For help selecting domains, see my Cleric Domains Breakdown.

Orisons: Fantastic and versatile.

Spontaneous Casting: You will very rarely need to drop spells to cast Cure spells in combat, but on those rare ocassions this is nice to have.

Chaotic, Evil, Good, and Lawful Spells: Limiting your spells by alignment can annoying, but rarely causes issues. I think the most annoying example is prohibiting good-aligned casters from casting Infernal Healing, which is the Pathfinder equivalent of 3.5's Lesser Vigor, which quickly became the basis for all out of combat healing in 3.5.

Bonus Languages: The Cleric can cast Tongues.

Abilities

As a full caster, the Cleric's Wisdom is essential above all else.

Str: Useful if you plan to be in melee combat, but even then you can use Guided Hand to use Wisdom for attack rolls, so you probably don't need more than 13 Strength to get access to Power Attack.

Dex: Take 12 at most to fill out Full Plate, but even that isn't strictly necessary.

Con: Hit points are always important, especially if you plan to wade into combat.

Int: Only useful for skill ranks, and the Cleric isn't dependent on skills unless the party absolutely needs them to be.

Wis: Your casting stat. Maximize it, and enhance it as much as you can and as fast as you can.

Cha: Important if you plan to play a face or use Channel Energy.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy 15 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str: 13
  • Dex: 12
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 18
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 13
  • Dex: 10
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 18
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 13
  • Dex: 10
  • Con: 12
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 17
  • Cha: 9
  • Str: 13
  • Dex: 10
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 8
  • Wis: 15
  • Cha: 12

Races

Bonuses to Wisdom are everything. All other benefits are secondary.

Dwarf: Exceptionally durable, and bonuses to both Constitution and Wisdom. The penalty to Charisma is a good excuse to dump Charisma, opening up points to improve your combat abilities or skills. The Dwarf favored class bonus adds additional uses of low-level Cleric Domain powers, but very few of those powers remain useful at high levels.

Elf: Despite being generally good spellcasters, Elves offer nothing useful to the Cleric.

Gnome: Small size is nice for straight casters, and the Charisma bonus is nice if you plan to play a Face or use Channel Energy, but the Strength penalty makes it hard to serve as a secondary Defender. The Gnome favored class bonus improves the healing effects of Channel Energy, but only for a very small set of creature types.

Half-Elf: Versatile and useful for a variety of builds, but not as useful as the Human. The Half-Elf favored class bonus improves Channel Energy Healing/Damage, but not by enough to justify taking it.

Half-Orc: On par with the Half-Elf. The Half-Orc favored class bonus adds additional uses of low-level Cleric Domain powers, but very few of those powers remain useful at high levels.

Halfling: The same issues as the Gnome, but the Dexterity bonus is much less useful than a Constitution bonus. The Halfling favored class bonus adds additional uses of low-level Cleric Domain powers, but very few of those powers remain useful at high levels.

Human: Humans work for any Cleric build. Unfortunately the favored class bonus is very situational.

Skills

Feats

This section does not cover feats related to Channel Energy. For help with Channel Energy, see my Practical Guide to Channel Energy.

Weapons

Your best bet is either a Morningstar or your deity's favored martial weapon.

Armor

Armor is presented in the order in which you should acquire it, rather than alphabetical order. Magic armor is covered below in the Magic Items section.

3.5 migrants should note that in Pathfinder clerics only get medium armor proficiency, so the days of clerics in full plate are largely gone.

Spells

This section won't address every spell on your spell list, but it will point out some especially notable options. For a complete list of spells, see the SRD Spell Index.

0-Level Spells

1st-Level Spells

2nd-Level Spells

3rd-Level Spells

4th-Level Spells

5th-Level Spells

6th-Level Spells

7th-Level Spells

8th-Level Spells

9th-Level Spells

Magic Items

Weapons

Armor/Shields

Rings

Rods

Staffs

It's difficult to recommend specific staffs without knowing your individual character, so instead I want to make a general endorsement of the concept of magic staffs in Pathfinder. If you are a 3.5 native, go read Pathfinder's rules for staffs because they have improved dramatically.

Staffs are a reliable, rechargeable source of extra spellcasting that can give spellcasters easy and reliable access to spells from their spell list which they might not want to learn, or which they might like to use so frequently that they can't prepare the spell enough times in a given day. On days when you're not adventuring (traveling, resting, etc.) you can easily recharge any staff even if you can only cast one of the spells which the staff contains.

Wands

Wondrous Items