The Complete Cleric 5E Guide | 5E Cleric Handbook

cleric 5e

More than your average priest, a cleric serves as a conduit between the god they worship and the mortal world. This is more than just a class of healers, however. Arguably the most wide-open class in 5E, the cleric can be a warrior, a spell caster, or an interesting combination of both depending on their build. Below, we take a deep dive into the rules of this class and how to optimize your cleric. Say a little prayer and dive right into our Cleric 5E Guide.

The Complete Cleric 5E Guide

The ultimate devotee of a god, the cleric is called to do more than lead temple service. Through the power of magic drawn from the divine power of their deity, clerics can heal their allies and destroy their enemies.

Like all good adventurers, a cleric needs a backstory. In most cases, this class of adventurer joins a party at the behest of their god. It could be something as simple as spreading the good work or as direct as seeking out a holy relic. Ultimately, that choice is up to you (and your DM).

Clerics might be holy men (or women), but that does not mean they are pacifists. In fact, some types of clerics are centered around warfare, death, and battle. When a cleric steps onto the battlefield, they do so with their god on their side.

Class Features

The below features are common with all clerics, but they will only represent a part of what makes your character unique. More of your features will depend on your Domain, discussed later.

Hit Points

Hit Dice: 1d8 per cleric level
HP at 1st Level: 8 + your Constitution modifier
Hit Points at Higher Levels: 1d8 (or 5) + your Constitution modifier per cleric level after 1st.

Proficiencies

Armor: Light armor, medium armor, shields
Weapons: Simple weapons
Tools: None
Saving Throws: Wisdom, Charisma
Skills: Choose two from History, Insight, Medicine, Persuasion, and Religion

Equipment

You start with the equipment options below. You also gain equipment granted by your background:

  • (a) a mace or (b) a warhammer (if proficient)
  • (a) scale mail, (b) leather armor, or (c) chain mail (if proficient)
  • (a) a light crossbow and 20 bolts or (b) any simple weapon
  • (a) a priest’s pack or (b) an explorer’s pack
  • A shield and a holy symbol

Channel Divinity – Turn Undead

Channel Divinity is the ability to channel power directly from a cleric’s deity. At level two, every cleric has two of these effects. Each cleric has Turn Undead and a second effect determined by their Domain.

Turn Undead requires a cleric to present a holy symbol and speak a prayer against an undead creature. Every undead within 30 feet that can see or hear the cleric is turned for one minute or until it takes damage, unless if succeeds a wisdom saving throw.

Turned creatures must spend each round moving as far from a cleric as possible. It cannot willingly come within 30 feet of the cleric. It cannot react, and must dash away until outside of the 30-foot sphere around the cleric. If trapped within 30 feet, it can dodge.

Destroy Undead (Level 5)

At level 5, turn undead can destroy the targeted creature. If the creature fails the saving throw it is instantly destroyed depending on its challenge rating.

Cleric Level

Destroys Undead of CR …

5th

1/2 or lower

8th

1 or lower

11th

2 or lower

14th

3 or lower

17th

4 or lower

Divine Intervention (Level 10)

At Level 10, a cleric can ask for direct intervention from their deity. To make use of Divine Intervention, tell the GM what you want the deity to do and make a percentage dice roll. If you roll at or below your cleric level, your deity intervenes. A failed roll means nothing happens.

You DM will decide what happens on a successful roll, but it generally results in the effect of a cleric spell of some kind. If the god intervenes a cleric may not call on them again for 7 days. After a failure, the cleric can make another attempt after a long rest.

At level 20, this succeeds automatically without a role.

Domains – Cleric Subclasses

For clerics, their subclasses are known as domains. While the domain corresponds to a cleric’s chosen deity to a degree, it is not exclusive to that deity. Gods often have control over multiple domains. For example, Sune is the goddess of both love and beauty. This could extend her influence into both life and light domains. In our Cleric 5E Guide, We tackle each domain in alphabetical order below.

You also see our take on the best and worst options with our Cleric Domain Rankings.

Arcana Domain

See our Deep Dive into Arcana Clerics

The Arcana Domain was first released in the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide. This powerful domain is a sort of merger between a cleric and wizard. Altogether, it offers a powerful array of spells and magic-related features.

