The humble Cleric has been a mainstay of Dungeons & Dragons since 1st Edition hit shelves way back in 1974.
That doesn't mean the class has stayed the same over all these years. In fact, the Cleric has gone through many changes with each edition, and it's one of the more fun classes to play in core D&D 5e.
The Cleric acts as a kind of bridge between melee and caster classes. With access to medium armor and shields, Clerics have better survival than other casters—without sacrificing their magical prowess.
You might think Clerics are primarily healers, but they have several different paths that lead in vastly divergent directions. With the right build, they can divinely smite foes or crush enemies in melee combat.
These broad options can be overwhelming at first. Here are some key tips to keep in mind to ensure your Cleric is fun and awesome in Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition.
This article is part of a series of D&D class guides for beginners. If you're interested in other classes, check them out as well:
Tip 1: Pick Your Stats Based on Party Role
The Cleric is often considered the most flexible of the core classes because there are several different ways to build a great Cleric.
For the most part, you'll want Wisdom to be your highest Ability Score because it increases the DC of your spells and also increases your Spell Attack Modifier.
After Wisdom, it's a bit more situational—your next highest Ability Score will depend on what role you intend to fill in the party.
Having a high Strength, for example, will help you deal more damage with melee attacks, ensuring that you can remain useful in fights even after you've run out of Spell Slots.
On the other hand, a high Constitution will ensure that you can survive and continue healing the rest of the party. If you're the primary healer, you do no good if you end up being whomped early in a fight.
And if your party's campaign expects to run into many characters of faith, you may have to be the face of the party—in which case a high Charisma will help you succeed with various social skill checks.
Tip 2: Change Your Spells When Necessary
Unlike Wizards, Clerics don't have to discover new spells by copying scrolls or spellbooks. Instead, Clerics automatically have full access to all the spells on the Cleric Spell List (referred to as Known Spells).
After a Long Rest, Clerics can choose from their Known Spells and select which ones they want as Prepared Spells. In other words, Clerics can only cast Prepared Spells, but they can be switched out with every Long Rest.
While Sorcerers and Warlocks are locked into their spell choices, every day is a new day full of opportunities for Clerics.
Of course, you're still limited as to which Known Spells you can select as Prepared Spells based on your character's Level. But the day-to-day versatility is great, so make sure you take advantage of it.
After every Long Rest, anticipate what your party will be doing next, what kinds of people you might run into, what types of encounters await around the corner. Then, pick the best spells you can.
Guiding Bolt is one of the best 1st Level spells in the game, as it not only inflicts a lot of damage but also grants Advantage to the next attack made against that target—even if you aren't the one attacking.
But if you're in a party with characters who make lots of attacks every round, consider Bless instead, which adds a D4 to their attacks.
Tip 3: Understand Channel Divinity
At 2nd Level, Clerics gain the Channel Divinity ability, which allows them to manifest the full might of their deity into the material world.
Channel Divinity has many features depending on the character development choices you make, but all Clerics gain access to the Turn Undead ability through it.
Turn Undead forces all undead within 30 feet to make a Wisdom saving throw. Failure causes them to flee, which is great for clearing space on the battlefield and letting your party breathe in a fight.
Note: Turn Undead doesn't cause damage. It merely causes them to run away in fear.
Prior to 6th Level, Clerics can only use Channel Divinity once and can only use it again after it recharges with a Short Rest or Long Rest.
The other Channel Divinity abilities you get will depend on your chosen Divine Domain. However, no choice of Divine Domain will increase the number of times you can use Channel Divinity per rest.
Tip 4: Pick Your Divine Domain Wisely
While other classes in D&D 5e don't choose their defining features until 3rd Level, Clerics choose their Divine Domain at 1st Level.
Divine Domain represents the influence of the Cleric's deity over the mortal world and, as such, has a big impact on how the Cleric interacts with other agents that share the same faith.
Each Divine Domain has unique features that make them suitable for different roles in a party. For example, Divine Domains have specific Domain Spells that aren't available on the normal Cleric Spell List.
The D&D 5e Player's Handbook has a decent number of core Divine Domains, and subsequent releases have expanded with more.
If you want to fill the role of healer in your party, the Life Domain is your best bet. Not only does it empower all of your healing spells, but you also gain access to Channel Divinity: Preserve Life, which can revive fallen comrades without needing to be in touch range.
The Knowledge Domain is great if you want to support your party as an arcane caster, complete with divination-centric Domain Spells, plus Channel Divinity: Read Thoughts that lets you read a creature's mind and cast Suggestion on it without expending a Spell Slot.
And for melee-focused Clerics, the War Domain gives you access to heavy armor and martial weapons along with an extra attack per round.
Combine that with Channel Divinity: Guided Strike for +10 on Attack rolls and Channel Divinity: War God's Blessing to grant +10 to Attack rolls for another creature within 30 feet of you? War Clerics are formidable entities that are tough to beat on the battlefield.