  • Domain Spells. Arcana Clerics gain access to a wide variety of powerful wizard spells. These are mostly useful options like detect magic or dispel magic. It also offers situational but fun options like Planar Binding. All in all, a strong set of options.
  • Arcane Initiate (Level 1). You gain access to the Arcana skill as well as your choice of two wizard cantrips. You can cast them as if they were cleric spells, however.
  • Channel Divinity: Arcane Abjuration (Level 2). Much like with turn undead, you can use this divinity to turn creatures like celestials, elementals, fey, and fiends. At level 5 you can banish them entirely.
  • Spell Breaker (Level 6). When you cast a non-cantrip spell to restore an allies hit points, you can also end the effects of one spell of your choice on your ally. Your spell level must be equal or greater than the spell impacting your ally.
  • Potent Spellcasting (Level 8). One of the highlights of domain. Add your wisdom modifier to cleric and wizard cantrips damage.
  • Arcane Mastery (Level 17). Another amazing feature. Select a level 6,7,8, and 9 wizard spell. These are now domain spells, meaning they are always prepared and count as cleric spells.

Death Domain

See our deep dive into Death Clerics

The Death Domain is all about the offense. This fits thematically, given that the Death Domain is about the end of life. This domain provides an interesting mix of buffs to both necromancy spells and melee combat. You also gain proficiency with martial weapons. This is a fun option if you just want to deal damage.

  • Domain Spells. There are some nice options here. Ray of Sickness is an easy way to deal damage and poison a target. Animate Dead is always fun. You also have some unique tanking spells like False Life or Antilife Shell.
  • Reaper (Level 1). This grants you the choice of one free necromancy cantrip from any class. If the spell targets a single creature, you can now use it against two creatures within five feet of each other.
  • Channel Divinity: Touch of Death (Level 2). In melee combat, you can use Channel Divinity to add necrotic damage as a bonus to a successful attack. This bonus equals 5 + 2x your level in cleric.
  • Inescapable Destruction (Level 6). When you deal necrotic damage it ignores resistance.
  • Divine Strike (Level 8). This infuses your weapon with necrotic energy. YOu deal an additional 1d8 necrotic damage for one attack each turn. This bonus bumps up to 2d8 at level 14.
  • Improved Reaper (Level 17). At Level 17, the ability described in Reaper applies for spells level 1 through 5 in addition to necromancy cantrips.

Forge Domain

See our Comprehensive Forge Cleric 5E Guide!

The Forge Cleric is my favorite Domain. Every aspect of this subclass from domain spells to features is a perfect thematic fit. It provides a lot of interesting options for support with the ability to craft items and enchant weapons. Additionally, the potential tank on these guys is unreal. You also gain proficiency in heavy armor and smith tools.

  • Domain Spells. This is a great mix of spells that fits the theme of master forger. It also offers several options that tie into the fire theme. Identify has obvious utility and searing smite is a nice way to get fire damage at level 1. I’m also a fan of elemental weapon and animate objects. There’s not a bad spell in the bunch.
  • Blessing of the Forge (Level 1). You gain the ability to imbue a set of armor, martial weapon, or simple weapon with magic. This item gets a +1 bonus until you die or take a long rest. This is amazing in low magic settings and useful for lower-level groups especially. You can only use this once per long rest, though.
  • Channel Divinity: Artisan’s Blessing (Level 2). This hour-long ritual allows you to create a non-magical item from metal material of the same value. You can even copy an item like a key if you have the original. The possibilities are endless.
  • Soul of the Forge (Level 6). You gain fire resistance and get +1 AC.
  • Saint of Forge and Fire (Level 17). Want a tanky cleric? At level 17 you gain immunity to fire. What’s more, while wearing heavy armor you have a resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical attacks.

Grave Domain

See our Grave Cleric 5E Guide!

Grave Clerics are concerned with the balance between life and death. The end result is a mix of offensive and healing abilities. They are especially strong against undead.

  • Domain Spells. There is a useful spell at every level. False Life and Revivify are both useful and fit well within the theme. Like with Death Clerics, Antilife Shell is also interesting. Raise Dead is a fun option that could also lead to some interesting character development.
  • Circle of Mortality (Level 1). You get the cantrip Spare the Dying that doesn’t count towards your total. Cast it as a bonus action. You also get the max dice roll when restoring hit points to a creature currently at zero.
  • Eyes of the Grave (Level 1). You can use this ability to detect the presence of undead within 60 feet unless they are behind full cover or immune to divination magic.
  • Channel Divinity: Path to the Grave (Level 2). This divinity marks a target and is vulnerable to all damage from the next time you or an ally hit it. It has a range of 30 feet.
  • Sentinel at Death’s Door (Level 6). Turn a critical hit you witness occur to you or an ally within 30 feet into a normal hit. This cancels any special effects triggered by a critical hit. You can do this once per Wisdom modifier and you regain these abilities after a long rest.
  • Potent Spellcasting (Level 8). Add your Wisdom modifier to damage rolls when casting cleric cantrips.
  • Keeper of Souls (Level 17). When you use this ability, you or an ally gain hit points equal to an enemy’s hit dice when they die within 30 feet. You can use this once per turn is only unavailable if you are incapacitated.

Knowledge Domain

Check out our Comprehensive Knowledge Cleric Guide!

The domain of secrets, Knowledge Clerics offer utility when it comes to campaigns heavy on fact-finding and investigation. For hack-and-slash adventures, they might not be as great of a fit.

  • Domain Spells. Lots of Divination spells. Spells like Augury or Deception can turn a game upside down and require strong DMing. The high-level spells are a bit of a letdown as Legend Lore is little more than a history check.
  • Blessing of Knowledge (Level 1). Learn two languages and become proficient in two of Arcana, history, nature, or religion. Also cool: your proficiency bonus doubles for any checks using the two skills you select.
  • Channel Divinity: Knowledge of the Ages (Level 2). This gives you proficiency with any skill or tool for 10 minutes. Tons of utility for your party here.
  • Channel Divinity: Read Thoughts (Level 6). When a creature is within 60 feet, you can read their surface thoughts should they fail a wisdom saving throw. If successful, you can cast Suggestion without using a spell slot, and the creature auto-fails the save throw.
  • Visions of the Past (Level 17). You can access visions tied to an object or a setting. After a minute of meditation, you can learn information about the item including who owned it and how they lost it. For a room or area, you can see important events that happened there. The higher your wisdom score, the longer you can concentrate and the further back in the past you can see.

Life Domain

See our complete guide to playing a Life Cleric in 5E!

The name of the domain should tip you off to a life cleric’s focus being on healing. This domain has the potential to not only build the best healer in the game, but also provides a sturdy defense as well thanks the proficiencies for heavy armor.

  • Domain Spells. The lower level spells are fantastic for any party. Cure Wounds as a domain spell is great since you likely would have taken it anyway, and Bless is very helpful. The same is true with Revivify at the 5th level. At the upper end the spells are fine, but not as useful as the lower-level options.
  • Disciple of Life (Level 1). This boosts your healing spells. Healing spells at level one or above grant additional HP equal to 2 plus spell level.
  • Channel Divinity: Preserve Life (Level 2). When you present your holy symbol, you can heal up to five times your cleric level. This can be spread among any creature within 30 feet of you, but you cannot heal a creature more than half of their HP maximum.
  • Blessed Healer (Level 6). When you heal another creature using a spell, you also gain 2 + the spell level in HP yourself.
  • Divine Strike (Level 8). Infusing your weapon with divine energy allows you to deal an addition 1d8 radiant energy on one successful attack per turn. This bonus jumps to 2d8 at level 14.
  • Supreme Healing (Level 17). Instead of rolling to determine the HP you restore with a spell, you get the maximum possible for each die you roll.

Light Domain

Go in-depth with our Light Cleric 5E Guide!

There are clear themes for the Light Domain. Heat in battle and Illumination when it is needed are common threads in the available spells. This domain has some good options for utility but can do some crowd control in battle as well.

  • Domain Spells. There are some great, thematic options in the lower level spells. Faerie Fire is one of my favorite support spells and can turn the tide against invisible bad guys. Flaming Sphere is great for crowd control and having Fireball on hand is fantastic. While the higher level spells are interesting, they generally overlap with lower lever spells like Flame Strike does, or they are very situational like with Scrying.
  • Bonus Cantrip (Level 1). You get Light as a bonus cantrip.
  • Warding Flare (Level 1). You can blind a creature within 30 feet of you when they attack you. This trait works as a reaction and gives the attacker disadvantage unless they are immune to blindness.
  • Channel Divinity: Radiance of the Dawn (Level 2). Use your holy symbol to dispel magical darkness within 30 feet. Any hostile creature within 30 feet must make a constitution saving throw. If they fail they take 2d10 plus your cleric level in radiant damage. Damage is halved with a successful save.
  • Improved Flare (Level 6). You can use Warding Flare when a creature attacks an ally.
  • Potent Spellcasting (Level 8). Add your wisdom modifier to your cleric cantrip spell damage.
  • Corona of Light (Level 17). You emit bright light in a 60-foot circle for one minute. All enemies in the light have disadvantage on saving throws involving fire or radiant damage.

Nature Domain

Learn more with our complete Nature Cleric 5E Guide.

The nature cleric is a sort of cleric-druid hybrid that swaps out animal skins for a heavy armor proficiency. While it fits a theme and is good in the right setting, this domain can be lackluster at other times.

  • Domain Spells. Extremely situation. The cantrips are only of limited use and are overshadowed by your Channel Divinity. Other spells like Barkskin and Tree Stride have potential but aren’t always a good fit. Plant Growth is a stellar crowd control option though.
  • Acolyte of Nature (Level 1). Select one Druid Cantrip and one proficiency in either Animal Handling, Survival, or Nature.
  • Channel Divinity: Charm Animals and Plants (Level 2). When you present your holy symbol and say your deity’s name, every beast or plant creature that sees you within 30 feet makes a wisdom saving throw. Any creatures that fail are charmed by you for a minute.
  • Dampen Elements (Level 6). When you or any creature within 30 feet takes acid, cold, fire, thunder, or lightning damage, you use a reaction to grant resistance to that damage.
  • Divine Strike (Level 8). You can infuse your weapon with divine energy. This gives you 1D8 additional cold, fire, or lighting damage of your choosing. This bumps up to 2d8 at level 14.
  • Master of Nature (Level 17). You can control the animals you charm. While charmed they will follow your verbal commands.

Order Domain

See our complete guide for Order Clerics in 5E

The Order Domain represents devotion to structure and law. Unsurprisingly, these features and spells center around controlling other creatures. There are some healing aspects in this class as well. You gain proficiency in heavy armor and either Intimidation or Persuasion.

  • Domain Spells. These spells don’t offer much as far as damage dealing, but can be powerful in support or out of combat. Command is a powerful option for a level one spell, especially in the hands of a creative player. Spells like Slow and Mass Healing Word are useful in combat support, and Zone of Truth is always helpful.
  • Voice of Authority (Level 1). If you cast a level one or higher spell at an ally, that ally can make a reaction attack against a creature of your choice visible to you. If you cast a spell targeting multiple party members, you chose which one makes the attack.
  • Channel Divinity: Order’s Demand (Level 2). At level two, presenting your holy symbol to charm any creatures of your choosing should they fail a wisdom saving throw.
  • Embodiment of the Law (Level 6). When you cast an enchantment spell a level one or higher, you can alter the casting time from a regular action to a bonus action.
  • Divine Strike (Level 8). Infusing your weapon with divine energy causes an extra 1d8 of psychic damage. At level 14 this becomes 2d8.
  • Order’s Wrath (Level 17). When using divine strike successfully, you curse your target. The next time an ally hits the target they deal an extra 2d8 psychic damage, ending the curse. This is limited to once per turn.

Tempest Domain

See our Tempest Cleric 5E Guide!

Tempest clerics are masters of storms, sky, and the sea. A powerful domain with many options for offensive magic, the Tempest Domain offers devastating options. In sea-based campaigns, your power is substantial. You also gain proficiency with martial weapons and heavy armor.

  • Domain Spells. Damage dealing spells like Call Lightning and Destructive Wave are powerful, but low level options are limited. There are plenty of useful spells throughout though, including Fog Cloud and Shatter.
  • Wrath of the Storm (Level 1). You can use a reaction to being hit by an enemy within 5 feet of you to dish out 2d8 lightning damage. If they pass a saving throw, the damage is halved. This is available a number of times equal to your Wisdom modifier each long rest.
  • Channel Divinity: Destructive Wrath (Level 2). You deal maximum lightning or thunder damage instead of making the damage roll.
  • Thunderous Strike (Level 6). When dealing lightning damage to creature large-sized or smaller, you can move them 10 feet away from you.
  • Divine Strike (Level 8). By infusing your weapon with divine energy, you deal an extra 1d8 thunder damage with a weapon strike. This bonus increases to 2d8 at level 14.
  • Stormborn (Level 17). You can fly! Your flying speed is capped at your walking speed, and you cannot fly while indoors or underground.

Trickery Domain

See Our Complete Trickery Cleric 5E Guide!

Few subclasses offer the deep roleplaying options that come with a Trickery Cleric. This domain is centered on illusion and charm magic. These characters can have the same flourishes of a bard, but offer very different forms of utility outside of combat with their magic.

  • Domain Spells. These spells are excellent at helping you avoid damage. Blink and Mirror Image allow you to avoid countless attacks, and Pass Without a Trace is a powerful option for any dungeon dive. You can also exert control over bad guys with Dominate Person or Dimension Door.
  • Blessing of the Trickster (Level 1). You can bless a character for up to an hour on Stealth checks.
  • Channel Divinity: Invoke Duplicity (Level 2). You can create a perfect illusion of yourself for up to one minute for as long as you concentrate. The illusion can move up to 30 feet as a bonus action but must stay within 120 feet of you. You can cast spells from the illusion and get advantage on attacks when you and the illusion are within 5 feet of the target.
  • Channel Divinity: Cloak of Shadows (Level 6). You can turn invisible for a single turn.
  • Divine Strike (Level 8). Infusing your weapon with poison magic, you do an additional 1d8 poison damage on an attack. This bonus increased to 2d8 at level 14.
  • Improved Duplicity (Level 17). You can create up to four copies of yourself.

War Domain

See our comprehensive War Cleric 5E Guide!

Your best option for swinging a weapon as a cleric. This domain shares a lot with paladins, with an interesting mix of attacks and useful concentration spells. You also get proficiency for heavy armor and martial weapons.

  • Domain Spells. These spells are made for battle, but they ideally require the War Caster feat to really shine. Magic weapon is especially strong for low-level characters, and flame strike is a  strong damage option later on. There are also great buffing spells like Crusader’s Mantle.
  • War Priest (Level 1). You get a bonus attack for every level of your wisdom modifier. They refill after a long rest.
  • Channel Divinity: Guided Strike (Level 2). Get +10 to an attack roll. You can use this ability after your roll but before the DM announces a hit or miss.
  • Channel Divinity: War God’s Blessing (Level 6). Same as Guided Strike, but you can grant this ability to any creature within 30 feet.
  • Divine Strike (Level 8). You can infuse your weapon with divine power, dealing 1d8 of the type of damage your target deals. This bonus increases to 2d8 at level 14.
  • Avatar of Battle (Level 17). You gain resistance to bludgeoning, piercing, and slashing damage from nonmagical weapons.

Cleric 5E

Spellcasting

Spellcasting is central to many cleric builds. While the spells that come with the varying domains differ significantly, all clerics use Wisdom as their spellcasting ability. Their magic is derived from their devotion, and higher wisdom amplifies that power. When casting a spell you use your wisdom modifier plus your proficiency bonus. Some spells also require you to set a Spell Save DC; you will add your proficiency bonus and your wisdom modifier to the number 8 to set this save DC.

Spell save DC = 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier

Spell attack modifier = your proficiency bonus + your Wisdom modifier

Ritual Casting

Ritual casting is a special form of magic that allows you to perform a ritual in order to cast a spell as opposed to having it prepared in your spell list. We discuss this concept in-depth in our Ritual Casting Guide.

Not all characters can use ritual casting, and only spells that are marked as ritual spells can be used in this way. The good news is that the Cleric class allows for ritual casting automatically. Outside of certain classes, the Ritual Caster feat is required to make use of this method of spellcasting. Kep in mind, a cleric may only cast cleric spells as rituals. Spells from other classes may not be used even if they are marked as ritual spells.

Clerics have available ritual spells up to level 6, making them one of the best options for ritual casters.

Spellcasting Focus

A Cleric may use a holy symbol as their spellcasting focus. By using this object to focus divine power, a cleric can cast spells without the need to possess minor necessary components.

5e cleric guide

Fleshing Out Your Cleric

Sure, the class features and domain spells are the basic building blocks of a Cleric character. However, for most of us fleshing out these characters is part of the fun. Few classes provide options for this like the Cleric. In our Cleric 5E guide, we take a look at the full list of gods in the Forgotten Realms and provide suggestions for every domain. We also drop a few of our helpful suggestions on how to roleplay these characters.

Gods and Religion

While there are many planes to play on in the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons, the Forgotten Realms are by far the most popular. For this reason, we are focusing on the gods of the Forgotten Realms. Below is a list of every major deity. We have also included their alignment, Domain suggestions, and their common symbol.

Forgotten Realms Deities

DeityAlignmentSuggested DomainsSymbol
Auril, goddess of winterNENature, TempestSix-pointed snowflake
Azuth, god of wizardsLNKnowledgeLeft hand pointing upward, outlined in fire
Bane, god of tyrannyLEWarUpright black right hand, thumb and fingers together
Beshaba, goddess of misfortuneCETrickeryBlack antlers
Bhaal, god of murderNEDeathSkull surrounded by a ring of blood droplets
Chauntea, goddess of agricultureNGLifeSheaf of grain or a blooming rose over grain
Cyric, god of liesCETrickeryWhite jawless skull on black or purple sunburst
Deneir, god of writingNGKnowledgeLit candle above an open eye
Eldath, goddess of peaceNGLife, NatureWaterfall plunging into still pool
Gond, god of craftNKnowledge, ForgeToothed cog with four spokes
Helm, god of protectionLNLife, LightStaring eye on upright left gauntlet
Ilmater, god of enduranceLGLifeHands bound at the wrist with red cord
Kelemvor, god of the deadLNDeath, GraveUpright skeletal arm holding balanced scales
Lathander, god of birth and renewalNGLife, LightRoad traveling into a sunrise
Leira, goddess of illusionCNTrickeryPoint-down triangle containing a swirl of mist
Lliira, goddess of joyCGLifeTriangle of three six-pointed stars
Loviatar, goddess of painLEDeathNine-tailed barbed scourge
Malar, god of the huntCENatureClawed paw
Mask, god of thievesCNTrickeryBlack mask
Mielikki, goddess of forestsNGNatureUnicorn’s head
Milil, god of poetry and songNGLightFive-stringed harp made of leaves
Myrkul, god of deathNEDeath, GraveWhite human skull
Mystra, goddess of magicNGKnowledgeCircle of seven stars, or nine stars encircling a flowing red mist, or a single star
Oghma, god of knowledgeNKnowledgeBlank scroll
Savras, god of divination and fateLNKnowledgeCrystal ball containing many kinds of eyes
Selûne, goddess of the moonCGKnowledge, LifePair of eyes surrounded by seven stars
Shar, goddess of darkness and lossNEDeath, TrickeryBlack disk encircled with a border
Silvanus, god of wild natureNNatureOak leaf
Sune, goddess of love and beautyCGLife, LightFace of a beautiful red-haired woman
Talona, goddess of disease and poisonCEDeathThree teardrops on a triangle
Talos, god of stormsCETempestThree lightning bolts radiating from a central point
Tempus, god of warNWarUpright flaming sword
Torm, god of courage and self-sacrificeLGWarWhite right gauntlet
Tymora, goddess of good fortuneCGTrickeryFace-up coin
Tyr, god of justiceLGWarBalanced scales resting on a warhammer
Umberlee, goddess of the seaCETempestWave curling left and right
Waukeen, goddess of tradeNKnowledge, ForgeUpright coin with Waukeen’s profile facing left

Roleplay Tips

How your character manages to adventure while balancing devotion to their god is often a central part of your character’s story. Here are some things to consider.

Alignment Issues

In 5E, your character is not tied to the alignment of their chosen deity. This means you are free to pursue the alignment of your choice while dedicated to any alignment. This isn’t hard to picture, as a good follower of an evil god of death could focus on the natural life cycle as opposed to bloodthirsty murder.

A good example of this is the followers of Malar. Malar is chaotic evil; a lesser deity of the hunt, werewolves, and bloodlust. There is plenty of evil among his followers, who were known to hunt humans for sport. However, his followers also abhored poison and were known for providing the young and infirm with meat from their hunts during harsh winters. Whatever your motivation, it is important that you find a way to play your character in a way that fits with their domain and god without taking the fun out of it.

Intraparty Conflict

Another issue is weighing the motivations of your god and party. This can be an interesting part of your story if you choose. Wrestling between your higher calling and your friends can lead to interesting interparty conflict.

It is worth remembering these conflicts shouldn’t be a hangup, however. You should give yourself enough leeway to play the character the way you want as long as you aren’t blatantly and routinely acting out of character. There is always asking for penance afterward!

Cleric 5E Optimization Tips

If you are like me, you enjoying playing with a character build to squeeze the most utility out of them as possible. We’re prepared to help with that process with the following Cleric 5E optimization tips!

Ability Selection

For clerics, it is all about the wisdom. No matter your build, background, or domain, so much of your character will center around wisdom. That said, the rest of your ability stats will vary notably depending on your domain and character’s focus.

Strength

Heavy armor clerics will likely want to rank strength third behind constitution as well as wisdom. This is usually a trade off with dexterity. You can dump strength if you are focusing on spell casting.

Dexterity

Dexterity is always useful is a bad idea for a dump stat. In some cases, dexterity might be the second most valuable ability score you have. If you are a light-armored cleric focusing less of tanking and more on weapons attacks or spellcasting, dexterity should be your second-highest priority.

Constitution

For most clerics, constitution is the second-highest priority. This should come as no surprise, given that roughly half of all domains offer defensive traits and proficiencies with heavy armor. Hit points are vital for every cleric, though.

Intelligence

Probably the most common dump stat. The only exception is for knowledge clerics. For that domain, intelligence should be a focus but likely still below wisdom and either constitution or dexterity depending on your build.

Wisdom

Your spellcasting depends on wisdom. Max this out.

Charisma

This is often the best option for a dump stat. However, there are certain cleric builds like a Trickery Cleric that could serve as a strong face of your party. In that case, keep Charisma high and select a background with useful face skills.

Best Races for Cleric in 5E

Let’s get this out of the way first: any race can play a cleric. Sure, some are better than others early on. And while we go into depth below on what races start with an advantage as a cleric, the reality is the different in a +1 or +2 wisdom bonus evaporates at the higher levels. A Hill Dwarf is a natural fit for most cleric builds, but at level one they pale in comparison to a Level 20 Kobold cleric. With that in mind, don’t fret over the “best” race for your character.

Strong Options

  • Aarakocra. While this might conflict with some heavy armor builds, you start with a boost to wisdom and the ability to fly. Flying rules.
  • Aasimar. All subraces are nice, but the Protector Aasimar gets a wisdom boost and has a powerful short-term ability to sprout wings and rain radiant damage with Radiant Soul.
  • Dwarf. A class choice for a cleric, particularly the Hill dwarf thanks to their wisdom and durability.
  • Firbolg. Another strong choice with +2 wisdom, the inherent ability to cast two spells and invisibility.
  • Human. Good at anything thanks to their versatility. I especially like choosing a human variant war cleric with a boost to wisdom and the War Caster feat.

Decent Options

  • Elf. While most elves offer very little as clerics, a Wood Elf has some interesting options. A heavy armor cleric might not make sense, but with the boost to wisdom and proficiency in shortsword you could come up with a unique build focusing on finesse or spellcasting. Mask of the Wild offers some interesting options for a Trickery Cleric as well.
  • Genasi. Like the elf, Genasi are not well suited as clerics in general. However, the Water cleric provides additional wisdom. Shape Water is also a useful tool in certain cases.
  • Halfling. Again, most halfings don’t do much for a clericCleric 5e Guidebuild. However, the Ghostwise Halfling offers a wisdom boost and the always-useful ability to communicate telepathically. Lotusden Halflings are also an interesting option.
  • Lizardfolk. Lizardfolk are a pretty nice option, but their natural armor takes away from clerics that come with heavy armor bonuses. Because of this, there are probably better options out there but the natural wisdom and constitution boosts are useful.
  • Tortle. The Tortle is ill-suited for the same reason Lizardfolk are. While their natural armor provides for a strong AC, it loses out on all the cleric benefits that involve the use of heavy armor. That said, they are still viable front line brawlers that have a useful wisdom boost.

Limited Value

Again, you can make the rest of these options work in time. However, this guide is about optimizing your cleric, and these races are far from optimal.

  • Bugbear
  • Changeling
  • Dragonborn
  • Gnome
  • Goblin
  • Goliath
  • Half-Orc
  • Hobgoblin
  • Kalashtar
  • Kenku
  • Kobold
  • Orc
  • shifter
  • Tabaxi
  • Warforged
  • Yuan-Ti Pureblood

Best Backgrounds

While your choice of background matters, it will rarely make or break your cleric. That said, some backgrounds provide more useful skill proficiencies than others. Below we list a few backgrounds we like for a cleric.

Acolyte

The go-to background for most clerics. There is a reason for this, because Insight is excellent for most clerics. Additional languages is also a nice touch for a class that does not get extras.

Far Traveler

Insight and perception proficiencies are perfect, and you get to add a language as well. As ideal as these are, the equipment like a musical instrument is likely of little use. The small piece of jewelry could be usable as your holy symbol, though.

Faction Agent

Faction Agent is low key one of the best cleric options. However, it could be a little tough to tie this background into your cleric’s devotion. That said, insight and an extra wisdom skill of your choice is awesome. You also get two languages.

Folk Hero

Two useful wisdom skills in Animal Handling and Survival make Folk Hero a decent choice. A set of artisan’s tools and a land vehicle are always welcome, too. This might be redundant for forge clerics, however.

Hermit

Hermit has some tradeoffs. Medicine isn’t usually worth much, but insight is valuable. The best thing about this background is proficiency with herbalism kits, which let you make potions.

Outlander

Outlander can work, especially if you are a frontline combat type of cleric. Athletics and survival can come in handy, as can the Wanderer feature in certain campaigns.

Suggested Feats

Feats may not play a big part for many clerics, even when a DM allows them. After all, no matter the domain clerics generally need to max out two attributes. After all, this need to maximize attributes often cuts into the feasibility of taking feats. There are a few feats that are of significant use to clerics, however, and we cover them below.

  • Alert. Adding +5 to initiative and the inability to be surprised is good for any character. How well it meshes with your cleric build is up to you.
  • Great Weapon Master. This is situational but fun for the right cleric. You must be using the right type of weapon, and this feat makes little sense unless you are focusing on frontline combat. That said, it offers a huge boost of damage.
  • Heavy Armor Master. This is a good option for all clerics with boosts to heavy armor use, except the War Cleric. However, a War Cleric should avoid the damage reduction will actually hamper the War Cleric’s Level 17 trait.
  • Lucky. Another feat that is always nice, cleric or no cleric. You gain advantage three times per day. To me, I’d probably rather have an extra level of wisdom.
  • Observant. Excellent option that gives +1 Wisdom and +5 Passive Perception.
  • War Caster. Above all, the best feat for clerics in my opinion. What’s more, you get advantage on constitution saving throws to maintain spell concentration, which is worth it alone. You can also cast somatic spells with shields or weapons in your hands. Best of all, you can cast a spell with a casting time of 1 action as a reaction instead of making an opportunity attack. To conclude, I love this.

Multiclassing

In general, I am a fan of limited multiclassing. However, that is not why I do not generally recommend it with a cleric. The reality is that clerics are powerful on their own, and I would rather have access to their higher level traits as opposed to dipping into another class. That said, there are a few options worth considering if you feel strongly about it. Learn more about the concept in general with our Multiclassing 5E Guide.

Good Multiclassing Options for Cleric

Druid

Although Druid is one of the less popular classes, it is a nice option for some cleric builds. For starters, Druids cast using wisdom as well. This makes transitioning to their spells fairly easy. If you are a Nature Cleric, multiclassing into a druid is not worth it.

By taking a level of Druid, you give up the Level 20 ability of Divine Intervention succeeding without a role. However, you gain access to druid spells which are the highlight of the class.

If you are going to take one level of Druid you might as well take two. This gives you access to a Druid Circle, Wild Shape, and extra Level 1 Druid Spell. Depending on the Circle you choose, you could gain useful traits for healers or using crowd control.

In the end, I don’t recommend more than two levels of Druid (Or anything else for that matter). You get three uses of Channel Divinity at Level 18, which is more valuable than taking three levels of Druid.

Fighter

My personal favorite option for multiclassing as a cleric is the fighter. If you are focusing on casting spells I wouldn’t bother, but if you plan on diving into melee this is a good option. You pick up a fighting style, which is helpful. ALso, you can also heal yourself with Second Wind without needing to use a spell.

You also can use Action Surge with two levels of fighter. This gives you an extra action once per short rest. This gives you the possibility of casting two spells in a turn. If you also cast a spell as a bonus action, that number increases to three (but the two additional spells must be cantrips).

Rogue

Whether or not multiclassing as Rogue works is situational. Are you a Trickery Cleric serving as the face of your party? This might be an OK option. One of the highlights is also the additional expertise and skills that are available.

Avoidable Multiclassing Options

  • Artificer. Not worth giving up higher level cleric traits.
  • Barbarian. The inability to cast makes this a big no for me.
  • Bard. With many clerics dumping charisma, Bard is rarely a good multiclass option. Even a Trickery Cleric isn’t idea as there is enough overlap to make a level in bard unnecessary.
  • Monk. Not worth giving up higher level cleric abilities. That said, you can get creative using Monk’s unarmored Defense with a high dexterity, no armor cleric.
  • Paladin. Spellcasting based on Charisma is a bad idea.
  • Ranger. While not the worst, there is little reason to take a level in ranger when you could multiclass into a fighter.
  • Sorcerer. Not worth giving up higher level cleric abilities.
  • Warlock. Not worth giving up higher level cleric abilities.
  • Wizard. This is a poor option, as intelligence is the most common cleric dump stat.

Wrapping up our Cleric 5E Guide

That wraps up our 5E Cleric Guide. Arguably my favorite class, I think you could run five different characters with very little thematic overlap. Did we miss anything? If so let us know!

Travis Scoundrel
About Travis Scoundrel 410 Articles
A life long gamer, Travis spends his time writing about and playing games when he's not suing people or hanging out with his family.

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